This article was part of a column series ‘This Much I Know’
It’s strange, writing this final column, because I feel as though I should say something final. Something definitive; a wrap-up of some sorts: but, I have no conclusion to offer. When I first began writing I explained that I had no intended direction, and this was true. However, intentionally or unintentionally, it seems my subject has always been responsive, reactionary and, at times, fuelled by frustration.
Which is why, in a period when our political landscape has altered irreversibly, it feels ironic to be ending this writing platform when venting anger may be needed more than ever. We are two weeks into a Conservative government and already enough stories of hypocrisy, lies and scaremongering have emerged to make anyone wish to disappear beneath the nearest rabbit hole (although, we could be chased back up to the surface when the hunting dogs are legally unleashed once more). Unlike my time as a qmunicate columnist, the fight for fairness and equality is far from finished.
I didn’t (and still don’t) feel as though I was (am) particularly qualified to write a regular column piece. Mostly I just said what I had to say, hoping not to be discredited. There is no correct or predetermined process whereby one may successfully talk about things – anyone can do that – but, if we have learnt anything in the light of recent events, it’s that the left is resolutely failing to successfully talk about the things it stands for. Closed circle discussions with those likeminded have wrongly led to the presumption that voters, generally, think similarly. We need to re-evaluate the process by which left-wing consensus is discussed and alter the inferior characteristic assigned automatically to those who disagree.
There has been talk recently of whinging lefties. ‘Poor losers’ who cannot accept defeat; who need to get over themselves and accept the democratic outcome of first past the post. I agree that the condemnation of the result on May 7th has been loud and it must be frustrating for those who welcomed Tory rule to see their party vilified in red paint across marching banners or mocked on social media.
But, the argument for democratic acceptance falls significantly short. To say that democracy is an event solely every five years doesn’t work; it renders columns such as this redundant for one. Arguing that voting reform has never been a vocal problem for the left before may be somewhat true but does not distinguish the arguments for improvement now. And characterising the protest of the Conservative government as ‘dangerous’ does little to instil the ‘one-nation’ understanding which David Cameron so farcically described. The smug righteousness of Tory voters will not unite a divided country.
But nor will a left which lazily characterises the electorate as ignorant. The SNP have succeeded in Scotland because, amongst other factors, they are seen to talk with the Scottish people rather than to them. People disengaged, taken for granted or left worse off by politicians will never vote for a movement which seeks to educate them on the reasons for their disenfranchisement. I, for one, was quick to vent on Friday morning about the stupidity of gullible Tory voters but, as much as I may not like it, people consciously voted Conservative, many of whom had evidently never done so before. There are reasons for this far beyond any manufactured notion of an uneducated franchise.
If there is one thing I have learnt throughout my time as a columnist it’s that presuming you are right and above challenge makes for unenjoyable reading; to be told by left-wing commentators that you voted out of ignorance will not soften your contempt for their ideology. We live in bubbles of left and right, scrolling twitter accounts which bounce our views back to us like political selfies. Even now I presume the majority of people reading this have (by and large) voted left of centre, we continue to preach to a converted audience rather than enter into discussion with those you think differently.
Where optimism and self-assured confidence characterised the election in Scotland, the politics of fear championed over that of hope south of the border. Fear of ‘economic chaos’; fear of immigrants; fear of a weak Labour government and the power of the SNP, all concocted by Tory strategists and a biased media, paid off. Fear is a perilous emotion. It renders us useless; paralysed; passive. Where anger and hope are the catalysts for action, fear produces the collective caution of change which the status quo requires. But hope can win if we take action.
It’s not enough for us to sit in our Scottish constituencies, triumphantly (and, perhaps, aimlessly) saluting the rise of Nicola Sturgeon. We are, and for now will remain, part of the United Kingdom: the discourse beyond the borders is our concern. Who knows where we will be by 2020 but we have until then to manifest a strong, positive and inclusive message of fairness and progressive equality and, in shaping that message, there is no platform too small.
‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor’: that is the Desmond Tutu quote doing the rounds on social media, and over the next five years we will certainly see no shortage of injustice. Organise, march, write, argue; just don’t patronise or marginalise those who think differently – the country is divided enough as it is. I have no definitive idea or solution; this is not a conclusion (though it is a final column) – it is the beginning of a conversation that bloody well needs to be had!
This article originally appeared in Qmunicate magazine