Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Who should you vote for in this election?


Part 1- The Choice is in your hands 

This may be the only bit you need to read!

I believe on Thursday the country has the clearest political choice we’ve faced for two generations. And it’s literally in the hands of our youngest generation of voters to make the difference. In the 2015 election and the EU referendum if young people had actually turned up and voted we would have had a different government and we would be remaining in the EU- what most young people had actually wanted. Instead too many young people stayed shy of the polling booth and they let their futures be determined by the votes of older generations. This has left many saddled with even greater student debts and even worse prospects of earning a good salary or getting a home of their own. No one can fairly say in this election that the choices on the menu are just the same dish served with different sauce and garnish.

We can choose a Labour party offering us a credible (and costed) hope and plan to:
  •  invest in a better future for our young people and for everyone
  •  invest to grow our economy
  •  save our dying public services- rescue our schools, and hospitals and put more policemen back on our streets
  •  provide truly affordable housing
  •  protect the poor
  •  trade freely and prosperously with our European neighbours despite leaving the EU.
 Alternatively, we can choose (or let others choose for us) another five years of Conservative government that will give us:

  •        more painful austerity
  •        failing cash-starved schools and hospitals
  •        less police on our streets
  •        more declining pay packets for the many and more riches for the few
  •        more homeless on our streets and queues at our foodbanks
  •        a no “free trade” hard Brexit dragging our economy into recession.

If you're already convinced there's no need to read on! Just make sure you vote Labour (or where another party are the main Tory challenger vote for them). And remember they close at 10pm!

If you’re not sure where to vote then just search the website of your local council who should have a section literally telling you where you can vote by street name. Go to the polling station identified. Don’t worry if you can’t find your polling card or you haven’t got your ID. They will just mark off your name and address on their list of registered voters. Pick up the voting slip, go into one of the booths and mark an X against the name of your Labour (or other chosen) candidate. You just get one vote for one candidate! Fold the voting slip up and stick it in the big black box. Btw it’s possible to be registered to vote in more than one place but you can only actually vote in one place, so choose wisely! (And don’t do what I did in my first general election 30 years ago- deciding to vote in Gravesham rather than Nottingham I missed my train south by a few seconds and got home too late to vote at all!)

 If you're still not convinced then invite I you to please read Part 2 below before you decide how or whether to cast your vote.

Part 2 A political journey- seeing through the fog of political myths

As a Christian and a political watcher, I have tried to carefully and prayerfully examine the evidence and the issues that should determine the way I should vote. My starting point has been to look to God and the guidance in the bible and the life of his Son Jesus as to what are his values and priorities- to try and make this country and this world better reflect the values of his Kingdom that he will bring when he returns to earth. “And what does the Lord require of you, o mortal? To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6 v 8). This also means opening our eyes as widely as we can to see the world and the people in it as it is – warts and all. This requires effort to try to see our way through the fog of myths and lies that so often prevent us from seeing how things really are. Open our eyes to where those myths come from- very often the media organizations owned by super-rich individuals who do not necessarily have the best interests of most of us at heart.

And here I will make a confession. One of the things I am most ashamed of. When I talk about being blinded by fogs of political myths this isn’t just arrogance on my part. I’ve been there myself. I speak with my own experience of having been misled by political myths. That’s why in this election I have set out to unmask the truth behind what I believe are some of the political myths that can often mislead us in the way we vote. So here it comes... In 2010, I voted Conservative. There I’ve said it and will probably now find certain left-leaning facebook friends de-friending me!

I had previously only voted Liberal Democrat up to 1995 and then “New” Labour. My reasons for this sudden change in 2010 are quite complex. It was partly because I had felt let down by the New Labour government over a period of 13 years, particularly over Iraq and more recently over Jack Straw’s regressive approach to justice. In rebellion, I had intended to vote Liberal Democrat but had concerns over their local candidate. I therefore looked at the Conservatives’ offering and thought aren’t they just offering a more competent version of New Labour? You see I had (at least partly) bought into two Tory messages. First, that the Conservatives were the most competent party to manage the economy following the Financial crisis that Labour (I thought) was partly responsible for. Second, that David Cameron’s Conservatives were really compassionate “One Nation” Tories as he claimed. Both of these were pure Tory myth, as I was soon to recognize.  

