Monday, 9 December 2019

The UK General Election 2019

On Thursday many people in the UK get to vote for our government, for the third time in the last 4 years. Although I have lived here for more than half my life, I don't get to vote.

I first came to the UK in the 90ies to study. Initially, I had planned to stay for only a year. As soon as I arrived in Edinburgh, I fell in love with the place and I decided to stay in Scotland for the entire degree. Like my fellow British students and students from elsewhere in the EU I didn't have to pay any fees - they were covered by the state.

After I finished my undergraduate degree I had the chance to continue my studies doing a PhD. At that time the research councils wouldn't fund EU students but I did manage to get industry funding for my PhD project on palaeoclimate modelling. After I had finished my PhD I worked as a postdoc for a few years and then in the oil industry. I now work at the University of Edinburgh as a Research Software Engineer.

I have now lived for more than half my life in Scotland. I have married a local and together we have two teenage kids. We have local family and friends from all over.

On 23rd June 2016 the population of the UK decided by a narrow margin to leave the EU. 51.9% of the votes were in favour of leaving the EU. I didn't see this result coming. But then 62% of the Scottish vote was in favour of remain. My continental family couldn't understand how the well-respected, rational UK could vote to damage itself so badly. They are right - what happened since the referendum (in fact since well before then) is deeply irrational.

Brexit makes no sense and Theresa May's government ultimately collapsed due to the contradictions (taking back control, no border in the Irish Sea, the Good Friday Agreement). I have learned what dog-whistle politics means: a clearly understandable message to the population: immigration needs to be curbed because immigrants are a burden on society. The current Conservative government with Boris Johnson as its head is lying: extra money for the NHS, extra nurses, extra schools, extra policemen while avoiding public scrutiny.

It was the successive Conservative governments that introduced student fees, universal credits, cut back public services, sold off NHS data. Austerity does not aim to solve the fallout of the 2008 banking crisis. Austerity is the neo-liberal policy of the Conservatives that allows them to scale back public services and exploit the majority of the population. Some very rich individuals and big companies benefit hugely while the majority suffers. This is only possible with the help of the billionaire press.

According to my union our salaries have stagnated during the last decade and we have lost 15-20% of our income to inflation. While at the same time our working conditions have deteriorated. That's why we went on strike last week. And I consider myself lucky - I have a job.

The UK like all other countries is faced with huge problems: climate change, resource exploitation and the social changes that come with automation and the internet.

A decade of austerity and universal credits have thinned out society to breaking point. Together with all the lies coming from the government and the media, we have forgotten that the world could be different.

I am hugely grateful to the Scottish government and most of the Scottish parties. The Scottish government is committed to being part of the EU. The SNP has been very clear that immigrants are welcome and that they not only contribute economically to society but also culturally. Yes, we work like everyone else, but we are also lovers, spouses, friends, neighbours, carers, etc. As far as I can tell this sentiment is also shared by the majority of people living in Scotland. I still do feel very welcome here.

On Thursday many people in the UK get to vote for the next government. I think this election is hugely important. The voters will decide whether they have some faith in their elected representatives and whether there is some shared basis of reality, that truth, the rule of law still matter and whether there is a balance between the interests of the majority and the vulnerable and the interests of the powerful; or if the only thing that matters is sheer power.

A Conservative government will not deal with the hollowed out public services, the NHS crisis, the homeless, the food banks and the climate emergency. The Tories will continue the transformation of this country to a neo-liberal laissez-faire country where xenophobia is rife, the majority is exploited and only sheer power counts.

This might be your last chance to vote for hope. Boris Johnson and his friends must be stopped. This means you need to vote tactically, ie vote for the party that is most likely to win against a Tory candidate. There are many sites on tactical voting, for example this page by the guardian.

A vote for the SNP does not necessarily mean a vote for Scottish Independence. First of all it helps stopping the Tories from forming the next government and ramming through the hardest of hard Brexits. Who knows we might get another independence referendum and my attitude towards Scottish Independence hasn't changed since 2014. The UK needs to be reformed and Scottish Independence might help with that. In any case, the question of Scottish Independence will not be answered by the outcome of the General Election on Thursday. Another referendum is required for that. The priority should be: vote the Tories out!

I don't get to vote. So, as you consider who to vote for, please, vote for me too.

I am very grateful to Tanja Bueltmann who came up with the idea for the vote for me too campaign. Please visit the campaign website for more information.