Friday, 8 May 2015

A Few Thoughts on the General Election

* Fashion witterings temporarily suspended. Return to regular order will commence soon. Also, contains swearing. I’d say sorry, but I’m not. *

If you’re living in Britain, then this morning will have been… interesting. Depending on your political beliefs/ moral compass/ general awareness of individuals other than yourself, then it may have been the kind of day where crawling back under the covers seemed the safest option. Yesterday’s tentative mood of optimism has curdled. The Conservatives have a majority.

My thoughts are still spinning a little too much to form anything particularly coherent. Plenty of communication with family members and friends has been couched in that universal language of dismay: swearing. Many more ‘fucks’ than David Cameron gives about the NHS. 

I’ve realized though that it’s very easy when you’re surrounded by like-minded people to be lulled into thinking that Conservative rhetoric isn't taken seriously: a lexicon of hard workers and shirkers, brighter futures, tightened belts, dangerous immigrants, getting the economy back on track, blaming the most marginalized for EVERYTHING. All those shiny, hollow words constructing a clear set of divides between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. But it is taken seriously – and there’s a huge amount of business and press interest balancing on it. Murdoch wanted the Tories to stay. Bankers wanted the Tories to stay. Weirdly, a lot of other people did too.

But lord is their rhetoric is scary - reliant on fear, on value judgments, on a weird kind of “we know best” paternalism. It divides up the country into the deserving and the undeserving, and all it takes to move from the former to the latter is losing your job.

A lot of what the Conservatives will do over the next five years won't necessarily affect me personally (other than things relating to housing, wages, arts, the environment, healthcare  - oops ok, maybe it will). Yet I am fortunate enough, at the moment, to have a family who are pretty stable both emotionally and financially. I’m aware of how huge a privilege that is. But I still give a fuck. Two fucks. All the fucks.

Because that's what you're meant to do as a human being – look beyond yourself. You care about more than your own immediate, limited circumstances. I’m pissed off about how it’s going to affect my ability to rent anything other than cardboard box size rooms. But I’m more pissed off for those who are caring for disabled children, or who are reliant on benefits, or who need access to a food bank, or whose jobs suddenly look much more precarious, or can’t get anywhere near their chosen career because they don't have the support or contacts. I’m pissed off about cuts left, right and center – it’s easy to see a service as non-vital if you don't need it yourself. 

I was talking this over earlier with my wonderful friend Katharine Sian. As she said to me, “I grew up with my unemployed, single parent mum in Cardiff. We were extremely lucky because my father and grandfather had managed to buy us a small semi-detached house but this doesn't mean we didn't struggle from time to time to make ends meet. Benefits should exist to ensure that everyone has a good quality of life, even amid struggles. However, under austerity it is evident that they are failing.”

She’s directly involved in a lot of activism as a result. “In April 2013 I was lucky enough to meet a disabled activist in Cardiff who was at the first protest against the Bedroom Tax. Linda Philips spoke powerfully to the crowd saying that we should "use our own small whispers of individual voices in crescendo to a scream of national outrage until its volume is actually heard within Westminster itself". She spent the following years paying bedroom tax on the spare bedroom used by her carer and eventually died under austerity, sooner than she should have done.”

That’s the ugly face of our previous coalition – now one that’s no longer even going to be tempered by the Lib Dems. People died. Suicide rates rose. And instead of getting angry about that, the public has been fed a narrative of prejudice and othering by the press. Blame it on anyone from anywhere else. God forbid the responsibility should nestle in Westminster, or all those big corporations exploiting tax loopholes. Profit over people. Business as usual (and indeed, Foxtons' shares are drastically up). 

There are a few silver lights. Caroline Lucas as Green MP for Brighton Pavilion – brilliantly articulate and clear-sighted. Stella Creasy remaining in Walthamstow. (I love her. Please can her and Caroline sort out this mess?) A slight increase in female MPs. Nigel Farage losing in South Thanet. But these are counteracted by some pretty terrifying results – not least the number of votes given to UKIP.

In the wake of this, the most natural feeling is one of overwhelming frustration. What can we, as individuals, do – other than run away/ hide under those bedcovers? There are an awful lot of people who are really, really angry right now. We need to harness that – translate it into action, in whatever way is best. The image below (first posted here) is a distillation of what I want to work on myself. As my dad said to me on the phone a few hours ago, “all you can really do in response is be a good person – do your bit, fight injustice, take part in your community.” I want to use all this disappointment and fury productively and proactively; mark it as a moment to galvanize change. 


olivia grace said...

I'm so glad you were able to articulate what I've found so difficult to say the past few hours. You are a bloody marvellous human being (and one day I think you'd do a bloody good job of being PM ;) xxx

Lally said...

You have taken the words out of my mouth on so many accounts in this post. Your dad is completely right and I think if anything positive is to come from this it's that lots of people I know are feeling the need to fight back; friends who were previously politically apathetic have realised if they want to be heard they have to shout. It's also made me think, like you, about taking positive action in areas I care about. My mum has a fab phrase 'don't get sad get mad', it's helping me a lot today (and forced me out of bed this morning when all I wanted to do was put the pillow over my head and cry). XX

Julie Bradbury said...

You are a very stupid person if you believe in all that rhetoric you have just spouted, have you any idea what the consequences would be if a Labour Government was elected, or perhaps you want to return to the halcyon days of the 1970s if you weren't around at the time ask your mum what life was like.

