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Fear, love and hope will rage…

Submitted by on June 7, 2017 – 8:32 pmNo Comment

Lois banner

The tradition in our house was to stay up and watch the election results come in. This was usually quite a grim experience as a child, as Labour got battered time and again.

Still, we were a very committed red household and I was campaigning when I was in primary school, to the point of refusing to shake the hand of the prospective Conservative candidate who came to our class when I was eight, before the 1987 election.

The headteacher wasn’t impressed, but my dad was. And my grandma even more so. Most Saturday mornings at her house were a lesson in socialism. And I lapped it up.

Labour governments had given people like my parents chance to live beyond merely surviving. They’d both grown up poor, but they’d worked hard in manual jobs before getting employment in the public sector, where they would be looked after by the unions they were proud to be members of and a government (at the time of their first employment) that made sure they had money to actually spend, beyond merely paying the bills.

They were able to buy a home. As it once again is today as society goes backwards, that was a unique privilege for people of their class.

The 1970s ended and things got hard, with mam taking on two part time jobs, as a dinner lady and a check out girl at Morrisons, while my dad worked in pubs for extra cash in hand. They did this to make sure me and my sister grew up without the poverty they’d experienced. And the older I get the more eternally grateful I have become.

Watching their dreams shattered time and again in the 1980s was hard for a child, coming to grips with the fact that outside of nursery rhymes and story books, there were some genuine baddies in the world out to hurt those who didn’t deserve the pain.

70s Corbyn

Each time we watched the results come in their exasperation was evident. The 1992 election was another battering we took. We’d held a pretend hustings and vote at school and I won it for Labour with an impassioned speech, espousing policies Kinnock would have cowered at.

My mam was proud, but alas Kinnock was a pillock and Major won. Much to the delight of our home economics teacher who viciously mocked me on the Friday morning. That was the Tories in a nutshell for me. A 50-year-old well-paid woman bullying a 13-year-old kid who just wanted a better world.

Then came 1997, the first election I was old enough to vote in. And ‘we’ actually won. I was at me mam’s at the time and we stayed up all night. I went to work at the cardboard factory the morning after, barely able to operate the machinery, but still absolutely elated that ‘we’ were back in control of our own destinies.

My dad stayed out on the piss for the one and only time I ever remember. He didn’t come back for days. It is hard to fathom in the current negativity that engulfs this isle, but it was a huge moment on a par with United finally winning the league again in 1993. The country was rocking and a better world seemed possible.

We’d get a minimum wage and some years later thanks to a ridiculously generous first time buyers scheme I’d be able to afford to ‘part own’ my first home (a tiny flat in Salford, that meant the world).

As we now know, it all went the way of the pear as blair’s true colours began to reveal themselves through the red paint, the more people scratched away. The heartbreaking rightward shift, left many of us voting Labour in 2010 purely to try and stop the Tories winning back power.

For the first time in many of our lifetimes, the disgust we had in blair and brown meant we would no longer class ourselves as ‘Labour’. My dad disowned the party completely. And him telling me this, still ranks as one of the saddest conversations I’ve ever been part of, alongside the chat we had about giving up going to watch our football club some years earlier. They both betrayed us.

Then came 2015. I tried to stay up for the results, as per tradition. But I was in bed for 1am. It was obvious almost immediately that the Tories would enjoy a crushing victory, despite hope from the opinion polls the previous week. The people who voted Tory were so ashamed, they couldn’t even admit it when taking part in anonymous polls.

That is the kind of people we are dealing with. The kind of people that put their own opportunity to save a few quid in tax that they can more-than-afford, above the wellbeing of people who have absolutely nothing. The kind of people that think themselves above others because of what family they were born into, what job they do, what car they own or what colour their skin is. These selfish, greedy, prejudiced bastards somehow sleep at night. If you don’t bother voting, you are enabling this nefariousness.

Labour was not ‘my party’ during that 2015 election either, but the thought of the Tories having a majority, was an absolutely, frightening prospect.

