With the polls narrowing, it is clear that more people are planning to vote Labour. In large part that is because the electorate fear the Conservatives’ age of austerity and what it will mean for them and their families.
My contribution to the debate is a short book called “Why Vote Labour“, which makes the case for voting Labour – reflecting on our record, because I am proud of what we have achieved – but looking towards the future too.
“Why Vote Labour” tells the inspirational stories of people and families from up and down the country about the difference Labour has made to them. It also includes personal accounts from Jo Brand, Gurinder Chadha, Bono, Eddie Izzard and others on the difference Labour has made. I thought some of these stories were worth sharing with LabourList readers:
Dan, West London:
“I was born with cerebral palsy. I was three months premature and my parents spent weeks agonising over whether I’d make it. I survived thanks to dedicated care of the team at Wolverhampton General Hospital, but the next few years were full of battles over therapy and schooling. The local health service, typical of the Tories at the time, wanted to stop my weekly physiotherapy sessions at the age of four. My family were outraged and we appealed the decision, and I told the appeal how important my therapy was. We won – and I kept receiving regular physiotherapy until I was 16.
Fortunately, Labour ensures that people with disabilities don’t have to fight for the services they deserve. The local council (then Tory controlled) wanted to send me to a special school as that’s where disabled kids went. My mum thought I was bright and fought for me to go to the local school. It was another battle, but I was the first disabled child to go there. A couple of years later, a girl with cerebral palsy followed and now nobody questions that disabled kids should go to the best local schools. Somebody called me a pioneer; I just thought it was common sense. The extension of grants for students with disabilities, and a personal care package shared between two local authorities – made possible by Labour legislation – helped me go to Exeter University. I got a 2:1 before studying for a Masters in History as well.”
“I like Gordon Brown. He’s a serious man for serious times, and many people aren’t aware of his achievements, from when he was Chancellor to Prime Minister now.
In the last ten years there have been thirty-four million extra children going to school in Africa, 3.2 million extra people on AIDS drugs or anti-viral drugs, and half the amount of deaths from malaria. These are extraordinary statistics, and the Prime Minister deserves the credit because he was part of it. I’m sure it goes right to the core of the Labour Party.
An accident in geography should not decide whether you live or die. To have AIDS in London or Birmingham is not a death sentence, and it’s not acceptable that it’s a death sentence in Africa.
The recession has hit Britain hard, but it has hit people in the developing world a lot harder. We need to stand firm with our commitments to the Millennium Development goals. Britain and the Prime Minister have stuck to their promises in good and bad times, moving the concepts of equality and justice for people in the developing world. This is a monumental achievement and I don’t know if the people of Britain know what they have pulled off.
This is what makes Britain great!”
Jo Brand, comedian:
“I want to talk about the NHS, which might be a bit odd because I haven’t worked in it for twenty years. But when I did I witnessed the changes that came about via that champion of the poor, dispossessed and women, Margaret Thatcher. I worked in a 24-hour psychiatric emergency clinic in South London, which was all you might imagine it was. Through those years we saw auxiliary services farmed out to the lowest bidder, witnessed a shift in attitude which nominated our patients ‘customers’, and saw a creeping bureaucracy which favoured businessmen over experienced nurses to preside over the day-to-day workings of hospitals. I don’t think the Tories are safe with hospitals and although there is much work to be done, I am still convinced that the NHS is only safe in the hands of a Labour government despite David Cameron’s protestations on the glamorous posters I see all around me. I remember the Hello Boys posters for bras that legendarily made several male drivers crash. Well, if anything is going to make me drive into a tree, it’s those Cameron billboards.”
David Blanchflower, Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College and the University of Stirling:
“A year ago I was particularly worried that unemployment would rise to well over three million. Fortunately it is nearer to two and a half million, primarily due to the prompt action of this government. VAT was cut, there was cash for bangers and help was extended to the unemployed in general and to the young unemployed in particular and these policies seem to have worked. Without this intervention, unemployment would certainly have been well above three million by now. We have won the opening battle. The worry is that the war could still be lost.
Obviously accommodative monetary policy has helped, although the Monetary Policy Committee should have cut rates and started quantitative easing sooner.
Action by the Labour government has prevented the economy from falling off a cliff. But the risks of a double-dip recession remain. The similarities to what happened in the US in 1937 are instructive. Tightening policy too soon could potentially be the most serious economic policy error of our lifetimes. The unemployed are watching. Keep the stimulus going.”
There are lots of reasons for voting Labour and lots for keeping David Cameron out of Number Ten. The inspirational stories in this book are a reminder of what Labour has achieved – and of what more we have to do to make Britain a fairer, stronger and more equal society.