Fuelling the Tank: Corbyn-Economics Explained

Fuelling the Tank: Corbyn-Economics Explained

Are Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policies really built around a money-tree manifesto or are his plans for the British economy actually based on sound logic?

In recent weeks, Jez’s campaign to win the 2017 General Election has seemingly broken new ground. In short, this is likely due to the fact that the Corbyn-team’s policy proposals contain more substance than the vapid soundbites of the weak and wobbly Theresa May.

Yet, as they always have been, Labour has been dogged by accusations of economic incompetence throughout the last few months.

The other day, one of my best mates in his mid-twenties told me that he would be voting for the first time in his life because he felt that Corbyn was honest and had good intentions for the country. A few days later, he said: “I’ve seen bits of the manifesto now and think it’s great, but I want to know how Jezza is planning on costing it all.”

What I found most frustrating about this is that my first-time voter friend had found the Labour manifesto appealing but had then dismissed it, using a phrase that I had heard being used by the Beeb earlier that day.

Why, but why, is the ‘costing’ of the Tory manifesto not being scrutinised to the same extent?

This is particularly annoying because I unreservedly think that Labour has put forward a more coherent economic plan than the Tories. And, I will tell you why.

Jez’s Labour has never claimed it’s just going to borrow money, pay to raise living standards and hope it all works out for the best. Firstly, as he keeps reminding us, he has showed where the money will come from every step of the way. Labour’s not only done this, but as I want to argue, come up with a long-term economic growth strategy too.

At the end of the day, in any modern commercial state, it all comes down to tax. A large, growing economy has more wealth, which can be used to pay for the assets that guarantee a basic living standard for all citizens. One of Labour’s most sensible proposals is to start investing in British entrepreneurs and so stimulate economic growth.

If government cash is made available to potential business owners, even just as low-or-no-interest loans, then you’re more likely to have more potential wealth-creators taking risks, starting enterprises and making jobs for the rest of us. Investment makes growth, which in turn raises employment. With more people in work, there’s more people whose income can be taxed to pay for the original government investment and other state initiatives.

Say I want to build and sell a new type of solar-panelled motor that I know how to manufacture, but can’t afford to make. If the government steps in and gives me the cash I need to pay for the parts, I can make it without worrying about high-interest bank repayments and make a profit on the sale. Now, I have got a taste for it. So, I go out and make more. Only this time it’s too much work for one person. What do I do? I hire someone to give me a hand. Eventually: my business is growing, I have paid the government back and I have made five, six, seven, twenty jobs for people living in and around the local community.

My example of solar-panelled cars is purely hypothetical because I’m no scientist. But Jez’s national investment fund would make something like this completely possible.


Fair do’s, but where does the money come from for a Jezza government to invest in these innovators and small-business-sorts in the first place?

It is a fact that Britain holds the world’s fifth largest economy. It should almost be without question that there is an overabundance of untapped wealth in this country that can be used to make an investment fund like the one I just described. So, we just need to get the ball rolling by taxing the individual billionaires and market-strangling corporations that already exist in the UK.

Inject a bit of fuel into the tank and off it goes.

“Ah,” heckles someone at the back, “higher taxes on the rich just scare away the talented.”

Well, in response, I’d simply state that this idea is a bit of a neoliberal myth with little factual basis.

For one thing, only the very, very stupid would start up a company and then decide to close-shop because of a change in government policy. There’s less capital to be lost by paying your taxes then by turning tail and running away. Who on earth would want to leave home and start-again, when there’s a living to be made locally?

What’s more, those too rich to feel unchallenged clearly enjoy a positon that they shouldn’t. Yeah, it’s undemocratic when one organisation gets to choose who in a community gets a wage and who doesn’t. But do the wealthiest coffee places even produce the best, cheapest coffee or are they just stopping those that do from getting to the top because their riches are so entrenched?

“Ah,” heckles the same fella, “but you’ve forgotten that Corbyn is a socialist that wants to nationalise the railways and bring us back into the past.”

In reality, it’s a little more complicated than that.

We can all agree that there are essential services that we all need in order to live. Water. Gas. Electricity. We could probably include transport in that list. But these same essential services are also needed to allow businesses to flourish.

