#Arts4Labour

LETTER IN THE GUARDIAN

03/12/19

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/dec/03/vote-for-hope-and-a-decent-future

We are alarmed by the global rise of far-right nationalism and the authoritarian turn taken by many governments following the global financial crash of 2008. We are shamed by extreme levels of inequality, neglect and environmental impoverishment resulting from decades of neo-liberalism, in Britain and across the world..We are inspired by growing movements, from Chile to Lebanon and beyond, calling for dignity, accountability and economic justice. People are demanding a future that promises their children decent education, health, jobs and homes, and humane and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis. 

In the UK, Labour’s election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have nothing to offer but the prospect of an ever more unequal and divided society, and dog-whistle politics. Between hope and despair, the choice before British voters on December 12 could not be more stark or more urgent. 

SIGNATORIES

Ronan Bennett    writer, producer
Noam Chomsky   philosopher
Chipo Chung   actor
Clean Bandit  band
Steve Coogan comedian, actor
Rob Delaney  actor
David Edgar   playwright
Brian Eno   musician, producer
Andrew Feinstein   writer
Stephen Frears   film director
David Graeber   anthropologist, author
Steve Gribbin   comedian
Kane ‘Kano’ Robinson  rapper
Asif  Kapadia  film director
Aki Kaurismaki   film director
Peter Kennard   artist
AL Kennedy    author
Naomi Klein   author
Mike Leigh   film director
Ken Loach  film director
Lowkey   rapper
Sabrina Mahfouz   playwright
Esther Manito   comedian
Michael Mansfield   barrister
Francesca Martinez   comedian
Massive Attack   band
Bill McKibben   co-founder 350.org
Robin Rimbaud ‘SCANNER’  musician
Michael Rosen poet, broadcaster
Martin Rowson   cartoonist
Mark Rylance actor
Alexei Sayle  writer, comedian
Gillian Slovo  writer
Robyn Slovo   film producer
Ahdaf Soueif   author
Joelle Taylor  poet
Kate Tempest  poet, musician
Jess Thom  artistic director, Touretteshero
Mark Thomas  writer, comedian
Yanis Varoufakis  economist
Ashley Walters   actor
Roger Waters   musician
Benjamin Zephaniah   poet, musician

SUPPORTING STATEMENTS

Alphabetical listing of personal statements by 26 writers, filmmakers, musicians and others

Noam Chomsky, philosopher

Jeremy Corbyn is a decent and admirable person — in these ugly days not merely a compliment, but an accolade.  He has revitalized the Labour Party, moving it towards becoming a party of the people, dedicated to their needs and concerns, not of party managers serving elite interests.  Labour’s programs show promise of overcoming the neoliberal blight that has so damaged British society since Thatcher. To adapt a famous slogan to the times, there is no credible alternative.

Julie Christie, actor
(Statement only, not a letter signatory)

If I want to know a politician’s worth as a human being, I look at their record and Jeremy Corbyn’s and John McDonnell’s voting records have always been honourable: in favour of the disadvantaged and minorities and against war and exploitation.

Chipo Chung, actor

Without question, Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate I can support whole-heartedly – it is unfortunately rare to find a representative that shares the values of the poor, the oppressed and the voiceless – from the homeless to innocent Iraqis before a war that broke the world, to a planet still at risk of nuclear collateral damage. He gives hope to the young generation who want social justice for all to be the priority over profits for a minority. I’m voting Labour to change this game. 

David Edgar, playwright 

My manifesto priorities in 2019

What two things do these policies have in common?

The minimum wage, the fuel allowance for pensioners, removing discrimination against gay people, introducing a Scottish Assembly, establishing a Ministry of Overseas Development (increasing overseas aid to 0.7%), introducing a Freedom of Information Bill and abolishing hunting with dogs.

They’re all now on the statute book, and they were all proposed in the 1983 Labour Manifesto, the proverbial “longest suicide note in history”. So what innovative proposals in the 2019 Labour manifesto should become the common sense of the age, today? My top candidates include efforts to combat childhood obesity (including the “milkshake tax”), the Right to Food policy, producers having to pay for the waste they create, piloting universal basic income, banning zero-hours contracts, introducing universal free broadband and closing tax loopholes enjoyed by private schools. 

