The future of the left since 1884

Taking on the PM

Diverse voices are mobilising to disrupt the political order, writes Ali Milani.

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Opinion

If you had told me just five or six years ago that I would be standing for election to unseat a sitting prime minister I probably would have laughed you out of the room.

Growing up on a council estate with a single parent who barely spoke a word of English, I – and my friends on the estate – never believed that politics was for us. We had come to accept the idea that the corridors of power were reserved for the rich, private school educated Etonians that we had watched on our television screens all our lives.

One of my earliest memories is of my mum not being able to afford to top up the gas meter in our flat. For my family, a ‘normal’ week meant wondering whether our benefits would make it to Sunday. Mine was not a unique story. But although my family, friends and community were on the frontline of the impact government policy was having, we rarely believed we had the power to change anything.

My generation saw our education maintenance allowance cut, our benefits slashed, our tuition fees trebled, our youth centres closed and we lost friends to knife violence.

I felt an angst that I could not quite articulate, an anger that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I knew something was wrong, I just didn’t know how I could make a difference.

Then came the financial crash and the coalition government. I watched as bankers in my city got bailed out while my mum was made homeless. I watched as politicians turned working-class communities against migrants and minorities. I watched as teachers were made to cry in frustration, doctors were forced to strike in exasperation and I saw my community overworked and overwhelmed.

I remember vividly being stood on London Bridge, in the blistering cold, protesting the trebling of our tuition fees and promising to do all I could to make sure our voices were finally heard.

Seven years on from that cold day on London Bridge, I was selected as Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate to face Boris Johnson in my home seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. With Johnson’s majority halved at the last election, Uxbridge and South Ruislip is now a marginal seat – needing only a 5 per cent swing to make history.

With my selection at 24 years old, I became one of the youngest parliamentary candidates in the country. For me, this has become not only an opportunity to beat one of the most dangerous figures in British politics today, but also a chance to play a small part in changing politics in the UK. Ensuring that our decision-makers know what it is like to live like us.

I knew that in standing against Boris Johnson, our campaign could be about more than the battle for a marginal seat in a general election – it could pose the question of which direction our country would take. Would we continue with the arrogant elite who would never understand the day-to-day struggle of most people in this country? Or could a young working-class voice disrupt their political order?

Despite how hard the press try to paint Boris Johnson as a harmless character, in his short time as prime minister he has already begun to inflict serious damage on this country.

The flag-bearer of Trumpism in the UK, Johnson believes in keeping society divided by inequality and intolerance, while he and his friends build a corporate country that serves only an elite few.

His is a future where we hurtle towards climate catastrophe, where our NHS and public services are up for sale to his sweetheart, Donald Trump, and where the United Kingdom becomes a tax haven for the millionaires and billionaires.

Our campaign and the energy of the other ‘Unseat’ campaigns to defeat senior Tory MPs are sending a strong message: there is another choice for the people of our country.

I have a genuine belief in a better future. I joined the Labour party because it is a movement rooted in the principle that nobody – and no community – should be left behind.

Since we launched our campaign, we have felt that urgency across the country. Our events and campaigns have seen hundreds come all over the UK, from Glasgow to Brighton, all with the belief that by taking Uxbridge and South Ruislip, we can signal a change in politics across the UK.

Never before has the phrase ‘politicians are all the same’ been less true than it is right now.

There is an alternative. One where young, passionate voices can break through and shake up parliament. We can beat Boris Johnson as prime minister, and unseat him and his politics for good.

We can change things and ensure the next generation don’t feel like politics is reserved for the rich, private school educated, Etonians but that it is for them.

Ali Milani

Ali Milani is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate in Uxbridge and South Ruislip and a councillor in the London borough of Hillingdon.

@ARMilani_

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