Freya said...

Wonderfully articulated, I was in disbelief when I saw the exit polls and was hoping with every fibre of my being that they'd somehow just judged it disastrously wrong. I feel sick when I think about mental health services in particular, probably selfish as it's something that does directly affect me but when I've had to fight tooth and nail to get the barest minimum of support these past five years I had so much hope that change would be on the horizon and things would get easier. I'm still trying to process it all really.

I'm also dreading this EU referendum that's now been guaranteed. I dread to think what's going to happen to this country due to peoples shortsightedness.

KatGotTheCream said...

Excellent post, thank you for writing it!

Ivana Split said...

your handwritten note looks exactly like mine:) I mean I often sets myself identical know volunteering and supporting local business is important to me.

To turn fury into proactive things is always a great idea! I'm currently using my rage and anger for doing as much things as possible.

Lola Byatt said...

It was my first general election vote and it was only this year that i properly understood the system. It seems very flawed (and there seems to be good and bad to this) the good being is that despite a scary amount of people voting for ukip, they only received one seat and nigel farage lost in his own constituency but the bad is that voting for little parties mean nothing as the election is dominated by two parties. I was very disappointed with the results. I wish I had your article a few days ago, I was being taunted at uni for being against Conservative. I'll rather be a loyal leftie than a greedy right winger any day

Laura Neal said...

I wasn't ready to read this yesterday despite seeing your tweets. I spent the day so full of grief and anger. But this is everything I could want to say about this election. I am terrified by everything this result means, for myself, but more importantly, for others. For those that are already being hit hard, those that it will touch before me. My mind is resolved to fight where I can, to act where I can, to care always. The future looks bleak but I have to believe that each little drop we give can add up to an ocean of kindness. Thank you for your words and for strengthening my resolve
Chambray & Curls

Melanie said...

Canada seems to be lock-step with what's going on over there. I was going to say it's sad, but better than that, it makes me mad! It makes me wonder if people I thought would vote a certain way are sneaking into the polls and voting the other way. Closet conservatism? Eeeew. Puling minions!

Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

Oh Rosalind! What can I say? I'm coming from Spain.....where politics have been always a joke more than an important matter for the citizens, where we are still carrying the consequences of a ridiculous dictatorship. Now the country is falling slowly apart and the elections are around the corner and....I'm afraid..... I'm so so afraid that the same corrupt conservative party will win AGAIN..... but I also have hope, I have hope in the new party rising slowly. I have hope in the youth that finally realised how badly our old politicians have been treating our country, our resources, our culture, our public this motherfuckers have been stealing our money on our faces.
Ah! anyways.... I believe that those old rotting politicians will come to their end because they don't understand future anymore.
Thank you for being there, existing, writing, fighting...


Maria Fallon said...

This post says what I have been struggling to do ever since the results were announced, thank you for your articulate words

Maria xxx

Willow said...

Despite not living in the UK, I've been pretty fired up in the last few days myself. Because like you said, I'm still a human being who gives a fuck. It's frustrating how many people (even some of my friends) don't care. My sister's boyfriend won't vote for the Greens simply because he doesn't like their gun laws - the one thing that's an inconvenience to him (he's a farm kid), over a ton of things that are devastating to others. Like many people, he doesn't understand that this is all so much bigger than himself. But I genuinely thought this UK election would have more positive results. Although, you're right - it's easy to think that no one takes the Conservatives seriously when you surround yourself with people who, well, aren't complete bloody idiots (and why wouldn't you?).

I can really empathise, as our Australian PM is...equal parts embarrassing and dangerous. In our family, his name has become a swear word.
Tony Abbott, David Cameron (pardon my French)...they really put the 'N' in Cuts, don't they? (Sorry, I had to...)

Anyway, I can't end the comment on that negative note. There's always hope. Even if the hope is in people seeing how bad things are getting with Cameron and finally say "enough" and take action. We've got those awesome people out there. In Australia, we have Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam (I love them), who are now co-deputy leaders of the Greens party (instead of Christine Milne, who wasn't that great). Amen to what your dad said. He reminded me of something Gandalf said: "Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I've found it is the small things; everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay." We have to just keep plodding on, being good people, celebrating those who are doing good, encourage others, and kick some arse where necessary.

Great post. Your passion is very powerful x


Just passing through ... and well said. I love your passion here and can understand the frustration. It takes a great effort for people to care, even if they aren't directly affected. There needs to be more people to do this, but doing your bit certainly can help, so I think your father gave great advice to you.

Laura said...

I really enjoy your blog and, so, I am relieved at your reaction - it's always disappointing when someone you thought was inspirational turns out to be right wing. Thankfully this isn't the case here! I'm moving to England (Oxford, actually) in the autumn and frankly I'm a bit nervous about the political environment into which I'll be entering. It's heartening to hear that there are girls around who are, like me, obsessed with books and clothes and passionate about the giddy swing between fun, style and frivolity on the one hand, and serious political engagement on the other. Thanks for expressing this so well.

Anna said...

SO well said, Rosalind. Yes, yes, yes.

And I have lived happily through many Labour governments (OK, not Blair's) knowing at least that policies were not driven by the creation of extreme wealth; personal and corporate greed; and the maintenance of an oppressive and unfair class system.