Saturday 1 May 2010

Change we've got to believe in?

I've spent the past twenty-four hours, because I am a glamorous and DANGEROUS young activist sort, drinking tea very quietly and having anxiety jags and talking to the television in the manner in which, in my babysitting days, I used to address the terrifying children of strangers. No, don't do that. No, please, don't. Nick, pick that up right now.

Before Wednesday, I was genuinely enthused by politics in this country for the first time in several years. The Sun/Times hegemony was being challenged; the two-party system was being undermined; there was hope. Now, thanks to some planted Murdochian journalists, a shiny-faced man in a tight blue necktie learning how to talk to a camera and a bigot in a cardigan, it's suddenly okay to blame all the country's problems on immigrants, and the ugly shadow of a Tory majority is ghosting across any liberal vision for the next five years.

And I've listened to smiling, scared-looking people repeat the word 'change' to the point at which the word has lost practically all meaning.

The problem with promising 'change' is that it's the one thing that absolutely every politician can absolutely, 100% guarantee. The only thing that you and I know about the next five years, or indeed the next five minutes, is that some sort of change will occur. The economy will improve, or not. Social unrest will escalate, or not. You might decide you don't like safeway instant shepherd's pie after all. Something will change.

Promising change is easy, especially when you're talking to a country that's so unholy pissed off that any sort of change to the status quo will do, at least temporarily. And when you promise change you don't have to talk in specific terms about economic fairness or social justice. When you say the word 'change', everybody imagines the kind of change they'd most like to see, whether it's mass socialist uprising or the neighboorhood being as safe as it used to be before non-white people were invented, when all the locks were made of paper and God saved the queen.

Everyone can get behind a change! As long as it's not bad change, the kind of change we don't approve of. Change like people with unfamiliar faces and accents moving into our streets, change like women divorcing their husbands and demanding jobs and support, change like it not being fucking okay to be discriminate against gay people, non-white people, people with disabilities, change like it not being fucking noble and brave to ask a prime minister on national television what he's going to do about people from Eastern Europe taking all the jobs. Promising change (it's even better if you say REALCHANGE) is easy. Making a better country is bloody hard in the middle of a recession.

I'm not interested in change. I'm interested in specific transformation: transformation of the parliamentary system through direct challenge to the two-party orthodoxy in this election, transformation of our creaking, illiberal democracy; transformation of the state's attitude to women's issues; nuclear disarmament.

It is for these reason that I am going to be voting, in my constituency of Leyton and Wanstead, for the Liberal Democrat Party. Not because of Nick Clegg's golden tie, and not even because The Guardian says so. Because I want a new, more representative parliamentary system in which citizens can feel like their voices actually matter. I like the Lib Dems; I don't think they were sent to save us. I'd prefer to vote for a third party that had stronger links with workers' organisations. But the Lib Dems represent the best chance this country has for transformation on a structural level. And, of course, I'm sick of the sight of Cameron's soft, evil face.

I'm with the Guardian and with Sunny: if we want anything other than five years of Torygeddon, burning jobcentres and bankers' red-cheeked sons deciding policy in private lunches with their friends from university and the nice men from Fox, then we have to vote first for the party most likely to beat the Conservatives in our particular areas. After that, or if there's no clear and present danger of blue peril, grab a shiny off-yellow biro and vote Lib Dem.


  1. I want to vote Lib Dem for pretty much exactly these reasons. But this is my PPC


  2. Well stated. However, I'd be really interested to hear your opinion of the Green Party....

  3. Vote Lib-Dem and get Cameron. Look at voting shares since '79 - whenever the third party vote peaks abovr 20%, a Tory govt. results.

  4. My home Constituency of Enfield North is 'Marginal'... Between about 20,000 each for Labour and the Conservatives, and 4,000 for the Lib-dems

  5. I'm not a fan of the Lib Dem leadership. They are very anti-union:

    Generally they're economic policy is pretty right wing

  6. sinister agent1 May 2010 at 16:02

    Charlie said...

    Vote Lib-Dem and get Cameron. Look at voting shares since '79 - whenever the third party vote peaks abovr 20%, a Tory govt. results

    Kennedy! This is terrible ungracious behaviour. I'm very disappointed with you.

  7. "I'd prefer to vote for a third party that had stronger links with workers' organisations."

    The Tories have wildly overstated it in their 'Charlie Whelan's New Militant Tendency' dossier, but there has been a movement towards better representation from Trade Unionists in the Labour Party and John Cryer is part of that movement. Why would you vote against him?

  8. After a glimmer of hope, my heart is sinking fast. I have a Tory MP who voted against pretty much every piece of progressive gay/trans affirming piece of legislation, and who is on the Christian Alliance's Christmas card list near the top. He has a small majority vs the LibDems, but I fear the chance has gone...

    Watching the debates, I was struck by how the whole telegenic superficiality of it all managed to gain so much purchase on the public imagination? I think the reason is ultimately clear, and as we now move to an era when all debate will come to be of this kind of calibre (ie moderated by David Dimbleby and on tv at 8.30pm), depressing...The mass apathy that affects the majority of people about politics and policy between elections - that blend of disinterest and disenfranchisement (deepened this time by things like the economic disaster, Duck Houses, Iraq and so on) - means that when the public wakes up every five years and turns on the tv, it has barely a clue what anyone is talking about. No grasp on the nuances of economic policies (even the big themes), little grasp on the realities of immigration, the challenges in education etc. Which makes everybody vulnerable to idiot platitudes, soundbite-heavy speeches about 'change', and unable to absorb anything with any more depth or substance. And this idiocy, of course, is propagated by the tabloid media, and moronic 24/7 news channels (the media equivalent of ADHD).

    Ironically, Gordon Brown has I think tried to deepen the dialogue. But that's where he's come unstuck (apart from his complete absence of charisma). He's talking to world that has no real understanding about the issues he cares about...and for that he, and his government, like all the others before him, has to take a share of the blame. The Labour government sat there for five years and exploited the population's disengagement. Now it's coming back to haunt him.

  9. Maybe Jo lives near me, that sounds like my MP, wouldn't it be nice if there only was one MP that fitted that description?

    I am voting Green.

    Our leader does not have a wife, and so we do not have to put up with any nonsense about that.

    But if Gordon cannot cope with a retired woman (who intended to vote Labour) meandering on about Eastern Europeans, well, he's not cut out for politics. I had a young woman going on about how she voted bnp in the Euro elections and going on about Poles and Romanians, and I thought, "Hang on, you have a degree!" I expected more subtlety.

  10. PS And I'm not even a politician or canvasser, but I don't feign surprise when people go on about immigration. I hope I give reasonable replies, perhaps they should be better.

  11. But the Lib Dems represent the best chance this country has for transformation on a structural level. And, of course, I'm sick of the sight of Cameron's soft, evil face.

    Oh dear...

  12. From Laurie's twitter - 2nd Oct 2011 - "I didn't vote Lib Dem, I voted Labour, for John Cryer in Leyton."

    What next.

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