GE15: Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down

The Establishment

Today has been cancelled. I am going back to bed.

It’s lunchtime on Friday 8th of May.

Ed Miliband has just resigned as Leader of the Labour Party and I, defeated in my own right, have gone back to bed.

I had hoped, naively perhaps, that by now we would be in the full swing of celebrations, brandishing a bottle of something bubbly and eating bacon sandwiches as we awaited the new PM’s arrival at Number 10. Instead I have crept away from the constant media stream of bad news to bury my head under the covers and try to catch up on some sleep.

After investing a tense, sleepless night in such an all-consuming contest it’s strange now to lie in bed in the dimmed quiet of my room, with Owen Jones’ The Establishment glaring at me from the bedside table, to hear the humdrum outside my window as life just goes on, as if nothing ever happened.

Cars still siddle up and down Upper Duke Street splashing through the downstream of rainwater on the tarmac; far below my third-floor window tourists still gather at the bus stop, chattering away in various exotic accents, anticipating a rather damp open top-bus tour of the city; and in the comforting clutter of my bedroom there is still a floor unhoovered, a basket of laundry unwashed and a stack of books unread. It could be just another rainy day in Liverpool. But it is not so, something has, in fact, happened. Shit just got worse.

In this day and age when reality TV and phone-in voting are commonplace on Saturday night prime time, it was unsurprising that the General Election descended so easily into an Americanised personality contest and a battle of PR campaigns with rightwing media launching smear after scaremongering smear. The count itself was reduced to a drinking game in my flat, not that the triviality of party-coloured shots could distract or numb us from the political catastrophe unfolding before us.

But now, with quiet contemplation keeping me awake it has begun to sink in what all this actually means for real people. Not the political pundits putting a spin on the fallout, or the newly unemployed politicians who, lets be honest, won’t be reduced to queuing up at the foodbanks any time soon, but for real people, the voters, the electorate, the ones who got us into this bloody mess.

That glorified cockweasle David Cameron had a recurring quip in the lead up to the vote, that people would have to make a choice between a reliable Tory government who would continue to make merciless cuts in a bid to clear the deficit or the big-borrowing Labour Party propped up by the border wrecking SNP. A clear choice, according to old condom head, but for the rest of us, the real, canny, thinking people of the land it was not such an obvious whitewash.

We’re not so easily duped by alarmist headlines about Scots coming down here and stealing our democracy. We are not so naive to ignore the facts when it comes to the amount of actual borrowing and spending racked up by both the current Coalition and the previous Labour government. Don’t try and spoon feed us your doomsayer propaganda Mr Cameron, we’re not stupid, we can make up our own minds on what this choice is really all about… “Can’t we?” the naive young idealist said boldly in the face of the Tory doom merchants, awaiting the reliable, resounding cheer of the people around her.

But it seems the brave battle cry of a united front did not actually extend very far into the UK beyond the cosy inner circle of my artsy, lefty, public service working friends on social media and the liberal, free thinking news agencies and journalists whose opinions I consume as my daily bread.

We may have scratched out a safe little corner for ourselves and our Labour representatives here in the North West, but beyond, in the gloom of Middle England and the South, things suddenly looked less rosy, people less sure of themselves, our hopes and political dreams more royally fucked. Outside of our little liberal bubble that made Ed Miliband a pin up and a lack of political backbone irrelevant, the choice did not seem so clear to the real people. It seems, after all, that the detestable Tory mantra was true, they really were all in this together. They were all in it together, all out for themselves. The rest of us were still, inevitably, on the outside looking in from the cold.

I won’t be so arrogant as to launch a personal attack on those people, whoever they may be, who chose to vote in favour of dismantling the NHS, or continuing zero-hour contracts and the bedroom tax, or cutting child benefit and working tax credits, or putting the sick, the disabled, the vulnerable and the poor at risk for the benefit of billionaires and bankers who frankly, could do with the extra cash.

We’ve all been through hard times and the Tory government and rightwing media puppeteers have taken full advantage of that fact by backing the fearful public into a corner where, unsurprisingly, their basic survival instincts have kicked in. For these people, scared of immigrants and Scots and more moderate spending cuts, the choice was not so simple. It was not just a matter of deciding whether or not you’d like the Conservatives to continue trampling society’s most vulnerable into oblivion while villanizing them in the press, or if you’d prefer to see more social justice and equality, to share the financial burden and ease the heavy weight on the shoulders of our neighbours most in need. The people made a choice, and sadly, it was not the compassionate one.

Seeking sanctuary

Seeking sanctuary

I have always managed to maintain a certain degree of realism when it comes to politics. I allowed myself to be charmed by Ed Miliband while fully aware that he was essentially just another public schoolboy throwing his weight around in the power struggle. But I was, and continue to be, happy to believe that he and his party might actually make a difference, the same way that I naively allowed myself to believe, back in the heady days of 2010, that Nick Clegg would actually do away with tuition fees. We get used to politicians letting us down but even in the darkest shadows of self serving, vainglory politics I was sure that I could always rely on the genuine good of people.

I could never connect with the floods of political disillusionment because I’ve always believed that people have the power. This is democracy man, we can make this shit work, it may not be quick or easy but people died, women died, so that we could exercise our right to vote and to shift the balance of power as we saw fit. I’m trying, desperately not to fall into a state of disillusionment with politics, because even with its faults, its still the only system we have. And the only way that system is to work with it, not against it.

But today I find myself at a bit of a loss with humanity, and not for the first time.

Which is why I find myself back here, dusting off my virtual soapbox in the pained knowledge that we have another five years of this shit ahead of us. It is time to pick ourselves up, don the warpaint once more and keep on keepin’ on. As mother always says “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”.

But I think maybe, perhaps, before I climb out of bed and go back out into the depressing post match analysis of swing and seats won and lost, what went wrong and who’s going to take over, I might just stay here in the warmth and safe denial of my duvet a little while longer and read until things don’t seem quite so dismal.

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2 comments

  1. […] reminded of the last time I found myself shell-shocked, wallowing in post-election grief, not so long ego. The 2015 General […]

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  2. […] joined the Labour Party the morning after the last General Election in a bid to stave off the disgust and apathy which had driven me and my hangover to bed for most of […]

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