Reflections on Thursday’s vote

Jun 06


3 Responses


Helen Whitten

Posted In


Reflections on Thursday’s vote

The lead-up to the election has been an extraordinary and distressing period.  The tragic and terrible terrorist attacks have left us feeling numb, sad, confused and inevitably somewhat fearful for ourselves and our loved ones.  There is no obvious quick fix for the challenges we face.  It’s not obvious what we need to do about terrorism, BREXIT, defence, the NHS and education.   Yet our politicians pretend they have the solutions when they don’t.

And the scepticism that Jeremy Corbyn would never win the election is also being turned on its head.  The unthinkable is becoming possible as other parties have led appalling campaigns.  A far left Marxist and his even more far left Deputy John McDonnell and Diane Abbott could be in charge of this country from this Friday.  Personally I think this would be a disaster.  I sit in the centre of politics and it is his anti-business stance that concerns me most.  Where does that leave aspiration?  The UK is one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world and consists mainly of small and medium-sized businesses founded and run by enterprising and hard-working people who have often grafted for 60 – 80 hours a week, seven days a week, to get their business going.

There are major organisations, for whom he has it in, who employ large numbers of people but he wants to tax and regulate these until the pips squeak – and that will be likely to have the consequence of more unemployment and less tax revenue as businesses can and do, in this day and age, relocate to other more business-friendly lands.

On top of the upheaval and uncertainty of BREXIT – and Corbyn was remarkable for his absence in the Remain campaign and has held anti-EU sentiments that are unlikely to be beneficial to us in the negotiations – this anti-business approach could bring our country to economic ruin.  Look at Venezuela.  Or Cuba – yes they had good health and education but the people were dirt poor, and repressed.  And financial ruin hits the poorest the hardest.

Corbyn supporters see him as the answer to our problems but I am not so convinced that his heart is in the right place, or that what he promises is affordable.   They call him our Obama. But he is no Obama.    It is trendy and hip to be pro-Jeremy – just look at the comedians, the TV audiences for debates, the celebrities.  Social media streams are pro-Corbyn and few dare stick their head above the parapet if they feel differently.  Those who utter criticism are regarded as unenlightened.

I know many of you disagree with me but I see him as a populist, our version of Donald Trump, albeit a very different character.  He is an angry rebel – standing against situations for most of his life rather than for anything specific.  What he does stand for, such as pacifism, his support of the underdog such as the IRA or Hamas, he later finds some way to wriggle out of in interviews so as not to sound too extreme.  But I believe he is extreme.  He is an ideologue who wants revolution and revolutions seldom end well and always incur much suffering and repression.

Inevitably the young will be enamoured with such idealistic rhetoric.  I would have been if I had been younger.  I flirted with communism in my teens in the 60s until I realized the terrible things that occurred in its name, the slaughter, the repression.  Of course they will vote for him as he has effectively bribed them with the promise of no tuition fees.  Why wouldn’t they?  But whilst it is right that the young should be idealistic we also need to recognise that they have not yet had the experience of working, paying taxes, raising families and the inherent challenges of adult life.

But where to put that cross?  The other parties are not offering us anything nearly as attractive.  Of course not.  They can’t.  They don’t live in an idealistic wonderland.  Perhaps you are old enough to remember the nationalised industries.  I certainly am – the dreadful British Rail, the strikes of the 1970s where rubbish piled up on the pavements, we had electricity for only a few hours a day, bodies were not buried.  Why do we imagine that the Government will be better at running industry when they have demonstrated through successive governments that they have been unable to run the NHS or education in any coherent or efficient way?  Again, Corbyn is selling us a dream and of course people like dreams.

But we live in the real world.  We have to pay for what a government promises.  And if we go deeper into debt we have to pay more interest – billions of pounds of it a year that could be going elsewhere.  Yes, austerity has been too harsh but we also have to be the grown-ups that we are as a voting community and recognise that money doesn’t grow on trees.  We also need to recognise that it is a good thing to encourage people to work if they possibly can as this gives them pride and self-control.

I have voted Labour in the past but dislike the divisive rhetoric of the party.  Words such as ‘the rich’ and ‘posh’.  We need to encourage business development and wealth creation as these employ others and pay a huge percentage of the tax that our country needs for infrastructure.  As do corporations.  The ‘greedy bankers’ consist of a small percentage of people.  The majority of staff working in organisations are decent ordinary people.  You get rotten apples in every profession – we have seen cases of rotten doctors recently, we get rotten lawyers, rotten teachers, politicians, union leaders, etc.  I am not an economist but I can see that one can’t allow banks to fail because each and every person who has money held in those banks, individuals and businesses, would have lost their money.  There is still work to do on the culture and values of big business and I believe all the parties are addressing this.  Things are changing and people in business are not all bad.  In the meantime the coalition government and Conservative government who have been in power since the economic crash of 2008 have had to deal with the problem of “there’s no money left”.

