Before The 2017 General Election

I voted to Remain in the EU and I’m a member of the Green Party. In an ideal world we’d have a left-wing Government as part of the European Union but I’m also a realist and, however much it upsets me, I accept that 52% of voters chose to leave the EU and so that’s what’s going to happen. Referendums are binary and we’re heading out.

As we approach the General Election in a few weeks time I have an important question rattling around my head. Here it is:

In light of all that we have seen and heard since the Referendum, with a Conservative Party seemingly aiming for a hard-Brexit, do Brexit supporters feel that the wishes of the 48% should have any bearing on the process? Are those 16.1 million people now irrelevant because 1.3 million more people wanted something different?

With the answer to that question in mind, what point is there in me voting on June 8th? This is not a flippant question. I used to think that every vote, even with a first-past-the-post system, was important because even if you didn’t vote for the winner your MP would take notice of those who voted for other parties. For example, as a Green voter in a Conservative safe seat I’d expect my MP with 53% of the vote to follow the Tory line and represent the wishes of the the majority who voted for him – but I also hoped that when doing their job they’d bear in mind the other 47% and take into some sort of consideration that almost half their constituents had a different vision for the country than them. By voting Green (or Labour, or Lib Dem, or – shudder – UKIP) in a Conservative safe seat I’d expect to lose but I’d also be making my views known and, however quietly, my voice heard.

Post-referendum, I’m left doubting that absolutely. We have marched towards a hard-Brexit with scant regard being paid to the 48%. We are repeatedly told that Brexit is “the will of the Nation” when actually it’s the “will of 33% of those in the Nation who are eligible to vote”.

Along with over 16 million people I have become a non-person, irrelevant and disregarded. Yes referendums are binary, but surely you have to pay some attention to the will of those who didn’t win? Don’t you?

And so back to June’s election. James Cleverly is going to win this seat. It’s a certainty and he knows it. Unless he does something as stupid as the last one he’ll be my MP until 2022, and even if he does mess up some other Tory will be drafted in and they’ll do the job instead. So who do I vote for, or do I vote at all?

Obviously, I’m going to vote. But…

Vote Green I definitely lose and, in light of what I’ve written above, I have no faith that my non-Tory views will be considered for even a moment over the next 5 years.

Vote Labour tactically and I’m 99% going to lose and again, in light of what I’ve written above, etc. etc.

Vote UKIP or Lib Dem and I’ve somehow got to live with myself…

So who do I vote for? Vote for my beliefs or tactically, and does it make any difference? Is James Cleverley and the Conservative Party in general going to pretend I don’t exist on June 9th or might my vote, and the many millions of votes by people like me, be considered for even a fleeting moment whilst the country is being ripped apart?

On Britishness

On being faced with the question: Could these British values of tolerance be the thing that costs us our Britishness?

Britishness? Britishness? It’s just a political construct! A name! The people of these islands have changed, and will change, day-after-day until the end of time. I was born and bred in this country but I’m a quarter-Latvian which means I’m not pure-bred British and so ought I to lop off an arm & ship it back to the Baltic? I’m probably more anti-Britain than most of the Muslims who get abused on a daily basis in this bloody wonderful country but because I’m white nothing will ever be said to me.

What is it to be “British”? Reading the endless drivel about the Woolwich attack made me think just that. Calling paid killers heroes? Knifing someone who looks like a Muslim? Attacking a mosque? Too extreme? Maybe just venting your spleen about ‘them’ on social networking sites like being ‘British’ makes you automatically morally superior to every people in the world by default.

Being ‘British’ means nothing. I’m not British, I’m not European, I’m just a person. An accident of fate means that I was born in Britain, and I’ll concede I was lucky enough that that’s the case. But I’m not lucky to be ‘British’ because Britain is somehow better than other countries, or that ‘Britishness’ is superior to any other -ness, but because 500 years ago the people of these isles decided to act despicably towards the rest of the world before the rest of the world had a chance to fight back. That meant I had food, water, an education, clothing & a roof over my head – all paid for by centuries of plundering the world. I’d rather have it than not, but Britain (and therefore me as one of its subjects) is in no position to take any kind of moral high ground, and if being ‘British’ means I have to look down on the rest of the world and pretend I’m someone special because I’ve got a light-coloured face and was brought up with a cross being rammed down my throat rather than a crescent I’ll pass thank you.

‘Britishness’ is about as concrete a notion as the sea. It’s been changing for thousands of years and it’ll keep changing forever, although it’s only been ‘Britishness’ since 1707 because that’s how long Great Britain has existed. Before that it was ‘Englishness’, and before that ‘Anglo-Saxoness’ and before that… We can’t lose something that isn’t fixed, but we can keep hold of the fact that we’re all humans and that most of us basically want the same things in life.

I don’t know why I’m writing this, I’ve been sucked into the ‘debate’ when I promised myself I wouldn’t. All I really think, because I’m a yoghurt-weaving woolly-minded hippy is that the labels of ‘British’, ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Nigerian’, Conservative’, ‘Cambridge United Supporter’ are just labels we give ourselves because we want to belong, but in the end we’re all simultaneously individuals and one part of the human collective. Maybe if we all started treating the Woolwich killers as two people who did a terrible thing rather than ‘Muslims’ and the victim as a man who was walking home rather than a ‘British soldier/hero’ we might not give other people reason to do this kind of thing again, because you can’t have reprisals against everyone? Give people a label though and you make them a target. Maybe if we were all just a bit nicer to people regardless of where they were born or live, or the colour of their skin, or the version of god they worship there might be less of this kind of thing in the world? Maybe if we stopped judging people from a position of self-imposed superiority? Maybe if we were all just a bit kinder to one another?

If we really were a tolerant nation these terrible things wouldn’t happen. I think they do because we’re only really tolerant when it suits us.

That’s me done, I shall leave with this wonderful cartoon and go back to avoiding the news and trying to be nice to people as much as possible.

B&M Bargains & Growing Up

I went in a B&M Bargains store today! When I last shopped at B&M Bargains they were a relatively small chain of shops found only in and around Blackpool. 15 years on and they’ve been developed into a national chain and as I bought cheap mealworms for the chickens and a novelty sock hanger for the washing line I was thrown back to my days on the Fylde Coast. I quite enjoyed being back in a B&M Bargains Store, if only because I like the feeling that I was in on this one from early on – like having seen a stadium-band in a small pub before they made it. If only I’d tested the Hello Kitty toothbrush light before leaving the shop…

Today’s the day Thatcher died. I grew up in a Conservative household in a constituency so Blue they put an Iraqi-born candidate forward at the last election and still won. I went to a grammar school that may as well have been a recruiting office for the Conservative Party. From the age of 8 when I started to be vaguely aware of politics to the time I was in the sixth form I only knew one Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister and I was in her thrall. I was so right-wing & anti-European I’d be a member of UKIP now, and I wrote her a letter telling her so. I didn’t know any better, how could I growing up where, and how, I did? If I moved further and further right from 8 to 18, from 18 to 38 I’ve shifted completely the other way. I’ve seen some of the world since then. Enough to find myself becoming more left-wing as each year passes and finding myself despising the things I now realise Thatcher stood for.

My teenage infatuation with Thatcher’s politics isn’t something I’ve ever tried to hide – there were mitigating circumstances I was powerless to control – but I do feel like a man who long ago realised his first “love” wasn’t actually worthy of his attention and now feels a little bit silly. From me, no tributes (is there a politician I respect enough?), no celebrating (it’s not Blair after all), just remembering what I used to believe in and being thankful that I’ve grown up.