The Telegraph recently published an article bemoaning the Left’s reaction to the result of the General Election. It argued that the Left is self-righteous, unaccepting of plurality of opinion, and undemocratic in its lack of will to accept defeat lying down.
But the Left have every right to be disappointed about the result of the election. Of course we are disappointed, and for many reasons. Polls raised our hopes before ultimately crushing them. The Lib Dems are no longer present to lessen the extent of Tory austerity. Nothing is going to change, and the public have accepted arguments about economic progress that we see as being fundamentally incorrect.
Another issue is what this means for the future of our party. Unfortunately for the Left, it is likely that the Parliamentary Labour Party will interpret their lack of electoral success as being due to ‘Red Ed’s’ leftward swing. This could lead to the election of a more Blairite leader, someone of Chuka Umana’s creed (though he has thankfully pulled out of the race). Ed Miliband has the potential to go down in history as another Michael Foot. If the Labour Party succumb to these ideas and return to the centre, this will set back the Left for a long time. If the Tories had lost, it is unlikely that their Thatcherite consensus would have been disrupted to any great degree as the ideology of their party is currently more coherent and less divided by faction.
It has been argued that left-wing anger isolates the Left from political debate and that we are unaware of the realities of the real world and stuck in a Leninist Utopia. Once again, the Right patronises us. It is so sure that it is correct in its politics that it treats us like unenlightened barbarians, running around brandishing hammers and sickles. Of course the Left needs to operate in the real world and strategise and plan the next move based on what has happened, but it is almost as if the Conservatives are trying to make us give up our optimism. They may not agree with our policies but surely they can sympathise with a frustration based on principles that we wish to change. Because whether Left or Right, an interest in politics comes from a good place, from a desire to change the world in the way we see fit. We need to understand that about each other, but this does not mean that anger is an inappropriate reaction. It is our democratic right to attempt to put pressure on the government. Winning an election does not shut down debate for 5 years. We are still allowed to disagree.
The Conservative Party won the election. The next 5 years is in their hands. Surely this is enough for them. To win and then to have the audacity to dictate how people react to this news is an irritating instance of salt being rubbed into the wound.
The Right should not be such gloating winners. Not all Conservative supporters come from extremely privileged backgrounds, but the existence of this influential group of supporters is undeniable. Their jeering seeks to reaffirm prejudices about the Conservatives being out of touch from the population and trapped in a bubble of wealth and privilege. Whether they like it or not, expressing happiness and pride about benefit cuts comes across as jeering at the poor. I understand the academic arguments to pursue these policies and disagree with them, but if we are not allowed to be upset about the election, then they surely are not allowed to have this attitude.
Furthermore, it is worse for a left-wing impoverished person to be under a Conservative government than it is for a right wing privileged person to be under a Labour government. Intellectually, the rich may disagree with high taxes as they believe wealth is earned and deserved. However, even if they are taxed up to the eyeballs and see this as wrong, they are at least not being forced to rely on food banks, as are many victims of benefit cuts. The right and the privileged have more power in society and so moaning from this position is pretty unjustifiable.
If the Left ever deviates from a position of calm decorum, the Right is so sanctimonious as to declare our arguments invalid. It feels as if we have to prove ourselves as civilized and reasonable people. A lot of this probably stems from internalised bias about class. But whatever the reason may be, the left have a right to be angry about this election, and angry about the next 5 years.
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