Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Why Owen Jones is wrong to urge people to vote for Labour

I've got a confession to make - I'm an Owen Jones fan. I've read Chavs and The Establishment and I think they're both good books, not groundbreaking perhaps, but a timely reminder of the way in which our stitched up sham democracy works and the central importance of class - the issue which dare not speak its name in 21st century Britain. But I do have a problem with Owens Jones's politics because although he's a worthy fighter for social justice, public services and the welfare state, and an enemy of neoliberalism, he has chosen the wrong vehicle to further his political aims in the UK - namely the Labour Party.

As far as this election is concerned he has become a fully paid up member of the Polly Toynbee 'hold your nose and vote for Labour' faction. Polly recently repeated almost exactly the same call to 'hold your nose' in The Guardian as she did in the 2010 election. The problem is if you hold your nose for long enough you are certain to suffocate, and you are going to have to hold it for a very long time if you expect any change from the neoliberal Labour Party of 'red' Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

So Owen urges us to vote Labour to keep the Tories out, and when a Labour government is in power, we can all put it under pressure to do the nice things instead of the nasty things - like continuing to implement cuts and austerity, applying a token plaster to the semi-privatised NHS and 'balancing the budget' - which is at best an economically illiterate policy. Its a bit like asking someone to vote for Terminator instead of Godzilla on the basis that there will be marginally less collateral damage. 

The problem is that many of us have gone beyond that stage and have no interest in the lesser of two evils. Despite the rotten electoral system we have to contend with with we want to vote for something we can believe in, a Party that is capable of delivering real change, even if that is not at the next election, or the one after that, because we are in it for the long haul. Its clear that the only Party that can deliver that change is the Green Party, the party that espouses the politics of Owen Jones himself, even if he can't yet bring himself to vote for it.

Both Labour and the Tories increasingly resemble zombie parties in a hollowed out democracy. Both have abandoned their traditional base for the corporations and super rich and both have been complicit in the drastic decline in our democracy in the past 30 years or so. No wonder fewer and fewer people can be bothered to vote for either of them. But more and more people are seeking out a progressive alternative to Labour and that is why the Green vote is growing and why Green Party membership passed 61,000 today, and will continue to grow. After neoliberal Labour have failed to win a majority I hope that Owen will fight to move a Labour-led government to the left - as a member of the Green Party.