I've dithered about writing this post for a few days now having always preferred to keep this blog reasonably politics free, but I also feel like this election is a time for nailing colours to the mast, so here goes anyway.
I live in a traditionally safe Labour seat that has a decent (well spoken of, scandal free) MP (Jon Ashworth), so even if I was a floating voter it's probably the way I'd go round here. The main reason I'll be voting Labour though is that I don't trust the tories with the economy.
I work in retail, which is not on the whole a well paid, or particularly respected, sector. It's also food based retail (specifically drink) where I'm getting an excellent view of prices rising whilst wages remain broadly stagnant. Truthfully, I've done alright under the last government. I don't have children, and an increased personal tax allowance means that despite earning less than I did a decade ago I'm actually taking home more money. Which worries me.
For now whilst my health is okay and non of my nearest or dearest need care it's fine. I earn a living wage, though not all of my colleagues do, can pay my bills, don't go hungry, and have organic shampoo, because there's enough money to have some nice things in my life. What I don't have are savings, there's not enough money coming in to provide a decent cushion against emergencies. But still, compared to plenty of others my situation is comfortable. As long as nothing goes wrong. On the whole I'd rather be paying a bit more tax and be confident that if things did go wrong there would be an NHS free at point of use, and a job seekers allowance that would still let me pay my bills and not go hungry to fall back in.
What worries me even more though is the number of people who are on low wages. I don't see how we can afford to pay people less than a living wage because somewhere along the line we're all going to pay for that. I'm surrounded by people who have no chance of getting a mortgage in the foreseeable future, people who are working well past retirement age because they can't afford not to, people who have families and can't afford posh shampoo, or to replace shoes which are falling apart. People who are told they're lucky to have a job.
I also see more and more people taken on, on 4, 6, or 8 hour contracts - which might as well be zero hour contracts. The theory is that they should be flexible and available for overtime when needed, I guess it's a cheaper way to employ people too. The reality isn't quite like that, and I can't see it ending well if we carry in down this path.
So for me the only answer is to vote for a party that looks likely to protect and improve the rights of the lowest paid and who are talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Certainly the party that's trying to talk about it. From where I stand that looks like something which would basically be good for everybody.
I also accept that others will see this in a very different way, will see different answers to the same problems, or will have different priorities. I certainly hope that there's more than one answer to this particular issue, and definitely don't believe that anyone who thinks to the right (or indeed left)of my position is evil/selfish/stupid/deluded or whatever other offensive label is currently being thrown around.
In the end the most important thing is to vote, to hope for the best (whilst preparing for the worst), and to listen to what other people are saying. Mostly to vote though. Please vote.