But I’d start where the manifesto starts: with a green industrial revolution, founded on public investment and public ownership, a national investment bank, and workplace and community democracy, that would create a million high-paid jobs, upgrade UK homes to the highest energy-efficiency standards and set the country on course to zero carbon emissions. Despite its detractors, the 1983 Labour Manifesto set the agenda for progressive social policy over the subsequent 30 years. This year’s manifesto could and should do the same for the next 30. Time for real change, indeed.

Brian Eno, musician, producer

Doesn’t it tell us something that the people who most hate Jeremy Corbyn are billionaire media emperors, right-wing extremists, corporate privateers and Donald Trump? And why do they hate him? Because there’s just a chance he might get away with changing the country, making it a fairer and better place – and a place that they no longer run.

Stephen Frears, film director

Of course Boris Johnson will sell parts of the NHS to the Americans and of course the price of medicine will go up. We were lied to in 2016 and we’re being lied to again. I suppose if you like chlorinated chicken you might vote for a lying Prime Minister. Boris Johnson lies!

Steve Gribbin, comedian

The Labour Party Manifesto’s pledge to nationalise our chaotic and venal railway system meets with my full-throated and heartfelt approval. For anyone who has had to negotiate the maddeningly byzantine ticketing options, the overcrowded and inadequate carriages, the cancellations, delays and excuses will be well aware that privatisation has been a massive failure.

Splitting the rail infrastructure from the actual trains was a spectacular own-goal that not even Thatcher was willing to contemplate.

The fact that us long-suffering commuters are described as “customers” rather than passengers says it all. “Customers” implies that we have a choice. Unless there is a parallel universe somewhere with another rail system, we have no choice. There is only one rail-way. Labour’s plan to take each privatised rail company back into public ownership and “rebuild the fragmented railways as a nationally integrated service” is the right way forward, and I salute it. And their plan for a “Crossrail For The North” is long-overdue, which the users of Northern Rail will acknowledge from bitter experience. The North of England deserves a modern, efficient rail service and not carriages that are half-bus, half bone-shaker.

Lee Hall, playwright, screenwriter
(Statement only, not a letter signatory)

Labour’s Manifesto is a real chance to change the game. Whatever happens with Brexit we are faced with a stark choice either we invest to transform Britain into a place where we all have a chance to flourish or we continue the decline where the 0.1% get richer and everything we have held dear for the last 70 years falls apart. This is a real chance to undo the damage everyone of us can see around us: the closed shops on the high street, homelessness, the majority of people struggling to make ends meet. It is a manifesto about investing in ourselves. We can’t afford not to do it.

Whatever your position on Brexit the Labour position protects the majority view but what is clear from the Tory manifesto is that they see a vision of the future which is business as usual.

This is not a time for giving up on politics. Here is a real alternative to the hopeless decline we’ve all witnessed. If you want to make Britain great – you have to vote Labour.

Asif Kapadia, film director

I am of the era when it was possible to have a free education. I had free schools meals, my parents received help with my school uniform. I was eligible for a grant which gave me the opportunity to go to college and university, where I studied hard and got a First Class degree. I received a bursary to do my Masters at art school. It’s important to add that I always worked while studying to pay my rent and bills.

If I were young now, I don’t think my parents would be able to send my sisters, brother and I to college and University. Having had a fantastic (free) education I was given the tools to make films, form a career, hire lots of people on my productions. I now run a company, with a lot of staff, we all pay our taxes and bring a lot of money into the U.K. economy, we bring kudos to the U.K. by creating films like AMY and SENNA, as well as TV shows which have been seen, acclaimed and won an Oscar, BAFTAs, a Grammy and many other awards around the world. Everything I was given by the state has been paid back numerous times over. There is a simple reason why people like me from an Asian, Muslim, working class background are still few and far between within the industry, because it’s so difficult to have the opportunity to get a great, top education and to survive long enough to form a career, to show your potential. I want this to change in the future.

Peter Kennard, visual artist

In 1821 the poet Percy Shelley wrote  ‘We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know’. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn believes  that a democratic culture has to allow everyone to express themselves through taking part in cultural activities. The Conservatives have downgraded art in schools – it is now not one of the so-called Stem subjects. But it is the imagination of young people that should be nurtured through all forms of cultural expression. 

The Labour Party will encourage local and marginalised communities to gain access to culture, both through widening accessibility for seeing and hearing music, art, theatre, dance, etc as well as supporting facilities for people to freely be involved in creative work themselves. 

