UK General Election tomorrow. It is, as they all are, the most important for a generation. There is, as there always will be, 24 hours to save something or other (this time Europe? the NHS?). We face, regardless of the result, an apocalyptic outcome.
Regardless of the hoo-hah, this certainly seems to be the closest election in a very long time, and the result genuinely could determine some fundamental aspects of who we are as a country. Are we to continue as a nuclear state? Will we stay in the European Union?
I feel almost entirely disengaged from it, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, for the third time in a row, my vote is almost entirely useless. I live in East Devon where the Conservatives have an unassailable majority and are hard-wired into the rural culture. I’ll vote, but I’ll know that I am merely expressing my view without hope of affecting change.
Secondly, I’m not watching television at the moment, barely listening to the radio and not reading newspapers at all. I’ve caught the election obliquely, as if glanced from the corner of my eye. I think I’ve been sufficiently in touch to know that I haven’t missed anything significant, but nothing has drawn me any closer to the debate that one would hope, in the absence of evidence, has been going on.
Thirdly, what I have caught has seemed utterly depressing and worthy of despair at the level of political discourse we are offered or are able to create. Bloke A looks weird. Bloke B and Woman C might both get enough votes that they can join together and govern in coalition. You should be so frightened of what the other parties might do, especially if they join together to form a huge political transformer robot and smash parliament to smithereens, that you vote for me to make all that scary stuff go away.
I’ve seen friends begin genuine attempts to start detailed discussions of party policies to try to engage and potentially change the minds of their friends and associates, only to be told to keep it down or that trying to influence others is somehow rude.
Politics means ‘of, for, or relating to citizens’. Politicians take us to war, take and spend our taxes, determine the future of the state assets we all own together. And yet, more now than at any time I can remember, we seem unable to look them in the eye, tell them what we think, and demand things of them. In doing so, we let them step right over us. We can’t even, it would seem, find the courage to talk to each other about politics, politicians and all the things they are doing and wish to do to us. Perhaps, after all, we will get the government we deserve.