If the working class sticks together it can bring about the demise of the Con-Dem coalition that’s brought about such misery for ordinary people, writes BERNADETTE HORTON
FORGIVE me while I raise a glass of my £2.49 Tesco bottle of Lambrusco. I am toasting my last Tory Christmas and heralding in a new year of hope that we have seen the last of this vicious ideological, power-crazed right-wing government, aided and abetted by the traitor that is Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems.
Things have to get better for the working class don’t they? Things have to improve for us.
Going into our fifth year of Tory-imposed austerity has given me a real campaigning zeal to ensure we don’t face five more years. I have a definite firm belief that only working-class people can make change happen.
I have listened to all sides of the argument. The apathy for all political parties making people think it’s not worth voting, the anger directed at Labour for not appearing to understand working-class lives, the lure of Ukip and its “laddish” leader Nigel Farage, the worry about our ecological future and so a surge in Green Party interest.
We are indeed going through a major change in how we do politics and it’s no longer a two-party system.
For people struggling on zero-hours contracts and those who are agency employed it feels like no-one is speaking on their behalf.
For a generation of young people priced out of affordable homes with huge university debt hanging round their necks, it appears that no-one from any party is bothered.
But change has to start with us. People like you and I have to shout for change. And it’s no use thinking that no-one will listen. It make take a bit of persistence as change is never achieved overnight but it can be done.
I’ve done it myself a few times during 2014. One example where I’ve been campaigning was the price of Labour Party conference. I felt that at £63 for a pass it was pricing out working-class members and carers and the unemployed.
I lobbied Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol, tweeted him, got other MPs on board and behind me, and eventually received a letter telling me that prices for 2015 will now be lowered and budget accommodation booked for delegates.
It’s a start, but that start was only achieved by shouting, lobbying and asking Labour to look again. Labour listened and acted. That’s the power of the people working.
There will be many previous Labour voters disillusioned by the party. I feel many policies have been clouded that do provide real hope and real change.
Perhaps Labour has not been as successful in getting these real policies out there and more widely known — free 25-hour a week childcare for all three to four-year-olds, a repeal of the Health and Social Care Act that will stop privatisation of our NHS, an end to routine zero-hours contracts by employers, an energy price freeze, new technical apprenticeships for young people, public rail being allowed to compete with privatised rail companies for contracts, and for me and other women, women’s issues — pay, caring responsibilities etc — being looked at and acted upon.
These are the politics of hope. A hope that a vote for Ukip or any other party cannot give.
And there are brilliant Labour candidates out there who are offering something different if elected. There are men and women from working-class backgrounds who want to change the look and direction of the party so that it represents us more.
From Lee Sheriff in Carlisle, Lisa Forbes in Peterborough and Lara Norris in Great Yarmouth to Chaz Singh in Plymouth there are working-class candidates determined to swell the Labour MP ranks to join the trade union group of MPs in Parliament and push for change. The more of them who get elected the better.
But if we preach the politics of apathy to each other and give up trying, then we will end up with potentially a Con-Kip coalition government in May 2015.
George Osborne is promising a further £12 billion of welfare cuts. These cuts are not the “easy cuts” that have been inflicted since 2010. These cuts are on working tax credits for working people.
There is an ideological war going on against the poor and the working poor. We live in a land where money is in the hands of privileged millionaires, where the horror of hundreds of foodbanks in every town to feed the working class is going on right here and right now — a land where the rich paying less tax is deemed OK, while the disabled and vulnerable die from benefit sanctions.
The late Tony Benn was prophetic in his thoughts when he said: “There are two ways to control people. First of all frighten people and secondly demoralise them” — never more true than with this Con-Dem government. Tax credits prop up low-paid workers, both employed and self-employed.
From April 2015 Osborne is taking away all working tax credits for any self-employed person earning less than £156 per week. This will affect people like us — hairdressers, handymen, sales reps and so on. This is the reality. And Ukip supports all the policies the Tories do and more.
Ukip wants maternity pay taken from women in small businesses. Ukip wants workplace rights slashed for employees.
Look at all the bigots, racists and homophobes Nigel Farage has had to remove from standing for public office recently.
Where was Farage on Boxing Day? Down at the local fox hunt, fag in hand, Barbour-jacketed and hunting boots on, chatting to his own class — the upper middle classes he is at home with. For once not pretending to be “one of us.”
Take away Ukip’s superficially appealing leader and the whole party drowns in a swamp of nasty ultra-right-wing people who have no right to seek positions of public office to represent us.
For those of us who are union members or even former Labour Party members, our vote in May is just too precious to use for a quick protest.
Unless people vote wisely we will end up with some kind of Tory coalition again. Surely none of us want that?
What we do need is more Labour MPs with the passion, drive and determination to demand change within the Labour Party and seek to influence future policy.
So my new year’s message to all readers of the Morning Star and my articles is — hang on in there.
I have been disillusioned myself in the past with Labour, but after having met Ed Miliband myself, I know he listens and he does act in response to ordinary people.
He does want the change we want too, but his position is a difficult one as he seeks to act as the Labour leader in a time of unprecedented austerity. If Labour win in May it will take a few years to even begin to reverse the hurt caused by the Tories in areas like our welfare state, our NHS, our education system, our workplaces.
You will notice I said “our.” That’s because all these things belong to us — ordinary citizens. They are not possessions of this Tory government to be sold off to the highest bidder resulting in poor services for us.
We’ve had Margaret Thatcher’s and David Cameron’s sell-offs, and are our vital services — gas, electricity, rail, water — any better run? Of course not. We are paying a damned fortune for all these privately run essentials, so much so our wages can’t cover our monthly bills any longer.
So use your vote in May to make it a happy new year. A new start. A new launch. A final wave goodbye to Tory-imposed austerity for us and tax breaks for millionaires.
Let’s make 2015 the year the working class in Britain took charge of our futures, used our vote, had our say and placed our demands on a Labour table.