On the first one see my previous blog;

Labour have in fact always had a better record of managing our economy and the crash had zero to do with their spending and borrowing, which before the crash was significantly lower than the borrowing they had inherited from the Tories (36% v 40 of GDP) Their only failure there was not regulating our bankers more tightly, but the Tories were then complaining that they were regulating them too much! 

As for being compassionate “one nation” Conservatives, as soon as they were in power (and despite a coalition with the Liberal Democrats) they set about an austerity agenda of cuts to our public services and welfare that was largely unmentioned in their manifesto. Their policies massively increased poverty and inequality whilst extending large tax cuts to their super rich backers. They also seriously reduced access to justice (even more than Jack Straw had hinted). At the same time their austerity approach stifled our economic recovery sand  the national debt increased rather than reduced in breach of tehir own economic targets. Within weeks after the election the scales were removed from my eyes. I saw that the beast I had in fact voted for was an altogether different creature to the one I thought I was voting for. I felt very guilty and foolish that I had been taken in by the Tory myth machine. (Even more so when I witnessed their restrictions on access to civil justice bringing redundancies to my team at work).

I grew disillusioned with politics and was much distracted with the civil justice changes that ravaged my own area of work, (despite fruitless lobbying of my Conservative MP). This prompted a period of introspection and I suffered an episode of moderate depression.

After this had settled I started taking a closer look at the political scene again in the months leading up to the 2015 election. I was attracted back to Labour by Ed Miliband who seemed to be trying to pursue a more compassionate and collective approach away from New Labour. I therefore joined the Labour party in February 2015. (The first political party I had been a member of since the SDP in the early 1980s and for whom my dad stood in 1983). I was actively involved in campaigning for Labour in the 2015 General Election. And it all seemed to be going pretty well until those damned exit polls!

After Labour’s disheartening defeat in 2015 their leadership campaign followed in which I had initially supported the mainstream favourite “soft” left candidate, Andy Burnham. 

Facebook exchanges with supporters of the rebel outsider Jeremy Corbyn challenged my assumptions about him and his agenda. My wife and daughter had already been won over by Jeremy .

And then I read the book “The Establishment- And How They Get Away With It” by the Guardian journalist Owen Jones. It talked of things I suspected might be true but had never quite fully grasped. It was firmly based on hard evidence of the reality of how Britain was run today- mainly for the benefit of the establishment and the super-rich few, rather than the many and especially not the poorest. I realised from this that since 1979 Mrs Thatcher had set this country on a selfish and self-destructive path to dismantle most of our state and follow the false gods of the free market. It was a direction that new Labour did quite well to moderate but still broadly embraced and continued. Its results were unjust and unfair, to the poor and the ordinary majority, and ultimately only really benefited a rich few. It was therefore contrary to the values I believed in as a Christian. It was also a direction that was ultimately inefficient and wasteful of our precious resources. There was a better way; to wrest control and ownership of our public services from the hands of the rich few for the benefit of the many, provide genuinely affordable public housing and re-balance our economy and society so that it was run for the benefit of all rather than a rich elite. I recognised this was not some extreme communist vision of how society could be. It was broadly the social democratic mixed economy model on which our society had been run from 1945 to 1979 through both Labour and Conservative governments. It is also broadly an approach still successfully followed by our North European neighbours including Germany and the Scandinavian countries. I realised that this was a moderate and sensible approach. It was the current direction where we were headed (in tandem with the USA) that was extreme and foolish.

I recognized that this was the message Jeremy Corbyn was preaching in the leadership election. It seemed unlikely that an almost lone rebel of the party, a thirty year back bencher who’d never held high office could somehow be the faithful remnant who still held onto these political truths. A bit like his near lookalike Obe Wan Kenobi. The last Jedi left to pass on his truths to a new generation. I was won over and voted for Jeremy.

In the nine months that followed sadly I gradually fell out of love with Jeremy. I was still convinced that his political diagnosis and medicine were right as nearly 40 years of evidence bore out and I could still see he was a good man. However, it became increasingly evident that more than 30 years as a rebel backbencher had not best prepared to him to work with and lead a team of MPs and shadow cabinet. Equally his long habit of always being able to do/not do and speak/not speak whatever he wanted to regardless of the reaction was getting him into a lot of unnecessary controversy. He needed to up his game.

