Thursday, 1 October 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: renewed interest and media weirdness

I'm a 32-year-old male, and for my entire adult life I have wanted to feel engaged with politics. We grow, we get decent jobs, we start families - this is the norm and I am no exception. Throughout, I have wanted to want to vote. I have wanted to make a mark on the ballot with conviction, but whenever I have voted, and it's not as often as it should have been, I've barely been impressed by anyone, or any party. I have never felt as though a single individual, much less a party, has reflected any of my political values. Some have come close, I think. I look back at pre-coalition Nick Clegg and remember that he seemed to stand for something, and I think I've always leaned towards Lib Dem anyway. But it became clear there was no real voice there; the coalition was just a lighter shade of blue than the government today.

A lot of my political values are probably, or were, reflective of the Green Party and Lib Dem, some mixture of the two. But it's so hard to vote for either of those, and yet you must if you want to be true to yourself. Now it seems as though Labour reflect my views more than any other party ever has, or at least that I noticed. And if I didn't notice - well, where was the voice to let me know?

The Media Effect

As someone who is naturally skeptical and questioning, inclined towards quiet corners and avoiding the crowd, I find myself in a difficult position. I don't really 'follow' (unless you're talking about my football team) and my natural cynicism wants to label anyone who 'follows' a sheep. Listening to politics has been, for so long, like being on autopilot, automatically dismissing whatever was being said as a lie, or a deflection; not trusting the words that were coming out. I treated politicians like I would treat news sources; I would assume they had an agenda and everything they said was meant to serve that agenda. It has become more and more difficult to find good journalism that just wants to report the facts and focus on the facts, without spinning conjecture. And especially on television, it seems to be harder than ever to find a journa-presenter that does not condescend or allow facts to speak for themselves.

Eamonn Holmes' recent debacle is a perfect example; regardless of who he was 'interviewing', whatever this was, was just inexcusable:

He's a grown man acting like a petulant child, when he should be being professional and asking questions about Labour's new policies. Of course, that would give Jeremy more of a platform to speak about policies which, apparently, Sky News doesn't agree with.

Now, I understand that news media is biased and the owners are heavily influential, but it is the individuals that make up the organisations that I cannot fathom - do reporters and journalists ever 'break free' from the heavy hand on their shoulder? What exactly is the form that 'instructions' take? Did Eamonn get a memo from on high saying we'll extend your contract if for the next 12 months you just act incompetent whenever you have to talk to Jezza? Or are these organisations so well manned that they are able to hire people they know inside out, who will spew forth their political agenda and believe it? Does Eamonn think he actually did a good job?

You can go to the RT News channel, and Press TV, to try and balance the news that bombards you, but even they in their attempts to report 'the other side of the story' can teeter too far to the other side. What it comes down to is sourcing the news for yourself.

Know the facts

It's simple - LISTEN TO THE WORDS THAT COME OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS - and do the fact checking yourself. Whatever news media you go to simply cannot be trusted. If Cameron says that the economic crash was caused by Labour's overspending - go check if it was in fact the housing bubble in the United States that caused the recession, you know, the introduction of low interest rates that enabled more people to buy houses and the continued ease at which people could get a mortgage, combined with the higher home valuations and the ability to borrow large amounts of money against your home, which when you ended up not being able to repay, meant that you lost your house, with an explosion of properties on the market decreasing the value of your property which you've already borrowed thousands of dollars against, so now you're in negativity equity, but the rates are going up again, and you can't pay your mortgage anyway, so POP! And then add all the millions of homes that the banks have invested in that now are losing money, and the collatoral, worldwide, fallout from that.

And then add a dash of common sense. Why couldn't David be more truthful and just say that Labour didn't cause the crash, but that they didn't have the necessary safeguards in place to protect us from it; that they were overconfident? Even that would have been an attack on Labour, but of course, it's not enough, because they're agenda is to ensure that that much money is never in the public hands again.

Back to Jeremy

I digress. This was going to focus more on my renewed engagement with politics.

I listen to Jeremy, and I don't know why I had never heard of him before. When he speaks, you don't get the feeling that if you were to fact check anything, you would catch him out. And that sounds weird, coming from me, and slightly fawning, and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

I find it difficult to trust a politician, and yet Labour are now representing so many policies that I agree with that it leaves me wondering; is this how ardent supporters of past politicians, who I have never agreed with, felt? And if so, where does that lead me? Someone opposed to nationalism in the extreme; to belonging and associating themselves with a certain set of viewpoints, because it encourages you to wear blinders. There's a danger of losing that self-awareness when you align so rigidly with something.

