Ben Weich

I backed Corbyn and am proud of it. Here’s why

Yes, there are questions to be asked about antisemitism in the Labour Party, writes Ben Weich, but there was too much at stake in this election

June 16, 2017 10:17

My name is Ben, I’m 25 years old, and I voted Labour in the general election because I wanted Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister.

The surge in voter registration rates of young people, coupled with their overwhelming preference for Mr Corbyn, means I was not alone among young Jews in backing Labour. You probably even know a few of us.

Yes, there are questions to be asked about antisemitism in the Labour Party, and yes, many people have concerns about Mr Corbyn’s interactions with antisemites. But for me, that was far outweighed by what was at stake in this election. Just months after my 18th birthday the Conservative-led government began to tear chunks out of the country’s welfare system under its programme of austerity after the 2008 financial crash.

Year after year, young people have been told the state cannot provide enough affordable housing, cannot fund public services adequately or cannot put an end to tuition fees. We have watched as junior doctors, our friends, have had to accept insultingly unfair working conditions. We see food banks in towns and cities across the country, growing numbers of people sleeping rough, wide-ranging benefits cuts, fewer police officers on our streets and an NHS on its last legs.

As Mr Corbyn puts it, there is a social crisis looming in this country. And for what? Cuts in capital gains tax for the wealthy? Or is it so FTSE CEOs can earn up to 386 times as much as workers on the national living wage?

And the real kicker is that public sector net debt has risen under the Conservatives. Go figure.

This is no middle-class indulgence, or an act of youthful rebellion. My friends and I who live in London sometimes pay upwards of one third of our income on rent alone, which makes saving impossible and the prospect of living like a student into our thirties very real. With its pledge to build a million more homes in five years, I would be tangibly better off with Labour in charge.

Mr Corbyn, in stark contrast to Theresa May, appeals to the young on a personal level. Grime4Corbyn, the election movement which saw rap artists endorsing the Labour leader, was powerful not because we hang on Stormzy’s every word, but because we could identify with the often-overlooked section of society it represented.

For a long time, we have felt we are being excluded from the decision-making in this country. Brexit, which only a quarter of 18-24-year-olds voted for, is being driven by the concerns of a much older, less metropolitan bloc. Some days it seems the Daily Mail is Britain’s most influential think-tank, rather than a newspaper.

Yes, Mr Corbyn’s links to unsavoury groups and individuals should be challenged, but he is no antisemite. And, while he may not like Israel, his expressions of concern for the interests of ethnic minorities feel genuine.

Above all, he portrayed himself as an outsider. And in today’s Britain that’s exactly what young people are, too.

June 16, 2017 10:17

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