Somehow we don’t hear the same criticism of ‘the rich’ for those who have made money singing a pop song or kicking a football.  The anger and hatred is directed at business and this is dangerous because a country thrives or starves on the success of trade.  My rather cynical mind thinks that a Corbyn approach is to pack full the public sector and keep people on generous benefits because these are his voting community and he has less control of them if they are working in the private sector.    If he gets in I hope I shall be proved wrong but right now I am concerned for the economic viability of his policies.

I don’t have solutions. I think the Conservatives have made and continue to make major mistakes.  I question how on earth the second referendum promised by the LibDems will work.  Do they intend that many hundreds of people spend time and huge amounts of money discussing and negotiating an exit deal and then give the British public the right to reverse the whole thing?  How would that work with the Europeans?   Would they be happy that they had just spent two years of uncertainty that was effectively in the hands of the British people to negate?  And how can any of them state that they will stay in the single market or custom zone until they start negotiating, especially when the EU will not flex one inch on the free movement of people?

But I do worry that a Corbyn government would ruin businesses and lead far more people into poverty.  It will make the UK far less attractive a place for international businesses to operate – on top of the uncertainty they are already experiencing through BREXIT.  Trade is what keeps the peace, not idealism.  Trade has power in itself to build relationships, to employ diverse peoples and to keep the wheels of life going for the average person even through war and pestilence.  Look at how mobile phone companies keep people talking despite wars, air traffic controllers and airlines maintain flights over and into war zones.

We have tax avoidance in the cash economy, such as in construction, and in the big businesses and this needs to be addressed.  Business can be a force for the good, not evil.  The average working person is just trying to make a living, not fleece others.  Without it there will be no taxes to pay to help those people who need help – who are sick, disabled, or have fallen on hard times and need help and support to pick them up again.   We need a Prime Minister who sees how to provide support for the needy in an efficient and pragmatic way.  Anyone promising snake oil remedies must be questioned, their motives and solutions analysed to see if they are indeed workable.

Personally I believe the Coalition worked well for the country and I would like to see more cross-party projects on defence, the NHS and social care, on education.  Collaboration surely provides a forum for listening to other perspectives and for rational debate.  It has the potential to put the interests of the people and the nation above party politics.   But the parties are claiming they will not work in coalition, so we have to make our own decisions who to vote for and this is difficult.

All politicians are human and therefore flawed and fallible.  Think of Trump and how that was also a really hard choice of two people, neither of whom were popular, but I personally would have felt the US and the world to be a safer place with a pragmatic Clinton rather than the salesman Trump.  Recent elections in France, the Netherlands and Austria have provided difficult choices for their electorate too.

Vote.  Do vote.  Don’t let the challenge stop you going to the ballot box.  If you meet anyone who has lived under a repressive or authoritarian regime you will know how precious a gift a vote is.  But please don’t fall for the line that all business is bad.  It isn’t true and such propositions are bad for our country.


3 Responses

  1. It is a very common response to frame left wing policies as anti business – but most critiques overlook 1. the details of these policies and the realities of how the economy and monetary system actually work  2. are based upon totally unfounded myths about the implications of public and private sectors. Here is some examples –

    1. For example, Labour raising the minimum wage. It is true that small businesses under a labour government will struggle to pay a £10 minimum wage. However such businesses will be given tax breaks so they are able to do so.   Under the current system neither wage labour or welfare is at an adequate level for many people to survive. Hence the number of people using food banks since 2010 has gone from the tens of thousands to the millions. Most people who actually receive benefits are in work! They simply cant afford to survive on the income that their waged labour provides. Ensuring decent wages will save the money spent providing millions of people in work benefits! Furthermore a wealthier working class spends more – which is good for the economy and finds its way back into public funds through taxation. 

    2. Take another Labour policy, increasing corporation tax. Many criticisms of this policy suggest that business will simply leave and fail to mention that Britain under the tories has one of the lowest corporation taxes in the world. Labour’s proposed rate is actually lower than some of the E.U. countries, such as Germany (a country which is widely recognised as having a strong economy than many other E.U. states). 

    3. The idea that any kind of business is good for everybody and that wealth trickles down from the top is simply no longer tenable – we now know that there is grotesque levels of wealth and income inequality in the UK and that this is linked to increasing deregulation of the U.K.and Global markets. Check out these figures –

    Addressing this issue requires bold and decisive steps and for the first time in my life there is a manifesto that intends to be bold and decisive when it comes to inequality. I am both reassured and excited to find that there is now a party that has some moral conviction as well as an economic strategy to address this problem. We should be relived not worried!

