Thursday, 8 June 2017

Glumness takes hold

Today's post will be brought to you in a series of vaguely disconnected half-thoughts, tangled up in a headache with a side-order of sciatica....

Today is election day. And I awoke feeling very depressed about it. Not glad that I live in a time and a place where I can vote. Or looking forward to making my voice heard. Or optimistic about the next five years.

Last time there was a general election, I went to quite some length to express my views as calmly and dispassionately as possible. I can't really be bothered this time. You're either with me or not. And there's only a couple of dozen of you reading this anyway. What does it really matter what I say?

There are two major factors that make me shrug my shoulders when I see anyone try and predict the outcome of the election. Firstly, there is the recent, and widely mocked, inability of the pollsters to accurately forecast how people are going to vote. Secondly there's our ridiculous electoral system. Just as a reminder, last election the percentage change in the vote was as follows:

Conservative    +0.8%
Labour             +1.4%
SNP                 +3%
LibDem            -15.1%
UKIP               +9.5%
Green              +2.8%

And yet the change in numbers of seats was:

Conservative    +28
Labour             -24
SNP                 +50
LibDem            -48
UKIP                +1

And every time I look at those figures, I shake my head in disbelief. Not because they don't reflect the election bringing about the result I wanted, but because they're ridiculous. So, no matter the outcome today, I'm just nailing my rather tired colours to my rickety mast - I believe we would have a healthier democracy that would be more representative of the people if we implemented the recommendations of the Jenkins report and moved away from FPTP to an AV+ electoral system.

The upshot of which is basically I wouldn't be very surprised by almost any result, ranging from a massive Conservative landslide, through a narrow victory, a hung Parliament to a Labout squeak. Honestly, some days it feels like anything could happen, and I have no real gauge on how most people will vote, or how that will be reflected in actual seats. Because I live in a bubble. Not the oft-criticised filter bubble of social media, but a real-world bubble. My friends, for the most part, are liberal (with a small "l"). They're generally left-of-centre anyway. Some of them are more right-wing than I am, but they're in the minority. I go to the pub and find myself socio-politically aligned with most people I talk to. I sit at home and feel despondent with BigBear when we watch the news. My colleagues are generally left-leaning. Over lunch we discuss the burning issues of the day, and mostly have the same slant on them. I can't choose my family, so I don't talk politics with them, and besides which, I don't see any of them very often, and the only one I talk to frequently is a paid-up LibDem. So they never have a chance to prick the bubble of my leftism. Social media hasn't much to do with my bubble, which is physical and rarely impinged upon.

So I trundle along in that little bubble. People who care about the same things as me, who share common values and priorities, and who see the same solutions as me. And then I walk to the shops and see the front page of the vomit-inducing Daily Mail, and Sun, and Daily Express, and I realise that there are millions of people who think in a different way, who believe things that I find genuinely abhorrent, and I want to weep. And I know my small world is small, and my voice is quiet and ineffectual, and I am crying out in a storm.

Despite all that, I will be voting.

I will be voting against the funding cuts to LittleBear's school that will see them receive over £100,000 less every year.

I will be voting against scrapping human rights legislation, because it's not possible to take away the human rights of only "bad" people without taking away mine as well.

I will be voting against the continuing erosion of state support for those in need.

I will be voting against tax cuts for the wealthy and benefit cuts for the poor.

I will be voting against a rise in child poverty.

I will be voting against the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

If you are voting, or planning to vote, Conservative, it doesn't mean I don't like you, but it might well mean I hold you responsible when my son's school can't afford books; I might hold you responsible when my 26-year old friend with a brain stem injury doesn't receive sick pay because zero-hours contracts are such a great idea; I might hold you responsible for the next five years of austerity. I might not. I might just emigrate instead. Because at the moment, I don't really like this country any more.

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