November 2019 – On the trading floor: “If Corbyn wins, I’m moving to my beach house in Spain. There’s no way I’m living here under his Labour Government. How is he going to pay for all these measures he wants to put in? I mean Jesus, who signed up for Communism…”
Also November 2019 – In the Barber Shop: “Nah man, mi cyan vote for Boris, Conservatives been killin’ us for years. Look pon Grenfell, look pon the disrespect of Windrush. As long as mi live mi ah go vote fi Labour…”
Today – The narrative for this article is based on a simple question: “Do your politics change with your wealth?” The premise is straightforward; if you start life relatively poor yet manage to transcend your circumstances to become relatively wealthy, do your politics change? Do you suddenly become a staunch supporter of capitalism and fierce fiscal prudence once you understand how the economy works? Or does your newfound privilege oblige you to support politics that work more on uplifting the less fortunate. Growing up in relative poverty, everyone I knew was a Labour supporter. The ends voted Labour, regardless of who was running the party – the constituency I live in have voted Labour since I was born. Working in banking however, I’ve realised that the majority of the people I share the office with vote Conservative and regardless of how many times their leadership make perceived blunders, they’ll keep voting Tory lest they move to their beach houses in Spain. For someone who’s gone through the journey of both worlds, I often ask myself if my politics has changed, or more importantly, if my journey has changed me?
Growing up, I had a general indifference toward politics. I was raised in a Labour supporting, working class household and adopted the same attitude the ends had, which is that politicians generally don’t care about the ends and if they do, they’re in the Labour party. They’re the reason we had free school meals, a roof over our head and the opportunity to even be in the country earning money. Anything else meant you were a sell-out and that you supported people who didn’t want you around and considered you a stain on British purity. For a long time it meant I overlooked the reasons for hardship in my life; stuff like being robbed at knife point, being homeless, and losing peers to the graveyard or jail cell were things that happened in my world. A world separate from politics, one that couldn’t exist if politicians genuinely cared about running a country that accommodated for everyone. Because of this, I never really took the time to understand it. It was rarely discussed in school and to be frank, there was no immediate incentive especially when your main prerogative was to try and survive. The reality is, politics has everything to do with it. When I talk to people in my field about my background, you can see the visible discomfort it creates. No one really wants to believe these disparities live on their doorstep. This points to the ignorance of insidious bias that’s been established over centuries in the UK, which is shaped by politics in a big way.
Since I’ve started working in banking, politics has been part of my job. I follow it because I have to as political decisions can have vast implications on global markets. It has genuinely been enlightening to balance my newfound economic prowess with the circus that is politics. However, it more importantly means that I am able to discern between realistic economic policy and fallacy. This position has allowed me to realise that what on the surface might seem like a great deal to the general public will actually be more punitive in the long term rather than beneficial. Political campaigns are awash with sensationalist pledges and the problem is the majority of people (even those in finance) can’t work out whether they’re getting a good deal or not. If income tax is cut but VAT goes up, what’s my net benefit? If corporation tax goes down but duty on fuel goes up, does my small business still make money? Will the NHS really get another £350 million a week? No one genuinely knows anymore, yet politicians continue to use economic soundbites as the catalysts to push their campaigns. The problem is, a lot of it is just rhetoric and alienates as well as patronises the electorate. Labour of recent, though seeming to have the most decent humans of the main political parties, have been naïve on economic policy. The Tories, despite having been known to be prudent fiscal operators, have resorted to false claims on issues like Brexit. The lack of understanding the electorate generally has on public finances is a big reason voters are pushed into the safety of parties they feel more comfortable with.
Going back to my first point, I mentioned the narrative for this was going to be simple, “Do your politics change with your wealth?” Originally, I wanted to use this article to highlight examples of blind commitment to political groups. Some demographics, like the hood, or the privileged banker are married to their political parties, for better or worse. This is a problem, as a lazy politician will know that they do not need to work hard for your vote. The hood is at a bigger disadvantage here for the reasons I’ve stated; we’re politically uneducated so are less able to decipher what a feasible economic pledge is and so fall into holes of distrust for politics. I do exercise caution when claiming that most of the hood blindly give away their vote to Labour however, because the reality is, if another political party came along and told the top 1% in the country that they could preserve more of their wealth, bankers would lead the exodus of the Tory vote without flinching. Their political allegiances only run as deep as it makes their pockets. I was going to suggest that the hood should become more open to voting outside of the Labour party once they understand more intimately how the economy works and how what seems like a great deal today on paper, may not be in 5-10 years’ time. In theory as you grow in wealth and class you should aim to practice in politics that helps both sides of the wealth and class fence. However, after the events that have transpired this year and seeing three general elections in my working career, I’ve realised that I’d be a hypocrite to suggest any of the above. I still don’t vote, and I still don’t really understand how politics can work. The political system is too archaic, and as I’ve grown in life I understand more about the economy and how the world works as you naturally should. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe working class people should be supported or the social system should be scaled back though. I’m liberal on some views like drug use and prison reform but conservative on others like school and business. What party should I vote for? The Lib Dems went down with Clegg and independent MP’s are doomed from the start. Through the recent crisis, the Tories have shown the same disdain to minorities and public safety as they have since slavery and despite Labour’s continued supporting of the working-class demographic, I can’t just give them my vote by process of elimination. This leaves me in an even more confused position as a working man than it did when I was poor. Though my understanding of politics and the economy has improved, I become ever more disappointed by the whole thing despite my paradoxical efforts to boost political and economic awareness amongst my community.
I wish I could say there’s some redemption in this article but unfortunately there isn’t on this occasion! My apathy toward the political process doesn’t mean I don’t care about the country I live in or that I don’t care to shape my future or my community’s. It just means I don’t necessarily think it can be done effectively through the current political construct. Until such time that politics becomes less of a dick measuring popularity contest and more of a genuine exercise in transparency and inclusion, I won’t be participating.
The Poor Banker