The trouble with elections is that they are divisive – everybody trying to beat the other guy. It brings out the worst competitive demons in us, when politics should be about bringing people together. Who ever governs next has that task ahead of them. Trouble is, the Conservatives have made it policy to divide us – if you’re on benefits, if you’re disabled, if you have mental health problems, if you’re young, if you’re a public servant, if you weren’t born in this country, then you’re not the kind of person the Conservative party values or wants.
To my Conservative friends, I know we are friends because our differences are not as important as the things we have in common, and because that very difference is what enriches our lives. In fact, reaching across party lines is our duty as human beings. I hope that your confidence in your party’s promise to deliver prosperity for you and your children is rewarded, for everyone’s sake.
There are many reasons I wouldn’t vote Conservative, but there are a few that are incredibly personal, which I don’t mind sharing. First, my husband was not born in the European Union. When we decided that the hostile, homophobic environment of Australia was un-liveable and that we would come to the UK for a better life, we went through the expensive, depressing process of migration. Fortunately, we got in at the end of the last Labour government, otherwise we could never have afforded it. Under the Conservative government the cost of visas for foreign partners of UK citizens went up 25% overnight, then year on year. It costs many thousands for a non-EU migrant to become a citizen in this country, money we struggled to raise when wages in the South West weren’t going up anywhere near that rate, and where job options are heavily loaded towards the bottom of the wage scale. The Conservative government tells us we should move to where the work is better. That wasn’t an option for us, because we earned so little that building enough capital to save the thousands involved in flat deposits, set-up costs, savings to carry us through between pay-cheques from old and new employers was IMPOSSIBLE if we were to be able to afford our visas. So we struggled. My husband is the kind of person you want in your country. He’s a worker, he’s a thinker, he cares about people, he’s honest. But he doesn’t make a lot of money and neither do I. Theresa May changed the rules for partners from non-EU countries coming to the UK, requiring at east one person in that couple to earn £18,000 or more per year. He and I have never earned that much in a year, and there are no opportunities where we live where that sort of money would be an option. If we’d initiated our four year journey to British citizenship under the Conservative government, we would not be here together today. That would be the country’s loss.
Our constituency is a solid Tory seat. Our MPs have done nothing for job creation in our region. If you want full-time work you’re stuffed. You’re most likely to find it in local government jobs, but beyond that you will struggle. Our MP’s are more concerned with building retirement homes that are sold to outsiders, and they do not invest in the infrastructure to support them. The property bubble combined with high rates of second home ownership in our region has pushed house prices way, way out of proportion with salaries. The people worst affected by this are people who are coming to the housing market and the job market at entry level, ie the young. The right wing try to convince us that it is migrants from beyond our borders that are placing the greatest strain on resources, when actually it’s mostly their older more affluent voters who are. It’s also worth pointing out that that people who come to Britain from other parts of the EU are not migrants. They have the legal freedom to do this without control, just like people from the Midlands or the South East or London have the right to move to the South West or to the Costas of Spain, the Dourdogne, Tuscany, the Algarve, the Greek Islands, Malta or Provence. For those of you reading in the Southwest of England, please tell me who there are more of that have moved to our region and are using the services we pay for – people from other countries in the EU, or affluent people from richer parts of our own country?
Finally, when I was bullied out of a job and was struggling to find a new one I tried signing on for Jobseekers Allowance, but I wasn’t entitled. I was also treated like a sponge, a pariah, mostly because I was a young man. The perception of young men seeking JSA is that they’re all stoners who sit around playing video games. They don’t even help you look for work anymore!!! They leave you to scratch around for whatever scraps of work there, and they treat you like lazy scum if you don’t get it. In those days there were 2,500,000 million unemployed people and only 1,500,000 jobs on the market, most of which are still delivering catalogues or telesales jobs with no basic salary, just pure commission. When the odds are stacked against you, it’s morally wrong to judge that person if they don’t get a break.
Finally, I’m grateful that I pay less tax thanks to the last Con-Lib coalition. That is a good thing on the surface. But I’m not getting more for the money in my pocket. The roads are no better, university education isn’t cheaper, emergency healthcare is harder to access (4 hour weight in A&E last time), wages are not higher compared to inflation, housing isn’t cheaper, full-time work isn’t easier to find, prescriptions are no cheaper, and the welfare state safety net that we pay for in our taxes has not kept up with inflation. I’m less likely to ever be able to own a property, I’m less likely to be able to afford high-level qualifications that will give me a chance of earning a higher salary, and I’m told that it’s all the fault of the tiny number of benefit cheats and the Poles. Oh come on!