Banner

Especially as since the last election, the government had been very heavily responsible for the death of my brother in law. They’d cut his benefits off when he missed one dole meeting and he had subsequently taken his own life, shattering everyone who knew him. To those of us who have suffered directly from their ideologically driven cruelty towards the poor and disadvantaged, voting against this lot really is a matter of life and death. And that should never be forgotten.

That time, as well as the anger and despair at what happened to our Mike, we now had someone in our lives that mattered far more than anything else. A wonderful little person, who stares at you with big bright eyes and loves life as she bounces about everywhere at 100 mph, completely unaware that there are people in her world who wish her harm for being born without a silver spoon.

Our daughter has enriched our lives in ways we never thought possible. And it is her future and those of her generation at stake in this current election. That is how important it is. If the Tories win a big majority, the lives of our children will be diminished and thousands more innocent people will die due to the barbarity of their policies. It is that simple.

But there is also another factor at play this time. For the first time since the first time, I will be voting for a manifesto I actually believe in. Since Jeremy Corbyn won the first leadership election, he has galvanised many on the left. And he has done it with basic social democratic ideas and policies that aren’t even ‘radical’ in the grander scheme of things.

Most of the wonderful ideas in the current manifesto would be seen as ‘common sense’ in many parts of the world. It says so much about the state of our country that nationalising the railways or enabling free education are seen as revolutionary ideas. That this shift towards fairness and equality should be seen as ‘radical’, is a tragic indictment of the status quo that has prevailed.

Despite all the negative campaigning from the right wing media and the self-combustion from many within the Labour party, Corbyn has stuck to his beliefs and ran a superb campaign, ignoring the media agendas and meeting actual people. We have seen populist campaigning, which has brought positivity to those of us clever enough to ignore everything we read in the wider media.

This rare feeling of hope has already had a huge impact on people who felt there was none left after 2015.

It is the reason I was charging about one Saturday to arrange for left-leaning youngsters Cabbage to have Manchester Trade Council’s ‘A Better World is Possible’ banner on stage with them for their ‘homecoming’ gig at Gorilla in town. An elder statesman of Manchester’s left had spent the previous week securing possession of said banner.

Cabbage

Seeing hundreds of youngsters cheer as one of the singers announced ‘we are all immigrants’ was one of the highlights of my gig-watching career. Young people getting arsed. Lovely to see.

While hosting the banner in our house, I hung it up to air out the smells it had gathered from the beer thrown at it by that enthusiastic life affirming audience.

Our daughter Lois took a real interest in it. She loved the colours. She kept standing next to it and saying ‘wow dadda’. I welled up as I did what I always slag other people for doing – I took a picture of my child with my mobile phone. I took a picture of our Lois stood in front of the banner which read ‘A better world is possible’. And just for a moment, as she looked back at me with those joyous big eyes, I truly believed.

Placard

It is highly likely we will get battered again on Thursday. That there are too many selfish bastards out there, that no one cares about their neighbours, that no one cares about those less well-off than themselves, that the media will succeed in pushing the Tory battle lines as actual stories, that they will continue to demonise Corbyn and anyone who attempts to present hope and that it will fucking rain and all the young people who have joined the fight will decide to stay in wanking or playing on their Nintendos, instead of voting (that is a joke youngsters, before you all start @ing me).

I don’t think for one minute that I will be running into Lois’ room at 4am and hoisting her above my head and shouting: “We did it,” but it would be lovely to look her in the eye when she wakes at 5am on Friday, knowing we stopped the baddies from being as mean as they’d like to be.

For that hope, that chance, we have to believe we can one day win. As someone older and wiser than myself always tells me when I text him despairingly – we only need to win once. What is the point of getting up in the morning, or bringing a child into the world, if you don’t truly believe that WE can win? Just once.

And even if we do get battered on Thursday, it may lay the foundations for that to finally happen soon. Those young people, so invigorated, are learning how this world works and they want an alternative. They want a better world, as we all do. Win or lose, thanks to Corbyn and others, it is at last possible.

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