And then came the EU referendum. Jeremy Corbyn had campaigned for Remain but very much ploughed his own furrow without sharing the approach and platform of the Labour Remain campaign. If the result had gone for Remain then his lone wolf approach would have been overlooked. However, when the vote went unexpectedly wrong not surprisingly many in the remain campaign felt like me that in a small way Jeremy had contributed to that disastrous result. When he then announced on live TV the next morning that the Prime Minister should immediately trigger article 50 to get on and leave the EU this was the last straw.  And it was this that prompted his MPs’ rebellion – in the shocked and fevered atmosphere of the failed referendum when our Prime Minister had just fallen on his sword. Many of us then felt Jeremy should do the same. His MPs’ rebellion and the second leadership election therefore had nothing to do with policy disagreement but because of the way it was felt Jeremy had failed to lead his team in a co-operative and effective manner. Hence apart from Trident his leadership challenger Owen Smith (who I supported) promoted almost exactly the same policies.

The leadership challenge failed and Jeremy increased his overwhelming mandate with Labour members. Jeremy did his best to rebuild a Shadow Cabinet and continued as Leader. Since then and during this election campaign Jeremy has proved he has been able to learn and seriously upped his game by collaborating better with his colleagues and being more careful in his actions and choice of words. He did so whilst still continuing to pursue passionately his political vision for a better Britain that increasingly millions have been embracing in this election. On many counts he has proved me wrong (twice!) and I am enthusiastically campaigning for him in this election as the leader of a cause I firmly believe in for the good of this country.

As a country, I am convinced we have been heading in the wrong direction since 1979 and we now need to turn this ship of state around. For too long we have been steering a course of selfish individualism that has benefited the fortunate few but harmed the many. We have thrown overboard so many of the valuable things of the state that made sure everyone got a decent chance- truly public services run for the public good rather than private profit, truly affordable public housing, proper and free access to justice, free education and a proper welfare safety net so that everyone can afford proper food and other basic necessities. These precious things of the state I believe are essential to ensuring that we work towards the values of the Kingdom of God that Jesus wants us all to strive for and which are summed up in his essential command to “love your neighbour as yourself.”

My Recommendation to You- Vote Labour unless…

I have reached the conclusion that it is only the election of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn that can start to turn things around to build a better future for our country more in line with  Kingdom of God values. I recognize that there are more than two parties in this election and that there are many good things also in the policies e.g. of the Greens and Liberal Democrats. However, the reality is under our outmoded first past the post system only two parties can end up in government of the UK after this election- Labour or Conservative. I would therefore suggest that to exercise your vote responsibly you need to vote in the light of that choice- would it be better to have a Labour or Conservative government? For the reasons given here I am convinced that it is a Labour not Conservative government that this country desperately needs right now.  In most constituencies therefore I would encourage everyone to vote Labour. However, I also recognize that in certain constituencies the real challenger to the Conservatives will not be Labour but Lib Dem, in parts of Scotland the SNP and in Brighton and the Isle of Wight the Greens (In Northern Ireland I would advocate the SDLP). Whilst there would be no coalition deal between Labour and these parties in the event of a hung parliament they would share much of Labour’s progressive agenda. They could be guaranteed to vote down a Conservative minority government but broadly support a Labour one. Voting Labour rather than Lib Dem in say Guildford is only going to dilute the progressive anti-Tory vote and confirm a Tory MP. If you wish to see a Labour government but are unsure tactically who you would be best to vote for then have a look at: 

For those with the stamina for it ! I now set out in more detail why I believe voting in a Labour government would best realize politically biblical Christian values for the benefit of us all. Alternatively, you might just want to skip to the conclusion!

Part 3 How do the two main parties measure up to Christian values and priorities?

For background if you've the time please see my earlier blog pieces on why I believe the following to be (or not be) the key biblical Christian values on which we should exercise our vote ;

1. Looking after the poor and marginalised

This is the number one social issue on God's heart. It is highlighted 128 times across the bible. Since 2010 poverty in this country has increased massively, mainly due to government policies like the bedroom tax, benefit cuts and sanctions. Official figures show that since 2010 the number of children living in poverty has risen from 2.6 million to 4 million, annual foodbank use from 41,000 to 1.2 million and homelessness has more than doubled. The Tories make no commitment to reverse the misery of poverty their policies have caused. Indeed, they are committed to further increase poverty through policies like extending universal credit, ending universal free lunches for primary school children and the continued cap on benefit increases and the removal of the pensioners’ triple lock. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimate Tory policies will increase child poverty by 50% by 2020. By contrast Labour would end the bedroom tax, remove the cruel and arbitrary benefit sanctions regime and the benefit rates cap and start to reverse the other damaging welfare changes. They would also increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour by 2020 and extend 30 hours of free childcare to all 2 to 4 year olds to make more of a reality of work being a way out of povert . And Labour in government have an excellent record of substantially reducing poverty, especially child poverty and pensioner poverty, e.g. through targeted welfare spending, Sure Start centres and introduction of a national minimum wage.

