Thank you Britain… You restored my confidence in my fellow Britons
On 8th April 2017, I was fully expecting the night to go down like my usual election nights. Watching the country slip into ever deeper Tory rule, and slowly coming to accept the country really is full of people who say “I’m not racist but…”, “It’s because of those damn Poles”… etc. Wine. Whiskey. Crumpled in a heap that, by around 5am, grudgingly accepts it isn’t the end of the world (even if it feels like it).
It all started in 2010; the first General Election I could actually vote in. After journeying from the Lib Dems in my teens (for being against tuition fees and the war in Iraq), The Socialist Party at University (youthful idealism), The Labour Party in my latter years of University (after realising left political parties really are like the joke in The Life of Brian, and that The Labour Party really was the original UK Working Class party with actual links to the working class)… I finally settled on the Lib Dems. This was an entirely independent decision, months before Clegg-mania. I realised Social Liberalism was (seemingly) the link that balanced the equations in my head that represented me political beliefs. I put my full weight behind my local candidate, became hugely encouraged and enthused by the whole rallying… AND got to say “I liked him before he was popular!” when Nick Clegg became, umm, popular.
Then election day came. And what followed was the political awakening I’m sure most people interested and inspired by politics go through… underwhelming exit polls that you refuse to believe… A long, drawn out realisation over 10–12 hours and well into the next day that the country actually could vote Tory (along with the accompanying low mood)… Disbelief…
And then, to cap it all… The dreaded coalition. Which actually I still preferred to this political circus since 2015.
The worst thing?… I was actually fool enough to fall for it all again, this time as a Labour member (albeit not getting involved with any campaigning this time around). I was convinced that Labour would have at the very least a small majority after what I had perceived to be a deeply unpopular coalition, where even with the Lib Dem safety gloves the Tories could still give a thump as the nasty party.
Frankie Boyle best described the way Big Ben was tolling when Dimbleby announced the Conservatives would get the most votes… Like the death bell of the country.
And, after two similarly depressing election nights, I called the EU referendum straight away. We would end up leaving. If you want my unfiltered thoughts at the time, the country had become such a shit-hole of isolationism, racism and lies that it was obvious it would be the only way.
Well, at least I had a night that finally met my depressed expectations.
However, something special happened last night. Which is odd, as Labour only did a little better than their defeat in 2010. But, for the first time, the country demonstrated that maybe I wasn’t on my own in wanting a more socially-aware government. By all means, the Conservatives should have more or less become our overlords for the forseeable, nasty, future.
Yet here we had Labour GAIN on the previous disappointing result; gain a percentage of the vote that won it for Tony Blair in 2005. All of this achieved with an apparently unelectable, so-called socialist manifesto… and an apparently unelectable leader. I’m not going to claim it is a victory for Labour, as pedantics seem to miss the point when people are saying it. It is a victory for left-of-centre politics, of all shades. It is also a result Corbyn should be very proud of… I don’t think anyone dreamt he could have more of an impact of the best spin doctors since the 2010 election.
For the first time in my electoral life, I didn’t feel like a minority in my own country. I felt like part of a significant voice- which amazingly included former UKIP voters as well, highlighting that maybe all shades of the left from hard-left to blairites to Blue-Labour found a voice that resonated with them. Even the Lib Dems increased their number of seats- which made me especially happy, with their pro-EU stance. There was a surge of hope and compassion, which just two elections had already beaten out of me.
Although, as a side-note, I also hope Ed Miliband comes back to the frontbench. I happened to like him.