For argument’s sake, if Britain just put these essential services into public ownership then we would benefit up-and-coming or already-established entrepreneurs just as much as families. Everybody needs electric and everybody needs to get from a-to-b sometimes. Since we know this is true, why not take the fat-cat element out of the equation and stop private companies making huge sums of money without bothering to provide a decent commodity in the first place.

Make, for instance, cheaper, more accessible trains and businesses can jump from London to Manchester more easily. This way, they can grow and spread their profits from community-to-community.

This is what Jezza’s Labour is offering.

Investment. Growth. More jobs. More wealth. And, therefore, more money to spend on making Britain better. More money to pay for the investment in the first place. More money to spend on our kids’ education, grandparents’ care and those that are in need along the way.

What are the Tories offering?

Vote for Conservative and you’re voting for less prosperity. The self-described defenders of free trade and capitalism have failed on their own terms. The Tories have offered nothing but cuts to public services, made tempting by shaky, untrustworthy promises of lower taxation. Cameron and May have taken Britain down the road of austerity for ideological reasons and not because of economic necessities. The Tories fear making elites paying their fair share or collecting unpaid taxes because it would alienate their party bankrollers. It’s only the establishment, like the Tories’ chums in City finance that have gained from them punishing the rest of us with austerity.

The reward of their greed and short-sightedness has been slow growth, the creation of unsteady, unstable jobs and widespread poverty.

If given the opportunity, it’s completely possible that May would walk away from the European leaders around the Brexit negotiating table as she has threatened to do if she doesn’t get whatever it is that she wants from them. Should she be allowed this, Britain could lose vast amounts of trade with its closest neighbours.

If this happens, do you really think the rest of the world will be queuing up outside our door? Isn’t it more likely, that other states would seek to out-compete us and take advantage of our uncertain global position?

Jez’s team understands this. That’s why his Brexit agenda prioritises securing jobs and mutually beneficial trade relations with Europe.

A vote for May is a vote for half-baked economic planning and an uncertain future. A vote for Jezza is a vote for growth in the interest of the many, not the few.



Big up JC and the Psychedelic Brain Monsters!

Big up JC and the Psychedelic Brain Monsters!

It’s time to reap the rewards of all that snowballing momentum behind your electrifying, grassroots social movement, Jezza.

We’re all rooting for you, buddy. I am fully confident that you’re going to save us from another five years of Tory domination. Thatcher royally fucked us up our collective British arsehole in the space of ten years. Give this lot half that time and we may never get over the Brussels-sized haemorrhoid known as Brexit.

Alright, fair, it’s not gonna be easy if your squad don’t get on-side. Admittedly, I can imagine that right now the average Labour conference has an atmosphere about as toxic as the average home game at the Arsenal. Wenger Out! Corbyn In! Right? True, your both as snappy with the press when it comes to awkward questions. But out of the two there’s never been any doubt regarding your management skills during crisis situations, has there Jez?

Either way, I have stuck by you both over the years. Red Army all the way. There was never any doubt about giving you my vote during your leadership elections. Leftie firebrand red head sponsoring a socialist candidate in a country that couldn’t stomach Red Ed, they said.

Confession: I wavered a little bit the second time. I know, I know. Weren’t gonna vote at all after the chicken coup. What’s the point endorsing someone who can’t strategize his way out of a corner let alone shoot to score, I had begun to think. Power’s not the be all and end all, my mates in Sheffield reassured me. Blairite sell-out, they called me. You can have political and ideological impact outside of office, they reminded me. It’s not always about winning all the time so long as you stay in the Premiership. Or something like that.

These encouraging thoughts filled my belly with fire… I mean it could have been the whiskey, but I like to think it was faith in the cause. One way or the other, I got into several drunken rows in Camden over how much of a bell-end any Labour Party member was who opposed you. Could also have been the ten-foot mural describing JC as the people’s champ subliminally seeping into my noggin on the way through town.

Hate to say it, Jez, but I think that mural’s the best bit of campaign literature I have seen come out of Labour for some time now… and I think the guy who graffitied it also painted the psychedelic brain monsters around the corner.