The only answer that the Tories have to the clear case that their policies have increased poverty is that the way out of poverty is through work and that only their prudent economic management can provide those jobs. (Indeed this was the only answer my own local Tory MP could give me to this question!) The only problem with this answer is that work is no longer a way out of poverty for 100,000s of people – 60% of households in poverty are now working households. For further details see my previous blog piece;

Meanwhile, contrary to their myths, the Conservatives’ record of economic management is actually pretty dreadful and has led to the UK now having the lowest rate of economic growth in Europe. Labour's economic record in government is in fact far better and it’s current economic plans are widely supported by the world's leading economists. (See below re better management of our resources). On all the available evidence of the two main parties the Conservatives have been and would continue to be an enemy of the poor whilst Labour have always been their friend. If you share God's priority to help the poor then once you know the truth about the two parties and the effects of their policies I would suggest you could only vote Labour.

2. Caring for the sick

It was Labour who created our cherished National Health Service which for nearly 70 years has provided free healthcare to everyone according to their needs rather than their ability to pay. Contrast that with the situation in the USA where there is no universal free healthcare. For example, over there families of victims of violent tragedies such as we have just witnessed in Manchester London would have to set about fund raising campaigns to pay for their medical bills. Surely none of us want to end up with an American style health system. But who can be sure that's not where we'll be in ten years if we can continue as we are?

From 1997 to 2010 Labour rescued our NHS from chronic underinvestment and long waiting lists after 18 years of Tory neglect. They substantially improved the quality of services and reduced the waiting lists. After 7 years of underinvestment by the recent Tory led governments our NHS is now on the verge of a crisis with lengthening waiting lists, effective rationing of care (e.g. often virtually no mental health services provision), declining service standards, closing hospitals and NHS trusts heavily in the red.  Although in gross terms spending on our NHS has gone up the demands of an ageing population mean we need to increase our spending as a % of GDP just as our European neighbours have. Instead Tory government spending has significantly fallen as a % of GDP and would continue to do so. Most experts believe if we carry on this way our NHS as we know it will be unsustainable and we are likely to see free NHS care limited to an increasingly narrow range of services and other services will be the privilege of those who can afford to pay for it. For a helpful overview I suggest watching The NHS: A Visual Essay- Juniordoctorblog.com#voteNHS#GE2017.

But it is not just about how much money you put into the service that matters, as the Tories are so fond of telling us. It’s also about how that money is spent and how the services are managed. But it is the Conservative’s approach here which is wasteful and inefficient. Their market led reforms and reorganisation have made the service less not more efficient. Allowing private commercial interests to run many parts of our NHS has meant billions of government money being leached from the system to pay out private profits and CEOs’ inflated salaries. Millions more are lost on wasteful tendering processes (including lawyers’ fees). We have also ended up with a disjointed overcomplicated system of competing interests and authorities with a lack of clear control. Sadly, New Labour to a large extent aped the Conservative market approach (strongly opposed by Jeremy Corbyn). However, under Jeremy Corbyn Labour is now committed to returning our NHS to a proper publicly owned run and accountable service which should ensure a much better use of health resources.

The problems of NHS funding are inherently linked with social care where government funding through councils has been slashed by Tory cuts. This has led to wasteful “bed blocking” by elderly patients who medically are well enough to no longer need a hospital bed but can’t go home because there is no care package in place to look after them there. The Tories offer no solutions to our health and care crisis because in real terms they are not prepared to invest the money needed to provide these services and with their “dementia tax” debacle we saw what disarray they are in over this issue.

 Labour would put £37 billion extra into our NHS and significantly increase social care spending. These commitments have been fully costed in their manifesto to be paid for by tax increases on those who can afford it. They also acknowledge that there will be a need for individuals who can afford it to make some reasonable contribution to care costs. However, Labour would undertake a proper consultation before deciding the terms of any such contribution. This is unlike the Tories who suddenly announced a hasty policy of uncapped contributions and then within hours sought to introduce a cap but without giving any clue as to the level of that cap. Again, consistent with their record in government, it is Labour who have the policies to best provide care for our sick and infirm.

