Saturday, 29 October 2016

Saturday Interview: George Aylett

In the hot seat this week is George Aylett, a well-known Labour activist and Jeremy Corbyn supporter. One of the youngest-ever Parliamentary candidates, he stood in South West Wiltshire for Labour at the 2015 general election and managed to increase the party's proportion of votes. George has begun a foray into blogging, and you can find him tweeting away at @GeorgeAylett

In both Labour leadership elections, you backed Jeremy Corbyn. Was this an easy decision to make? And why do you think Jeremy still attracts a huge following in the party, despite the well-publicised criticisms and negative polling? Also, If the party is to transform that enthusiasm in the party to widespread election-winning support, what do you think we have to do?

I backed Jeremy as I believe his vision can appeal to key swing voters. Labour need to appeal to four key groups as well as maintaining its base: sole traders, middle class, pensioners and ex-Labour voting working class voters.

These are the key groups that will decide the outcome of the election in swing seat marginals, and Corbyn’s policies have the potential to appeal to them.

For sole traders, I wrote this for Open Labour:

"In 2020, there will be more sole traders than trade unionists. These people lack basic rights at work – no sick leave, no maternity pay etc. Our goal should be to reassess social security arrangements for sole traders so that they have access to essential worker’s rights. For example, if they were to fall ill they would not risk their business going under. In 2015 Labour were portrayed as ‘anti-business’ so we must win the support of those who run their own businesses, we must embrace the self-employed and ensure that they are protected."

For the middle class – a home building programme, as many aspire to own a home of their own. House building is at a 90 year low – Labour need to counter this and become the party of home ownership. Under Corbyn, this can happen. We have already pledged to build one million homes within five years. On top of this, commuting has become more expensive: public ownership of the railways could cut ticket prices by 18% (according to the RMT). We need to be the party of affordable housing and affordable transport, this will help us appeal to middle class voters.

For pensioners – we need to ensure that we appeal to them considerably better than we have done in the past. Owen Jones has led the way on this, and his ideas can help us a lot, as will Corbyn’s policies. I think Labour should pledge to triple-lock pensions, support WASPI and point out the failures of the Conservative government when it comes to elderly people e.g. the fact that two million pensioners live in poverty. Labour created the winter fuel allowance and the state pension. We must repeat this over and over again.

UKIP have been massively hit in the polls and it’s Labour responsibility to win back those who formerly voted Labour but voted UKIP in 2015. In key marginals, it was the UKIP vote which split Labour support, allowing the Tories to win in marginal like Morley and Outwood. We must appeal to these voters not by out-UKIPing UKIP, but offering a coherent vision for the country. Corbyn’s policies can do that. UKIP may embrace Thatcherism when it comes to domestic policy, but those who voted for them in 2015 certainly do not. According to consistent polling: 73% of these voters back public ownership of our railways; 78% back public ownership of energy; 52% back a living wage and; 66% back rent controls. These voters are economically sympathetic to Corbyn’s policy platform – we failed to offer these policies in 2015, so offering these policies to show that we are the party of working people can win back support in 2020. It should, however, be noted that the key issue for these voters in immigration. The left should not be scared to discuss immigration, but we need to change the language used. We should not pander to UKIP, but address the real concerns people have about immigration when it comes to employment, housing, healthcare, education etc. Our aim is to say that it is not migrants to blame for the aforementioned but the Tories failing to invest in working people. Changing public perception is always going to be a challenge, but public opinion can’t change if an alternative case isn’t made.

How did you get involved in politics?

The coalition government implementing terrible policies, and I only really found out about these injustices by starting to pay attention to what was going on. I did not care about politics for a very long time but in late 2013 I decided to join the Labour Party to help tackle the injustices brought around by the coalition, and to fight for a Labour government to implement policies to help everybody up and down the country.

And why did you decide to run for Parliament?

Young people are very rarely heard in politics. Time and time again, young people were hit by policies by the coalition government – tuition fees are the prime example of this. I wanted to stand because in reality young people could be kingmakers in a general election – their votes could be the difference between a Tory government and a Labour government, but young people aren’t voting as much compared to other age groups. One reason I believe this is because there are hardly any young people involved in politics. Young people aren’t being represented, therefore it is understandable why some young people may think that politics is not the answer. In reality we need to get young people voting – one way we can do that is by getting more youth representation – and the way we do that is that we need more young people running for parliament. I would encourage any young person reading this to get involved. I’ve said this on public record before, but I would encourage young people reading this to register to vote, look up policies, join a political party, get involved locally and, if you want to take the leap into directly representing the youth in politics, put your name forward for public office and stand for election’.

Are you reading anything at the moment?

As a university student I certainty am. My lecturers wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t!

Do you have a favourite novel?

Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, thinking back An Inspector Calls was excellent. I also used to be a big fan of Darren Shan when I was younger!

Who are your biggest intellectual influences?

I have a massive love for science, it has always fascinated me from a young age. In that area I would certainly say Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson have done some excellent research that has only sparked my love for science more. At the end of the day science will help make civilisation better and better. We need to be spending much more into research and development and encouraging more and more young people to get involved in science. Britain can become the world leader in scientific research, it just needs to funds to get it there.

Do you have any political heroes?

Two people stick out for me:

Clement Attlee – for the obvious reasons really, his government founded the NHS and founded the welfare state.

Jeremy Corbyn – I believe his vision is right for the country, and Corbyn as PM would make the country a significantly better place.

