Fuck. FUCK. These election results are a catastrophe.
Is it crazy to be writing something the morning after? The dust has barely settled, votes have only just been counted. The results could not be fresher. But at this point, we know. We know what the outcome of this election is. The Tories have won with their greatest majority since 1987, despite hiding in fridges, lying openly with their campaign information and peddling racism and classism at every opportunity. It is awful. It’s really awful.
After the election was announced, I wrote a blog that included the lines, “this is no ordinary election. This is a Brexit election,” which turned out to be more accurate than even I was imagining when I wrote those sentences. If this election is a proxy for a second referendum, then the people have spoken loud and clear: let’s get Brexit done. My post from earlier this week is ringing in my ears, where I considered whether or not I should back off from aggressive anti-Brexit protesting if it was shown that this was truly the will of the people. Well, it has been shown, and I am conflicted.
I understand, now, better than I have at any point in the past three years, that many, many people in the UK want to Brexit. With the Conservatives comfortably in power, there’s no doubt now in my mind that we will be leaving the EU. However, we come back to the same thing we’ve come back to every day since that fateful day in June 2016: just because you want Brexit to make your life better does not mean that it will. One of the things that I have deplored most about the lead up to this election is how the truth – and not just specific truths, but the very idea of truth at all – has been trampled by the Tories. Yes, there are many things that we don’t know the answer to, and many predictions that are mired by uncertainty (just look at the polls in the run up to the election). But blindly asserting that what you feel to be true must be the truth, regardless of what research, data and the comments of those far more informed than yourself say is reality, is not healthy scepticism in the face of uncertainty. It is a blatant denial of things that we can reasonably believe to be true, given the actual evidence to hand. It’s denial, plain and simple. I continue to assume that everyone voting Tory – which, in many cases, means voting leave – is doing so because they believe it will improve their lives. If they don’t think that Brexit will make things better for them, then, well, I can’t reckon with self-sabotage of that magnitude.
But after three years, wall-to-wall coverage, two elections, countless deals and votes and general sense that any conversation is only one meandering sentence away from pivoting to be about Brexit, again, is it not profoundly condescending to assume that the literal millions of people who still want to leave the EU have not seen any of the headlines, research or forecasts? For as long as I believe that people are mistakenly barrelling toward an act of national self-harm, the weight of my privilege means that I will always have a little bit of sympathy for people in underfunded, marginalised parts of the country, even as they vote in droves for people that I believe stand for something abhorrent. The great irony that it tends to be the parts of the country that have been hit hardest by Tory cuts and will be hurt further by the privatisation of the NHS and whatever the fuck else Brexit might bring are the ones continually voting the Tories into power is painfully present. But perhaps this is misguided. Pain and suffering are no excuse for racism, bigotry and hatred. If I shed that perception and accept that everyone voting Tory is responsible for whatever comes next, well, that’s a defiant place to be. If I truly respect everyone’s ability to make a decision then there’s nothing to say here except: this is your fault and I have no sympathy for what comes next if you voted for the Conservatives, if you continue to vote for Brexit. But instinctively, that feels wrong, not just in terms of my attitude to other people but also as an understanding of what’s happening in this country. However paternalistic it may sound, I don’t believe that lots of the people who voted for Brexit and the Conservatives did so with the full understanding of what the effects are likely to be, on all of us but especially on the already poor and marginalised. Yet somehow, that seems worse. It is a true tragedy if the turkeys are gleefully lining up to vote for Christmas. It certainly doesn’t make me feel like saying I told you so in a few years’ time will be anything other than a deep sadness.
Could this have been avoided? Honestly, I don’t think so. Not from where we were a few months ago when the election was called. Labour are the only party with a hope of defeating the Tories and they were screwed either way. As the only left-leaning party with a big presence, they are now trying to be the political home for many parts of the British left, most notably the comparatively wealthy, middle class left and the working class left who have put the physical labour into Labour’s support base for generations. But of course, aside from being broadly ‘left,’ these two groups have very little in common, with many people (understandably) feeling that the privileged left continue to play a key role in the subjugation of the working class. The UK remains deeply divided by class and it’s clear that there is little sense of solidarity between a working-class Northerner and a middle-class Londoner, even if people might see both groups as broadly sitting left of centre. By making a second referendum a core election policy, Labour sided with the lefty Londoners, and paid for it outside of the M25. Of course, if Labour had promised to leave, they would have lost many votes in London – I highly doubt I would have voted for a staunchly pro-Brexit Labour manifesto – and still had to compete with the Conservatives in the rest of the country. I don’t think they were winning either way.
Labour is not perfect, neither is Jeremy Corbyn. The continued accusations of antisemitism stand out as being particularly concerning. But the Tories just seem so, so, so much worse. And I don’t understand the continued anti-JC sentiment, except from people who have a vested interest in him not being in power. From everything I’ve seen, he is eloquent, principled and has been dedicated to social justice in this country for the past thirty years. In the past few weeks alone, BoJo and his cronies, including his father, who he inexplicably had participate in interviews in his place, have emphasised time and time again that they think poor people are stupid, and that that is why they are poor. Jacob Rees-Mogg has been hiding from the spotlight for weeks after saying live on air that the people who died in the Grenfell fire were stupid for not getting out of the burning apartment block. It’s vile. So, whatever your problem with Corbyn, I fail to see how you can think he’s worse than Boris Johnson, and that his plans for the country, which included renewed investment in the NHS, free university tuition and a comprehensive Green New Deal, were going to ruin things. As with many aspects of our current political landscape, I don’t get it. I don’t get it all.
Of the many things worth highlighting in the aftermath of this election, the need for comprehensive electoral reform is clear. I agree that proportional representation would allow each vote to count and better reflect the political preferences of this country. You can sign a petition advocating for proportional representation, as I have, here. But more than that, I feel so, so strongly that we have to crack down on lies. It should not be up for debate whether or not lies are permissible in a democratic election. For the Conservatives to have 88% of their election ads shown to contain misinformation makes me sick to my stomach, and I cannot believe that there are no consequences for deception of this kind. Tory policies kill people, and these lies helped get them reelected, so these lies are killing people too. It just should not be allowed to lie voraciously in election campaigns. Parties that lie should be disqualified, end of. We cannot allow fake news to become accepted, anymore than it already is. I feel this in my bones.
There is so much more to say. The climate is fucked, for so many reasons. The absolute violence of the Tories defunding public services until they barely function and then using that sad state to advocate for different, privatised systems. The perception that paying for education, healthcare and welfare provisions is too expensive, while billions of pounds continue to be wasted on vanity projects or restructuring blunders or hoarded in the offshore bank accounts of the 0.001%. The things I am only starting to understand about intersection of wealth and class and how these nuanced connections have contributed toward the rise of populism across the world. But that will have to be for another day.
Of course, the same platitudes about hope hold true. Ultimately, there is no other option but to keep on as we were yesterday. Volunteer, donate, protest, sign petitions, have conversations, be kind, be radically generous with time, money and energy. This isn’t the first time an election has resulted in despair, and it certainly won’t be the last. But regardless of all that, today is a sad day. We are deeply divided. I don’t know where we go from here.