Well, the polls are in. We have a new government. Depending on how you voted, this is either the dawn of a new era or it is the nightmare you feared. Of course, in reality, it is neither of those things. It is either slightly better than now, slightly worse than now or – for most of us – will largely mean more of the same.
One thing of which I am quite sure, this is unlikely to resolve the Brexit impasse. If we now have a Labour majority, we are in for further talks, and referenda on those talks, that will embroil us for years to come. If we now have a Conservative majority, there is no guarantee that the new MPs elected will be in favour of Brexit. Just as Conservatives like Dominic Grieve have led the charge against democracy, there is no guarantee the new wave of MPs will be any more favourable to it. Even if we now have a Conservative majority with MPs favourable to Brexit, there is no guarantee they will support Boris Johnson’s deal. If they don’t, any time that legislation comes before parliament, they may be as inclined to block it as their predecessors. Perhaps I am speaking as a disillusioned cynic but I struggle to see this vote doing anything to resolve the Brexit issue that led to the election in the first place.
More personally, I feel quite strange about the election anyway. Despite being the (not so) proud owner of a History & Politics degree from a second-rate university, and holding a theology postgrad qualification from an even lesser college that focused on the crossover between theology and politics, having written peer-reviewed theo-political papers for a relatively obscure academic journal, and having belonged to political parties, I have done what I never thought I would do. For the first time in my life, I exercised my democratic right to vote for none of the above.
I was nearly tempted to vote for the Proud of Oldham & Saddleworth Party. The three or four discernible policies they had were ones I could get behind. The problem was, I had no idea what they would do on the swathes of other stuff they just hadn’t mentioned. And as proud of Oldham and Saddleworth as they might be, who knows what they might sign off. If I still lived in Birkenhead, I would have voted for the Birkenhead Social Justice Party because I think Frank Field has proven himself more than worthy of being elected as an independent – dare I say, might well be all the better for being one. But the two folks standing for Proud of Oldham & Saddleworth have not. And the hit rate on their blog tells me that their messaging isn’t getting through and their chances of being elected are about as close to zero as one can get.
As it was, I was faced with a choice between those who hold democracy in contempt and deny the democratic mandate of the people they claim to serve – including an incumbent who has consistently voted to do what his constituents have expressly asked him not to do – those who would gladly deport three-quarters of my church, those who demonise my friends and the community I live in and those who would ride roughshod over protections for certain groups to signal their virtues to others.
There is a Conservative Party with no interest in conserving my community or serving the people in it that happily touted its creation of a hostile environment for my friends; a Labour Party that won’t stand up for working class labour and has wedded itself to serving the middle-class interests and preoccupations of wealthy metropolitan people and repeatedly tells the working class people it claims to support that they were too stupid to bothering honouring their vote; a Liberal Democrat Party that is neither liberal nor democratic and has become so woke as to be a parody of itself; a Brexit Party that, at this point, is probably the biggest barrier to Brexit actually happening run by a man who previously headed up a party so right wing that they ran xenophobic campaigns making clear many of my friends are not welcome; A UKIP Party that has become a harder right Islamophoic, anti-immigration version of its previously already hard right iteration; And a Green Party who both want to ignore the vote of the working class – whom it also derides as stupid – and, playing to the concerns of a wealthy middle class, impose environmental measures on the working poor that are astonishingly ignorant of the realities of their every day lives.
For me, it was Sophie’s Choice. There was no lesser evil. Just lots of evil manifesting itself in a series of different ways.
As James Bloodworth says – whose views and trajectory in this article so closely mirror mine – ‘[Some] now tell me — scold me, in fact — that I should vote for the “lesser evil”. This would, presumably, result in less evil, which is no bad thing. But what happens if I look at several very different evils and am unable to decide which is worse?’ As Peter Hitchens has argued, and I find it difficult not to agree with him:
I do not buy goods I do not want. So why would I vote for parties I despise? More tellingly, the only thing which gives these people power over me is the vote. With the monarchy more or less dead, the only foundation of political power in this country is the ballot box.
We vote for them, so that they can ignore us.
Think what we might achieve if we simply declined to grant this power to the current political elite. What if they held an Election and nobody came? Nothing would make me laugh more than if we woke up on the morning of December 13 and nobody had any votes at all. It might force the great reform of our politics we so badly need. But you won’t risk it, will you? In which case you will get exactly what you deserve, hot and strong.
And so, I opted out. Why should I lend my vote to people who hold me in utter contempt? Those who call me a racist, a bigot, an idiot – regardless of my reasons or track record of activism – for daring to vote, as I have wanted ever since I got an interest in politics and formed my Bennite tendencies, to leave the EU. Why should I vote for parties that not only do nothing for Christian people – despite various of them having been built on the back of chapels and churches – but despise us because we do not share the secular humanistic views of our illiberal overlords? Why should I support parties that claim, because I value the life of the unborn, I must hate the born whilst themselves signing the death certificates of babies in utero and then proceding to either preside over, or prop up, the most egregious austerity measures (against which I campaigned) for the most vulnerable people? Why should I support anybody whose liberal bias means that markets are ultimately more important than people and the main thing is money uber alles?
With a handful of noble exceptions, I am being asked to vote for hypocrites, shape-shifting amoral pragmatists driven by nothing but self-interest or those whose values are so off-beam they call good what is palpably evil. And then there are their acolytes who quickly line up behind them no sooner than an election is called. As much as I maintain my interest in politics, as closely as I will continue to follow it, as much as I might campaign on certain issues, I have sadly come to a point where all I can say is a pox on all their houses.
Fortunately, my hope is not in princes and men. I spent my teens and twenties running round shouting at people for not being political enough (and, frankly, for not sharing my obviously correct and caring Socialist views). Those who have nothing else to hope in live and die every five years (or so) and are waging a fruitless battle, grasping for a nirvana which they know is unobtainable and thus settle for a non-ideal, pragmatic attempt at the best of all possible worlds which we also never quite manage to implement. I do not know how those whose hope rests solely in such things manage to press on. Their own public comments after any given election – whether they have won or lost – makes its own point. Ecclesiastes 1:14 will be their obituary.
As it is, Jerusalem will be built here. But not, ultimately, by us. The New Jerusalem rests not with us, but in the very messiah who shunned the politics that his people expected him to effect and was himself shunned for it. Many are annoyed that we are having a December election but I can think of no better time to have one. Because after we have been given the leaders we deserve, we can focus on the one we don’t deserve. After all the hopes of manifesto pledges have been shattered and broken, we can focus on the one who was pledged hundreds of years before he came and whose promise is more sure and certain than that of anybody we might elect. After our politics manages to divide our nation again, we can focus on the one who will bring us into a truly United Kingdom.
Our politics may have become as dark as our December nights, but out of the darkness we may see a great light. As grim as the election may be, December gives way to a greater hope still. And that, dear friends, gets my vote.