Saturday, 8 May 2010

I've never voted Tory

Like many people, I've spent the last day following the British election. Indeed Victoria University's internet almost broke under the strain of the sheer number of people streaming BBC on the Guardian website. When I stopped to think about it couldn't figure out what I wanted to happen - except the spontaneous combustion of all present candidates for British Prime Minister and their predecessors. But I couldn't stop watching.

There have been many words spilt over the British election results and what they mean, with more to come. It seems a little arrogant to stake a claim to that process. But what is important to me is that the Tories could not get a majority. It's been 13 years since they were last in power, Labour has nothing to even pretend to offer, and is widely loathed. Despite this the Tories could not make it happen.

One of the things I respect most about the place I was born is its long memory and deep hatred for Margaret Thatcher and the Tories. Gary Younge summed it up brilliantly:
I don't have a phobia about Tories. That would suggest an irrational response. I hate them for a reason. For lots of reasons, actually. For the miners, apartheid, Bobby Sands, Greenham Common, selling council houses, Section 28, lining the pockets of the rich and hammering the poor – to name but a few. I hate them because they hate people I care about. As a young man Cameron looked out on the social carnage of pit closures and mass unemployment, looked at Margaret Thatcher's government and thought, these are my people. When all the debating is done, that is really all I need to know.

Coming from New Zealand where the collective political memory is goldfish like I think Britain's burning hatred is worth celebrating.


Carol said...

I was gripped by the election too, largely watching the count on the BBC site & wathed AlJazeera which gave live coverage for most of the afternoon on Triangle.

I've never voted Tory either. Though, unlike the author of the article you quote, my parents largely voted National. So not so much a tribal thing, I just never agreed with them, and always saw more logic and value in parties that pursued social justice and equality.

In NZ I've often voted for smaller left-wing parties. When I lived in London (for about 18 years) I always voted Labour. This was mainly because it was an anti-Tory, anti-Thatcher vote.

I lived there through all of Thatcher's reign & a little into Major's. I saw the devastation their policies brought on the rising numbers of homeless sleeping rough on the streets, and on young students I taught in areas like Brixton.

There are a few things this election has highlighted for me:

1) The pre-historic look of the 3 main party leaders - white middleclass mnen from a bygone era. And that focus seems out of step with the diversity of views expressed in the votes that delivered the hung parliament.

2) The main parties, and the mainstream media that largely pushes the neo-libral Tory line, is out of step with the electorate. Even though they largely acted, and are still acting as Tory/neoliberal cheerleaders they failed to deliver a decisive Tory majority or mandate. There is a social and economic upheaval going on in Britain and I'm curious to see how it plays out - hopeful that the people are starting to rest some control back from the corporate, financial-bubble creating elites.

3) This is an opportunity for Labour to reform, regain some connection with working people, plus represent more of the diversity in society -

4) and I am interested that Harriet Harman is waiting in the wings as one of the potential new leaders of the party

5) a sign of hope for the future - the new Green MP in Brighton, with a strong feminist bacjground.

Anyway, it's been gripping, a will probably continue to be so for some time.

Hugh said...

I was in the UK for the 2001 election and was struck by the appearance of Margaret Thatcher on election posters, fully eleven years after she left office. You're right, it's tribal, although it often seems there's as much tribal allegiance to Thatcher as tribal disdain for her.

That being said, the equivalent figure in New Zealand, David Lange, inspires almost unanimous praise, even from those blatantly opposed to the policies he enacted. So I think it's not so much that local political memory is goldfish-like, it's just thoroughly confused.