Nadia Whittome talks about the upcoming general election

Words: Nadia Whittome
Photos: Fabrice Gagos
Tuesday 04 June 2024
reading time: min, words

Regular columnist and Labour candidate for Nottingham East Nadia Whittome discusses the upcoming general election

Nadia RGB

I have to admit, the general election announcement took me by surprise. When I woke up on May 22, I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary that day. When text messages started coming in, asking, ‘Is it actually happening this time?’ - I thought: surely not. Or is it?

For weeks, Sunak’s line was that an election would take place in the second half of the year. Although almost everyone assumed that to mean autumn, July 4 is - just about - in the second half of 2024. Fair play to Sunak on this one, I guess his famous love of maths came in useful. 

The rest of his big announcement didn’t go as well for the Prime Minister. Watching him standing on Downing Street in the pouring rain, trying to deliver his speech over the sound of Things Can Only Get Better blasted from speakers by protesters, it was almost hard not to feel sorry for him.

Until, that is, you remembered his record. Despite his short time in power (although, to be fair, he did outlive several lettuces in my fridge), he’s bagged a handful of achievements to be remembered by. Such as plunging the economy into a recession, setting a climate plan so inadequate that it was ruled unlawful twice, or spending millions on a cruel and ludicrous plan to send refugees to Rwanda, which thankfully never materialised. He even managed to break a few records: overseeing record food bank use, the highest-ever number of children in temporary accommodation, longest-ever NHS waiting lists, and the highest levels of child poverty since records began.

Over the past decade, Conservative governments have cut our City Council’s funding by £100 million a year. We deserve better

But let’s not give Sunak too much credit: after all, he has stood on the shoulders of giants. Since 2010, we’ve had a succession of Conservative governments promising stability and prosperity, and delivering the exact opposite. During that time, we’ve seen the weakest productivity growth since the Industrial Revolution. NHS waiting lists have trebled, after steadily falling during the previous decade. Rough sleeping has more than doubled. Public services have crumbled. Real-terms wages are lower today than in 2008, when I was eleven - Facebook was cutting edge and Britney Spears had just released Womanizer.

Over the past fourteen years, we got used to things getting worse and worse - the only question was how fast. July 4 will be an opportunity to turn things around. 

Now, I don’t want to use this platform to tell anyone how to vote - I’ll be doing plenty of that on the doorstep. But I do want to talk about the country I want to wake up in, if not on Friday 5 July (to be honest, I’ll probably be spending most of that day in bed) then a few years down the line.

I want to live under a government that prioritises lifting people out of poverty and ensuring decent living standards for the majority, over increasing the wealth of millionaires. This means raising public sector pay, strengthening workers’ rights, turning the benefit system into a real safety net, rather than a way to control and punish those who can’t work; giving renters real stability and taxing the rich and big business to fund world-class public services.

I want the UK to once again be a leader in climate action. The top five countries that are currently leading the green transition all have a publicly owned energy company - we should have one too, cheaply fuelling our homes with homegrown renewables. Investing in sustainable and affordable public transport and a mass programme of insulating homes would allow us to decarbonise while improving the quality of life of working class people.

I want left-behind communities like Nottingham to finally get the funding we need. Over the past decade, Conservative governments have cut our City Council’s funding by £100 million a year. We deserve better: a mass programme of building council housing, well-stocked libraries, beautiful green spaces, youth centres to cut crime and give young people a better start in life, and proper support for our outstanding arts institutions.

I want to live in a society where LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, migrants and communities of colour are safe, respected and given every opportunity to thrive, not used as a political football by those in power. 

I also want to see Forest win the Premier League, but I’m afraid that might be outside of the government’s control.

If you agree with this vision, please make your voice heard on July 4. If you don’t feel like there’s a party that represents 100% of your views, choose one that could bring us a few steps closer to the world you want to see. There is a quote circulating on the internet - I don’t know who came up with it, but it rings very true. It says: “voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transport. You’re not waiting for “the one” who’s absolutely perfect: you’re getting the bus, and if there isn’t one to your destination, you don’t not travel, you take the one going closest.” For me, and I hope for many of you, that’s the Labour Party.

Finally, I’d like to make a particular appeal to those groups that have historically been less likely to go to the polls: young people, working class people and ethnic minority communities. I know what it’s like to feel failed by the system and ignored by successive governments. I get why it’s so easy to become disillusioned with politics. However, not voting only lets politicians off the hook for disregarding the people who are already disadvantaged in society. Whether it’s out of hope, anger or spite, use your vote on July 4 and demand better.

Please make sure you’re registered to vote by June 18 - and don’t forget your ID! Click here to register.

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