This is the first and last time I am ever going to write about politics. I promise. Writing is a bit of a feral animal sometimes; you aren’t always in complete control of it. And I’ve realised politics can be exactly the same.
General Election day has come around again here in Britain. I’ve been a good citizen. I’ve honoured Emily Pankhurst’s sacrifices and been out to cast my vote as a British woman should. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain (and I want my right to complain). Yes, all the politicians of all the parties probably are all liars, but somebody has to run the country so we need to have our say in who that’s going to be. Now you may be hoping for a piece that sums up the British parties and their politics in 1000 words or less (I know what you’re thinking, please God let it be less than a 1000 words), but I’ve got to go with my gut. This is really the story of how a once politically-edged girl from the East End of London had politics well and truly knocked out of her. And why that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Now I’m not going to be all coy and only hint at my political leanings whilst never actually telling you which way I voted. I come from a working-class, socialist family. My family always has voted Labour and always will vote Labour. And unless the Labour party suddenly become education-hating-NHS-dismantling racists, undoubtedly I will probably always vote for Labour too. I don’t need to meticulously study the party manifestos – but don’t think me ill-informed; I know roughly who stands for what (or say they do). You just can’t expect me to change. It would be like you asking me to support Manchester United after a lifetime of Supporting Tottenham Hotspur. It would be unthinkable. The Labour party has made mistakes before and it will make mistakes again, but they’re the best of an iffy bunch. And a bit like Tottenham when they struggle to stay within the top ten of the Premier league, I still stick with Labour because I am not a fair-weather fan…I mean voter.
Oddly enough, when I was a child, there was a very brief period when I actually thought I wanted to be a politician. But every British politician you see on TV has that same affected air about them; you know, a little bit smarmy, overly ingratiating and the propensity to say, ‘look,’ at the beginning of every sentence. Perhaps they all went to the same ‘politician school’. No, I wanted to be an edgy politician. An edgy politician with a strong cockney accent who didn’t attend elocution lessons or conform to wearing a twin-set and pearls. I’d be myself, I’d stick to my principals, tirelessly work to level the playing field for the advantaged and disadvantaged. But what I didn’t counter on was how irrationally angry politics made people, how irrationally angry it made me.
To say I come from a ‘working class’ background is a bit of a stretch. Your parents should presumably be working, shouldn’t they..? Whilst my mother stayed home to take care of six children, my father…well, he stayed home too. He was unemployed for as long as I can remember. In all honesty, he didn’t want to work. In the few jobs he had, he went off sick so frequently that each employer was forced to let him go. To be fair, it’s obvious in hindsight that he had an undiagnosed mental illness; a personality disorder I’d deem it now (in my medical but non-psychotherapist capacity). But at that time, there were no such labels for him (other than ‘lazy’). So we, his children, suffered. The welfare system wasn’t as supportive in those days; there were no ‘rich scroungers’ with better living conditions than their working compatriots. If you didn’t work, you were poor. I remember my mother going without so that her six children could eat sufficiently well. We were an eight-remembered family living in a two-bedroom council flat for the first ten years of my life.
The ‘big three’ political parties are all far more liberal then when I was a child. There isn’t really a great deal to separate them – and even our current Conservative Government hasn’t been as bad as Tories of old (though I’m sure they’d like to privatise the NHS if it didn’t cause mass rioting in the streets, which it would). When I grew up, left was very left and right was very right. And I was raised in the ‘rightest‘ period of all; the Thatcher era. With the rose-tinting of hindsight, some may remember her as a strong woman with a strong ideology but I don’t think it’s a surprise there has never been a female Prime Minister since. I believe she set women in politics back fifty years and it will be a long time before a woman is trusted at the helm again. Which is a shame. She just happened to be the wrong woman. And she reigned for eleven miserable years. That’s why I’ve always admired the American ‘two-terms-limit’ system. At least they only have to put up with a bad leader for eight years. Because even the best leader will become jaded and lose touch with society given enough time.
But under Thatcher’s era, the rich got richer whilst the poor were left to help themselves. The lower-classes were urged to get off their lazy-backsides and get a foot on the ladder of the housing market. Buy your council house! Work two jobs if you must! But not everyone succeeds in working themselves out of poverty. Some people do need a helping hand from the Government that is supposed to protect them. Yes my father was the creator of his own impoverished circumstances but we were just his helpless children who had no choice but to go along for the ride. Do you see what I did there? I made myself angry – just the way I used to as a kid. And that’s why I turned my back on politics. It makes you pointlessly furious and the futility of that fury made me angrier still. I had no say in my social situation so I purposefully shut politics out of my life and awaited the day I was old enough to help myself.
Growing up, you’d think the working class society that I came from would all harbour the same socialist views as me. But that’s where you’d be wrong. I was fairly unusual in my political thinking. I went to school with children of mainly working-class Conservative voters. I was thought strange to have the socialist views I had. Which made me angrier still. Why were these other kids so different? What propaganda were their parents feeding them? Why didn’t they want to stand up for the struggling working man rather than turn their back on him? And I actually despised those Tory kids. I couldn’t just accept they had a different viewpoint from mine. I just saw them as ‘bad people’. You see? Politics is a dangerous animal like that.
And now? I’m much more liberal in my thinking now that I’m older. Vote for whoever you believe in. Now I can see that political leanings do not maketh the man. These are my views and you don’t have to agree with them. You may vote Conservative but that’s okay. We can still get along. You may vote Liberal; that’s alright – I really should vote Lib Dem myself because Labour are unlikely to get in in my constituency – but I can’t forgive them for joining with the Tories to make a coalition during the last election. I can see why you’d vote for the worthy policies of the Green Party, but personally I’d vote for a party that actually has a chance of winning (but perhaps if we all voted with our hearts instead of tactically, the UK might be a better, fairer place). Anyway, you do what you please. We can all have different viewpoints and still be friends (unless you’re voting UKIP or BNP; they’re thinly veiled racists and you and I have nothing in common).
My political views are simple and few; maintain free healthcare, support education, remain as a part of Europe, try to ensure all our citizens are on an equal-footing. I believe we all have a working role to play to contribute to our society. I don’t believe those on benefits should be better off than those who work. But I do feel some people need a helping hand to work their way out of the poverty they were born into. But the moment we say, ‘I’m alright Jack, pull up the ladder’, then we have gone too far as a selfish society. We are not all born privileged. I haven’t forgotten my socialist roots. I still vote Labour (even if my vote is pointless in a marginal Liberal/Conservative seat. I need to stick to my principals). It’s strange, I honestly set out to write something frivolous and piss-taking; a poke in the eye of British politics. But it’s funny how it sucks you in again even when you refuse to be a part of it. I guess I’m still that same furious young kid after all. But without the fifth-hand, scruffy hand-me-down clothes.
NB: This post was 1500 words. Sorry…