I typed and retyped the first line of this about a hundred times, the way I usually do with my novels. Where to start? With a book, it’s not always at the beginning, but usually at the most interesting point.
What a week. I was very sad at the election results. I still am. Sad and angry. But despite that, I accept that 43% of people voted this government in. I don’t like it, but I accept it. I tried to vote based on my own experiences and what I have seen in the world around me, not just read in the newspapers or online.
And this is what I’ve experienced.
In the last nine years I’ve seen my daughter’s disability benefit not just slashed but entirely cut. I’ve seen her NHS care drop catastrophically, resulting in debilitating complications with her condition. I’ve seen funding given to a fantastic organisation I volunteered with cut so harshly that the children in care who benefited from it now have nothing. I’ve seen my husband’s regular eye appointments (he has a disease where he’s slowly going blind) diminish from three-monthly to non-existent. He now has to ring them repeatedly just to be seen, never mind receive the essential laser surgery. I’ve experienced first-hand the dying mental health services, the lack of beds, the lack of help available. I’ve seen more people living on the streets. I’ve seen foodbanks open. I’ve had to fight a little bit harder every year for the most basic things. I’ve seen my young friend with special needs in abject poverty because of the new Universal Credit system. I’ve heard teacher friends tell me of children coming to school hungry.
So when it came to the election, I read the manifestos of all the parties. Then I made my choice based on the party that closely represents what I believe in and want. The one it turns out I’ve always voted for. Had they got in, they may not even have done the many things promised, but the fact that they want these things to happen mattered to me. They didn’t win and I’m disappointed but as one profound tweet I saw this week said, just because you lost, doesn’t mean you were wrong.
Of course, not everyone is me, or has my life.
Not everyone thinks or feels how I do.
This piece isn’t to persuade anyone to vote the way I did, I just wanted to explain why I made my choice, in a rational and diplomatic way, before I get to my ultimate point. These are just my reasons. Yours might be different. This is good. This is how we are humans. I’ll listen to yours too, any time, if you speak to me with the same consideration. Because I won’t block or unfriend anyone just because they voted differently to me.
How does that help any of us?
I work with people who voted differently to me; people I get along with. On my street, the windows have had a mixture of blue and red posters in windows. I won’t ignore neighbours I’ve chatted to for sixteen years because their choice of colour wasn’t my choice, though I bought fewer Christmas cards this year (just jokes, people). They may have reasons that I don’t know or understand for making their decision.
I’ll only call out hate when I experience it directly.
I’ll only call out any sort of extremism when I experience it directly.
This week I’ve seen (shared by others because I don’t follow her) far right, extreme hate from a certain conservative ex-Apprentice contestant; things like ‘God bless the white farmer’ and her telling a British woman of colour that the party is OURS now. I’ve seen similar from prominent so-called journalists. It began trending on Twitter that Tommy Robinson (far right activist) was joining the Conservative Party, but there are no credible news sources to back this up. I’ve read comments to this ‘news’ that we can now take back our country. Our country is here, you fools. It’s right outside your window. There. Look.
But these extreme examples are not everyone.
They are not all people.
Because I also saw a band on Twitter telling their 20k followers that anyone who voted conservative should not buy their records or come to their gigs anymore, that they ‘don’t fucking want you’. I saw people online saying they would block or unfriend anyone who voted conservative.
Block those who are hateful or extreme, yes, but it’s ridiculous to block 43% of the country. Democracy has spoken, whether I like the results or not. And I just don’t have the energy in me to hate 43% of the country. What good would it do? Most of them are probably as human as I am. We can protest further cuts if they happen under this government. Protest if we disagree with policies implemented. Protest if the NHS isn’t protected. But the election has been decided. Be the change you want. As we go into a new decade, I’m going to make the effort to be kinder. To look out for that elderly, widowed neighbour. To talk to those who are homeless a little more. To give more.
Of course, I didn’t feel quite as calm as I seem now when I first saw the results on Friday. I’m only human. Of course, I ranted. Of course, I conjugated the words cunt and fuck in ways they have never been conjugated before. But I didn’t take that online or out of the house. (Poor husband. That is all.)
Come at me with your thoughts, and we can talk.
Come at me with discussion, and I’ll engage.
But if you come at me with hate, be ready for my cuntery.
Whatever you voted.