• Tue. Sep 26th, 2023

We must not turn our backs on each other

ByChris Belous

May 8, 2015

It’s 2015. We’ve just had a General Election. And after five years of austerity and cuts, policies punishing the most vulnerable in our society, and selfish economic thinking, the UK has still voted in a Conservative majority. After weeks of projections of the coalition possibilities should we have a hung parliament, which everyone from mainstream political commentators to the neighbour’s dog thought was going to happen, and after weeks of the left tentatively placing hope in Labour or the SNP or the Greens or Plaid Cymru in the hope of some kind of Labour+ coalition, in the hope of some form of ‘progressive alliance’ – we have instead a stable parliament and another five years of a dark status quo. Somehow, when presented with the possibility of change, progress, and a move towards justice, we turned away from it.

In a wonderful, though fleeting, political moment, SNP candidate Mhairi Black ousted the Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander from a historically safe Labour seat in Glasgow. The twenty year old student, the youngest person to win in a General Election in centuries, symbolises the rising desire for change in Scotland, to the point that the SNP now hold 56 out of 59 possible seats in the Commons. Whatever happens, there will definitely be a loud Scottish and anti-Tory voice in Westminster. In other good news, UKIP only managed to win one seat despite being predicted by both the YouGov and BBC exit polls to win two, and Nigel Farage has resigned as UKIP leader (at least for now). On the other side of the political spectrum, the impressive Caroline Lucas still has a Green hold in Brighton, and though the Greens only won one seat, it is worth noting that the Green vote has surged massively in most of the constituencies where they fielded a candidate, more than doubling from the 2010 count in some places. Moreover, the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes was ousted by Labour in Bermondsey, putting an end to the residency of a man who won a campaign based on homophobic rhetoric against a gay Labour candidate in the 1980s. You find your comforts where you can.

These are all small steps towards positive change, the kind of long-lasting progress which can of course only happen gradually, as frustrating as that is. However, it isn’t enough in terms of the current bigger picture. Somehow, enough of the country who turned out to vote have ensured that the party of the few rather than the many has won yet again. I don’t want to assert that a Labour-led government would have been the bastion of true radical change, but it would have been something. It would have given some space to start fixing the mistakes which the last government made.

I sat up through most of the night, scared to see what the day would hold. I had a little cry after the Tories reached a majority. I’m exhausted because it seems the hope so many of us placed in this election has come to little. I’m terrified for myself and for the people I care about, a lot of whom are the sort of people the Tories have little time for. But while I’ve joked about emigrating, that’s the opposite of what we need to do right now. The last thing we should do is turn our backs.

We’re faced with the real possibility of exiting the EU, we’re faced with more cuts, we’re faced with a government which continues to prioritise big money above the NHS and social welfare. Thanks to a politics which favours fear over compassion, students, the disabled, the unemployed, the poor, the working class, women, queers, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are all faced with yet more marginalisation and state-sanctioned discrimination. Our democracy won’t help us so we must be the ones to focus on the people who the state ignores. We must be the ones to show each other compassion in whatever way we can. Right now, we are all we have. The elections have failed us; we have no excuse to fail each other.

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