5 reasons I’m voting Labour (for the first time ever)

Thanks for coming to read this blog post. I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but… REGISTER TO VOTE. Right now, because the deadline is today. The majority of people are already registered to vote, and most of them will vote. Don’t miss out.

So here’s where I stand, for what it’s worth. I’ve been having a look at the manifestos and at my local candidates. I’ve never voted for Labour before, but I will be doing this year. Here are the 5 main reasons they’ll be getting my vote on June 8th. None of them are tactical.

1. For the good of your health

Thanks to unachievable ‘efficiency’ targets enforced by the current government, the NHS is seriously struggling to stay afloat. It doesn’t have enough money to keep up with demand.

Labour promise £30 billion over the next 5 years, which still isn’t enough, but would take us some way towards filling the hole that was created when spending increases pretty much stopped in 2010. The Conservatives, meanwhile, offer £8 billion. And even that would probably involve some serious bending of the truth.

A lack of funds is the main issue for the NHS right now. But there are also some good ideas in Labour’s manifesto. There’s focus on ensuring safe staffing levels (one of the current government’s failures) and allocation of a greater proportion of funds to child mental health. One of the most interesting ideas is the proposal for a National Care Service, supported by an additional £8 billion of investment. This could support the long-overdue changes that are needed in social care, that the current government has ignored.

The Lib Dem manifesto seems pretty good on health too, and has some nice ideas of its own. It’s just a bit less ambitious and underestimates the extent to which the NHS needs greater financial support. The Green Party haven’t released their manifesto yet, though I expect it will be quite similar to Labour’s on health.

2. For the sake of the economy

The Labour manifesto says that we need to “upgrade our economy”, which is true. We have a crisis in productivity that requires action. Labour’s proposed National Transformation Fund is about providing the investment that could help solve our long-term economic problems. A big part of this long-term remedy is the inclusion of a Fiscal Credibility Rule, which would prevent the government from overspending on things that won’t generate value in the future. Labour would also create a National Investment Bank, which (they estimate) would facilitate £250 billion of private investment in regional development and local businesses.

The Conservatives have long struggled to understand basic economics. It’s why the deficit has grown so much in their hands. Considering the Conservatives’ kamikaze approach to EU negotiations, it could be that they just don’t care.

One of my old economics lecturers has an article that covers the question of whether Labour’s manifesto pledges ‘add up’. They do.

3. Because workers used to have rights

One of the defining features of our recent economic history is that the economy has been growing but wages have not. It’s because our employment rights have been stripped away and the trade unions prevented from doing their job. Crippling trade unions is a Tory pastime, of course, and it’s no surprise to hear Labour say that they will work with the unions.

But the Labour manifesto could be a game-changer. Labour outline a 20-point plan for the reinstatement of workers’ rights, including banning zero-hours contracts and unpaid internships, preventing employers from recruiting cheap labour from abroad and introducing a (real) living wage.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have very little to say on the matter. Except that they will continue to support a fake ‘living wage’. The Lib Dem manifesto also does not say much on this issue, suggesting that they don’t appreciate how damaging the current situation is to our society.

4. Because my local candidate is working for it

Your local MP could be way more important to your day-to-day life than Jeremy or Theresa. I live in a relatively safe Labour seat, but our MP has recently stood down after 25 years. Our new Labour candidate, Ellie Reeves, seems like a good egg. Most importantly, she is working hard on her campaign. Ellie’s background as a trade union lawyer makes her the kind of person I’d like to see in parliament.

5. It’s better than not voting

Yes, our democracy is broken. Capitalism is broken. Society is broken. But they aren’t going to be fixed or replaced within the next 2 weeks, and a lot of people are having a really difficult time right now. I’m not going to ask them to wait until we figure out how to bring an end to the neoliberal experiment. We at least need a government that can get us through the next 5 years without increasing homelessness, sending people to food banks, crippling the NHS, and all the while letting Amazon and co walk away with what’s rightfully ours.

No one party is ever going to represent my views perfectly. I don’t agree 100% with everything in the Labour manifesto, and my vote doesn’t imply that I do. But what’s the alternative? There’s nothing heroic in spoiling your ballot paper. Vote for whichever candidate you think will do the best job of representing you. Right now, Labour is the only party offering real solutions to the country’s problems.

