One month from today, the UK will have its third general election since 2015, and potentially elect our fourth prime minister from the same period (or at least, actually elect Boris Johnson for the first time, rather than being subject to his machinations with no say in the matter). As I’m sure anyone reading the news will agree, it has been a very turbulent few years in British politics, which is now being capped off by a general election that might change everything.
This is no ordinary election. This is a Brexit election. While it is the same as any other general election on paper, the outcome of this election will likely be the deciding factor in the next chapter of the Brexit saga. If the Conservatives win, let alone with a majority, then as far as I can see, Brexit will be happening soon after Christmas with Boris Johnson’s shitty deal and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But if Labour wins, or some other Remain parliament in whatever mashed together form that might take, then it will change everything. I don’t necessarily think having a general election decided primarily on a party’s Brexit policy is good idea – why not just have a second referendum, if you’re planning to use another vote as a proxy for what the nation wants to do about the Brexit question? – but alas, it seems that this is where we are. While I admire the Green’s continued efforts to try to pivot public consciousness away from Brexit and toward the climate crisis, I can’t help but think that, unfortunately, getting Brexit is resolved is going to have to take priority right now, however misguided that might seem given the relative size of the two issues. In fact, resolving Brexit should be a priority for any climate-conscious citizen, because if we spend the next eight or so years faffing with post-EU policy and economic issues, we are going to burn through the time we have left to restructure our economy in a way that will mitigate as much catastrophic warming as possible. But I’m not sure that trying to miss out that middle step is going to work for the Greens, however laudable the idea.
The Greens are probably the party that most closely aligns with my political sensibilities right now. I do wish this could be a climate election, because whoever gets elected in December might well be in power for the next five years (though not if the past few years are an indication of things to come, ha), which takes us halfway to 2030, a critical point for climate change action. To have a government that doesn’t put the climate crisis front of mind for the next half a decade could be a disaster. But sadly, the Greens remain a fringe party. I believe that they might win a few extra seats, but it is probably quite simple to predict where that might happen, or at least to predict the constituencies where that definitely won’t happen, because of our first past the post electoral system. Lewisham Deptford is one of those places, along with being where I vote. This constituency is safely Labour – in the last election our MP Vicky Foxcroft received 77% of the vote! – so the only thing worth doing here is voting for her again to make sure that this seat stays safely red (it’s not that I’m against voting Labour, far from it, but that regardless of my personal position there is no other party who has any real chance of winning in this constituency, so it wouldn’t matter anyway. Fortunately, Vicky is a great MP!)
I have spoken to lots of people who feel conflicted about this election. They no longer have any idea what’s going on and feel ill equipped to be making a choice, or they just don’t feel that any major party represents their desires (in part because of Jeremy Corbyn’s murky Brexit position). While I understand those feelings, I have to say, it doesn’t seem too hard to decide what the best option is if you are remotely liberal, as the vast majority (all?) of my friends are. The best choice is whoever gets the Tories out! It is depressing to contemplate another five years of Tory rule, especially as it may include a crappy Brexit and the privatisation of the NHS and because it looks scarily likely according to the opinion polls, but if – IF – they could be unseated, it would change everything. It would be mean another possible ending to the Brexit drama and it would mean a respite from a decade of terrible austerity. Save from a bloody revolution, if we ever hope to replace the Conservatives with a left-leaning government, it is going to be through an election just like this one. It is clear that other parties and prospective MPs understand this too, with candidates all over the country standing aside to avoid splitting the vote with other parties on their side of the spectrum (except for Labour, but every person I come across on Twitter appears to have a different opinion on whether this is reasonable or not, so I don’t know). When it comes to elections, you can’t wait until a party comes along that is perfectly aligned with your views – you have to pick the one that’s closest (and has a realistic chance of election in your constituency!) and start from there. If you want a chance at avoiding Brexit, efforts that start to tackle this country’s epidemic levels of inequality and even the bare minimum of meaningful action on climate change, we’ve all got to do our part at trying to unseat the Conservatives. The deadline to register to vote is coming up in two weeks – please register to vote here. There is too much riding on this election to just stand idly by.
Am I back on my unrealistically optimistic bullshit? Possibly. I know that all the research suggests that Boris Johnson will win again, an outcome that is too depressing to spend too much time thinking about at the moment. I know that Labour have let a lot of people down over the last few years, from their poor handling of Brexit to continued accusations of anti-Semitism. I know that, regardless of ardent campaigning, a host of Green seats is probably a long way off, and climate change will remain an afterthought, to the eventual downfall of us all. The Lib Dems still suck, flip flopping across the spectrum. It is a mess. But what the hell, we’re voting anyway. Let’s do everything we can to make it count.