By Rob McLaren
A trio of Labour Party figures, including Ash Sarkar, spoke at Strath Union last night in a bid to rally Strathclyde students to register to vote.
The event, organised by Scottish Young Labour, also featured speeches by the Chairman of the Labour Party, Ian Lavery, and Paul Sweeney, an MP who is seeking re-election in the Glasgow North East constituency.
Students in attendance were encouraged to pressure their friends into registering to vote for the upcoming British general election, which will take place on Thursday, 12 December. Lavery described the upcoming vote as “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Attendees were also invited to put forward their own policy ideas to the speakers.
Lavery, a former miner and trade unionist who has been the MP for Wansbeck in Northumberland since 2010, took to the stage to rally the audience around Labour’s anti-austerity policies.
“There are 4.3 million kids living in poverty in this country. In Glasgow around 25% of children live below the poverty line,” Lavery said. “That means there’s no food on the table when they leave for school. That means they will never get to go to uni. We’re the fifth richest country in the world and we choose not to do anything about it.”
But it was Sarkar, a charismatic left-wing and feminist commentator, who stole the show. Telling the story of a university friend who had struggled to live independently in halls after having her disability benefits cut, Sarkar delivered a powerful account of the affects of the Conservatives’ austerity policies.
Sarkar said: “Suddenly, when Theresa May loses her majority there’s enough money to give £1bn to the DUP. Suddenly, when Boris needs pensioners to vote for him, there’s enough money for a £9bn tax cut for the wealthy. But for her to live independently, there wasn’t enough money.”
Notably, there were few mentions of the SNP during the event, with the speakers mostly using their platform to attack the Conservative government.
Lavery, in particular, was particularly critical of Boris Johnson, mocking his real name – Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – and attacking him for being a career politician.
“When Boris was three, he wanted to be Prime Minister. When I was three, I wanted to be an ice cream van man,” Lavery remarked to laughter from the crowd.
With the general election just over four weeks away, Labour are currently behind in the polls in both Scotland and the UK. Yet the mood in the Barony Bar, at least, was one of optimism.
“Labour doesn’t have a divine right to power, we have to earn every single vote,” Lavery added. “We’ve got a problem with Boris Johnson, we’ve got a problem with Jacob Rees-Mogg, we’ve got a problem with the elites of this country.”
“The Tories do not want people like yourself, they do not want young people, they do not want BAME people signed up to vote.”
Not yet registered to vote? You have until midnight on the 26 November to do so and can register here.