It didn’t take them long. Barely minutes after the polls had closed and the epic scale of the political changes taking place across the UK were beginning to unfurl in glorious, democratic technicolour they started coming out of the virtual woods, sharpening their invective and 140-character condescension in a tsumani of hubris.
The ranting and trolling that I’ve witnessed on my Twitter feed over the past 48 hours in relation to the UK General Election and how the “wrong” result happened would be laughable if those offering their platitudes weren’t so serious in their belief of how “right” they were and how “wrong” everyone else was.
I’ve read a pile of really quite silly stuff. It’s ranged from promises to emigrate if the Tories got in, through sweeping generalisations of how stupid “everyone” has been for having the temerity to vote Conservative to predictions that, because everyone has been so stupid in voting Conservative, eating babies would soon be made a compulsory sport in schools. I might have exaggerated that bit.
Elections raise passions. Passion is good. Debate is even better, and necessary.
However, what’s really grated has been the endless tide of self-righteous, holier-than-thou condescension and arrogance of those who think that their vote, their values and their opinions are somehow better informed, better thought through, more selfless and just better than everyone else’s. Worse, that everyone who doesn’t share their view were naive, selfish, stupid, gutless and victims of an evil conspiracy to force everyone to shop at Waitrose. Or something.
I’m not trying to trivialise matters: like many, I worry about our health service, our education system. I want to be part of building a fairer society. However, there’s something worrying going on here: it’s the intolerance of any view that isn’t the “correct” one; the fury and contempt shown to anyone who might not buy into this “right” world view; that anyone who might not vote for this “right” view is somehow “scum”. This seems to me to be ultimately intolerant and anti-democratic.
I voted Labour. I’ve got strong views, but I’m not conceited enough to think that my views matter more than the views of my friends and family and colleagues who voted differently to me. They matter as much but they don’t matter more. Of course, I wanted to elect a Labour government but more people disagreed with me than agreed with me. That’s democracy.
In this ugly baby contest of an election, people have voted for the ugly baby they were familiar with rather than take a chance on another ugly baby that might have come good. I might not have liked the result but I respect it.
I know losing hurts. It really, really hurts. But having respect and grace and humility also matter. It would be nice if people could remember that, whatever their politics.