In fact, fella, since we’re being honest with one another… we can both pretty much count on Labour getting obliterated when this election comes up in a few months. Don’t look at me like that mate! I know it’s going to hurt when they spend a decade or two using Labour’s utter defeat to discredit socialism and make any vaguely left-wing notion look completely fucking stupid despite how practical, logical or commonsensical it might actually be.

Yeah, you’re probably right. It’s the media. As a matter of fact, the Left is always gonna be screwed over by parliamentary democracy. It’s all that hegemonic ideological power in the hands of the Establishment.

That’s what it’ll be. That’s the reason you’re not gonna win, m’fraid Jez.

Although. I mean. Lately, I have been having this niggling feeling that the failure of the democratic process is actually down to the fact that, at core, people are horrible, racist, misogynistic, homophobic cunts.

Ha. Guess that makes me part of the metropolitan elite. Enemy of the people, they’ll say. Ah well. In that case, since I am there now, I might as well go and have a cuppa in the house I’ll never afford or a drive in the car I’ll never own all thanks to that decent paying job I’ll never have. There’s nothing like the sweet smell of unsuccessful capitalism to make you forget about silly things like the West’s ever-ballooning refugee crisis and all the bombs that Trump’s about to drop on China or Korea or Mexico or Germany or whichever one it was.

Never mind, hey Jez. Wenger’s been fucking up for years now too and they still keep renewing his contract.

Red Army all the way.

The Sick State and the Language of Division

The Sick State and the Language of Division

There is a long tradition in the History of Political Thought of comparing political societies with biological entities and human bodies. My personal favourite is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s detailed portrayal, which presented certain aspects of the economy as corresponding to a human stomach and government as being represented by the head. Today, if we were to invoke the body politic analogy, I think that we could usefully describe Western politics as being dominated by a ‘Sick State.’

At the very least it is in a sorry state, and I feel sick to think about it.

Interestingly, this turbulent time in politics has seen the language of division and fracture become ever more pervasive in countries like Britain and America. This is by no means to say that such language is entirely new to contemporary political discourse. I also suspect that many would agree with me that divisive socioeconomic realities predate this renewed discursive emphasis on political and societal division. At the very least, the emergence of this heightened language of division is itself indicative of a very fraught moment in Anglophone, and perhaps even global, politics.

Theresa May’s recent Tory Party Conference Speech made heavy use of this language of division. May claimed, for example, that:

“[…] within our society today, we see division and unfairness all around. Between a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation. Between the wealth of London and the rest of the country. But perhaps most of all, between the rich, the successful and the powerful – and their fellow citizens.”

May has acknowledged the vast array of social tensions that Britain is riddled with in order to position the Conservatives as the political force best equipped to heal these ruptures and to unite British society. Of course, David Cameron had pursued a similar strategy. This is best exemplified by Cameron’s rhetorical reliance, in his own Conference Speeches, on the age-old image of a ‘One Nation Tory Party’. Yet it seems that, since taking over the reins of power, May has been more prepared to unequivocally condemn the socially divisive nature of Britain’s rampant economic inequality.

To a large extent, May has been attempting to draw a line in the sand between her premiership and her predecessor’s. May’s reshuffle of the Government Cabinet, for example, was largely seen as a clear indication that she would be distancing herself from Cameron. The replacement of George Osborne, Cameron’s Chancellor and greatest ally, was particularly significant. It is probable that May is hoping to disassociate herself from the social divisions sowed throughout Cameron’s time in office. Under the aegis of austerity, Cameron justified an assault on the institutions of the British state that entailed demonising large swathes of the population. Welfare claimants, public sector workers and those with disabilities were amongst those targeted by Cameron’s cronies. In other words, people’s attention had to be redirected away from the swingeing cuts to public services and towards public enemies. Many observers argued that this was not about ‘balancing the books’ because of public debt, but an ideological move based on a reverence of free-market economics. For now, it is enough to note that this demonization process inevitably exacerbated social frictions across Britain. Numerous case studies could be highlighted.

