Tomorrow will be three weeks until the most decisive election in modern British history.
A decade after the economic crash, Britain’s elite has failed to produce a new model of widespread prosperity. Economic growth has flatlined, wages are stagnant and worth less in real terms than they were in 2009, people are working longer, paying more for rent and the cost of living has gone up.
All of this builds frustration that manifests itself in the staggering finding last week that just 2% of people want the economy to continue on its current path. In fact, the same poll found more people now want “radical” change than so-called “moderate” change.
For millions of people across Britain, the idea that things might get meaningfully better over the course of their lives ended in 2009. Back then, the elite pulled off a most incredible heist — taking a crash caused by a runaway banking sector which lavished extraordinary wealth on a very few and recasting it as a problem caused by excess spending on teachers, nurses, the elderly, the sick and those out of work.
Many working people went along with this, for a time. There had been enough improvements — kids, even in left behind areas, making it to college, the possibility of buying a house, new technologies, more regular holidays — through the 1990s and 2000s to give a sense that maybe, if we all “tightened our belt,” the fundamental problems exposed in our economy by the financial crisis might go away again and some good times return. If not for everyone, at least for me.
Ten years on, it is now clear that isn’t going to happen. Tory governments have slashed away at public spending, broken many of the institutions that sustained our communities and built a society where the only thing most people can predict with certainty in their working life is that they’ll pass more homeless people on their way home each evening.
After ten years in this stasis, people are angry. You can’t frustrate the ambitions of millions of people in this way, and surround them with a society filled with so much misery, and expect them not to resent it. We are at a moment in history where that anger will erupt into a new political and economic model — in one way or another.
It is already clear from this campaign which direction the Tories will take that anger, and what kind of society they will build with it, if they win on December 12th. It was no accident that their activists at last night’s debate heckled Jeremy Corbyn when he spoke about climate change and concern for the poor.
The Tory Party increasingly represents the authentic face of capitalism, unmasked from its pleasantries, one that looks upon the suffering they’ve created and sees only opportunity. Their aim is to generate a new wave of growth by tearing apart the social safety net, deepening inequalities and stripping away the rights that guarantee basic dignity. The queues at the food banks, the people dropping dead in DWP centres, the workers pissing in bottles because they’re afraid to take a toilet break — these are only the first glimpses of their world to come.
Tomorrow, for the first time in this campaign, Jeremy Corbyn will make a serious attempt to channel people’s anger in another direction. Not towards immigrants, or scroungers, or benefit cheats, or lazy millennials, or stuck-in-the-mud boomers — or any other trope levelled at people who in reality have little or no power in our society. But towards the people who own the wealth, who make the decisions that shape our economy, who buy our politics and wield it in their favour.
For the first time in a long time, British people will have the opportunity in this election to direct their anger where it belongs — and vote for a set of policies that will meaningfully challenge the power of the powerful. But not only that. They will have an opportunity to stem the flow of wealth to a tiny proportion of the population who have rigged the economy in their favour and use that money instead to build a society that guarantees a decent life to all of its inhabitants.
Below, we reproduce a section of Corbyn’s speech. It offers a vision of a Britain worth fighting for — and it names those forces in our way if we want to achieve it. As of tomorrow, we have three weeks to overcome them. The fight for the future is on.
“This is a manifesto of hope. A manifesto that will bring real change. A manifesto full of popular policies that the political establishment has blocked for a generation. Those policies are fully costed, with no tax increases for 95% of taxpayers.
Over the next three weeks, the most powerful people in Britain and their supporters are going to tell you that everything in this manifesto is impossible. That it’s too much for you. Because they don’t want real change. Why would they? The system is working just fine for them. It’s rigged in their favour.
But it’s not working for you. If your wages never seem to go up and your bills never seem to go down, if your public services only seem to get worse, despite the heroic efforts of those who work in them, then it’s not working for you.
And that’s why so many people in Britain have given up on politics. That’s why you hear people say about politicians: “They’re all the same.”
Well, not any more. Because this party, this movement, this manifesto is different. Labour is on your side. And there could scarcely be a clearer demonstration of that than the furious reaction of the rich and powerful.
If the bankers, billionaires and the establishment thought we represented politics as usual, that we could be bought off, that nothing was really going to change, they wouldn’t attack us so ferociously. Why bother?
But they know we mean what we say. They know we will deliver our plans, which is why they want to stop us being elected.
They know we will go after the tax dodgers, the bad bosses and the big polluters so that everybody in our country gets a fair chance in life. That’s why they throw everything they’ve got at us. Because they’re scared of real change. Because they aren’t on your side.
A third of Britain’s billionaires have donated to the Conservative Party. The billionaires and the super rich, the tax dodgers, the bad bosses and the big polluters – they own the Conservative Party.
But they don’t own us. They don’t own the Labour Party. The people own the Labour Party. That’s why the billionaires attack us. That’s why the billionaire-owned media makes things up about us.
The US president who led his country out of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt, had to take on the rich and powerful in America to do it. That’s why he said: “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”
He knew that when you’re serious about real change, those who profit from a rigged system, who squirrel away the wealth created by millions of people, won’t give up without a fight.
So I accept the implacable opposition and hostility of the rich and powerful is inevitable.
I accept the opposition of the billionaires because we will make those at the top pay their fair share of tax to help fund world class public services for you. That’s real change.
I accept the hostility of the bad bosses paying poverty pay because we will give Britain a pay rise, starting with a real living wage of at least £10 an hour, including for young workers. That’s real change.
I accept the implacable opposition of the dodgy landlords because we’ll build a million homes, empower tenants and control rents. That’s real change.
I accept the hostility of the big polluters because we will make sure they pay their fair share of the costs of their destruction, create huge numbers of climate jobs and build the healthy, green economy of the future. That’s real change.
I accept the fierce opposition of the giant healthcare corporations because we will stop them sucking out profits from our NHS. That’s real change.
I accept the hostility of the privatised utilities companies because we will stop their great rip off by bringing rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership and running them for the people. That’s real change.
And here’s a brand new one: I accept the implacable opposition of the private Internet providers because we’re going to give you the very fastest full fibre broadband for free. That’s real change.
You can trust us to do all this because we’re opposed by the vested interests for standing up for a different kind of society. We’ll deliver real change for the many, and not the few. That’s what this manifesto is all about.
And you really can have this plan for real change because you don’t need money to buy it. You just need a vote – and your vote can be more powerful than all their wealth.”