Well, fuck. Now what?

uk general election boris johnson conservative majority now what charity help

I keep thinking about 2015.

It was the first General Election I followed properly – though I was still a little too young to vote – and for most of the campaign I’d assumed Ed Miliband would end up Prime Minister. Maybe that’d be as leader of a coalition, maybe not, but either way: Prime Minister Miliband. Enter the Miliverse. Join the Milifandom.

But, no. I remember watching his resignation speech the next day, hearing his voice crack, hearing him thank people, and I remember thinking it was sad.

And then I think about 2016. Nigel Farage, standing in front of a poster playing on Nazi imagery; Nigel Farage, declaring Brexit won without a single shot fired, just days after the politically motivated murder of a remain-supporting Labour MP by a white supremacist; Nigel Farage, a great big gurning grin on his face, victorious. 52-48, at the end of deeply ugly and bitter campaign we still haven’t properly reckoned with, and I’m starting to worry never will.

Same thing again a few months later when November rolled around. I’d woken up early to do some work – didn’t get it done, obviously, too focused on the news. Got the bus into school. It was raining. Huddled around Jerry’s laptop, watching the news. Everyone turned up already knowing the result – apart from one girl, who’d overslept and hadn’t caught the news. That’s what I remember about 2016: watching her find out Donald Trump was President of the United States. I suppose it’s a bit like those Japanese soldiers who didn’t realise the second world war had ended, except not actually anything like that at all.

2017 was a little better. A little happier. A loss, yes, but a caveated one, a qualified one, one that pointed to better things next time. Just if you held out a little longer.

Well, evidently fucking not.

This is shit. Absolutely, horribly, brutally shit. There’s time for post-mortem later, and I suppose we’ll be relitigating this campaign right up until the next one – and frankly, probably, afterwards – but for the moment, that doesn’t matter.

People are going to die because of the electoral choices made today. We already know that 130 000 deaths can be attributed to Conservative austerity measures; we already know that the UN deemed these policies a breach of human rights. Most of the past nine years, the Conservatives have been in coalition, or otherwise constrained. They now have a significant majority. They have a manifesto that you could open to any random page and find something that will kill people: a commitment to further austerity; a policy that amounts, essentially, to the ethnic cleaning of traveller communities; further privatisation of the NHS, however stealthily done, however disguised; the list goes on. The country is going to be shaped to the political will and imagination of people like Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Sajid Javid.

The time between now and May 2025 is going to be grim.

I donated to a couple of these charities last night, and shared the list below in a few different facebook groups.

It’s not an exhaustive list, obviously, but they’re each charities that’ll help the people most likely to be affected by a Conservative majority. If you’re able to, it is probably worth chipping in a little bit to some of them, or sharing the list yourself. Obviously it shouldn’t fall to the individual to take care of those who would otherwise become the casualties of an underfunded state, but, well. Needs must? I dunno. It’s good to feel proactive, I guess. It made me feel a little better.

The next five years are going to be rough. They’re going to need direct action, and they’re going to need activism, and they’re going to need us to work together. And, you know, fuck, maybe that isn’t enough in the face of the concerted efforts of the entire right-wing press. But, well, we can’t give up. Gotta keep going.

It’s not just necessary – it’ll be worth it, too.

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Electoral Boogaloo

vote labour jeremy corbyn uk general election 2019 polling card ballot

I was going to have a party tonight, actually. I’d spent a while idly – well, no, I spent absolutely ages putting quite a lot of effort into coming up with party food puns, some more successful than others. Haribo-ris Johnson. Doritjo Swinson. Jeremy Corbynoffee Pie. Laura Pidcocktail Sausages. Westminstrels. Political Party Ring Biscuits. Prawn Butler. Rebecca Long-Bailey’s, depending on how the exit poll looked. John McDonald’s, for a slightly easier option.

Anyway, not doing that, mainly because I wouldn’t be able to make a very good banoffee pie. Still, when 2025 rolls around, and Prime Minister Angela Rayner is up against LOTO Rory Stewart, I will be sure to make both a flan and a stew.

I’m voting Labour, obviously. Since I’ve been eligible to vote, it’ll actually only be the second time I’ve voted for them, and the first General Election too – in 2017 I was living in what is genuinely one of the few Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginals in the country. The bar charts were right for once: Labour genuinely couldn’t win there.