So that’s it, really. VOTE. Register here. If you think you’re registered but you haven’t received a polling card yet, you can check. If you’ve always voted for the same party, ask yourself why that is. If you’re not sure who to vote for, visit Vote for Policies. Go and find out what your local candidates have been up to in the last couple of weeks. If they’ve been an MP before go and look at their voting record. Stop reading newspapers. Every winning party since 1979 has been supported by the scumbags that run The Sun. Go and find out for yourself what the parties are offering you. FullFact can tell you if they’re lying.

3 easy ways to honour your professor

Recently, the great Dave Whynes retired from the University of Nottingham after 40 years of service. I will probably be his last PhD student. Over the years, Dave has nurtured many budding health economists who have gone on to achieve great things. It’s natural for those people to venerate Dave and his work and to want to ensure that current and future health economists are also able to learn from Dave’s teachings.

Chances are that your prof doesn’t have much of an online presence. Here I’m going to set out a few easy ways in which you can help ensure that future generations of researchers are able to see a particular academic’s contributions, and understand where they fit within the field. It’s also kind of a to-do list for myself, to which you can all contribute. The focus is on how you might do this for an [health] economics professor, but much of it applies to other fields.

1. Create and maintain Wikipedia coverage

Wikipedia is the go-to reference point for digital natives. It aims to be “the sum of human knowledge”. Despite this lofty purpose, not everyone should have a Wikipedia article about them. Simply having been a good professor is not sufficient. Wikipedia has specific notability criteria for academics to help you figure this out. Being highly cited is usually enough.

At the time of writing there is no Wikipedia page for David K. Whynes, but I will create it. If you’re going to add your prof, an important step is to have a look around Wikipedia to see which other articles might link back to the one you will create. In relation to this it is also important to maintain a Wikidata item and you could even add relevant images to Wikimedia Commons.

In some cases you might also like to create or maintain articles relating to your professor’s research, such as specific theories or named objects.

2. Add to bibliographic databases

The main output of most academics is their writing. There are now a number of publicly editable databases or wiki-style websites for books. See if your prof has an author page on Goodreads. Dave does. The same goes for Open Library. On both sites you can edit author pages to make sure all the information is accurate and up to date.

The sites also allow you to create editions of books that are not yet listed, so dig out that dusty old first edition and add its data to Goodreads and Open Library. You can do the same on the relatively new websites BookBrainz and Bibliogs. In fact, you could even add journal articles to Bibliogs if you wanted to start a major project.

If you want to go a step further and make your prof’s papers more accessible to non-experts, you can write open access summaries for them on AcaWiki.

3. Become an academic genealogist

Professors and their students are like parents and their children; there is an academic genealogy to be explored. You can create family trees to identify lineage and ancestry. There are a growing number of websites to support this. People from all fields can use PhDTree, and most fields can participate in The Academic Family Tree. If you’re an economist then you can also contribute to the RePEc Genealogy.

Photo credit: Judy van der Velden (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why I’ll wear a #SafetyPin

I really really don’t like public displays of passive activism. I didn’t even do the Ice Bucket Challenge! But #SafetyPin is different.

It’s different because it’s inclusive. Anti-racism and anti-xenophobia movements are needed right now, as hate crimes have increased since the EU referendum. But there are other groups of people who deal with these kinds of attacks. Transgender people regularly experience harassment. The mass shooting at Pulse was a brutal reminder of some people’s views towards gay people. You don’t have to spend much time on Twitter or in a male-dominated environment to witness sexism. The safety pin can stand for all of these. And it needn’t detract from the anti-racist message – that’s the beauty of #SafetyPin, it’s intersectional.

It’s different because it goes beyond a timid form of solidarity and sends a practical message. It makes the statement that “you are safe with me”. That’s a commitment. A commitment to act should action be necessary – ideally with words but if necessary with fists. On a more fundamental level it lets people know that they can talk to you, that they can ask you for help and you won’t think they’re a weirdo.

It’s different because it’s just a safety pin. I don’t need to go on Etsy to buy one. I don’t need to post a selfie for my social kudos to count. This – combined with the literal meaning of the safety pin – makes it more difficult for other groups to hijack it as a symbol.

Well this is what it means to me anyway. I appreciate that other people may not feel the same, and that’s fine. It sort of doesn’t matter. What matters is that I can wear it as a reminder to myself – more than to anyone else – of how I intend to behave. I’m a straight, white, English-born cis male. I don’t know what it’s like to be subjected to abuse, but I know what it’s like to feel safe. And I know it shouldn’t be a privilege. Wearing a safety pin isn’t the solution, but it reminds me to become it.

And now, for your listening pleasure…

Photo credit: Haragayato (CC-BY-SA-3.0)