A worthy mention should also go to Ed Miliband. He’s like your first doctor in Doctor Who, you will always have admiration for them – same goes to Christopher Ecclestone!

If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?

There are two policies I have in mind:

Electoral reform – I feel Labour need to embrace electoral reform, which is why I am on the executive of the ‘Labour Campaign For Electoral Reform’. I feel the current voting system could be more democratic. First Past the Post/Single Member Plurality is an outdated voting system. If it was a successful voting system, then why do new democracies not even consider it? I feel that seats in parliament should broadly be proportional to how the people have voted. The current voting system fails to do this – the Conservatives won 36.9% of the vote, but won 51% of seats, meaning (in theory) they have 100% control of all of the laws that we all have to live by. We need electoral reform on the agenda because, quite frankly, it seems all the other major alternatives are significantly better than the current system. I also believe a constituency link is important, which I why I personally think STV is the best alternative system – but any other would probably be better. STV is proportional, it keeps the constituency link and it gives the electorate numerous figures in which to approach with local issues – instead of one who may never listen to you (if you are a Labour voter in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s seat, you are very unlikely to receive a satisfactory response in terms of changing of opinions). My ideal preference: STV – PR – AMS – AV+ - AV – FPTP/SMP.

Basic Income – I think Labour should adopt the Basic Income, which is why I am heavily involved with ‘Labour For Basic Income’. I wrote this a while back on why I think Labour should adopt it:

‘Many would agree the welfare state in it's current form is not perfect - the bureaucracy is substantial and those costs could be used to help more people.

The alternative is a Basic Income, where all citizens receive a guaranteed income, enough to cover essential costs, from the government - restructuring our current welfare system.

The Basic Income would:

- Eliminate poverty in Britain
The Basic Income should be set at a rate which covers the fundamentals in life - for example food, water, and energy. Some aspects of the welfare state should be kept, for example housing benefit to ensure that costs are fully covered (because in expensive areas the Basic Income by itself could not cover these costs) and disability benefit to ensure that the most vulnerable in society have more than enough to live off.

- Incentivise work by helping people start businesses
Many who want to establish their own businesses can not afford to take the risk of doing so, because they are at risk of not being able to afford the essentials - but if the Basic Income were implemented then those essential costs would be covered, meaning people would not have to worry about going hungry at the end of the month - minimising risk for those who want to set up their own business. Trials of the Basic Income has shown that the number of business start ups increase when the income was implemented.

- Top up wages, rewarding hard work
'Those wanting anything more than a frugal and very basic standard of living (stuff like foreign holidays, expensive furniture, new cars, fashionable clothes...) would have a strong incentive to work in order to pay for their luxuries' - Another Angry Voice

- Significantly reduce bureaucracy
The only requirements to receive the income would be that you were a citizen of the state, whether you were an adult, whether you have children (top up income to replace child benefit) or whether you have reached retirement age - this is significantly less bureaucratic, saving BILLIONS.

The idea is backed all across the political spectrum. It is not an idea which is 'left' or 'right' - it is forward.

John McDonnell has stated that Labour will consider the policy, so let's have that debate.

Let's consider the idea of a Basic Income, a system which could help create a more productive, fairer, aspirational and wealthier society’.

What is your favourite song?

It changes a lot – so I can’t give an answer on this one. But I love Eurovision.

Do you have a favourite video game?

Easy question: FIFA!

And what was the last film you saw?

I rewatched Alan Partridge and Hot Fuzz with my flatmates a few days ago. Nothing exciting.

What do you consider the most important personal quality in others?


What fault in others do you most dislike?

Dishonesty (Shock)

What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

That the future is much brighter than I thought it would be. You’ll change a lot in the next few years. You may be a mess now, you may be failing in so many ways, be directionless and don’t care about your actions – but in late 2013 everything will change, you’ll find a direction and sense of purpose: helping people and getting involved in politics. Genuinely, politics will change your life for the better and you’ll be a better person.

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I love spending time with friends at university – getting involved with clubs/societies where I’ve met many interesting people, not to mention helping out Labour where I can. Out of university – spending time with the family.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Eurovision. Not much more to say!

What talent would you most like to have?

To dance well. I think I’m George Sampson but in reality I’m more like Ed Balls.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for?

All friends and family to live a safe, secure life.

If you could go for a drink with three people, past or present, who would they be?

Clement Attlee – which Labourite wouldn’t? Discussing politics and life with the greatest Prime Minister in British Political History!

John Maynard Keynes – I think it would be very interesting to ask him how he would feel about the current economic situation in 2016 and how he would create an economic plan in 2016 after Thatcherism.

Jeremy Corbyn – even the majority of those who disagree with his politics admit he is a decent human being. Having a lemonade with El Gato and Corbyn in his garden would be interesting indeed!

And lastly, why are you Labour?

I believe the Labour Party has been the greatest force for social change that has ever existed in the United Kingdom. I’ll just list a few achievements which happened under Labour governments: the NHS, the welfare state, the liberal reforms, the Open University, the abolition of the death penalty, investment into the economy, Sure Start, maternity pay, paternity leave, devolution, peace in Northern Ireland, the minimum wage, the banning of cluster bombs, the human rights act, the abolition of section 28, the winter fuel allowance, the first ever climate change act, to name a few. Not only has it been the greatest force for social change in the past, it is the greatest force for social change in the present and the future – a broad church of the left, standing up for everybody across the country. It is only with Labour governments where people’s living standards improve and radical change can happen for the better. That’s why I’m Labour, because people in Britain are better off with them.