This time around, though, I’m in a Labour safe seat. Which, frankly, I’m glad of: yes, technically, last go around my vote made more difference, and I really probably should’ve put at least a little bit more thought into postal voting at home to make sure the Liberal Democrat candidate definitely wins, but in 2019 I really do just want to vote Labour. I want to vote for a manifesto I believe in, rather than against one I don’t. As a choice, it ultimately hasn’t been particularly difficult – a Labour government would be genuinely transformative, and is in fact genuinely necessary. It’s not just about Prime Minister Corbyn – although he is obviously manifestly better than a cruel, venal Prime Minister Johnson. (Or, not that it’ll ever happen, Prime Minister Swinson – I’m convinced that Jo Swinson is one of the most cynical and morally vacuous politicians on the national stage at the moment. You only have to look at her handling of Phillip Lee’s defection to the Liberal Democrats to see that there is no single principle she holds, or marginalised group she claims to support, that she won’t abandon the moment it becomes politically expedient.)

No, it’s a vote for a party with sufficient political imagination and ambition to conceive of a world where better things are possible, where suffering isn’t treated as an economic necessity or intractable reality, where genuine change can happen. Of course that’s something I want to believe in, to vote for, to try and bring about.

Anyway, I’ve been looking up what I said last go around – in messages, on blogs, that sort of thing. Mostly I seemed worried. Also bemused at a Conservative-leaning friend – I know, I know, but I think she’s grown out of it now – who opted to vote Green as a protest in her Labour safe seat. No, I still don’t get it.

I am less worried now. Actually, I’m feeling unexpectedly, serenely confident. It’s based on not much at all; probably it’s just a coping device. I’m not expecting a majority – at the moment, I suppose the best we can probably hope for is a Corbyn-led coalition, but the Conservatives as the largest party. It’s not ideal. But, hey, you never know. Polling seems not to have accounted for a potential surge in youth turnout – I know, I know, but I’m hopeful all the same – and people do seem genuinely motivated. So… maybe…?

Either way, though, I am determined to be a bit more on it from now on. In fact, I finally joined the Labour party this go around. I’d always valued the fact I wasn’t a member of a particular party – my thinking, essentially, that I don’t feel any specific connection to a party, and I’d rather just vote for the most viable left-wing party wherever I ended up registered. Not anymore, though. For the moment, at least, I want to be part of something. So now I’m a member of the Labour Party.

Anyway. I haven’t actually voted yet! I’ll be off to do that in a few hours. Got my red jumper on. And my red socks. Here we go!

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I don’t wear a poppy, and I haven’t for years – it doesn’t feel like it’s about remembrance anymore

poppy appeal royal british legion why I don't wear a poppy anti poppy war crimes

At the same time – perhaps in part because of the above – it starts to feel as though the image has been co-opted. 

Often the line is blurred between a dignified acknowledgment of fallen soldiers – something which should surely only be intended as an anti-war statement, to prevent something like that ever happening again – and support for the war itself (whichever one might be going on at the moment).

An article about why I don’t wear a poppy anymore.

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Corbyn’s Cinema Club: What I learned from my evening with the Labour Leader

jeremy corbyn lgsm pride phoenix cinema owen smith fundraising event momentum george mckay

It sounded a little bizarre at first.

A screening of Pride – a movie chronicling the work of LGSM in the 1980s – doesn’t, on the face of it, seem to have a particular amount to do with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Leadership campaign. In some respects, it seemed like a slightly cynical attempt to tick boxes, in an attempt to garner votes from LGBT individuals, miners, and, presumably, movie fans. But given I tick at least one of those boxes, it did catch my attention; further, I’d wanted to take a little bit more of an active interest in politics for a while now, and this seemed as good a place to start as any.

If nothing else, I’d wanted to see Pride for ages, so whatever happened, it wouldn’t be a complete waste of an evening.

It’s worth noting, perhaps, my mindset when going in; aside from the underlying confusion about the event, and the excitement about seeing the film, I naturally had a few preconceptions about Jeremy Corbyn. Generally speaking, I fall quite squarely into the demographic that he’s most popular with – young, left wing views, so on and so forth. Certainly, during the early period of Jeremy’s leadership, I was a fan; in recent months, I’ve become far more sceptical of him than I once was. So while I was still, broadly speaking, a supporter of his (albeit with a few caveats and reservations), I certainly wasn’t approaching this event as a diehard fanatic.

The event took place at the Phoenix Cinema, in East Finchley, and began at 6pm; I arrived a little early, and took a bit of a look around the place before going into the cinema. (There’s a great bookshop up the road, if you’re ever visiting.) Upon entering, I was given two pamphlets; one drawing attention to the Orgreave Campaign for Truth and Justice, and another advertising a demonstration on the 5th November for libraries, museums, and galleries, proudly bearing the legend “I give my 100% support to this demonstration – JEREMY CORBYN.” In many ways, those pamphlets set a precedent that could be observed throughout the night, representing a certain dedication to social justice and to greater public sector investment.