3. Ensuring justice for all

As a lawyer acting for victims of industrial disease and personal injury I know first-hand how the Tory-led governments have squeezed access to justice. In my own area this has led to many meritorious but more difficult cases being turned away. Those clients who still get representation have generally found themselves losing 25% or more of their compensation to pay for legal costs that can no longer be recovered from the guilty party.  But this has not just affected my own area of law but virtually every part of our legal system. We have seen massive cuts and restrictions to legal aid in family law disputes and crime, housing and welfare law and judicial review. This has left many finding themselves the victims of injustice without the means to pay for any lawyer to stand up for their case. We have also seen many victims of unfair dismissal and mistreatment at work deprived a remedy because of the extension of the qualifying period for employment period to two years and the imposition of employment tribunal fees. Not surprisingly this has led to a huge drop in employment tribunal applications because so many are now either barred or cannot afford to pursue their case against their employer. Meanwhile the government has massively hiked court issue fees in civil claims – in some cases increasing them tenfold. Such restrictions to access to justice I would say are in almost direction contradiction of scripture; “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31 v 8-9). 

In their current manifesto the Conservatives make no promises to reverse any of these injustices and in fact propose to extend even further restrictions to access to justice including further limitations as to when successful claimants can recover legal costs. Labour’s manifesto is not as detailed on justice issues as I would have hoped (partly no doubt because of the hastily called election). However, they are committed to reversing or at least reviewing a number of these including the removal of employment tribunal fees, the creation of employment protection from day one of a job, a reduction in court fees and a full-scale review of the legal aid and access to justice issues in both civil and criminal cases. (Notwithstanding Labour’s last Lord Chancellor, thankfully long gone), it is Labour governments who have nearly always been the ones to extend access to justice, including through the original establishment of legal aid and employment tribunals. It can only be they who can restore access to justice once again.

4. Ensuring everyone has a fair share and opportunity, including a decent home and education

A key part of ensuring everyone has a fair share must be to provide access to decent and affordable housing to as many people as possible. Since 1979 Conservative and New Labour government have both followed policies which have led to the slow destruction of our stock of affordable public housing following the start of Mrs Thatcher’s infamous right to buy policy. The Tories’ removal of rent controls and other protections for tenants have only worsened the situation. This has ultimately led to the desperate and unfair situation we currently have with the property rich few and the property poor many. Millions of people, especially younger generations, are left without hope of ever owning their own home while often stuck in poorly maintained accommodation whilst paying exorbitant rents. Many young people can’t even see themselves having the means to move out of their parents’ home. And disturbingly, an increasing number find themselves without a home at all. I highlight this issue as part of my previous blog piece;

The Conservatives wedded as they still are to following the gods of the free market simply have nothing to offer to address this crisis. Their new right to buy housing association properties overall only worsens the situation, as housing experts warned them. Even when in this election they suggested policies that might assist such as building more affordable housing they have backtracked on those proposals and greatly diluted them so that the so called affordable housing is at double the rents of social housing. It is Jeremy Corbyn’s “new old “ Labour alone who provide the solution that’s needed- a big programme of building genuinely affordable council/public housing alongside new rights and controls to protect tenants.

The Conservatives have also narrowed the door of opportunity of a decent education for all to give everyone a decent shot at success in life. They have already cut real school spending per pupil leading to many schools taking desperate measures to cope with their overstretched resources. This has included cutting half an hour from the school day, dropping “minority” subjects, cutting lunch breaks short, stopping all school trips, increasing class sizes to well above 30 and endless appeals to parents to stump up cash to pay for basic things like books and computers that  the state should already be providing. Think how much worse it will get if the Tories are re-elected when according to the IFS their spending plans will mean schools will face a further 7% real terms cut in funding.

And again, it’s not just about how much (or little) money the Tories are putting into the system. It’s also about how that money is used- very badly in many cases. The Tory blind faith in the gods of the free market have seen millions wasted in often substandard free schools set up not where they are needed but – often poorer areas, but just where someone fancies starting a new free school- often in affluent areas where apparent academic success is rather easier to come by. The lack of local control prevents sensible planning and spending of educational resources where they are needed. And for their next trick the Tories now propose an expansion of grammar schools, supposedly to improve social mobility. This is despite all the research evidence which shows grammar schools reduce rather than improve social mobility, favouring children from more middleclass families who can get them coached through the tests. More wasteful inefficiency. 

