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Do you remember in 1997 when the Blair government swept into power and it filled the country with hope. Do you remember? We talked of tolerance, building great things, a global, connected UK, part of something bigger with our European partners but owning special relationships that would cement our post as a leader on the world stage.

Do you remember this?

I’m not saying it was all rosy, far from it. The invasion of Iraq will always be considered something of difficult point from this period and the Labour move right gave too much power to those who believe that ‘Greed is Good’. But it was an interesting time that was underpinned by attempts to move the UK forward in devolution, into a 21st century knowledge based economy and into an important global state punching well above our weight.

I entered adulthood at the beginning of this period and am grateful for it because all that I’ve built personally came out of my belief in the UK and its future. 

I roll forward less than a decade and I see the mess that the UK has driven itself toward. How did we become a country so inward looking? How did we hand over the reigns of our country to those that will govern for the few? When did reality television and beauty pageants permeate our politics? I’m not blaming one political party – they’re all pretty manky but we’re now at crunch time again.

I spent my weekend poring over the manifestos of the main parties that I might consider voting for and some I’d be unlikely to vote for. I was looking for the things that I could be confident will make a difference to the future of myself, my family, my country and our place in the world.

The truth is that all the major political parties concern me, the Tories look set to further turn the thumbscrews in the UK on all but the rich and powerful. Labour are struggling to break down a perception of ineptitude and the smaller parties carry no weight.

Castle MaySkull might be saying it’s taking nothing for granted but her manifesto says she is very much taking votes for granted assuming that the grey vote and the leave voters will simply agree to her need for an iron fist in the battle with the EU. Sadly though when you drill down into the Conservative or Team May manifesto it look out of ideas and is just too vague. I wonder who would be fooled by this?

Perhaps it’s worth remembering that when our backs are against the wall we aren’t all in it together, are we Theresa? 

On the opposite side we have Labour this time with some really interesting ideas but they are beset by the problem of a leadership that looks unelectable.

However, they’re the only party that says it, ‘will guarantee no rises in income tax for those earning below £80,000 a year, and no increases in personal National Insurance Contributions or the rate of VAT’. Can Labour really do this and protect the income of those that need it most?

They believe they can commit to their manifesto spending promises in ways other than raising personal tax, corporation tax seems a good start and let’s be honest there are a couple of projects they could probably bin to help them achieve it (HS2 anyone? Although I like the idea of a northern Crossrail).

The Labour manifesto actually looks like it was written for everybody and while people will quiz the numbers (even an old Trotskyist like me isn’t 100% sold on the numbers) this is a manifesto designed to give hope.

The question is can Team Corbyn win over the doubters or at least hold back a Tory landslide, because May went to the polls to wipe Labour out and win back the UKIPpers and if that doesn’t happen then what does that say about her position?

As for the Liberal Democrats, well they might as well be offering unicorns for votes, the manifesto has interesting ideas, tax rises, student maintenance grants and of course the second referendum on the deal the UK is offered on leaving the EU. However, the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to trouble the UK electorate greatly and therein lies the problem with them. People don’t trust them and as a consequence people may not vote for them.

So what does it come down to for me? Well I had originally been very conflicted over this election, concerned by Labour, appalled by the Conservatives and underwhelmed by the Liberal Democrats.

However, having read the bulk of the manifestos I’m confident that the best of the options is the vision being put forward by Labour. No it’s not perfect and in an ideal world I’d have another option – one that was steadfastly against the stupidity of leaving Europe but that option doesn’t exist. I’m still disgusted at the EU referendum result and I still hugely disappointed in the Labour/Corbyn level of support for remaining in the EU. But I have to support a Labour manifesto at this election because the other options are simply too terrifying to contemplate.

And if I want to be part of Europe? Well maybe I’ve got to stand myself at some point – no point bleating on if you’re unwilling to get your hands dirty.

But…

What am I asking you to do? I’d urge you all to ensure you register to vote, I’d urge you all to listen carefully to the words of politicians, read their manifestos and when you get the chance, question them.

