Teach an Old Etonian New Tricks – A Champagne-Snowflake’s Thoughts on the Election

Let’s face it, the current British political landscape looks less “green and pleasant land” and more “seagull shite-covered landfill site.” I mean, the state of all parties going into tomorrow’s election is actually too depressing to be funny:

  • The Conservatives have had an absolutely abysmal campaign, with the initial idea of promoting the charisma and strength-of-character of Theresa May falling somewhat short when they discovered that she had all of the charm and leadership qualities of a decomposing Halloween pumpkin in an unseasonably-warm November.
  • The Labour Party have had an excellent campaign, led by affable village postman Jeremy Corbyn, but it’s been undermined by some catastrophic interviews where the exact figures on key campaign promises were fluffed or unknown, and the fact still remains that he leads a party where most of the MPs seem ready to take him to the guillotine and somehow, the undoubtedly well-meaning and committed but catastrophically useless Diane Abbott can be Shadow Home Secretary (though at the writing it appears as though she has been taken off the team).
  • The Lib Dems are well-meaning but still not trusted after the Tuition Fees u-turn and are too small to make a difference, The Greens will probably still get Brighton but are essentially a one-topic lobby group of a party (though yes, their one topic of SAVING THE FUCKING PLANET is pretty important) and UKIP are just mimicking Arsène Wenger – they should have enjoyed their unexpected victory and ridden off into the sunset rather than hang around and make everyone that bit more irritated with their old-fashioned, out-of-date beliefs.
  • Even the recent breath of fresh air into British politics, the SNP, have had some major concerns amongst their electorate about a second independence vote and look set to lose some of their seats.

It’s a veritable shit-show of an election. Many have asked why on earth it was called in the first place although the reasoning behind May’s calling of it are sound – she was working on David Cameron’s mandate, a very, very different Conservative agenda to what she is trying to promote, and so calling an election would give legitimacy to her Government. It makes sense, though admittedly even I, a politics student and aficionado (and deservedly single as a result), sighed when it was announced. Everything is so uninspiring that it’s hard not to be completely apathetic about it.

Thing is though, on a personal level I’m rather glad it’s come around as it’s made me think a lot more about the kind of politics I want to see in the world. I voted Conservative in both of the past elections as I bought in to Cameron’s rhetoric about a centralist, “small C” conservatism – lest we forget, his was a Conservative government that legalised same-sex marriage (though did also contain the ominously-predicted-by-Black Mirror game of hide-the-sausage with a part of a pig). I’ve always had a strong social conscience but grew up around a largely Conservative presence (which is unsurprising considering I went to Eton) so, with Cameron, I felt like I had an excuse to vote Conservative – well-intentioned pragmatism. Tally-ho for the modern age. However, over the last couple of years I’ve watched in despair as Brexit, cuts to welfare and Donald fucking Trump have hogged the headlines and I have started to realise that whatever tie-dye t-shirt you dress up being right-wing in it’s still ultimately about one thing – business.

I’m not totally naïve. I do realise that business keeps the economy going. My Dad voted Conservative under the completely justifiable belief that nothing can work without the economy and the Conservatives are, historically, the party best-suited to dealing with the economy. As despised as austerity has been, it has helped our economy grow back from the global collapse to be reasonably strong when compared to some of our European counterparts. But then I have to ask why the Conservative manifesto for this election was completely uncosted – while Labour may have fluffed their lines, at least they had it written down somewhere on Jeremy Corbyn’s iPad (though being a jam-maker/manhole-cover collector it’s not much of a surprise that he couldn’t find it). Theresa May’s campaign, not just on the economy but in general, has been so complacent that I’ve become furious with the sheer arrogance of it. “Leave it to us, plebs – we know what’s best.” Piss off. It seems to blatantly be about turning profits and forgetting about the people that matter the most – the electorate, at a time when we are starting to be in a position of relative strength to begin to roll back cuts and help people again. The only reasoning I can think of for this is to keep those core conservative voters happy and help keep the Christmas bonuses in triple figures rather than doing what’s best for the country.

After losing my Dad in late 2015 I’ve become so much more aware of just how fucking lucky I am. I’ve had to grow up and think more about where I’ve come from and what I’m going to do with my life and frankly I don’t want my success story to be pushing myself from public school-educated, middle-class boy to leader-in-industry, upper-class man. I want to use my fantastic education to come out of this life having made the world a better place – for all of my “social conscience,” to quote from Jane Austen, “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” I can read a hundred Buzzfeed articles that I agree with or get angry at every Daily Mail headline but unless I’m actually doing something about it I’m just as bad as the people I want to disassociate myself from – tacit acceptance is just as bad as participation. I’d hope that many of you would also feel the same social responsibilities but I appreciate that not everyone reading this is going to be quite as haphazardly radical as I have been in my choice of lifestyle – you might not want to throw away your successful careers to follow in my unpaid, Facebook-berating-article-writing footsteps. So, what easy fix is there for you to do your bit for society? Simple! Vote for the country, not for yourself.

Most of my friends on Facebook have not come from poverty. I certainly haven’t. Our parents in the Baby Boom generation saw industry and capitalism explode and rode the wave, making comparative fortunes in their twenties compared to what most of us earn today. It was an exciting, competitive economy to be a part of and everyone was encouraged to earn as much as they could. However, there will always be losers in a situation like this and the truth is that the difference between rich and poor in this country is more defined today than it ever has been. This is a total generalisation, but I believe that the increase in technology has increased the voice of those not as fortunate as us – we can keep up to speed with events across war-torn countries by talking to people there on Twitter, we can play chatroulette with some perverts from the US or we can exchange profanities about each other’s mothers with kids from Russia over a game of Call of Duty. But we are listening more to those in our country too, or I certainly am at least. Increased political participation, enabled by technology, has started to open my eyes to how dire the situation is for people who are going to food banks, working 60-hour weeks in the NHS or having their necessary social care cut, all at a time where it doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t think I can vote for a party that has created that situation.

I really am still undecided as to who I will actually vote for but it won’t be the Tories. A party that is so brazenly in control of so much of the media that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer can become editor of the Evening Standard, that has implemented and maintained brutal cuts to crucial aspects of our society like healthcare and policing, that has campaigned so arrogantly and patronisingly to the electorate… I couldn’t honestly say that I am acting in keeping with my values if I were to vote Tory. We so desperately need an Emmanuel Macron in this country – a liberal, compassionate and inspiring leader that has the best interests of everyone at heart and doesn’t simply have party politics as their defining agenda. In the absence of that, what choice do I have?

According to the media, it’s either:

  • The IRA-sympathising, modern-day Lenin
  • The homophobic, God-squad liberal
  • The whale-saving hippy
  • William Wallace in a pencil skirt (who I can’t even vote for) or
  • Paul Fucking Nuttall.

It makes me want to cry. However, whoever I vote for tomorrow I will do so on the basis of compassion, altruism and the best interests of the country as a whole. I hope you will do so too.

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