#GE2017 Debate: the case for voting Labour

This is an opinion piece on the 2017 General Election, written by NCAFC activist and UCL sabbatical officer Mark Crawford. You can read an opinion piece presenting the case for voting Green here.
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Something rather remarkable has happened over the last two years.

The abolition of tuition fees and as well as the much broader cause of free education – as championed by NCAFC and other activists since 2010 and before – is now the flagship policy of the largest political party in Europe.

Jeremy Corbyn’s twice election to the leadership of the Labour Party represents an unprecedented shift in mainstream political thinking – and with the party’s manifesto littered with so many bold promises for young people, at its core is our best offering from a major political party in a generation.

Our Shadow Education Secretary’s pledge to construct a National Education Service, with all the sound echoes of our now pained NHS, is truly radical in potential; as well as abolishing the highest the tuition fees in the industrialised world, it promises universal public childcare, well-funded apprenticeships and adult education for all from cradle to crave.

For higher education, scrapping fees – from as early as this year if Labour are elected to office – would in a stroke bring the market forces currently ensnaring our universities to a grinding halt. It would represent the wider realignment of higher education as a social utility, accountable and accessible to the public as a whole.

Our communities would still ultimately be governed by undemocratic managements; neither staff nor students would have the final say over how our learning and work spaces are run. But such a shift in how are universities are funded and supported would make so much of what we as students want and need – from better pastoral support, to better pay for academics and fully-funded research – not only possible, but immediately achievable.

It’s easy to think, perhaps, that we’ve been here before. In 2010, free education came in the polish of Nick Clegg; and it was cautious support from young people that helped bring the Liberal Democrats their modest share of seats in the Commons, whereupon they proceeded to form a Coalition with the Tories and treble university tuition fees. It was a betrayal for which they paid sorely.

But there’s a difference here that can’t be understated. The Lib Dems have never been a party of working people, the majority of our society; the austerity they rolled out across our society came from a decision to harm millions rather than tackle the interests of banks and the rich. Even now, their proposal to fund the NHS they wrecked is through additional taxation on the working people whose wages and welfare they cut.

Contrast that with the proposal immediately before us. A Corbyn government will nationalise the railways and bring utilities under public service; it will introduce inflationary rent caps, save the NHS and fund state welfare. And it will do all of this, crucially, through taxation where it belongs – by raising corporation tax on big business and income tax rises for the very wealthy.

To be sure, Labour’s refusal to back freedom of movement in Brexit Britain make for a worrying capitulation to the right. But it’s also unnecessary and plainly out of step with the rest of the party’s manifesto, which identifies the real culprits of our unequal society; under a Corbyn government, we will have to continue to fight for the rights of migrants and international students, but we’ll have far more scope to call out racism than we would under the xenophobic nationalism of the Tories.

Ultimately, the entire political shift now embodied by the Labour Party is one whose programme, if enacted, would take serious steps to reduce inequality and return much of our country’s economic prosperity to those of us who actually generate it.

By the measure of some opinion polling, the short few weeks of this general election campaign have brought this newly revived Labour Party from irrelevance and mockery to the most popular political party in the country. But that will only count if we get out, campaign and vote.

Let’s make June 8th the day the tide turned – the day that that the Western world’s unthinking lurch rightwards froze, and in its place a politics that fought racism and inequality was returned to power.

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