I haven’t been following politics as keenly as I used to, which is quite naughty given that I read politics at university.
Probably about 4 years ago, I adopted the Russell Brand theory of politics which in a nutshell, mused or wept in frustration as the case may be, that the political landscape was all much of a muchness – same suit, different coloured tie. Like many in my generation, I had started to feel like engaging in political processes was futile. And perhaps by non participation we could create a revolutionary movement that would not make me tacit complicit in giving credibility to an institution and political process that was undoubtedly out of touch and failing us.
Rightly or wrongly, that was my political view back then. Of course thankfully, I have a growth mind-set which prevents my brain from staying in one stubborn stationary zone and when one argument loses punch, one inevitably searches for another one with more depth and less crater sized holes.
A lot has changed since then, Jeremy Paxman stepped out of the Newsnight chair and grew a Werthers Original granddad beard, Russell Brand had a baby and settled down and me, well I started sharing my ramblings online to a devoted and generously gracious audience of circa twelve plus the equally numbered manifestations of my own personality. Incidentally, should you feel so inclined as to take a trip down memory lane, the Paxman interview with Brand is hereby attached.
To some degree, I still agree with Brand’s 2013 arguments, though considerably less so since Jeremy Corbyn came into the Labour party leadership and engaged with the working class electorate and the younger generation in a manner to which I’d not ever witnessed in my 31-year stint on earth thus far.
Imagine then my further delight when I tuned in to Sky’s live audience broadcast of “Battle for Number 10” with our in situ (unelected) PM Theresa May and her adversary, Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn and there Jeremy Paxman was in all his clean shaven glory.
I must confess that much like my arrival to the Paul Coelho party, I’m also late to the debate party and am only part way through watching the debate on YouTube (link enclosed), when I had to hit pause and have what I think is a most justifiable rant against some tunnel vision suffering folk in our electorate.
Incidentally, I am late to most parties and I think my ethnicity has everything to do with it. I didn’t start watching Prison Break until 2014 either and no I haven’t started watching the latest “comeback” season at all still – I need to wait until the hype dies down and also my nerves recover from the first 4 seasons. Pakistanis are always late. So are Indians. It’s one of the few beautiful truths we agree upon.
Anyhow, rambling on… at precisely the 16 minute and 11 second marker, the camera pans to another audience question for Corbyn. The question summarised on screen was this, “Why have you made it impossible for business owners like me to vote Labour?”
In further detail though, the self professed proud Mancunian voter complained that as a business owner, coming from a family of Labour supporters, he thought it appalling that he had no choice but to change his voting pattern because Labour was campaigning, 1) to increase corporation tax to 26%, 2) the abolishment of zero hours contracts, 3) for £10 per hour minimum wage, and 4) charging VAT on his children’s school fees.
To tackle his comprehensive question, Corbyn calmly responds in chronological order and I have summarised his broad arguments as follows:
Corporation tax was in fact 28% back in 2010 (even I ruddy remember this as I was studying for my final ACA exams back in 2009!), so increasing back up to those levels though not quite all the way back, would suggest a return to a time where there was less of a polarisation of wealth in Britain.
By giving tax breaks to the wealthiest portion of Britain and increasing the burden upon the poorest, the Tory government has taken Britain economically backwards, public school classroom sizes increase and so education of the masses suffers.
The tax cuts for the financially more well off has meant that less funding has also been put into our national health service, which means millions of people are waiting damagingly long periods of time before they are treated.
The gap between the rich and poor grows when the wealthy are given tax cuts and the poorest shoulder the burden with even less to feed the mouths of their own children. Corbyn pleads with the voter, “you don’t address these problems by ignoring them”.
I don’t know. As the camera pans back to the audience member who asked the question, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in much. He looks like Doris Khan after eating (inhaling) a tasty slice of pie after fasting for 19 hours in Ramadan 2017. Like he’s ready for a second slice. Or dammit give him the whole entire pie! Greed. Everyone is out for themselves. Dammit Doris, can’t you share the pie? It’s Ramadan for goodness sake.
Corbyn appeals to the audience member (in the absence of his name, I’m referring to him as Doris Khan), “don’t you think we’re all better off when everyone is better off?” Probably not the finest sentence construction, not quite Lord Byron in the poetic stakes, but sometimes simple does do the job when the answer is blitheringly and blindingly basic!
Corbyn argues that the younger generation should not be worse off than us today or the generations that went before. What he highlights, though I don’t think he rammed this point hard enough, is that Britain has gone backwards in an economically damaging way.
When my elder siblings went to university, they didn’t pay any fees. By the time I went to university, tuition fees were being introduced, though I recall paying £1,250-1,750 per annum for my 3-year degree. Today, the situation is considerably worse, such that young graduates now start out their careers and adult lives in student debts in the tens of thousands.
The amount of young people over the age of 25 still living at home with their parents, unable to scrape together a deposit for their first home, is staggeringly high comparative to my parents generation. The property market prices are unaffordable for most, even those of us in stable professions. In London, one could probably only dream of affording a place the size of a bathtub on a junior doctors salary.
I don’t mean to belittle Doris’s complaint because he will certainly feel a pinch. But isn’t it better to take a pinch for the greater good, if it means that some much smaller person doesn’t receive a knockout punch instead? Doris calls Corbyn’s policies shortsighted but I think that finger needs pointing back to the audience.
When did everyone start looking out for themselves? When did government start teaching us to look out for ourselves rather than serving us on the whole, trying to make things equitable and fair and reminding us that their job is to make things fair across the board, rather than cater to the demands and greed of a small portion of the electorate?
The opportunistic electorate is falling prey to the opportunistic politician and all they are doing is damaging the economy and future of Britain, for themselves and for others. In the short term they will become richer themselves but at what cost? Crime and therefore punishment and prison costs increase in societies with cripplingly large wealth gaps. If you put people under desperate conditions, sooner or later there will be a backlash.
I myself come from a similar background to the one Doris describes of his beloved children. I come from a working class background. My father worked tremendously hard from the age of 17, set up his own business by the age of 28 and later this year, the man will probably not even realise that he will come to pass his 50th anniversary of working full time, showing no signs of slowing down nor complaining.
If it means we pay more taxes to fund and regenerate this economy, to lessen the disparity between rich and poor in Britain, then I’m for it. Bring on 26%.
If you want to call yourself “Great” Britain, then I think it’s high time we stop acting like Selfish Britons. Investing in this country is investing in our children’s future.