Dave Lewis introduced the evening, and acted as something of a moderator throughout; Lewis was one of the founding members of LGSM, and currently also acts as their press secretary. He’s not in the film, though, and made a few jokes about that. Following his brief introduction, the film played – and it was an absolutely stunning movie. I’m going to have a full review on my website later in the week, but while watching Pride it became quite clear why it did actually make sense in the context of a Corbyn campaign evening: the movie touches on the ideas of equality and worker’s rights that Jeremy Corbyn is so keen to espouse, and many of the original members held socialist beliefs. (Indeed, while LGSM itself has largely minimised its active role as a fundraising & pressure group, they do still occasional speak out in support of Jeremy Corbyn.)

After the movie, there were a series of short speeches from Mike Jackson, Gethin Roberts, and Jonathan Blake (all original members of LGSM, who were portrayed in the movie by Joseph Gilgun, Andrew Scott, and Dominic West respectively) and actor George McKay, who played the character Bromley in the movie. It was clear enough – as you’d expect, obviously – that they were all big supporters of Corbyn; Mike Jackson, for example, drew some interesting parallels between the “demonization” of Corbyn in the media, and the misinformation that was spread about LGSM in the 1980s, while Jonathan Blake called it a “huge honour” to be there in support of Corbyn. George McKay was the final person to speak, and thus gave something of an introduction for Corbyn, commending him for being dedicated to achieving the ideals put forward in Pride – those ideas of support, community, and the “joy of unity”.

It was then time for “Mr JC himself”, as Mike Jackson referred to Corbyn earlier in the night, to speak. While it’d be inaccurate to say the speech wasn’t political, because it obviously was, but certainly Jeremy didn’t particularly discuss policy – the event could be considered a “tone meeting” more than anything else, dedicated primarily to discussion of ambition and hopes for the future, as opposed to a concrete plan for how to get there. (Which is fair, of course; it was a night out to the cinema, I doubt anyone was expecting Corbyn to break out an Excel spreadsheet and show everyone his budget plans.) Said tone could be summed up quite well with one word, which all the speakers kept returning to – this idea of “solidarity”. Solidarity between the unions and LGBT people in Pride, solidarity between different communities, and ultimately solidarity as a country. It was a good message, and a strong one, that everyone there delivered wholeheartedly.

Corbyn’s speech did, I think, give something of an insight into the man himself. He began by talking about his own recollections of the miner’s strike in the 1980s; how he was proud to have raised £100 000 for the miners in his Islington constituency, how horrified he’d been at police brutality, but also how, despite the actions of Tory government at the time, the miners were able to stand strong because of – and here’s that word again – their solidarity with one another. Corbyn is clearly quite proud of his history of activism and going to rallies, as well he should be, but it also became clear that he’s approaching his leadership campaign from a very similar perspective. He spoke not only about mobilising the people, and building a grassroots campaign, but also put forward an answer for why he was giving a speech to a group of people who already supported him – “to build a movement, to build a union, to build a political party.” It was the word “movement” that interested me most; Corbyn has a very particular style of conducting his politics, viewing his work as a continuation of the struggle of “those who went before us”, and he’s not likely to change that any time soon. To some extent, it seems to work for him – he was saying that he’d been to 56 campaign events in the past month and a half, amassing 30 000 new supporters, and I do think he’s a more effective as an orator in public than he comes across on television.

Certainly, though, I liked a lot of the content of Corbyn’s speech. He brought out a lot of his usual policies, referring to combatting austerity, increasing council housing, and taking better care of the NHS; each was met with successively louder applause, clearly popular amongst the audience he’d amassed. Personally speaking, I was particularly fond of the emphasis he placed on arts funding within schools, and the need for a “cultural space” to encourage “artists and writers” – for obvious reasons, of course. Corbyn also emphasised a desire to “invest in the people of the future”, and move away from what he called “the miasma of nastiness”, which dominated the current politics, but ultimately wouldn’t “build one school, or train one doctor”. I would say that I left with a more positive impression of Corbyn than when I entered, primarily on the basis of this speech – he came across as a principled individual, committed to enacting a real, positive change. I would, I think, be more inclined to support him now than I was previously.

