It’s been a few days since the election and after a day of crying and a couple of days of feeling sad and anxious, I think I’ve gathered my thoughts enough to get some perspective on everything.
First of all, overwhelmingly I thought “that’s it then, goodbye NHS, hello 5 more years of austerity.” I felt like it was the end of the world.
But right now, nothing has changed. The Tories were in power and they still are. They have caused austerity, the rise in foodbank use, Universal Credit, cuts to every public service imaginable, and that will continue. And yes, those decisions will impact the most vulnerable in our society.
But life goes on. Today looks much the same as it did yesterday and on Thursday and any random day a few months ago. Parliament is a slow moving vehicle, decisions are made that don’t affect us until so long after they were made, we don’t put 2 and 2 together… Which may explain why we keep voting in the bad guys! It works both ways. If Labour had won a majority, the streets wouldn’t have been clear of homeless people over night, Universal Credit would still be in operation until a kinder replacement was devised and people would still be visiting foodbanks. The only difference is that we would be filled with hope that the end to that suffering was in sight, rather than being filled with dread at the inevitability of more of the same cuts we’ve faced these last 10 years.
Secondly, I felt anger at everyone who let the Tories win. The voters that left Labour for the Brexit party. I thought they were either cruel or stupid. I thought “they deserve what is coming.” But then I realised a few things:
- Liverpool voted overwhelmingly for Labour. All our MPs are Labour. We don’t deserve what is coming. We have to stick together, continue the work we do here to help and support the most vulnerable people in our communities.
- Not everyone is paying as much attention to politics as we are. So many people just don’t care or understand how it works. I was the same until about 5 years ago. I sort of wish I hadn’t started paying attention because I can’t unsee it and the frustration I feel right now is unbearable. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss. As long as Coronation St continues to air and there’s celebrities in a jungle, nothing has really changed for most people.
- Having been called a traitor on the doorstep because of our second referendum stance, and given that many of our votes lost were Brexit Party gains, clearly Brexit was still the big issue. However we feel about Brexit, the idea that our politicians, who are elected by us, to act as our voice, would wilfully ignore the will of the people was apparently the deciding factor. Percentage wise, I’d argue that the leave parties got under 50% but until Brexit is off the table we can’t move on. I’m expecting it to be awful, but none of us know, really, until it happens.
- People who wanted change (yet voted Tories back in) may believe that Brexit is the change. People have had 40 years of politicians blaming the EU for everything. Little wonder those that don’t pay much attention believe it and expect good times to befall us when we’ve ‘taken back control’.
- I don’t even know where to start with the media. I don’t know if the BBC is biased. Perhaps some of its journalists are and should be investigated. We expect better from our state owned broadcaster. Currently, the rich are richer, the billionaire media owners aren’t going to give that up. They tell us what they want us to believe. So our truth will never be heard. That is frightening. More than anything, this fact has depressed me the most since the election. But realistically it has always been this way.
Scrolling through Facebook these last few days, my despair has been replaced by impatience. We’ve wallowed for long enough.
Reading people’s anger and fear isn’t reassuring me that I’m not alone. It’s annoying me. Yes, people worked hard, maybe some for the first time went campaigning, so this result feels personal. It’s not. Hurling insults at people who don’t share your beliefs, doesn’t help. Get angry at the liars, the corrupt media, by all means, but don’t get mad at the people who voted. Everyone is entitled to their vote. This is a democracy after all. We spent weeks encouraging people to vote. We can’t then shout at them for not voting the same as us.
Labour was formed in 1900. 119 years of being in and out of government. This isn’t the end. It’s just the end of the current chapter in an ongoing soap opera.
I asked my friend, a Labour member for nearly 30 years, how she coped. She said ‘it happens, there’s good times and there’s bad times. You just keep going’.
We need to learn some lessons from all this. We can’t be too quick to assume it’s because of 1 man, or being too radical. We also can’t bury our head in the sand. The media controls this country. And if the media won’t share our message, we won’t give hope to millions of people. Our message has to be one that the media is willing to share.
And we have to be united as a party. Members voices need to be heard. The party grew overwhelmingly under Jeremy Corbyn. I was one of them. I only got actively involved this year, because I wanted to see something change in this country and felt Labour was the way to do it. I’ve felt the struggle for control. I’ve observed the factions, I’ve listened to people refer to members as being extreme left, or a bit too right wing. Yet when I talk to both I find their ideals are the same. They believe in the same things. They all want a Labour government, they all want to save the NHS, end austerity, end homelessness, end universal credit, improve workers rights. The party, like the world is divided into cliques when it should be united. The constant fighting amongst ourselves makes us look weak.
We need to listen to people. So many people didn’t like Jeremy Corbyn. They didn’t always know why, IRA, anti-semitism, his beard. And we can explain why there’s a photo of him with Gerry Adams and we can talk about his record on anti racism. But in future we should pay attention. We need to now choose a leader that the press can’t smear, that will appeal to the electorate. It pains me, because I love Jeremy Corbyn. He got me interested in politics, he was something different. But we can’t make this personal. People liked his policies, but they expect politicians to be politician-like, whatever that means. What drew people to Jeremy Corbyn was that he wasn’t like other politicians, but for the majority of the electorate, that wasn’t a good thing, it made him seem incapable. Lesson learned.
Let’s not promise the world next time. It’s too good to be true. No one believed it. Because after Brexit, no one believes any politicians will deliver. Over the next 5 years, or however long it is before the next general election, we need to work hard to deliver promises we make as a party. Labour Cllrs across the country must fulfil any promises they make during their local election campaign, we must show voters that Labour delivers. And next time, let’s focus on the key things that matter to people and win. Once we win we can still implement a transformative agenda and bring about real change.
There’s a big job to do. But we can’t just give up. We mustn’t blame the voters. We mustn’t fear what is coming, we must be ready to support those that need it, challenge and protest injustice and continue to grow a movement that works for everyone.
And in Liverpool. We did our bit. We elected Labour MPs. Our voice is in Parliament, and that is something to celebrate.