Take one example: the increasingly politicised fault-line between the generations, which May mentioned in her speech. In Cameron’s Britain, the younger generations faced worse employment prospects, fewer housing opportunities, a higher retirement age and more debt than their parents or grandparents. On the other hand, it is true that Britain also has a rapidly ageing population due to modern medicine. This has put strains on public institutions like the NHS. Cuts to public services, however, have only amplified such difficulties. A separate example of recent divisions in Britain would be the strife between England and Scotland. Austerity arguably provided the catalyst for the Scottish Independence Referendum, which very nearly brought about the end of the United Kingdom as we know it. Naturally, other factors were also at play. Scottish nationalism has admittedly been simmering away for decades. Nevertheless, Cameron’s contribution to this volatile situation cannot be overlooked. Scottish resentment towards Cameron and English Tory rule added a new dimension to arguments in favour of breaking up the Union. Perhaps most divisively of all, across Britain, Cameron failed to challenge the growing public perception that it was one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest. Whilst Cameron ran the country alongside fellow Etonians and millionaires, granting tax cuts for the wealthy, refusing to punish the banks for the 2008 Financial Crisis and failing to chase tax dodgers, the majority of ordinary working families were left to face the brunt of his austerity agenda. Overall, he was the Prime Minister of a thoroughly Disunited Kingdom.

So, despite having been Home Secretary for the entirety of Cameron’s premiership, May is trying to deny complicity with these failures. Unlike Cameron, May is unable to ignore Britain’s Sick State. Anti-establishment resentment likely boiled over into the result of the EU Referendum. Longstanding Tories like Ken Clarke have even admitted that the result practically amounted to a vote of no confidence in their leadership. This scenario has left May with no choice but to recognise how divided Britain has become and to promise a new direction. In part, therefore, May’s use of the language of division and unification has arisen as a defensive response to anti-Tory sentiment. Part of May’s appeal to her Party Faithful has also been her efforts to heal the divisions within the Tory Party itself. Differing stances on Europe have regularly caused irreparable damage to the Conservatives. Yet, the new Prime Minister’s stance also encompasses an offensive element designed to marginalise the Labour Party.

Returning to May’s Conference Speech, we can find her describing Labour as being “not just divided, but divisive.” Certainly, May seems correct to note that elements of the Labour Party have seemed “determined to pit one against another.” The poorly executed coup against Jeremy Corbyn, after the EU Referendum, plunged Labour into turmoil at a time of national crisis. Owen Smith, Corbyn’s challenger in the subsequent leadership race, hooked his campaign on the promise of rebuilding Labour’s “broad church” of members. Presumably, this would have meant appeasing the Labour Parliamentary Party by pursuing a more centrist foreign policy whilst making concessions to the left-wing, grassroots movement Momentum. Smith warned that Corbyn’s re-election would lead to “division and destruction” within Labour. Perhaps this was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Undeniably, his challenge generated a bitter trench war between the rival factions. Ultimately, Corbyn fended off his challengers but seems to have realised the gravity of this disunity. In his own Conference Speech, late last month, Corbyn pledged to prioritise “reuniting the Labour family.” Indeed, one of the central themes of his speech was on the importance of the party standing together.

True to the spirit and tone of current debate, Corbyn has countered Tory accusations about the Labour Party being divisive by in turn portraying May’s Government as one set to “sow division by fanning the flames of fear.” Since the triumph of Euroscepticism, the Hard Right of the Tory Party have become ascendant. The latest outpouring of xenophobia was largely spearheaded by Nigel Farrage and UKIP. Tories like BoJo have only intensified this problem by having made immigration so central to their campaign to leave the EU. This political decision seems to have given a platform to those with intolerant attitudes. As Labour is routinely reminding Parliament, assaults on migrants have sharply risen since the announcement of Brexit. Currently living in multicultural North London, I find it deeply saddening to think that rifts are becoming more entrenched in British communities on the basis of race, religion and ethnicity.