    3. Another policy – Labour’s national investment bank recognises that only some kind of business work for us all. A national investment bank involves private and public capital working together to invest in the economy for very specific ends –

    1. in ways that are good for the environment 
    2. in ways that create more skilled labour 
    3. in ways that create more jobs 
    4. in ways that provide worker security and stability

    This is not the government undermining business but merely shaping business agendas in the long term interest of the many rather than the few. It is not a radical left wing thing to do, in fact it is pretty mainstream in places like Germany and Norway! It is extremely difficult to have a social democracy without it! This kind of policy is really needed in the U.K. which is increasingly reliant upon the financial markets. These markets don’t create anything like the number of jobs or opportunities for skilled labour that investments in other sectors do and give rise to massive income inequality. Some of these markets actually profit and trade of increasing private debt,. At the moment our economy is in part sustained by people getting into more and more private debt!

    The reality is that the state is and can be entrepreneurial! check out the links below – She is a great economist and influencing Labour economic policies. 

    5. Critiques of left wing economic polices fail to address class and power. The reality is that many business benefit from a poorly paid, insecure and disposable workforce. In fact this is one of the unfortunate things that the E.U.’s economic policies and free movement of labour has actually functioned to create. Unskilled workers in the western E.U. countries are seeing their wages fall in real terms, closer to the the levels of wages of eastern european workers, rather than rise. This actually serves some of the Big E.U corporations as they will be in a better place to compete with China when it comes to manufacturing. See link below for more details –

    The E.U.’s Neo-liberal economic policies do not always work for working people or actually strengthen every member states economy. Corbyn is honest, so he did not campaign along the lines of Leave the E.U. and everything will fall apart. He wanted a different kind of Europe and a different kind of relationship with it for some very good reasons. This is why Corbyn campaigned for the E.U with the message remain and REFORM! The E.U. needs to stop imposing austerity on some of it’s member states (such as Greece) and needs to become far more democratic. Check at Yannis Varoufakis on his experience of how democratic brussels is and the need to remain and reform.

    4. Note that it is not easy to get much reporting about the real issues that labour policies seek to address or much detail about the policies themselves. Hence you have to dig deeper! This is because Britain has one of the most concentrated medias in the world, 3 companies in control of 71% of national newspaper circulation and 5 companies in command of 81% of local newspaper titles.

    These are large corporations that are very very hostile to the changes Corbyn proposes, (One example is obvious – increasing corporation tax). Hence he gets extremely poor media coverage and constant smearing.

    All media is biased – left wing and right wing media. But the fact is about 70-80% of the media now has a more right wing agenda. Look at the papers each day and see what you notice when it comes to representations of any left wing figure or policy. In around 80% of the papers, it will be smear or focusing on issues that don’t actually effect the daily lives of working people (with the exception of more reporting about the NHS and Education). There is lots of stuff like whether Corbyn will press the button in a nuclear strike, how he is a terrorist sympathiser or something trivial like Corbyn’s driver running over someone’s foot. This stuff will be headline news right in the middle of a serious election!


    1. Thanks for your second comment. We are unlikely to influence one another, probably, at this stage but thanks for your comments.
      Here are some of my initial responses to your thoughts:
      • Food banks have only gone from 0 – tens millions since 2010, because that is when they were invented
      • A national investment bank would be an inefficient way of allocating capital
      • May has put inequality at the front of most of her speeches, taking lessons from the Brexit vote. It hasn’t made her particularly popular with business and I am not a particular fan of May but I do think she wishes at heart to improve inequality. Whether any of them can do this easily will be seen…
      • Plenty of media and commentators have dedicated time to analysing Corbyn’s policies, including reviewing the manifesto in detail after its launch. And I have read many different comments (not just the Guardian). I personally would say that much of the tv and media comment has been extremely pro Corbyn during what has been a good campaign on his behalf. But a good campaign doesn’t equal a good government as far as I am concerned (look at Trump)…
      • I believe that the fact that Corbyn has been a terrorist sympathiser and into unlateral nuclear disarmament are very serious issues, to be taken with gravity in terms of our future as a nation.
      • Ask Varoufakis how easy it is to reform the EU from the inside…he says it has been virtually impossible.
      Anyway, let’s hope that whatever way the vote goes tomorrow our future is bright!
      Thanks for your comments.

  2. Sorry I shouldn’t have put “thinking deeper and louder” that was arrogant and unnecessary! just feeling a little but too passionate and protective about the possibility of real change in direction.

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