Meanwhile the Tories axing of maintenance grants for poorer students and the ever-burgeoning size of tuition fees have ramped up huge debts on the backs of our young people going to University. This has already resulted in a significant fall in the number of students from poorer backgrounds applying to University. Labour by contrast will start to put local authorities back in charge of local schools to restore sensible local planning and directing of school resources to where they are needed. They will also pump £6 billion per annum extra into schools’ budgets (paid for by costed tax increases on those who can afford it). And on an issue close to my own heart they are the first major political party to commit to a phased plan to remove the deadly asbestos from our school buildings.  Labour would also restore the maintenance grants for poorer students and abolish tuition fees. This would not be the first time that Labour have rescued our schools from decline. I remember my wife starting her first teaching job aged 22 under a Tory government in 1991 and facing class of 38. New Labour reinvested in our schools to reduce class sizes and provide a better education for all.

If you want to see our schools and universities provide a decent free education for all our children, allowing  everyone the best chance in life regardless of background, all evidence suggests you need to vote Labour.

5. Looking after the planet

Protecting God’s world for the good of future generations here and around the world should be very high on any Christian political agenda. Labour are not the Green party but they are a green party and unlike the Green party they have a prospect of being in government to put green policies into action. In government their record on looking after the environment was certainly not perfect but they made real progress, eg with the Climate Change Act and the successful incentives to build up renewable energy and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. (Once a quarter when I get my cheque for the little solar panel farm on our roof I still fondIy remember Ed Miliband’s time as Climate Change Secretary!). 

Under the Conservatives, despite their “support” of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the country has largely gone backwards on protecting the environment. They withdrew virtually all support for solar power and have held back our progress from fossil fuels to renewables (luckily for me my solar panel income was guaranteed for 25 years!) They have even begun exploiting a new and risky fossil fuel- fracking- even in our national parks. They slashed spending on flood defences, which inevitably increased the damage from quite foreseeable flooding (a false economy if ever there was one). They have also breached European clean air limits in our cities which have led to 10,000s each year dying from lung conditions. Their failure to act on this therefore has literally been responsible for thousands of deaths. This has just lead to sanctions against them by our Supreme Court. Labour’s manifesto commits it to a new Clean Air Act to clean up our dirty cities’ air. They would take affirmative action also to clean up our seas and rivers, creating “blue belt” spaces. Through funding from their new National Investment Bank they would reinvigorate our green technology industries to work towards replacing our reliance on damaging fossils fuels with renewables.

6. Keeping peace and order

The approach that recent Conservative and New Labour governments have taken to international relations has failed. Since the Iraq war our military interventions in various places over the past 14 years, however well-intentioned, has only led to destabilisation and chaos and poverty in the countries we have left behind. These have become largely “ungoverned spaces” which have been a breeding ground for terrorism and mass migration. Our recent interventions have frankly done more harm than good. Theresa May’s Conservatives only pledge more of the same failed approach. Jeremy Corbyn is a committed peacemaker here and throughout the world, being awarded the Ghandi prize for peace in 2013. His labour government would take a different approach as a peacekeeper encouraging dialogue, compromise and peace, just as Tony Blair’s first labour government were so successful in doing in Northern Ireland (after adopting the very approach for which Jeremy Corbyn has been so unfairly criticised). 

Their approach would certainly not mean an abandonment of our armed services, as some rightwing bloggers have suggested - Labour (like the Conservatives) is committed to investing 2% of our GDP in our armed forces. It would as part of that commitment carry out a strategic defence review and yes renewal of Trident would be part of that review, although it currently remains Labour party policy. (Trident is in truth about as useful and relevant to our defence and security as man buying a tank to guard his home when his roof is leaking, his windows broken, front door coming off its hinges, his burglar alarm broken and his computer virus software expired- The myth of our own independent nuclear deterrent. See my earlier blog piece; 

Much more important than Trident, Labour is committed to starting a reversal of the large Tory cuts made to our police numbers (nearly 20,000). The Police Federation warned the then Home secretary one Theresa May in 2015 that the government’s slashing of police numbers would cause community policing to collapse (which it has). This, they said, would not just remove their positive influence but would also cause “local intelligence”- key to the fight against terrorism- to “dry up.” This is exactly what has happened. We shall never know whether if there had still been the numbers to provide proper community policing in Manchester or London the recent terrorist acts would have been prevented. They might or might not have done. But as many leading former police officers have said to reduce police numbers in the current climate was a foolish risk to have taken with the nation’s security. No amount of new laws and restrictions on our freedoms which Theresa May has recently suggested can make up for the critical lack of numbers of police officers on our streets including armed officers. As Jeremy Corbyn has rightly said “you cannot do security on the cheap.”