Across the Atlantic, a startlingly similar set of circumstances are unfolding. Donald Trump’s demagogic demonization of Mexicans and Muslims has brought him to within an arm’s length of the American Presidency. Hate speech at his rallies has whipped up frenzies of violence in the heart of the United States. In addition to making degrading comments about women and LGBT people, Trump has proposed policies that could also broaden divisions between gender groups if he were to become President. One could also readily interpret his proposed Wall along the Mexican border as symptomatic of growing international divisions, which would almost definitely become enflamed should he make it to the Oval Office. During the Second Presidential Debate, Trump cited rising city violence as evidence that America had become a “very divided nation.” For Trump, such divisions are the result of successive inept administrations. Trump has been keen to present his opponent, Hilary Clinton, as part of a contemptuous liberal elite. Clinton, said Trump, could not be a President for all Americans due to her disdain towards his own supporters and the “tremendous hate in her heart.” Trump’s promise to ‘Make America Great Again’ presupposes that it has become a weak state. His bid for President rests on the idea that only his own rise to power, and his compassionate implementation of extraordinarily right-wing policies, can cure America of its ailments. Therefore, Trump has paradoxically contended that he can not only guarantee American strength but also ensure American unity by identifying enemies and building walls.

Clinton’s plan had been to optimistically assert that the USA had never lost its greatness. For many, this was seen as either tantamount to an endorsement of the political establishment or a denial that America does not work in the interest of the majority. In contrast, Bernie Sanders had vowed to end “the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America today.” This mission statement resonated widely. It made Sanders one of the most successful, self-described socialists in American political history to date. After Clinton had defeated Sanders at the Democrat Party’s Primaries, she assimilated some of his rhetoric. Over the course of the Presidential Debates, Clinton has been forced to concede that Trump’s “hateful and divisive campaign” had revealed that there exists a “divisiveness that sometimes sets Americans against one another.” Thus, in a similar vein to all of the politicians that I have discussed, Clinton is now promising to Americans that she will “heal our country and bring it together.”

Surely, Clinton is correct to say that Trump is offering the USA a “dark and dangerous vision” for the future. Many, many Americans have realised this. Consequently, we are left with a series of difficult questions. Why has Clinton failed to capitalise on the terrifying prospect of Trump becoming President? Why did the more traditional Republican nominees fail to oust Trump before the election race began in earnest? Why did Clinton struggle to wrestle the Democratic nomination for President from Sanders? Difficult questions are rife in Britain too. How has Corbyn so successfully pulled the rug from under the feet of his more centrist-Labour opposition? How have UKIP and the Tory Right determined the fate of Britain’s relationship with Europe?

The beauty of writing a blog about politics from the pub is that I can now afford to be a bit more polemical in trying to answer these questions. It seems to me that all the inexplicable and surprising political events of this year have all been part and parcel of the same phenomenon. You see, the reality is that all of these political actors have come to a common consensus and realised a hard truth. Britain and America are excessively, internally divided. These respective states may struggle to remain stable under the current conditions of dire economic inequality, political uncertainty and social unrest. To put it more metaphorically, these states are sick and their illnesses are on the brink of becoming terminal.

Under these fraught circumstances, a politics that does not offer dramatic solutions or wholescale reform is being dismissed as disingenuous and untrustworthy. So, moderate political forces like the Clintons, the British campaign to remain in the EU, or Labour-centrism have become unsavoury and unpalatable. Radicalisation towards both the Left and the Right are a result of this pattern and language of divisiveness. However, it is the Hard Right that presents the biggest threat by far. Generally, this is due to their aggression, racism and lack of sound reasoning. Figures like Trump the Tumour are the most malignant manifestations of the sickness that I have described. Moreover, although I have focused on Britain and America, Sick States can be found across the continent too.

However, no homogenous or unified movement has arisen either at home or abroad. Without unity or collaboration to remedy the Sick State, I think that even more turbulent times lie ahead.