So it's gentle steps. Even here Jeremy says the words that are needed: encouraging open discussion, debate, keeping yourself open to all possibilities. I think perhaps it may be a unique moment in politics, for me, where a party genuinely wants to be all inclusive, while standing on values that encourage a deep respect for everyone, while understanding that disagreements happen, but what is best is what is best for everyone. And where does that come from if not from Jeremy? It seeps from the top down, and it would be interesting to see how much of his values, ethics, and humanism, remain within the party when he is no longer leader.

He is not just a politician for the country; the value he places on human life extends, as it should, worldwide. I was fortunate enough to be born in this country - others were not so fortunate. No barrier should be placed on the liberation of another human being - only managed if necessary. We may have been born in a certain country, but we are part of humanity and as such, if we are fortunate to live in a country that other people would risk their lives to reach, we should be thankful, and graceful. Managed correctly, the United Kingdom can be a rich country, full of diversity, all of which contribute to a richer existence.


A friend of mine said we can't afford his policies, but don't tell anyone...

Of course the answer is why not? I'm not sure if he's just parroting what he has read elsewhere, or if he's looked at the source material and come to his own conclusion (in which case, please show me) but we are a well-populated, productive country with plenty of money going around. And when Jeremy talks about his intentions for being able to afford his policies, they don't sound absurd.

Stop giving tax breaks to the 1%, close corporate tax loopholes, stop spending so much on Trident, stop using conflict and start using real diplomacy, raise corporate tax by 0.5%, raise the top tax threshold BACK to 50%. These are all reasonable. These are, to me - and this is perhaps why I feel engaged more than ever - common sense. Someone please fact check Jeremy's claim that the 0.5% rise in corporate tax could cut student loan debt and pay for University for all. This is on my list, but it's delivered with such sincerity and anger that it's hard to deny the probable truth.

My friend says we aren't a nation that manufacture, that companies won't invest in us. Well, perhaps that's true to an extent, but there are rises in other industries, such as digital and web-based services; jobs that are there if more people were allowed the education necessary to get them. There's always more need for social care too; nurses, doctors, carers... as we grow older, live longer.

Plus, it's a bit of a misnomer anyway that big companies can't afford to pay their workforce a MINIMUM wage (living wage - pfft) when CEOs and corporate wigs get massive bonuses (providing the Tories with massive donations to get positive policy paybacks). If people are paid more, what do you think they do with the money? People spend - it all goes back into the economy. 

Where's the benefit in working hard for a living? he asks. Perhaps in ensuring we are not a nation of selfish people who only look after number one - look at America and their non-welfare system: if one person benefits, we all benefit, as a society. We will all need to take advantage of the likes of the NHS, education, and social care when we're old and senile. What are the other benefits of working hard for a living? In his case, a nice BMW, a nice house in a nice location, nice holidays, rental properties - what more is there? What more do you want that you won't be able to afford pretty damn soon anyway? It's certainly more than a factory worker on 12k a year who tops up their wages with some tax credits and child benefit so they can pay the rising utility bills, rising food bills, and have a decent standard of living in a forward-thinking country as ours. It's still more than they have, and you have worked hard and deserve every bit, but...

... bottom line, as a society we should ensure every child starts with an even slate and those most vulnerable get the care that is reasonably expected - mountains should be moved to enable this. 

People are worried about those who take advantage (which is what a lot of people get pissed off about when they're honest about it - those 'scroungers') but you manage it, you don't cut it and deprive those who are seriously in need. People are worried about immigrants taking advantage, and to be honest, I am too. I believe in an all-inclusive society, but there are some facts you cannot shy from, and I would be interested to know where Labour now stood on these. There are countries in the EU with strict regulations regarding welfare and immigrants; usually they are in the form of having to contribute an x amount of money into the system, or having worked in the country for an x amount of time, before being able to have the benefits of that system. 

I could sway either way here: I want to say that with proper management our country should be rich enough to manage a system which is inclusive to all, ensuring that everyone, particularly children and the vulnerable, are able to have a good standard of living and education. However, if it turns out that this really would push the boundaries of our wealth, than simply common sense must intervene to manage the issue however best, be it vouchers, restrictions, time limits, and so forth. But always ensuring the wellbeing of anyone truly in need.

This is a perfect example of the kind of debate and human-based poltics I hope will be introduced into the Labour party to stay.

Leveraging cuts is a good thing to try and bring a balance to the books, but there are those in this country (and those abroad operating through tax loops) who can afford the cuts, and those that cannot. The Tories are lenient on the former, and hard on the latter. Is that fair?

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