Simran, aged 20, Willenhall
Simran joined the party when she was 16 years old when Ed Miliband was leader. She joined because she'd had enough of Tory austerity. Even though she was young at the time, she thought that there had to be a better way. For her Labour was the way to bring about change. She's currently a student and secretary of her local Labour party branch.
I don’t consider myself as an economic expert but for me it's all about balancing the books and creating an economy that works for all. I know that we have a lot of debt running into the trillions. It's also about growth and whether people are in work and whether we're spending money and actually where they’re spending money. This is what has an impact on local businesses. It’s a shame when local businesses are having to close due to austerity because people don’t have the money to spend. Spending money locally is important for the local economy. I also think that the economy isn't going great at the moment - I don't think the uncertainty caused by Brexit is good. We are still unaware of the outcome and businesses are having to make adjustments. I want an economy where wealth is not just at the top for the few. There needs to be a re-distribution of wealth. It's been 9 long years of austerity and things really need to change – people have suffered for long enough. This is about inequality and fairness. Local councils are having to make huge cuts to their budget - hundreds of millions and that means that they’re having to make really horrible decisions about what cut next - it really truly has an impact. I also think we have to think of new indicators for the economy. I think it should be about people being in employment and local businesses thriving. For me it's about having a good local economy and making sure that local communities are stronger. Jobs, the economy and education are my top priorities for me compared to climate change, but it's important we address it, so we have a world that’s fit for future generations. There's so much pollution now and the sudden weather changes are concerning.
Fran, aged 63, Vauxhall
Fran has been involved in Labour for a long time. She left the party around the time of the Iraq War but came back into the party just before Jeremy Corbyn was elected. She has had a long career in nursing and the care sector. She is a WASPI woman and chair of Disability Labour.
I think it's very hard for somebody who was born into money to understand what it's like if you weren't. I’ve had the privilege of having had good jobs and earning a really good salary where I didn't have to think about what I spent. Nowadays my life is very different. I grew up in very humble circumstances as a child we lived on a pretty tight income and I'm back to doing that now. For me I see there is a huge imbalance in economic power in this country when you think about number of rich people and the obscene amount of people living in poverty today we are the 6th richest country in the world and we should have nobody homeless and nobody living in poverty. That's something that a lot of people could do something about and are deliberately choosing not to. We have got an economy which works for a few not the many. We have got austerity by choice not by reason and I'm completely against that. We've got a system whereby you have 20 percent plus of the population who are marginalized. I'm not just talking about economic quality of life. I'm talking about psychological quality of life, sociological quality of life. What I would like to see is a social security system that works and a national independent living fund to allow people with a disability to have a normal life. It would make a huge difference. You cannot have a system as we have at the moment where universal credit is deliberately sending people into poverty and into debt. That's fundamentally amoral. There's no other way of describing it. Three times in the last year I’ve found somebody homeless outside my front door. Over Christmas we had somebody living behind the bins in the old vicarage, the other side of the church. Someone actually living in a bin shed, in Lambeth in 2018, how wrong is that? A homeless man had been found dead in the same place earlier in the year. We have a system which is heavily laden against the poor and for the rich. There is a discussion going on at the moment about universal basic income and there are an awful lot of people who are terrified about UBI. I think the UBI could be really good if it’s done the right way. It's like any other system. They didn’t have to design the Universal Credit system in a way that punishes and penalises recipients, that was a choice.
Will, aged 27, Croydon
Will lives in London having grown up in Manchester. He joined the party because of it’s recent shift to the left. By joining Labour he felt that he was finding his feet politically. He didn't want to continue to sit passively by when you can actually change things. He works in international development and is involved in his local party.
I often hear people say the economy is the means fors distributing goods according to demand and supply, but I think it's actually much more complicated than that. I think too much importance is paid towards making our social lives fit in to the economy and not the other way round. It feels like we are subordinate to the economy, which is clearly run in the disproportionate interests of some. It's also two systems - people like you and me live under a neoliberal system but people with wealth enjoy a more socialist system. They seem to be able to take risks without there being any consequences, we give housing benefit to landlords, we bail out banks, we subsidise the wages of employers paying poverty wages. It’s like security is given to the wrong people. The dominant economic narrative is also based on a fundamental lie, i.e. that all humans are rational, self-seeking actors and that’s a huge issue. Labour is engaging the economic debate but I think we still accept the narrative that growth is always good and the economy is the be all and end all. I think we need to deconstruct this idea as it relies on us living in a mass consumer society which in my opinion needs to be reigned in. GDP is not everything. If everyone started smoking 45 cigarettes a day, I’m sure GDP would increase but that's not necessarily a good thing. GDP doesn’t measure your ability to go for a walk in central London without breathing in exhaust fumes, which are pumped out by cars that were bought and subsequently may have increased GDP. In the economy we don't talk about human needs or spiritual needs or community needs. The more consumerism we have, the more the economy grows but this destroys how we actually connect with one another. However consumerism has become so ingrained in many of us, myself included, and there needs to be a cultural shift too. I would like to see more measures around inequality, environmental impact, and happiness built into how we understand the economy.
Jane, aged 61, Wigan
Jane grew up in Caerphilly and has been a member periodically for the last 40 years. Her parents weren't active in the party but they watched all the conferences on television. One of her first memories was getting involved in the miners strikes. She’s been retired for 5 years having worked as a teacher and is involved in her local party.
Over my working it is I was fortunate enough to save money but this was affected by the interest rates so the value has diminished. This upsets older people because it seems unfair however the interest rates changes also help young people so I guess it's a balance. Inequality has also worsened over my lifetime. Back in the 80s this greed took over, it was quite subtle but it's really had an effect. People are more out for themselves. The acquisition of wealth has gained importance in our community consumer society. It's a bad thing and it's gotten much worse. Society has become materialistic. It encourages the feeling that is people's own fault and that if you've got lots of money it's because you've worked hard. It comes back to this divisiveness. There’s no feeling of care for others and people don't seem to realise that people can work really really hard but still be struggling. I think there needs to be a higher interest rate on savings and I also think it's really important that wages keep up with inflation. House prices also need to be more in line with what people can actually afford. For me the economy is the bread and butter of life. It's about how much houses and food cost, people having stable well paid jobs which haven't existed for a long time. It’s about the cost of living. Green issues are a difficult one for me. In food I think most people aren't interested in where the food comes from it's whether they can afford it. Though I do think veganism is important from a health point of view. I also think people rely too much on cars and don't walk enough and that it isn't the best use of our environment. It’s hard because I think it's because people aren't immediately affected - it's a much longer term issue. I think until an issue actually directly affects them it's really hard for people to see the relevance.