And yet the evening did, in many ways, embody what I find to be the central tension of Corbyn’s leadership. I like a lot of his ideas, and he appears genuinely committed to a form of social justice I admire; at the same time, I have some doubts as to his efficiency and competency as a politician, and to what extent he can meaningfully enact these policies. Certainly, his critics who believe he’s stuck in the past, or can only engage with politics as a protestor, would have a lot of ammunition to attack him with based on this event, with its focus on events like the miners’ strike, or the Orgreave campaign; while I’d argue it was actually entirely appropriate to pay heed to these issues, given the context of the event, it’s also easy to understand someone wanting Corbyn to put more focus on current affairs, particularly while campaigning to be party leader.

Moving forward from today, when Corbyn has reaffirmed his position as Labour leader with an even stronger mandate than before, that is the most important question – can Corbyn bring about the change he’s campaigning for?

Honestly, I genuinely hope he can.

Note: When I wrote this, I pitched it to a couple of different websites (to no avail, the lesson being not to bother with student politics websites and just go straight for the Guardian, probably) and I did, rightly or wrongly, tone down my own opinion and try to be a bit more measured in places. (And, come to think of it, I played down quite how much fun the evening was too. Still one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at the cinema.)

That said, two years on and uploading this to my website for the first time, I actually can’t tell which bits are the moments where I’m trying to be measured in place of my own opinion, or where it is my own opinion. Go figure. Anyway, I’d just like to note now that while then I was positive-but-tentative about Corbyn, I’m now tentative-but-positive, for all the clarity that deliberately unclear statement offers.

Alexis, my friend who’s also pictured above (or was, until I felt uncomfortable about the picture of the two of us with Jeremy and took it down), says “I’m only letting you put the Corbyn pic up on the one condition that you make it clear that I think he is bossman no longer (while actually also making sure I don’t come across as a Corbyn/socialism hater because, well, I’m not)”, and a few days later emphasised “Corbyn’s not the shit”.

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On the Subject of the BBC

bbc building license fee justification argument for in favour of good idea bitesize radio defence

I live in Britain – London, specifically. And, I should point out, I am not a particularly patriotic person. My political views are left-leaning, but largely lack definition. I say this as preamble and context leading to the main statement of this piece, which you’ve probably guessed already:

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in the UK, alongside the NHS, and the licence fee should not be cut.

At the minute, the license fee for a colour television is £145.50 per year. That’s about £12.13 per month, and works out at just under forty pence per day. (You can see a full breakdown of the costs here.)

The question is, what do you get for forty pence a day?

Well, for a start, there’s TV.  Over 30 different drama programmes – Jonathan Creek, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Sherlock, Last Tango in Halifax, and so on and so forth. You’ve got all sorts of soaps, like Holby City, Casualty, and of course Eastenders. There’s sitcoms like Citizen Khan, Not Going Out, and Mrs Brown’s Boys. As well as that, there’s also children’s programming. Things like TeletubbiesTracy Beaker, Blue Peter, Deadly 60, In the Night Garden, Newsround. On top of that, you have documentaries – there’s nature documentaries, some of which are with David Attenborough. All sorts of historical documentaries, with special ones produced to commemorate different anniversaries. As well as that, you’ve got all sorts of sports programmes, like Match of the Day, and talent programmes, like The Voice or Strictly Come Dancing, and talk shows, like The Graham Norton Show.

Then, after that, you’ve got radio programmes. There’s 59 different BBC radio stations. These radio stations are not just limited to news, or music – you get comedy, drama, panel games, sketch shows, documentaries, plays. Look, here is a list of the output from just one of the 59 BBC radio stations.

But that’s not all!

Because, you see, the BBC licence fee also pays for online content. Now, the obvious ones that you’d think of are the BBC News website, or maybe the BBC Sport website. There’s also BBC Weather, and BBC iPlayer – where you can see, yet again, the sheer variety and range and breadth of content being produced by the BBC.

Those are the obvious ones, mind you. But it barely scratches the surface.

You’ve got the BBC Bitesize website, a resource for students from Key Stage 1 (5 – 8 years old) all the way up to A-Levels. I guarantee that every single student in the UK, and a huge percentage of teachers, have used and benefitted from that website.

There’s a food website. A travel website. An arts website. An earth website. A history website. An ethics website. A website full of advice for teensAnd there is still more on top of that!

The BBC offers 24 hours news coverage on a variety of far reaching topics, on several different platforms – TV, Radio, online, apps, etc etc etc. It is, more or less, the most impartial and most reputable news service in the country.

That is what you get for 40p a day. Forty pence a day for all of that.

Obviously – and I do want to stress this – the BBC is not perfect. It does need to be criticised, and it does need to be carefully and objectively considered, rather than viewed with rose tinted glasses.

Thing is, though? The best argument for the license fee is the amount of content we get from it.

The license fee is a bargain, not a burden.

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