7. Allowing freedom of speech and belief
New Labour’s record in government on protecting freedom of speech and belief was a bit mixed. There was certainly plenty on the credit side; the Human Rights Act, the abolition of blasphemy laws and further employment protection legislation, including protection of whistle blowers. All of this protected and enhanced freedom of belief and speech. However, there were also some knee-jerk reactions to a new age of terrorism post 9/11. This included the Terrorism Act 2006 much criticised by the UN for proving too broad and vague a description of encouraging terrorism that it went far beyond prevention of real terrorism. Alongside this was a draconion new power to detain suspects for 28 days without charge.  Many including senior police officers and current Tory cabinet Ministers criticised these measures as excessive restrictions on our freedoms which risked being counter-productive . 

It would appear Theresa May may be about to commit similar mistakes and indeed going rather further. See her recent suggestions about Chinese-style internet controls and restrictions in the name of preventing the encouragement of terrorism and if necessary changing human rights legislation to force through sweeping new powers. But we don’t even need to look ahead at what a new Tory government might do. One of the greatest restrictions on freedom of speech in this country is something we are seeing and hearing (or rather not seeing not seeing and hearing) right now. It’s the Conservatives’ Lobbying Act 2015. Had you wondered why charities working with those in social need (ie most of them) have been so quite on any social issues during this election? (i.e issues affecting the very people that they are working to help)? That’s because the Lobbying Act gags them from saying virtually anything that might be deemed “political” during an election campaign and indeed supposedly during the whole twelve months before an election. (Tricky that one when until six weeks ago no one even knew there would be an election) I would say this legislation is in almost direct contradiction of that key scriptural principle quoted earlier; “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all the destitute.” (Proverbs 31 v 8).

By contrast Labour would repeal the “chilling” Lobbying Act and by opening up access to justice e.g. through removing employment tribunal fees. they would help facilitate people defending their freedoms.

8. Managing our resources and relationships to best achieve these ends

Of course, all Labour’s good intentions would amount to nothing if incompetent management of resources meant there was no money to fund all those good intentions. After all, don’t Labour have quite a poor track record on managing our economy and didn’t their previous reckless spending and borrowing cause our economy to crash? In a word no. It is one of the biggest and most successful political lies of all time. Labour’s spending and borrowing had zero to do with the economic crash which was 100% caused by reckless actions of the banking industry and Labour governments’ economic record is overall quite a lot better than Conservative governments. Overall, they have borrowed less, delivered higher levels of employment and higher levels of economic growth than the Conservatives. The last Labour government’s borrowing was only 36% of GDP before the banking crisis and bail out- less than the 40% they had inherited from John Major’s Tories. (It only shot up to 60% because they took the emergency action needed to stop a complete banking collapse). Before the crash they had also brought about a record period of economic growth for the country. The cack-handed approach of our recent Tory-led governments by contrast through self-defeating austerity has stifled our growth whilst increasing our national debt to 89% (although in truth the debt level is not a significant problem).  Their idolatrous obsession with leaving everything to the gods of the free market and putting everything up for sale-  “selling off the family silver” as a former Tory Prime MInister Harold MacmIllan warned them, has led to an inefficient waste of resources enriching the fortunate few and leaving the many short-changed. For further details and evidence see my earlier blog pieces;

Their similarly economically illiterate approach to Brexit is having an equally damaging effect on the economy. Nearly all serious economists have warned that prioritising complete control of European immigration over free trade access risks causing a loss of thousands of jobs and billions in revenue. As a result, since the Brexit vote many multinational companies have put on hold any UK investment and our economic growth has sunk to even lower than Greece’s.