Too many broken promises from all sides have been made and look at the UK now, it wasn’t the EU that made this mess – it was us and a succession of lying, cheating governments. I do care who you vote for because I have an opinion but all I can ask of you is that you make the most informed decision that you can. 

Forget party lines, look at yourself, your family, your work and everyone else’s situation and select the option that will give all of us a better, fairer quality of life.

And if you think that Theresa May and her vision will do that then god* help us all.

*Other fictional characters are available.

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Do you remember a time before the referendum when we were all worried but knew it would be okay?

We’d stay in Europe and we’d have at least another 4 years of a democratic White House in the US. The world seemed unstable but that common sense would prevail.I’d been participating in the debate for the Referendum, very much on the side of remain and although it looked perilously tight we should pull through.

I tell this as a true story – I had not intended to as it upsets me greatly, it is told from my perspective but it is very much what I witnessed and in light of the horrific results in the US presidential election and the ongoing referendum fall-out it seems appropriate to try and put into perspective why this image summed up the referendum for me.

A battered Y registered, turquoise Opel Astra with a near collapsed suspension thundered up behind me. In the car was a rather grubby, drawn faced looking man with the stench of tobacco and weed about him I noted as he pulled up beside me, his one arm driving technique making me take a step further back on to the pavement. In the back of the vehicle three children sat, but I barely had time to notice them as the driver bawled at me ‘where’s this fucking polling station mate?’

I offered the information he was looking for, ‘first left and a couple of hundred metres up on the right, it’s the local church centre if you know it?’

He pulled away without saying a word and by the time he had driven up I had pretty much arrived too. There was a queue and he was before me, turned out his name was ‘Michael’ and he had been speaking to some of the others about his vote. I listened because here, in this man, I could hear the voice of discontent and also the level of ignorance that hadn’t just invaded my community but much of the country.

‘Kick ’em out,’ he said, ‘I mean not all of ’em – Alvin at the Chinky does a lovely lemon chicken’. Michael was making me want to vomit, partly due to the smell, partly due to his quiet tirade. Perhaps he didn’t realise that the pizza he had recently ordered is more famously associated with Italy or that his Opel Astra has long standing German links. The people around him didn’t shuffle uncomfortably at his words, they merely smiled politely, they were older and tried at least not to encourage him.

Michael eventually voted, I’ll assume ‘Leave’ and I voted ‘Remain’ we both left.

He opened the door to his car, telling his children it was time to pick up the pizza (that’s how I know what was on the menu that evening) and he left, driving as wildly as when I first encountered him.

I returned home in dismay, worried about the result.

I can’t know for sure but Michael didn’t appear to be a regular voter – his lack of knowledge of the polling stations location despite his local accent suggested he had made a special effort to vote. But the things he said while waiting where hideous and given the evidence of the months since the referendum result we can see that he really isn’t alone.

I know not everyone who voted ‘Leave’ is a Michael, but I wonder if we really want to hand the keys of the UK to people like this? If they get what they want where do they stop? Michael didn’t mind Alvin at the Chinese takeaway but I wondered how he felt about the local barber who is actually an Iraqi refugee. A young man who fled conflict in his own country and has made a good life for himself here, married to a lovely Polish lady and now with a British born child. How far does the anti-immigration view go? How far has hate in England and Wales engulfed our nation and our national identity? 

Last night I was told by the lovely Lesley that ‘we’d lost’ but to everyone who thinks it’s okay to just accept defeat then I’d ask you to look again.

Do you know a Michael? Do you want the future of the UK to be determined by a vision built on fear and loathing. I want my daughter to know I fought every single day to give her an inclusive, tolerant future and if that means being less tolerant of the ridiculousness the people of the UK and the Westminster elite have brought down upon us then so be it.

Being an ultra marathon runner you come to realise that the starting gun or vote is just the beginning of the race and I’m hoping that those who want to be part of the EU feel like endurance runners because this race has a steep profile, lots of evil elevation and big fast downhills but by holding steady, getting our nutrition right we might just finish this. Let’s hope those who dream of an EU-less UK have gone out too quick and blown up at checkpoint one.

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