Today I joined the Labour Party.
Why? Why? Why would I do such a thing? I hear you crowing!
Well I’ve been talking about it for a few days. My family is traditionally very Labour. That political skew has been inherent in my upbringing, as anyone who tells me they voted for BoJo as Mayor of London can attest to – I actually wrote a song about it.
A gigantic argument broke out between two friends on my Facebook page, both traditionally Labour, like myself. One who still holds his faith in the Labour Party and one who lost his amidst Afghanistan, Iraq, and the erosion of our civil liberties (a phrase that has become synonymous with anti-New Labour rhetoric) and yesterday, I watched Theresa May give a speech on crime – the Conservatives are going to get “tough on the causes of crime”. All of this has been going round my head today. Here is my account of the final push into the red:
This morning I had an appointment with my local council offices to find out if I was eligible for housing benefits as my rent is particularly high and I find myself having to choose between attending Skeptics in the Pub and eating every day. It turns out I’m not eligible, for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here, maybe some other time. I asked the lady dealing with my application if there were any services in my local council to assist with budget management or if she had received notification of any changes to how the benefits will work since our newly elected government has come into place. She told me her daughter was worrying about exactly the same thing as they’ve been discussing cutting the EMA funds recently (educational maintenance allowance).
The EMA fund was set up under New Labour to assist 16-18 year olds from low income households with expenditure associated with attending college. As long as your family had a combined net income of about £32,000 or less and you were in full time education, you were entitled to £30 a week. It is safe to say that myself and many of my friends at Croydon College might not have been able to finish our A-Levels had it not been for this money. I did Fine Art, which is a particularly expensive course in terms of supplies you need to constantly buy: paints, pens, pencils, sketchbooks – I eventually learned to make my own – as well as £7-10 a week to develop a film (digital cameras were way out of my league back then!) and regular trips to museums, galleries etc.
The vast majority of students at Croydon College were not from privileged backgrounds. I would certainly have failed my course if I had not been able to afford the supplies needed to do my coursework. How many students, I wonder, denied the financial backing necessary to complete their course would have succeeded to go onto university? How many would finish their A-Levels, required in almost any job an 18 year old could apply for (short of working in a pub) in order to support themselves as adults? How many of the people who commit the sorts of crimes that Theresa May was pledging to clamp down on have A-Levels, BTECs, even degrees?
When people talk about “getting tough on the causes of crime”, I wish they’d get real. Crime is a complicated issue, and I found it curious that the issue of social inequality did not crop up once during her speech. When a decision is made to cut a simple yet effective method of educating young people from less affluent backgrounds so that they have a better chance to succeed, it seems that these politicians have no interest in tackling the real causes of crime, but an unhealthy attitude towards getting tough on the poor.
Today I joined the Labour Party because I want to continue campaigning on behalf of the good work that benefited my generation. I’ll get to civil liberties in another post!