The many not the few will have a voice and be able to take part in, rather than be apart from, the great human adventure of using ‘the creative faculty to imagine that which we know.

AL Kennedy, writer

We need to have a government that doesn’t act like an occupying power, that doesn’t kill us. We are now used to corruption, mismanagement and engineered civil discord from our leaders. We are used to our public services and public discourse being infected by cruelty and willful ignorance. But this can change. We still live in a democracy – we still have time to change it.

Naomi Klein, author

The next government will hold power during fateful years on our planet’s climate clock. Scientists have told us that if we do not embrace fundamental change now, we will dramatically diminish our chances of avoiding ecological breakdown in the decades to come. There is only one leader who possesses both a path to victory and a bold plan on the scale of the crisis. That leader is Jeremy Corbyn.

I have discussed the climate crisis with Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly over the past four years and been struck by both the depth of his personal feeling and by his commitment to finding a path forward that will allow both people and planet to thrive. That vision is now absolutely clear in the new Labour Manifesto. This is the moment to put differences aside and unite behind that life-saving vision.

Sabrina Mahfouz, playwright

I’ll be voting for Labour this election because it is not enough to say ‘I’ve had enough’ or to turn off the TV or delete the apps. The normalisation of derogatory statements towards any group of people that do not occupy the very narrow space carved for the elite of this country, the consequential devastating actions that result in policies that were made with the backdrop of these statements, the normalisation of hate and its violent, destructive force must be stopped from being the default position of our most senior representatives. 

To me, the only party who can currently bring about real change – on climate crisis, on education, on a living wage and workers’ rights, on fair taxation and an NHS that is brought back to the people to do what it does best – is Corbyn’s Labour, with what has to be the most hopeful manifesto I’ve ever seen in my lifetime and one that can be the start of a change that brings us together more than tears us apart. 

Esther Manito, comedian

I will be voting for Labour because I feel incredibly strongly about keeping our National Health service. A Tory government will continue to sell our NHS off in sections to outside markets, and we will end up with a privatised health service which relies on the everyday person paying high cost medical insurance. In the United States, according to Harvard studies, it is estimated 45,000 people die each year due to lack of medical insurance. We have a fantastic health service and they have saved the lives of so many. Health care is a basic human right and that is why I am voting Labour. 

Michael Mansfield QC

It is time to overturn arrogance, avarice and attrition, all of which have marked the last decade of Tory rule. This is now overlaid with outright lies, fake news, and populist strap lines. Unsurprisingly this has not deterred Tory donors who immediately flooded the Tory coffers by more than £5m far in excess of all the other parties put together. This speaks volumes about their support base and the vested interests at stake. In short they have created a hostile environment. Along with climate change both must be stopped.

Francesca Martinez, comedian

There are two types of politics. One fuelled by hope, one by fear. Only one can create a more equal and harmonious world. Labour’s Manifesto gives me hope.

Bill McKibben, co-founder 350.org

Labour’s translation of the Green New Deal into everyday language — I particularly like Cosy Homes For All to describe a massive program of retrofits that will save carbon and money — is helping the rest of the world figure out how to spread the word.

Robin Rimbaud, aka SCANNER, musician

All I can say is that we all need to be conscious of our future and think not only of ourselves and look inward but to consider the wider picture. To think about a future for those just growing up, who will remember our decisions and how it affects them. To consider how climate change might not directly affect them now, or the health service or access to information and sharing ideas.  At a time of seemingly great chaos Labour offers a vision that supports a dynamic and positive future, one that maintains a strong connection with others and guarantees a future that affects and supports everyone, not just a rich elite. We need to think long-term, not be shortsighted and believe that even if Labour doesn’t offer everything you might need it’s a much stronger vision that any others.

Michael Rosen, poet, broadcaster

‘We’ve got the economy back on track’ means they have balanced the spread sheet. As ‘the economy’ doesn’t mean real people, the phrase ‘back on track’ can mean: NHS being cut to pieces, people on poverty wages, children hungry, schools cut, disabled people pushed into work.

