When the exit poll came in, I was just thinking of writing something here about the likelihood of a shock election result, given the filter bubble/echo chamber effects in social media. I didn’t know what the shock would be, but it seemed to me that my feed was so strongly in tune with what I was thinking that it was likely to be Facebook’s algorithm trying to make me happy rather than a true reflection of the polls.
And that’s as far as I got when the first shock came. It was like hearing something that sounded like a car crash outside your house just when you were expecting visitors – things slowed down as I raced (while marvelling at the haircuts and overall maleness of the BBC coverage) to understand what might have happened – surely it would be alright, don’t be silly, go to bed, it will all seem better in the morning. I stayed long enough to see the Tory win with only a tiny swing to Labour in my constituency. It was going to be bad.
It was. In the morning, the BBC was (correctly as it turned out) forecasting a Tory majority. This was really not what I’d expected. I hadn’t even thought of that as a likelihood, to me it had all been driven by the opinion polls pointing to a neck-and-neck race, so all the talk was about what compromises would have to be made. Now we know that the only compromises that will have to be made will be within the Tory party.
I thought, this morning that, I felt disappointed. But disappointments pass – I saw people pick themselves up, dust themselves down, start all over again, but I didn’t feel able to do that. I went to Tuttle and we picked over the bones of it – it was good to not be alone with my head. Then I walked all the way home and had a cry and had a sleep.
When I woke, I realised what I was feeling. It feels like grief. It feels like someone died.
It’s not quite grief for the Labour Party, that died for me in the early nineties, Blair never worked for me although I have continued to faithfully vote for them (and I still will until something better comes along). I’ve marveled at people who said they needed to think about who to vote for. I’m just not that sort of person and no amount of information, reasoning or shouting abuse will move me, save your energies for someone else.
No I think what I saw dying overnight was the Welfare State. We, as a country, voted against the Welfare State yesterday – the NHS is the most obvious part of that but, as a country, we said yes to the Bedroom Tax and no to a Mansion Tax. Saying “I believe in the Welfare State” used to sound ridiculous to me, as ridiculous as saying “I believe in sausages” – sausages just are, there’s no believe or not believe. And, in truth, the idea has been dying since 1979 but now it really feels like it’s gone. We’re going to have to come up with another way of looking after each other.
I can see the positive in there, because I’ve held on to ideas and behaviours that needed to die and eventually gone through the process of letting them go and finding that there’s something so much better on the other side, but I’m afraid of going through it and I’m afraid for other people who might not be as strong as I am.
We are going to have to come up with another way of looking after each other. Because the state isn’t going to do it and the market isn’t going to do it and the Big Society isn’t going to do it and if we don’t do this we stop being civilised.
Dougald wrote some great notes today. Including: “11. This is not just a battle of ideas, it is a battle for the soul.” For me, the root of this is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. Easy to say, hugely rewarding to practice, bloody hard (though not impossible) to do. There aren’t any quick and easy ways through this, but accepting that it’s here and that the solution is within us is the key.
In the meantime, I’m going to look after myself the best I can, talk about things, preferably in a more human way than writing blog posts and posting to Facebook, be as excellent as I can be to everyone around me. And I shall be looking out for those who are suffering too. Especially to anyone with mental health issues, disabilities or long-term illness who might feel like hope has gone, you’re not alone, we’ll get through this together.