For F*****’s sake! Tories Out!

 For our Future’s Sake, Tories Out

I’ve never been persuaded that turning out, whenever it suits politicians and their paymasters, to put a cross on a ballot paper is the highest expression of my democratic conviction. It strikes me as bizarre that handing over my say about how the world should be to an individual, who is the obedient follower of his or her party and who is neither accountable or recallable to me, is perceived as the democratic moment of my existence. Neither is my doubt an insult to the memory of those, who struggled for the universal adult franchise. This important victory is but a stepping stone towards more inclusive forms of democratic involvement, Even under its own rules representative democracy denies the vote to young people, who are taxed without representation.

Hence I’ve always treated elections with caution,  even though, in my time, I’ve leafletted and canvassed for Labour. Indeed there have been moments when I have also openly argued against voting Labour and shown sympathy with the anarchist slogan, ‘Don’t Vote, it only encourages them!’ This is not one such moment.

Across the years the professional youth workforce has tended to support Labour, seeing it as a progressive party committed to the central role of the state in providing public services. Indeed in 1997 many workers were seduced by Blair’s ‘Third Way’ with its championing of what has come to be called ‘identity politics’.  The price paid was a heavy one as New Labour abandoned class politics and solidarity, embracing both neoliberalism’s masturbatory self-centredness and its fetishistic belief in an iron law of the market.  The price paid has been austerity and widening inequality. The price paid has been the creation of the precarious society. The price paid has been the eruption of a Manichean world of good and evil, of our bombs and their bombs, none of which distinguish between the guilty or the innocent. Even as it forfeited power to the Conservatives, New Labour proved unable to think outside the neoliberal oblong. Thus there has seemed to be little choice in the party political arena – ‘you couldn’t put a Rizla between them’.

However, in the last turbulent months and volatile days, the scenario has changed dramatically. A Labour Party, perceived as in a terminal crisis, has risen from its bed, led by Jeremy Corbyn, an unlikely and much-maligned figurehead. To the dismay of much of its Parliamentary wing the Labour Party has been reminded of its social-democratic heritage. Its manifesto, whilst by no means the last word in radicalism, is being experienced as a breath of exhilarating air, by many more than just the faithful. It asserts the common good against private greed. It desires peace not war. Whilst it says very little about youth work – a promise to stop the cuts, NCS retained – it offers hope for young people, aspiring to free them from debt and zero-hour contracts. For now, our sectional interests are not the burning issues.

Where does this leave us? It seems pretty straightforward – Vote Labour on Thursday. And yet? Despite Labour’s remarkable recovery from being written off, it is very unlikely that it can achieve an overall majority, especially with Scotland in mind. And I’m convinced such a triumph would be deeply problematic. It would be pulled off with the support of a minority of the population, which would not stop Labour from declaring it had a mandate to impose its programme. At odds with the proposal that he’s about a new way of doing politics, Jeremy Corbyn is still tribal in his outlook. He yearns for the revival of the two-party contest, Labour versus Conservative. Thus he refuses to countenance supportive, working agreements with other political parties. The Greens are dismissed, even though Caroline Lucas might well be the first choice for a Deputy Prime Minister. He argues neither the Scottish National Party nor the Liberal Democrats are progressive, not to be touched with a fishing rod. Yet the majority of his own party’s MP’s suffer in stunned silence, unable to get their heads around the collapse of their pragmatic accommodation to the status quo.  Can you believe it, they are now being expected to believe in something other than their own careers?

For sure, it’s a mess of contradiction, but let me end with two proposals, for what they’re worth.

  1.  If at all possible, it is vital to prevent five further years of a growing Tory authoritarian populism.
  2. We need to celebrate the possible emergence of a Coalition of Chaos, which brings together in creative dialogue and practice political groupings, which in opposing the way things are, possess a vision of a fairer society.  In IDYW we urge a practice that is improvisatory and reflective, democratic and emancipatory, knowing that nothing is ever guaranteed.

On Thursday, vote defensively to stop the Tories and vote optimistically for a new way of doing politics. In this momentous clash our vote is but the beginning. Both within and without youth work our obligation is to carry on building from below. Our task is to hold politicians to account. Our commitment is to speak truth to power.

Thursday looks like being more enthralling than we ever thought. Whatever the outcome, the struggle continues.




  1. I may not be a Tory but years of arrogant assumption when I was at college that one should vote Labour and the relatively bully boy attitude of superiority of Labour about their message made voting Labour near impossible.My wife also youth and community worker from a family of Labour councillors,mayors and MP's has similar views and feels we have lost the thought of voting for the person.It is wrong, Tony, to assume that the Labour party has morally better people than the Conservatives or Lib Dems or Greens etc.Charles ShawCharles W Shaw  FRSA FRSPH DirectorSTBE Professor: Chair of Commerce Community and Youth The Youth Development Association Limited/LYA/CVYS Local and Regional Tel 0871 288 6935 m: 07825 035952 Please note that answering machines as this could charge callers unnecessarily. please ring again if personnel are busy. Please note that if you receive a returned mail from us it denotes our system is temporarily full and we recommend you try the following day. CVYS Networks value people and promote equal opportunity.This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are confidential. They may be privileged and are intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to who they are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify the sender by replying to the e-mail containing this attachment. Replies to this email may be monitored by The Youth Development Association Limited or their partners for operational or business reasons. Whilst every endeavour is taken to ensure that e-mails are free from viruses, no liability can be accepted and the recipient is requested to use their own virus check, logos may be used by agreed partners to show partnership working. If in doubt on permissions please contact us. Thank you

  2. Charles,

    I’ve read afresh my post. Whatever its failings I can’t see how I argue for the moral superiority of either the Labour Party or the people, who vote for the party. And, on a personal level, I have suffered at the hands of Labour’s bully boys, but that’s another story.

  3. Bang on, Tony! I’d have though at least implicit in the idea of a ‘Coalition of Chaos’ is a rejection of any notion of Labour’s moral superiority. For the first time in ages Labour are offering a real alternative based on a rejection of cuts, poverty and inequality. But they can’t win outright and the post important thing right now is to stop the Tories – or at least weaken them as much as possible. Whatever the election result it feels like the iron grip of neo-liberalism is at last starting to slip. If so “a practice that is improvisatory and reflective, democratic and emancipatory” might be just the ticket.

  4. Nothing appears to have changed, the only time I genuinely felt people were trying to terrorise me was after I raised alternatives to the socialist mantra on a Youth Work course, it peaked when a fellow student threatened to stab me during a seminar, that was in the eighties.
    Fortunately there were also some of the most caring people I have ever met amongst the socialists students as well, so although I remain cautious, I am not entirely lost to the idea that every now and again socialists get things right.

  5. Well it seems something may arise from the fog of NL free market capitalism. Welcome Tony to the place of no persons land – the non voter. Ironically I voted for the reasons you state for only the second time in my life. Unfortunately whilst labour had a OK result they lost NE Derbyshire including Clay Cross. We failed to put the tories back in their hovels, sorry mansions, and send a message to the world that the brights lights of a free Britain with all our wonderful history and friends in high places, Trump, is not all that it seems. Current events make my blood boil but peoples indifference makes my blood boil even more. Storm the mansions of K&C the people need homes. This is not a time for fair, government solutions that protect the wealthy. The corporates do what they like let’s take a leaf out of their book and see how they like it. #ClayCrossRebels

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