Westminster’s Game of Thrones

Westminster’s Game of Thrones

As media hacks pecked at the bones of Ed Balls’s political carcass on that chilling May morning in 2015, King Cameron emerged triumphantly on to the centre-stage. Through a campaign of fear-mongering and misdirection, he had slayed all of his enemies. Against all expectations and in one fell swoop, the heads of Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage and even Cameron’s erstwhile ally Nick Clegg had all been mounted on pikes outside Whitehall. Despite David Cameron’s slim parliamentary majority, the scale of his victory left many commentators dumbfounded throughout the land. Right up until that bloodcurdling exit poll had been revealed, when in my mind at least the Tory theme tune had started playing eerily in the background, many had expected a hung parliament. Yet, King Cam had simply blasted half of Westminster away. Of course, King Cam was not the only victor that day. Nicola Sturgeon’s brave forces had also helped to carve out her new, would-be independent, Kingdom in the North as well.  Having personally feared but expected this outcome, I reminded all friends via raven that: ‘When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.’ Well, actually, I think it may have been via Twitter – but you get the idea…

With what has seemed like a brutal bloodletting in British politics over the past two years, I think that I can be allowed to indulge in a little bit more unashamed geekery. As I see it, the parallels between HBO’s highly decorated TV series and recent BBC news coverage are too compelling to miss. Admittedly, the sex scenes aren’t as entertaining in the latter. But the betrayals and beheadings have been equally as fun to watch. Though, of course, they can be both soul-destroying or exhilarating dependent on what House you are rooting for.

So far, 2016 has provided political drama aplenty. In true sci-fi or epic fantasy fashion, one character was resurrected from the dead with Nigel Farage leading the charge to bring down Cameron’s cosy castle. Tory traitor BoJo bolstered the Brexit army, leaving King Cam with little wiggle room to defend his territories. In the end, however, King Cam had ensured his own political suicide by calling the EU referendum far too early. I wonder how close he came, once he heard that the Brexiters had won, to jumping out of his own bedroom window at Number 10? Poetic justice? At least he wasn’t drunk and killed by a pig… I mean a boar.

Now, Winter has truly come and not solely due to global warming. We have been set adrift from Europe and Britain has become a colder, lonelier place as a result. Worse still, Jeremy Corbyn the people’s hero has been stabbed outside the Walls of Labour HQ. We will probably have to wait until next season to find out whether he survives or not. Rumour has it that he’s already been seen on set, but these are unconfirmed.

Amidst all the high-speed action sequences, we may almost not have noticed Queen Theresa May ascending to Westminster’s Iron Throne. In scenes of butchery that would have impressed even Queen Cersei Lannister herself, Queen Theresa snatched away George Osborne’s axe in order to use it and cut him down to size. Shame. Now she sits atop her throne, imperiously gazing out across her conquered lands with eyes shrewdly fixed on Nicola of the North. We would be as foolish as Andrea Leadsom or as short-sighted as the Tyrells to assume that, like Cersei, Queen Theresa is not a tyrannical force to be reckoned with. Wily enough to steer clear of the Brexit uprising but free from European restraints or protocol, Queen Theresa is free to wreak havoc with social justice and civil liberties. To my despair, I have seen no dragon-riding Queen set to fly in to our rescue. If there is one certainty, it is that Britain’s current political landscape looks dark and full of terrors.

Trapped with the Stationary & Going Nowhere

Trapped with the Stationary & Going Nowhere

As I stamped my umpteenth envelope of the afternoon, my new friend and colleague emerged from the belly of an industrial-sized printer, her glasses slightly askew. We were both in our first weeks as temps at a London insurance call-centre, and it had not been a good day. I stood clutching handfuls of letters and the broken printer whined ominously behind us. We looked at one another. Something was terribly wrong.

“I just graduated with a First,” I said, suppressing the squirm of fury writhing in the pit of my stomach.

“Same,” my friend replied, and I heard the same repressed exasperation in her voice.

I quietly left the tiny stationary room to return to my desk in the corner of the office, leaving my friend to wrestle with the printer as it churned out reams of screwed-up paper.

At some point later that week we went for a drink, which broke up the monotonous cycle of stuffing envelopes with misprinted, mangled, often incomplete insurance policy documents and then plodding home to sleep on my Nan’s sofa.

