Friday, August 09, 2013

Thoughts on watching the news, night after night after night

"I simply can't vote Labour because of Iraq!" I heard at a middle-class liberal dinner-party in 2009.
"Then the Conservatives will get in," I said. But nobody there seemed to care much. Punishing the Labour Party seemed so much more important than getting a Tory party who would go on to do god knows what to the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. Ideals came before reality.

I have no ideals at all. I'm ruthlessly practical, so I voted Labour in spite of Iraq and a hundred other things, because it was the kindest most realistic choice on offer.

And since then I've often wondered whether anyone at that nice dinner party regretted voting Liberal or Green. Because we got a conservative MP in our marginal constituency, and the pattern was repeated across the country to the extent that David Cameron became Prime Minister. The only thing I like that he's done is gay marriage.

So quickly we have become a society that has turned on our underclass. The government counts up their bedrooms and if they have too many, they'll be priced out - families ending up in one-room bed and breakfasts because there is often nowhere else to house them.

The tabloids are full of stories about benefits cheats and benefits culture. The welfare state is thought to be too expensive. Despite the fact that the majority of "welfare" goes on pensions, it's the "lazy scroungers" who are vilified again and again. Despite the fact that the recession was caused by the greed of the rich, despite the fact that the gap between rich and poor has increased over the last decade. Despite the fact that large corporations use every loophole they can to avoid paying tax.

When even respectable aunty BBC has a television programme called "Saints and Scroungers", devoted to rooting out benefits cheats, you realise how deep-rooted this view has become.

The last time it happened like this it was the 1980s and I was in one of those "scrounging families" for a while - despite long hours working over-time my Dad's bus-driver wage didn't keep up with inflation so fell every year in real terms, to the point where for a few weeks we had to get government assistance. Luckily, our "problem" was solved by my mother going out to work full-time as well. This time, I'm pretty much insulated from every aspect of the recession, and my complaints are about the suffering of others, or the fact that my favourite furniture shop had to close down. But I couldn't have imagined anything worse than Thatcher.

When the government are sponsoring a van to go round telling illegal immigrants to go home, you realise how the country is collectively getting more right-wing.

But in some ways, I hope that this will split the vote. I hope there is an equivalent dinner party going on, in some southern constituency, with a group of pensioners sitting around arguing about illegal immigrants. "Dave's not doing enough!" one is saying. "I'm leaving the Tories and voting UKIP!"
"But then Labour will get in," says my equivalent.

I hope so. But I wonder whether the right-wing are as idealistic as the sort of people I hang out with. And I suspect not.


Paul Brownsey said...

So right, so right, so right.

There's something childlike, even childish, about people who vote to punish a party but still hope that everything will turn out for the best. It's like they still believe in a god who will produce the result they want even though they don't vote for it because they are Thtanding Up For Their Principleth. (That is an attempt to indicate a charming childish lisp.)

Geoff said...

I voted lib dem, because labour had just gone through a phase of deciding that individual civil liberties were a wasteful luxury - they wanted ID cards to 'deal with immigration/welfare', don't forget. I also thought students deserved a better deal. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that manifesto promises didn't have to be kept in a coalition! I have regretted my vote very much ever since. Not least because my boyfriend keeps turning to me and saying 'this is your fault, you know.' This phrase can be used on any occasion about pretty much anything - and I have no comeback!

Lubin said...

Geoff - don't feel bad. There were lots of good reasons to not vote Labour. For the first time in my life, I struggled with the decision in 2010. And nobody could really predict the outcome, despite my dinner party punditry!