Martin Rowson, cartoonist

What I like best about the Labour Party Manifesto is its sense of responsibility – not necessarily the kind of corseted fiscal responsibility the Tories and their dumb Dobermans in the media lie about, but true responsibility. By which I mean restoring to politics the idea that we are ALL responsible for each other throughout society. More to the point, those who think they’re at the top need to be reminded what responsibility is – to their employees, their tenants, their customers, their fellow citizens, our country and our planet. And they also need reminding that this country is the sum total of all its people and not just another salvage opportunity to make yet more money for the already rich – whatever they’re ceaselessly promised by someone as serially, recklessly, personally and politically irresponsible as Boris Johnson.

Mark Rylance, actor

Having known Jeremy and John McDonnell for some time on many shared campaigns for fair tax, peace and justice, I am very impressed that they have had over the last few years the great benefit of additional parliamentary resources to research and develop their hopes and plans for a fairer society that celebrates and supports each other with all our differences. This could and should be our strength and a wonderful example amongst nations, of tolerance and respect for all. I think they are experienced progressive politicians who could really make a wonderful difference to our present situation. 

As a theatre artist I am delighted to tell you that they have attended more theatre and music events than any other politician I have known during 40 years of acting in England. And when they have attended plays that I have been in, I have been most impressed that they spoke with everyone equally afterwards, the whole cast. It didn’t matter if the actor had played a lead role or supporting role, perhaps a role with no words at all, both Jeremy and John always spoke to everyone with the same respect, attention and interest. This is the kind of remarkable leadership we need. People who walk the talk. Their love of the arts is true and enthusiastic

I am a Green Party Member and a huge admirer of Caroline Lucas who, like Jeremy and John, is a committed, incredibly hard working, powerful and inspiring force for good. I sincerely hope and believe that the Labour Party will listen better than any other party to the concerns we Greens have for the environment, the crisis of man’s destructive practices in nature, and the real threat to all life that we face. This is a time of urgent need for large scale adaptation of the way we live together with our limited resources. We must all focus on the primary urgent agenda, the radical change of our climate, the loss of land to rising oceans, the threat to food supply due to extinctions and depleted soil, the inequality of our systems.

Alexei Sayle, writer, comedian

I saw a banner at a demo that read:

“Do not go gentle into this great fight

Rage rage against the lying of the right”

And it is a fight against these lying bastards and their many lying media allies – the fight for a decent life for all, a fight for art and laughter, a fight for the animals who deserve compassionate treatment, a fight for a helping hand to all who need one, a fight for a health service free for all, a fight for community, a fight to save our very planet. 5 more years of this cruel austerity will lose us all this.  The Labour manifesto recognises the crossroads we are at and has policies to help bring about this move to a life worth living for all. This is the fight of our lives. Make sure you are on the side of hope.

Gillian Slovo, author

I asked my daughter why she is voting Labour and she said this:

‘I’m voting Labour because I want a more equal society and an end to austerity which has caused 1000’s of preventable deaths of the poorest and most vulnerable. I do not want live in a society that kills its pensioners and sick, a country where the Windrush Scandal not only happens but is a deliberate policy.  I want an end to a government that puts unemployed people under huge stresses rather than helps them, where people freeze to death on the streets and where migrants die in trucks. 

I’m voting for Labour because I’m inspired by their vision of a green economy. According to the IPCC we have 11 years to cut our emissions in half (in half!!! and they are not even decreasing at the moment, they are going up!!!) in order to give us a 50% chance (!!!) of keeping warming to 1.5% and escaping catastrophic devastation of our world, ecosystem, and hundreds of millions of people starving, fleeing and dying.  We have 11 years to do this, or it will be too late. 

In 2050, I will be 60, your grandson Milo will be 34, and rising seas will have claimed the land that 150 million people currently live on. Labour is proposing a bold, ambitious, just and humane response to the climate crisis, the Tories are pretending that the crisis doesn’t even exist.  The stakes could not be higher for all of us. For your generation this election could be about the NHS, or social care, how the vulnerable ageing population will be treated and cared for, how we will pay for this. But at its heart this election is about what kind of society we want to live in and how we are going to face the climate crisis, the likes of which humanity has never faced before.’

My daughter and my grandson are all of our futures. That is also why I am  voting Labour – so we have a chance to have a country that ends our punishing inequalities and gives us hope for the future.