By contrast, Labour would pursue a Brexit that prioritises free trade and jobs over immigration. Contrary to Tory myth-making Labour would not increase borrowing to pay for day-to-day spending- this is why they have carefully costed how they would fund these commitments taxes on those rich individuals and companies that can best afford it. Note the contrast with the Tories who have given us no costings at all for their own commitments and have now admitted they can’t even fund the primary school breakfast they would offer in place of free school lunches!
 What Labour would do is take advantage of the current very low interest rates to give our economy and its infrastructure the investment boost it will so badly need to post-Brexit. Unlike the Conservatives these economic plans are very widely supported by leading economists - see the letter written by 129 of the world’s leading economist backing Labour’s economic plans

The truth is that it is Labour who have both the record and the plan to best manage our resources. It is the Conservatives whose management of the economy falls badly shortly, continually even failing their own targets, as witnessed by their ever-postponed plans for eliminating the annual deficit.

9. The best leaders to take us there

Neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn is an evil demagogue and neither are the prefect leader this country needs. As a Christian, I believe there is only one leader who can fulfil that criteria- Jesus Christ (when he eventually returns). But he’s not on the ballot paper! However, despite my previous criticisms of Jeremy,  I am quite convinced that the available evidence shows Jeremy fulfils far better than Theresa the biblical qualities that we should look for in our nation’s leader.  Theresa might look more like our traditional image of a leader and might give smoother soundbites. However, I would suggest that at the stuff that really matters she falls quite far short. Meanwhile although Jeremy does not score 10/10 against those same leadership qualities I believe he gets rather closer than Theresa does. I looked at this in some detail in my recent blog;

I found on the evidence that across all these key criteria Jeremy has more of the qualities we should look for in our nation's leader:
  •      A heart for the poor and needy
  •      A peacemaker
  •     Of good character
  •     Able to teach and reach people
  •     Humble
  •     Wise and listening to good advice
  •     Strong and stable- yes even on that one!

I am therefore also convinced that Jeremy has much more of the skills actually needed to negotiate the best Brexit deal for this country.

However, being a good leader is also about the quality and wisdom of those you appoint around you is also very important. Let’s leave aside poor Diane Abbott. Even her old friend Jeremy evidently now recognises she isn’t up to the job! (And would mostly likely be replaced by others “coming in from the cold” eg Yvette Coper or Lisa Nandy). When it comes to the Brexit negotiating team for example  I would suggest that Labour’s is far more credible. Who would you trust more to negotiate with the EU- one of the country’s leading lawyers Labour's former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer QC or Bojo the clown waving his joke union jack and winding up the other EU leaders ?



I don’t know who will win this election, which is proving to be the strangest and least predictable general election in the 43 years that I can recall . I concede is still very possible that Theresa May will win with a substantial majority and it is still pretty probable that she will get some sort of majority. However, the mixed polling suggest that is no longer inevitable. And I earnestly  hope and pray that  we will instead end up with a Labour government.  Not because I want my “red team” to beat the “blue team”. Not because I wish any ill of Theresa May or other Conservatives (I do not). But because after careful and prayerful examination of the issues and the evidence I am convinced that the Conservatives are taking this country in the wrong direction, which has already caused much misery and suffering and loss of opportunity for so many. And because I can see another five years of the same can only lead to things becoming much worse for everyone.  I am convinced that the society they are building is one that is increasingly alien to the biblical Kingdom of God values that I and most of the country believe in. If you share those values with me then I would urge you to vote for a Labour government in this election, even if you have to hold your nose to do it!  

If (as I concede is rather more likely) Labour fall short this time the political cause Jeremy has led is not going anywhere, even if Jeremy himself should resign.  This cause isn’t going away because it’s a cause whose time has come. During this election even if Labour fall short they will have already won over many people who can see that we need to turn this ship of state around. When things only get over the next 5 years (as inevitably they will for most I believe) many more will follow them. Labour I am sure will stand firm in its position, waiting for them– taking a stand for them, the many against the privileged few, for a redistribution of wealth, power and opportunity to build a fairer, more equal and efficient society and economy. We will be preparing for 2022 when I am very confident Labour will finish the job of winning the nation’s hearts and minds to this cause and should secure a large majority and then lay down its roots. And in time I am hopeful that this cause will no longer be considered left wing at all but sensible and moderate. And as the centre ground moves, even the Conservative party in time will move with it, just as it did in step with Clement Attlee’s Labour government over 70 years ago.

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