In which I reluctantly reignite the fire in my belly ahead of another fucking election.
Easter Bank Holiday Weekend:
Enjoying the leisure of the long weekend, I met up with a dear friend who frankly I do not see often enough in real life but who never fails to inspire me. Our kinship, built on solid bookish, foodie foundations, exists mainly through the magical medium of Instagram where her beautiful bakes, lusty bookshelves and whimsical snapshots always nudge my creative slumber. It is perhaps something to do with that wonderful ideal of boss women raising each other up – essentially she is a real life Beyonce.
Anyway, of course we got on to politics. Since we’d last seen each other the entire political landscape had shifted and we lamented the sure decline of civilisation as we knew it. I admitted, a little shamefully, that I was quite enjoying being politically un-engaged after two years of elections, campaigning and caring too much. After all, what was there to engage with? There was no stopping Brexit now that Article 50 had been triggered and nobody seemed to know what the hell was going on, so why try to keep up? And as for America – it was too farcical to fathom. I also admitted, a little reluctantly, that I had been feeling the anti-Corbyn vibes of late and suspected another leadership battle couldn’t be far off, but in the meantime, political un-engagement suited me just fine.
Three days later I stood, dumbstruck, around a colleague’s computer as Theresa May announced another bloody General Election (after repeatedly claiming she would do nothing of the sort, but that’s by the by for now…).
I 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 the day. My first action as a Labour member was to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, an act of hope which, when it actually paid off, inspired me to believe that democracy was not dead. I respected Corbyn’s values, shared his socialist beliefs, admired his voting record, I was willing to wait and see if he proved to be a strong leader. The following summer I voted for Corbyn again, on the basis that until a worthy alternative in the Labour Party presented itself, I would stick with the man who had inspired the Labour membership, if not the Parliamentary Party – anyone who ruffles feathers in Westminster is alright by my book.
Two years on and yes, I was growing frustrated by the lack of opposition in the Labour Party as a whole. I could barely get through the six o’clock news without making a sign of the cross – the NHS at breaking point, prisons in chaos, homelessness at record levels, food banks existing at all in twenty-first century Britain, North Korea posturing and Trump – Jesus, Trump. How the hell did we get here and why the hell couldn’t I find anything to reignite that hope? Apathy had descended and I was content to hide beneath its covers with a good book and an internet full of puppy videos.
But no. Apparently Theresa needs a bigger mandate so we’ll all just have to endure another fucking election – one which was well timed to paper over the cracks of the electoral fraud investigation on the horizon. Of course May claimed this General Election had been called in the national interest rather than her own or her’s party’s and despite her strong record of rejecting calls for an election, she had “reluctantly” come around to the idea.
And as the reality and potentialities of the matter sank in I realised that I too would reluctantly have to come round to the idea too.
After all, any opportunity to oust the Tories has to be seized with both hands. There may be a thousand reasons why Jeremy Corbyn is not the ideal candidate to lead Labour into a General Election but there millions of reasons why we, as a bent and broken society, need to stop Theresa May and her cronies from our total annihilation.
I’ve always voted for the greater good but I understand the very personal nature of democracy – there are definitive moments in history such as the Iraq War, or more recently, the lenient suspension of Ken Livingstone, which force an individual to take a stand against their party – perhaps Jeremy Corbyn is one such moment for others, but, reluctantly or otherwise, it is not for me. I realised I would have to support him, to campaign for him – I couldn’t forgive myself if an opportunity to stop the Tories passed us by.
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience”
To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee
So I put an alert of Corbyn’s tweets, dusted off my political hat (sadly only a figurative adornment) and reluctantly re-engaged with the political sphere. I admit, quite unashamedly, that I’ve been pleasantly suprised – Labour’s policy announcements have been music to my long-deafened ears, Corbyn’s campaign has been inspiring – there’s fight in the underdog yet it seems, and the polls, if they’re ever to be trusted again, have shifted.
Whats more, Theresa May has been disastrous. I find myself wondering if, like her predecessor, she has doomed herself to decline by giving the people the power to reject her. Perhaps that is the sure sign of my full re-engagement, political delusion but just in case I threw myself in at the deep end.
May Day Bank Holiday Weekend
As I left work on Friday evening I practically pleaded with friends to offer an alternative to my reluctant plans – John McDonald’s rally at St George’s Hall. But alas, no alternative offer came, so I knocked back a sneaky half and joined the long queue outside St George’s Hall. I listened to others in the crowd talk about their winding Labour journeys, wizened gents from protests past comparing campaign scars and stories of glorious victories and heartbreaking defeats. I remembered my mother’s sympathies the morning after the last election: “It’s worse for you, you’re young, the Tories will destroy you”. She knew it well, she lived through the same thing, but worse, with Thatcher.
Inside the atmosphere was strangely buoyant, here was that elusive hope I’d been craving in recent months, among the grassroots where I had left it. A cheer went up as as group in the balcony unfurled a banner sporting Corbyn and McDonald alongside the rights for workers, the unions and the damning of that rag The S*n. A reminder of what we were fighting for, here in our little red corner of the UK, the Labour heartlands. Each speaker in turn reminded us of the need to protect that majority in the area of greatest risk – Wirral West, where Margaret Greenwood had ousted the vile Esther McVey. The call to campaign was made in earnest, by Greenwood herself, the need to go out and knock on doors, to speak to people. Here was the tangible something that individuals could do to join the fight, to feel like the opportunity had not passed them by. And it was inspiring, Greenwood, McDonald, even Rotherham who hasn’t particularly bowled me over, all channelled that urgency and need for change, but more, the possibility of it.
Hope. It was what I’d needed, the little fire in the belly to get me back on the wagon. It’s quite amazing how indifferent you can become to cruelty when it becomes the norm on the six o’clock news. For months I had been disregarding the cuts and chaos coming out of West Minister as headlines. Being in that room full of people, listening to McDonald, I remembered that for many people, those headlines were bottom lines – final notices, marching orders, suicide notes even. Now every knell of “strong and stable leadership” serves as a reminder of the absolute need to stop the Nasty Party in their tracks.
So here we are, back on the wagon.
And back on the blog.
I reluctantly hope that both will last.