As the election results trickled through, there was only one word on my mind: sorry. I’m sorry the hours of campaigning, canvassing and fighting weren’t enough; that throughout the past five years the days spent knocking on doors, engaging in debate and pouring our energy into swing seats wasn’t enough. Most of all, I’m sorry to all those vulnerable and ‘invisible’ voices in society that are set to remain so over the next five years.
I’m sorry to the 1 million people who rely on food banks, the 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts, the 3.5 million children living in poverty, and the disabled and their families who have already had to cope with severe benefit cuts and dehumanising work-capability assessments. Caught in the Oxford bubble it’s easy to see these as abstract figures, but it is these real, human, oh so much more than statistics that got people out campaigning before the election and have left people feeling hopeless after.
Too often during the election campaign I was told not to get stuck in the past while disregarding the future. I should be focusing on the manifestos of the future, presenting gleaming new party alternatives. But we are ultimately looking at the same government, this time with even more power, continuing its rampage of cuts.
The years to come truly terrify me. Not least because we are yet to establish where exactly Iain Duncan Smith’s £12bn of welfare cuts will actually be found, but because a Conservative Party that was one reined in by the constraints of a collation is now free to carry out those policies it could not before. It’s like the UK has signed itself up for a game of Russian Roulette; we’ve no way of knowing what’s coming and who will be hit, but we do know it’s likely to those who never wanted to be part of this sordid game.
Politics is always personal. To suffer so heavy and so unexpected a defeat when I, like so many others, had become so heavily invested in the election was nothing short of heart-breaking. Days later and I’m yet to find an adjective that better describes the sentiment tearing through the Left. Equally, there’s been much backlash from Conservati
ves who accuse the Left of undertaking some sort of aggressive witch hunt. Unfortunately, as is too often the case on social media, a minority of people have spread nothing short of hate speech. Yet the prevailing sentiments of anger and despair of the majority are exactly why I feel so strongly that a great wrong has been and will be carried out
against so many members of the British public. I am far from alone in this sentiment: at the time of writing, over 20,000 people have joined the Labour Party since polling day. The voices of outrage and shock are already converting into a tangible and dynamic fightback. Out of defeat is rising a movement stronger than ever. What the
results of this election have shown is that the general tarring of the British Public with political apathy is entirely unfounded. No matter how people voted, what is clear is that they care and will carry on caring enough to fight the outcome no one was expecting.
Such mobilisation won’t be straight forward and summoning the energy to continue the fight that was fought so hard over the election campaign won’t be easy. This is particularly given the prolific resignation of party leaders – or, in the case of Nigel Farage, a publicity stunt – the bodies with which we are to unite are currently identity-less in PR terms. Yet with each new announcement of new and fast tracked Tory plans, from the scrapping of the Human Rights Act to the legalisation of fox hunting, the Left is regaining its spark to fight back.
2020 feels like a world away from now, but we cannot allow the most vulnerable in our society to wait out those five long years for change. Strong and direct political discourse, forcing public scrutiny of policy in an anything but apathetic society, is the only way we can stop the nightmare of £12bn worth of welfare cuts coexisting with lower taxation for the rich being realised. The fightback begins..