So, that’s two elections in a row that I’ve been left disappointed. Except this time it was much more surprising. The opinion polls were unanimous; it was neck-and-neck between the Labour & Conservative parties. Until it wasn’t. Or maybe the Labour voters just turned out in areas where they didn’t change the outcomes. Or maybe their campaign was flawed from the start with a leader who isn’t even the most statesmanlike in his own family.
Anyway, it was pretty depressing for a bleeding-heart liberal like me this morning. A Tory Government (technically a coalition) took over in 2010 promising we’re all in it together, but in reality passed swathes of swingeing cuts that hit the disabled, the single parents, the young and the poor disproportionately. Meanwhile the rich seemed protected under the guise of incentives while those receiving benefits were stigmatised. If you weren’t hard-working, you were a shirker or a skiver.
Yet after 5 years they increased their share of the vote, command an overall majority in Parliament, and despite receiving only 37% of a 66% turnout, can most likely act as they please in setting legislation for the next 5 years.
But, as a colleague suggested to me this morning, “we live in a First World country… we’re not starving, we’re not under military law…” So I’ve been trying to keep things in perspective, and look forward with optimism. And I recall this piece I read yesterday by Simon Ricketts, which I Reckon is beautifully written. I can’t speak for anyone else’s voting intentions, or what shapes their thinking. But this is what shaped mine, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Here’s the thing I’ve never quite got. When I vote, I don’t vote for me.
I don’t vote for what tax cut, what pension benefit, what fuel price freeze, what VAT adjustment will benefit me.
I never have.
When parties promise me things, I can’t help thinking they are pointing at the wrong person.
I’m not rich – in accepted UK terms. But I’m not poor.
I’d love a bit more money. I’d love to be able to pay my rent without first checking that I can. It would be great to be able to pay for a restaurant bill without freezing momentarily when my card goes in the machine,
But generally, I can eat. I can survive, I can feed and clothe my cat. (Shut up).
Thousands and thousands can’t.
I never vote for me. I only ever vote for those who don’t.
I vote for those who never watch Newsnight, who have never heard of the IFS, interest rates, annuity funds, oil prices, deficits, retail price indicators.
I vote for people who need help. People who are much too busy feeding their kids to worry about what colour tie that man is wearing, what clever line that person has rebuffed, what apparent howler that person has been caught on video saying.
It seems simple to me. Vote for the people less fortunate than you. In every situation.
Vote for the people who aren’t looking up. Vote for those who are looking down.
The alternative seems so absurd: “Vote for the person who will enrich me in tiny ways for a little bit, and make sure the other person gets less.”
When my time is up, I can’t imagine happily thinking “I wish I’d grabbed a little bit more for myself.”
But I would be happy to think: “I tried to do something. For people who have less.”