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There’s too much at stake not to vote in the election

TIME TO DECIDE: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addresses supporters

AS WELL as distracting us from the Conservative party’s expenses scandal, the hastily-called general election was undoubtedly an attempt to catch the opposition by surprise.

With a political establishment and mainstream media desperately vying to protect a status-quo that benefits them, the onus falls on us, the people, to fight against power.

This election offers a rare opportunity: for the first time in many of our life-times the Labour party offer real alternatives that threaten to break with the ‘business-as-usual’ of British politics. Let us make no mistake, this Labour party is fiercely different from its recent predecessors. With a leadership and mass membership firmly committed to seizing control from the self-interested political establishment, this Labour party offer an opportunity for real change.

Victory for the Conservatives would see a dangerously emboldened government acting with impunity to push forward an agenda for ever-widening social inequalities. As the all too familiar pattern goes, when inequalities widen, it is black and brown people at the sharp end.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Theresa May courts votes

The Conservative government’s time in power has been disastrous for working class communities generally, and black and brown communities particularly. Tory cuts have plunged ever increasing numbers into poverty. It is unsurprising that this has disproportionately impacted upon our communities: In 2016, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found ‘BAME’, or, black and minority ethnic communities twice as likely to be living in poverty. On top of this, black and brown communities are overrepresented in unemployment and underemployment figures and disproportionality occupy precarious jobs.

Whilst striving for and investing in full employment, the Labour party pledge to strengthen workers’ rights, tackle workplace exploitation, and cut inequality in income and wealth. This can disrupt the disastrous (un)employment conditions for our communities and deserves our support.

Education under the Conservatives has been another disaster site. Whilst funding cuts are decimating our schools at levels equivalent to the loss of six teachers in every school, the Tories are planning to increase school selectivity through a return to grammar schools. On both counts, these policies hit our communities the hardest.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that cuts will disproportionately impact on those schools in the most deprived areas (where black and brown students are overrepresented) and as countless studies have shown, increased school selectivity only acts to increase (race and class) inequalities. Labour’s pledge is to shift away from this trajectory and move us towards a more equitable national education service for all. Surely this is a pledge worthy of our support?

EYE IN THE SKY: The Scottish National Party's Nicola Sturgeon tours Scotland

In this election, whilst the Conservatives remain determined to lines the pockets of the few, the Labour Party offer to swing the balance of power back in favour of the many.

Of course, this is not to say the Labour party offers the key to black liberation: such a view would be ahistorical and deeply naïve. We must always stay alert to the limitations and pitfalls of party politics. We should remember that so many of our gains have come from agitation at the margins of, and outside of, mainstream politics. We should know that, were Labour to seize power, grassroots activism would be as necessary as ever to hold Jeremy Corbyn’s government to account.

Notwithstanding all of this, there is far too much at stake in this election to remain neutral or abstain. The very lives and well-being of our communities are at stake. A Labour victory will not solve all our problems, and the fight will go on. It must go on. But, a Labour victory will break with a trajectory of ever-increasing inequality and offers real hope to the masses in this country. We must be on the right side of history; our futures depend on it.

Remi Joseph-Salisbury is a Senior Lecturer at the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University.

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