Joelle Taylor, poet

‘After the Storm’

After surgeons stopped scalpels raised

After the lips of books fell mute

After conveyor belts reversed and ran back to the factories

After the borders folded their arms

After chalk fell from teachers’ hands

After libraries became historical monuments

After museums exhibited glass cases filled with museums

After the paint migrated back to the artist’s brush

After hospitals were placed in intensive care

After children in Petri dishes were examined under the lens of big business

After children were boxed and sold to manufacturers

After Parliament became a chorus of bulldogs whistling their masters’ names

With teeth of burning tower blocks

And a bite like Brexit

After the storm

After the wind rushes

After the storm

Trees wrapped their arms around each other

Birds remembered the words to their songs

The sky let go of its grief

And where the rain fell

A seed found the courage to stand.

Jess Thom, artistic director ‘Touretteshero’

My life looks very different now from what it did a decade ago. Back in May 2010 I could still walk, climb stairs and spend time on my own safely. Since then, the intensification of my tics has meant that I’ve had to move home, start using a wheelchair, and have 24-hour support. But it’s not these personal changes that have created the backdrop of sadness I now feel – it’s the losses that we’ve incurred as a nation.As a disabled artist and youth worker I’ve witnessed the unrelenting damage that Tory ‘austerity’ has caused. Fortunately, though, there is an alternative. There are many incredibly exciting pledges within Labour’s 2019 Manifesto but there’s one line that says more to me than any individual promise: 

“We will: Champion the social model of disability throughout government.” 

The ‘social model’ is a way of thinking developed by disabled people that says it’s normal for bodies and minds to work in different ways and for some people to have impairments and others not. These differences don’t disable us, but what does is a failure to consider them in how our society is structured. 

I’m not disabled by the tics in my legs – my wheelchair gives me an amazing way to get around. But I am disabled by non-accessible environments, systems and attitudes, by a lack of support, or by an underfunded NHS. 

It shouldn’t be remarkable for a political party to take a social model approach to policy-making, but it really is. All too often disabled people are invisible within election agendas. We’re presented as a problem to be solved, rather than ordinary people with talent, value and solutions.  

Labour’s is the only manifesto to mention the social model and therefore the only one to understand our shared responsibility for creating an inclusive society. It gives me real hope that together we can create a less disabling world and ensure, as the manifesto pledges, an “independent and equal life” for everyone.

Mark Thomas, writer, comedian

I will proudly vote Labour for many reasons from the NHS to getting people out of poverty but one thing that really means a lot is the commitment to renounce sovereignty of the Chagos Islands and comply with the UN resolution calling for the islands to be returned. It has not received widespread publicity nor is it a universally known cause but it is a just one.

Chagos was part of Mauritius but was kept by Britain when Mauritius became independent. We promptly allowed the USA to open a military base on the main island Diego Garcia and between 1968-73 we cruelly expelled the people of the Chagos Islands. The Chagosians were not only thrown out of their homeland but dumped into poverty, our treatment of the Islanders is as shameful as it is brutal. If we had treated people on Gibraltar or the Falklands like this there would be public uproar. International courts and the UN have ruled that Britain should return the islands and allow Chagosians to return to their home. 

I see the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn as a chance for Britain to put right our historic wrongs and to put the rule of law and justice at the heart of our foreign policy. 

Yanis Varoufakis, economist

As an economist, Labour’s Manifesto strikes me as a sensible, moderate and well-targeted program in view of Britain’s needs and capacities. As a citizen, it is a breath of fresh air.

Labour will inaugurate the much-needed national investment bank, whose bonds the Bank of England can support thus soaking up excess liquidity from the financial system before ploughing it back, as real investment, into higher productivity and good quality, green jobs.

Labour will end the private oligopoly over broadband, re-nationalise sectors that the private sector has abused, tax those who have benefited disproportionately to their social contribution, provide decent social care, build council houses, end the heavy burden of debt for young people who dare enter University, and regulate the hell out of the zero-hour contracts that are a source of guilt even for the comfortably off.

On the environmental front, Labour’s Manifesto is the greenest, most radical plan by a party of government anywhere in the world. The Green Industrial Revolution it envisages will be a tremendous boost for those of us working in Europe and beyond toward an International Green New Deal.

On Brexit, a Corbyn government will offer the people of the UK two non-lethal options: Stay very close to the EU (in the customs union and, mostly, the single market) or remain in the EU.

It is the duty of progressives uninterested in the reproduction of the current, sad reality to give Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party the electoral victory it richly deserves.

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