That was my life for the next bollock-crushing 10 months. I did soon rise from the drudgery of stationary work to the anxiety-inducing onslaught of insurance customer service, but my general conditions remained the same. A stint in an internship – gaining more complex work experience – would have been welcome, but that was for people with wealthier, better-connected parents. My salary was too low to afford renting a room, and even if it had been higher, my income was being ravenously consumed by the repayment of university debt. No, I am not referring to my student loan; fortunately, I was not earning nearly enough money to warrant having to pay that back just yet. I’d accumulated the debt because I couldn’t afford my rent at university, even though I had worked two part-time jobs while writing my final-year dissertations: one in a burger-van and one in a school. I’d maxed out my overdraft and my coffers were empty. I was the eldest of four children in a one-parent family and I was the only one in any kind of employment: there was no one to bail me out.

A series of unexpected events actually led me to a very different set of circumstances and I am now back in academia – at Cambridge, no less – but that is a story for another time. The reason that I am relaying this experience is not because I want someone to crack out the littlest violin. It is because, I think, my tale is representative of a whole generation of people currently living in Britain.

I was the first in my family to get the opportunity to go to university. As a society, we should be proud that there are routes for first-generation scholars to access higher education. However, the wider world of work that I entered as a graduate had nothing to offer me but low-skill, low-wage jobs with no security. As for affordable housing… well, that was but a pipe dream. I think most would agree with me that those aren’t the kind of economic conditions that are generally conducive to upward social mobility.

My peers that I graduated with could all tell similar stories – largely regardless of whether they studied humanities or sciences. Two of them were lucky enough to get snapped up by coffee shops, doing irregular shift-work. One of them is still there now, still battling against his overdraft. Amidst spells of unemployment, another has had to jump from call-centre to call-centre. All have struggled with rent. Last year, I went on an excursion myself to try and find a room to call home near Hammersmith, where I was working at the time. House-shares are still one of the most common ways of living for early twenty-somethings like me, and anything would be an improvement from sleeping on the couch. In the end, the cheapest deal I found within an hour and a half’s radius was a spot in a bunkbed in a room with three other guys for £500 a month, not including bills. This was the best of bad bunch.

An old mate of mine from childhood, who did not go to university, has put up with exactly the same types of jobs and has had just as little luck with housing. Not uncommonly among twenty-somethings, he and his partner had a pregnancy scare recently. He said to me, “I am soon to be a new father with nothing to offer a child but the love of a football club and the years of disappointment that will bring.”

My friend from that tiny stationary room and I similarly tried to make light of our dire financial situations, but the humour is wearing exceedingly thin.

Last month, during his budget speech, George Osborne spoke about new personal saving schemes that were being introduced. This included an ISA specifically designed for under-40 year-olds. What the government does not seem to realise is that many of us under-30s don’t make enough money to have any savings. Nor are we likely to in the near-future. What good is a savings account to those of us who can barely afford a Pot Noodle at the end of the month? Since then, the Prime Minister has been embroiled in scandals involving his tax returns and has been forced to publish details of his various, Midas-like sources of income. I suppose, bearing in mind the vast socioeconomic gulf between myself and Dodgy Dave, I shouldn’t be surprised that the government just doesn’t seem to understand how dire the life chances are for so many of my peers. Nevertheless, that does not make it any less enraging to hear the Chancellor blathering on about helping young people with their savings accounts. Britain’s economy is continuing to fail a gargantuan segment of the country’s population. You don’t have to be a Thomas Piketty to see that austerity is erasing our futures before our very eyes. Whatever scheme the Tories cooked up before they came into office simply hasn’t worked. Britain’s next generation needs affordable housing and we need access to actual careers rather than the dead-end, spirit-sapping drudgery we’re being railroaded into. My gut tells me that the solution would be for the Treasury to invest in new industries and housing stock, while suppressing the ludicrous rents charged by an exploitative cohort of affluent landlords. My hopes are not high.

Mere months after I started university, back in 2010, the Coalition hiked up university fees – a bullet I dodged by the skin of my teeth. My sister starts at university this September, set to pay inexcusably more for her education. I wonder if she’ll be lucky enough in three or four years’ time to walk out with her degree into anywhere other than a stationary room tucked away in some faceless office, working on a temporary contract and fighting broken office equipment or stamping envelops?

