Your say / Bristol

‘I would vote Corbyn anywhere but Bristol West’

By angelique mulholland, Tuesday Jun 6, 2017

For the first time in 20 years, I want to vote Labour again. But not in Bristol, because even more exciting than a left-wing Labour government that actually cares about working folk, there is a real chance of Britain having its second Green MP.

That’s the short explanation explaining the title of my article, but let me expand, because my story isn’t an unusual one, but it’s one the media doesn’t seem interested in publicising much.

I grew up on a council estate and in a very working class Labour household. My mum being an immigrant and my dad coming from very humble beginnings, the 1980s and 1990s were tough under 18 years of Conservative rule.

Then, when I turned 17, Tony Blair won his landslide majority. The ridiculously eloquent Labour man who seemed like he actually cared about people was in power, and he was going to do a lot of good.

That dream ended for most people with the Iraq war. But for me, the dream ended sooner. In 1998, I followed my brother in going to university, the first in our family to ever go into higher education, and of course we got landed with tuition fees. Forced to take out loan after loan, I fell out of love with New Labour very quickly.

Disillusioned with New Labour (as many, many people my age were), throughout my adult life I voted Green.

Their principles were always in line with mine; fighting climate change, reducing poverty, standing up to the never-ending slaughter of wildlife. There was an alternative for me.

The Greens have given many people my age who are passionate about these issues a bit of sanity in an ever-increasingly right-wing landscape. And it is this right-wing landscape which has truly begun to frighten me as much as it repulses me.

I feel very let down with this apparent right-wing media establishment which gives UKIP – with no MPs – a platform to continue to be divisive, and shut out left-wing voices, like the Green Party’s, which are actually trying to make the Tory government accountable for its quite frankly disgusting actions over the last seven years.

Although I didn’t like New Labour much, nothing could compare with the continuing heartless policies of the Tories.

– Cuts to education so that my primary school teacher friends are selling their students’ paintings to pay for breakfast clubs

– Cuts to the prison service where many complex, drug addicted people recede further away from rehabilitation by spending 23 depressing hours a day in their cells

– The thousands of vulnerable people who died after being declared “fit for work”

– The privatisation of the NHS

– 17 per cent of women’s refuges being closed down

– The social care crisis

– Unprecedented food bank use

– Cuts to the police initiated by none other than our current PM

– And my new favourite repulsive Tory policy that the media has hardly focused on, the ‘Tory rape clause’, where to claim benefits for a third child, a mother has to prove that the child was conceived through rape.

Yet the media silences left-wing voices and continues to barrage Corbyn and sully his reputation while the Tories are left by and large unaccountable.

Corbyn had conversations with Sinn Fein 30 years ago? What about Theresa May’s conversations with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, and then the selling of arms to this country which is slaughtering thousands of innocent children in Yemen today? Numerous broadcasters and journalists have failed to get tough with May on that one; no surprises there.

The Tories are disgusting hypocrites, and that’s why Corbyn has been a genuine ray of hope.

Undeterred by the patronising attitude of the press towards people who support Corbyn, I am happy to say here that he is a leader who actually cares.

His manifesto backs up his principled stance and I read it with genuine hope. There could be a Labour government which actually fulfills its purpose, supporting the workers of this nation. Supporting people who work bloody hard, and not ripping them off and sinking them further into debt whilst rewarding bankers, big business and the richest of the rich.

So I would vote for Corbyn anywhere but Bristol. Why?

Here in Bristol West, the only real choice is between Labour incumbent Thangam Debbonaire and the Green Party’s MEP for the South West, Molly Scott Cato.

The Greens came a close second behind Labour in the 2015 General Election and Bristol West is the only seat in the country where there is a genuine chance to elect a second Green MP (due to the outdated electoral system – the Green Party got more than a million votes in the last election but only one MP).

Although Thangam works on issues close to my heart like the safety of sex workers and child refugees, her most memorable moments during her short time in office have been her very public personal gripe with Corbyn.

I think many at first understood her feelings of anger, including me. But her very public criticism of Corbyn was ultimately hurtful to the Labour Party. On Points West recently, Thangam still couldn’t support Corbyn as a leader.

The personal attacks, finger pointing and undermining of last year served only to impede the ability of the Labour Party to hold the Conservatives to account for their awful policies. What I want are MPs who fight for change, not MPs who fight each other.

Molly Scott Cato is a competent green economist who has already proven her worth as the South West’s Green MEP.

Last week I attended her launch of the Green Party’s BME manifesto and I found myself in a room of people who share the same concerns as me; fighting for social justice, fighting to reduce poverty and most importantly, fighting climate change.

With Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, now more than ever, we need as many Green voices in Westminster as possible to hold the new government to account. We need people who will fight for change, and I believe Molly is one of them.

My story isn’t an unusual one. Like many others in their 30s, I was let down by New Labour in my 20s, and I have been left furious by the Tories in my 30s, seeing first hand the human misery their policies have caused.

I am fed up with the petty personal attacks and the adversarial nature of British politics today. Clearly, we need to work together to create real change for the many, in this country and beyond.

I hope the beginnings of this real change will be delivered in two ways next Friday. Firstly, that Jeremy Corbyn gets into Downing Street; and secondly, that Molly Scott Cato becomes Bristol’s voice in Westminster.

Angelique Mulholland works in education and is passionate about social justice issues


Read more: ‘Labour meeting left me in tears’

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