This image is a snapshot of an alphabetical list from Hansard, of MPs who voted against the Tory Welfare Bill last night.
You’ll note that South Tyneside’s two Labour MPs, Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck are missing. That’s right, along with most other Labour Party MPs they failed to vote against a bill that the Tories will use to further hobble the welfare state and make the lives of people on low incomes in South Tyneside worse.
You would think MPs were there to vote in the interests of their constituents, but not these two. They voted for party before principle.
After the vote SNP MP Peter Wishart asked the speaker of the house if Labour could be moved to the back benches as they no longer represent an opposition to the Tories. He’s got a point; in the last year or so Labour has consistently voted in support of Tory economic policy.
If I was a Labour Party member in South Tyneside, today I would be asking myself some very serious questions. Is Labour fit for purpose? Does it still represent my values? Why did I waste my time canvassing for two losers who can’t vote to protect fundamental Labour principles?
Leonard Nimoy died today. But that’s not the end. Every atom in his body will move on to become another part of the universe. At some point before the universe dies, maybe one of the atoms resting in you or me will momentarily meet with one of the atoms that briefly visited him. Maybe it’s already happened.
His legacy will live on – for the joy he gave as an entertainer and for the overwhelmingly positive thoughts and ideas he left behind. And as last words go, Leonard Nimoy’s final tweet demonstrates the touching humanity of a man acutely aware of his mortality, a man who is famous for pretending not to be human.
In the dying light of 2014, Jarrow Labour MP Stephen Hepburn wrote a rousing piece for the Shields Gazette, where he slammed ‘Tory austerity’ and told the Gazette’s readers that “Labour would be very different. We’re on your side.”
Well, actions speak louder than words, and to show whose side he and Labour are on, today he voted with the Tories in support of their ‘budget charter’ bill, rubber stamping another £30 billion of cuts. Predicably, South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck also voted with the Tories, but when it comes to voting against the interests of the people of South Shields who are suffering under Tory-Lib Dem coalition austerity, she already has form for putting the whip before people. Now it’s election year, Hepburn is toeing the Blairite line too.
Hepburn is right about one thing. There is a ‘momentous choice facing us’, and it’s a choice between voting for a fairer society where everyone benefits, or the status quo. As we’ve seen today, the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour will do anything to keep the fat cats purring, even if it means making life harder for the people who are already struggling.
For me that momentous choice is simple. The Green Party is the only party that still holds to the principles of Bevan and Beveridge, now abandoned by a Labour Party that looks to Thatcher and Blair for its inspiration. The Green Party wants to bring our society back together, where every citizen shares in Britain’s success. To stop Britain being a cow to be milked by the haves, paid for by the have nots, we do need to make that momentous choice. Something different, something better, for everyone – the Green Party.
Despite all of the optimism, Ukip failed to win a single ward in South Tyneside in yesterday’s local elections. They did however raise their poll ratings, Labour stayed in poll position. Ukip even lost a seat (although you could argue they never gained it in the first place), after the fickle voters of Fellgate decided they weren’t happy with Councillor Steve Harrison abandoning his independence to pin his flag to the Ukip mast.
Publicly, local Ukip members will make a great deal about their gains, and rightfully they will have hope that this translates into seats next year, but privately they must have some serious concerns that they didn’t even win one seat from Labour, and lost one of their stars to Labour.
The Conservatives will also have some worried introspection, after Ukip have taken so many of their votes.
But Labour prevailed again in South Tyneside.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many people, who like me voted tactically yesterday. I haven’t voted Labour since 1997; before the illegal wars, PFI/PPI and the beginning of the privatisation of the NHS.
The ward that I live in here in South Shields, Harton, had a very limited field of candidates: Labour, Conservative or Ukip. Three parties wedded to the blind hand of the market and beholden to their millionaire donors. I would have preferred a left wing party to vote for, so the decision came down to not voting, or voting for the least worst. Not wanting a Ukip councillor, I opted for the latter, and Labour were definitely the least worst. Despite this, it was still a hard decision to make. Labour will crow about holding on to their lead in South Tyneside, but although a victory, it’s one where many of those who voted for them who are also deeply disappointed with the Tory-lite that Labour has become.
I don’t like voting in such a cynical manner, for a party I don’t believe in, but the ignorance, bigotry and negativity that Ukip stands for has no place in a fair and civilised society, and sometimes these difficult comprises have to be made.