A Leftie, A Eurosceptic and an Angry European walk into a bar…

A Leftie, A Eurosceptic and an Angry European walk into a bar…

Spring had sprung for the first and only time all winter. Term had just finished, the sun had been shining all day and all deadlines had either been hurtled past or were hurdles too far into next month to be anxious about. All had spent the weekend anaesthetised by alcohol to drown out remembrances of the recent assignment, and only three were left standing to carry on drinking by Monday. So, a Leftie, a Eurosceptic and an Angry European walked into a bar…

Two pints in, and preliminary discussions about the latest Tarantino had been left satisfactorily unresolved when the topic of Brexit somehow flopped into conversation like an ugly critter darting out of its burrow for fresh air but soon to be strewn asunder as roadkill. Of course, all parties involved – as university students – were naturally predisposed to being self-righteously well-informed and unequivocal in their positions. However, for once, I was happy not to be the one sitting at the polar end of what quickly became a very heated discussion to which I was but an observer.

Both combatants entered the ring with a certain degree of wariness. A few blows in, and only a few dismissive, Eurosceptic remarks about ceding sovereignty and Europe’s democratic deficit had been exchanged for equally tentative comments on Britain’s lingering loss-of-empire-complex and potential irrelevance on the world stage. Soon our Eurosceptic turned, inevitably, towards immigration and border control. This proved to be inflammatory and our European pounced on her quintessentially English counterpart with all the combined ferocity of the entire, blood-soaked continent.

If the UK turned its back on collaborating with Europe on addressing the influx of Middle Eastern refugees, she argued, it would be turning its back on one of the direst humanitarian crises – at least – of our generation. Europe’s union is fragile, she went on, with factors like Greece and austerity as well as the cross-country unease of dealing with the refugee crisis threatening to tear it apart. If Brexit goes ahead, then the economic and political ramifications could well be the final straw for the EU. Then all would suffer, Britain included, as economic and social unrest destabilised the continent.

Pfft, our Eurosceptic responded, Britain doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope with housing more migrants, there are growth economies besides Europe that we could be engaging with and what difference anyway does it make to us in the long-run if everything on the continent just goes to shit? Isn’t that what the Channel is for – to keep apart us and them?

By this point, our European had transformed into Cate Blanchett’s towering Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings – green-faced and eerie in rage, with storm clouds and brimstone singeing the pub table. I tried to wade in and steer us towards safer territory, but was quickly engulfed in the maelstrom – only to scuttle away in terror, back towards the bar. When I returned, fresh pint in hand, our Eurosceptic had clearly already been beaten down to the level of a meek, bumbling hobbit. Fortunately, it was soon last orders and he was saved by the bell.

What did I, the simpler and uninvolved Leftie in this situation, learn from the whole ordeal? Well, I don’t have any truck with arguments about sovereignty –  the bread and butter of conservative, anti-EU sentiment. There are far more all-encompassing threats to British democracy than the EU – like the pernicious effects of global capitalism and inequality, which pretty much make the whole system defunct anyway. Hearing our Galadriel Euro-Elf address the debate from an ‘outsider’s perspective’ was, I think, useful to hear. For those who care about being citizens of the world, it is important to think hard about what Brexit could mean for Europe and beyond as well as just for Britain. For those that I encounter in the months to come that are more nationalistic, I might well say to them that continental stability is something worth preserving simply for Britain’s sake out of pragmatism if for nothing else.

Does that mean I would readily revert to Galadriel’s arguments when next confronted with supporters of Brexit? Well, I hope not – but I suppose it depends on how heated the discussion gets. The one thing this chance pub encounter reminded me, is that British Euroscepticism is real and pervasive. Was it amusing to watch a European intellectually bludgeon our friend and curse all Brits for our insular island attitude? Yes, absolutely. Did our friend stumble home any more enlightened or receptive to staying in the EU? Somehow, I doubt it. For those more heartily in favour of staying in the EU, the debate has to – I think – be built around a more positive vision, reminding people of the benefits that come with sticking together in an uncertain world, celebrating with our neighbours our shared cultural heritage as well as praising the peace and civil liberties that the EU has increasingly secured for the continent at large.

Meeting Euroscepticism with a gentler Europeanism may well be the best way to go, and so may keeping my friends off too much beer…