The General Election stands to be a potential disaster for the Labour Party. What should I feel about this?
As it stands, things aren’t looking too good for Labour. The Party’s chances in June, despite the pressures which continue to exact themselves upon the NHS, education system and pocket of the everyday man and woman, look rather bleak. Polls show that Labour looks set to lose perhaps 25% of its voters compared with 2015. The Tories are predicted to win a majority of Welsh Parliamentary seats for the first time in modern history. In Scotland, a former heartland for the Party, Labour looks set to remain in a pitiful third place, behind the a resurgent Tory Party and the dominant Scottish National Party. In short, the Party so dear to me, so close to my heart, looks set not just to be beat, but to receive a grand thrashing on June 8th.
Just typing the previous paragraph and the thought of staying up on June 8th to see an endless procession of smug Tory faces winning seats in cities and towns which Labour ought to be romping home in makes me feel depressed. What’s worse than that is that this is by far the first time that politics has brought me to sadness.
Since joining Labour in 2015, in the run-up to the General Election which now seems so far from the labyrinthine and murky depths of politics today, I have had the misfortune to be on the losing side in two major events: the Election of 2015 and the EU Referendum of 2016. This year it seems, I may have a chance to make it a triple.
Every time the cycle of emotions has been the same. In the run-up to the Election and Referendum, I was in a state of excitement and optimism. Politics energises me, especially when I get to be even a small cog in a nationwide machine which is working towards a single goal. This was especially true when I first joined the Party to fight for the Election. I had the zeal of a convert – volunteering for leafleting in my ward as soon as I got the chance, canvassing as often as the confines of secondary school would allow. I distinctly remember too, on the day of my last GSCE exam, a History Sources paper, leaving the exam, having a lunch with my parents and walking straight from the cafe to the centre of town to hand out leaflets for Labour In for Britain and have a selfie with the then Shadow Foreign Secretary and still a beloved-MP in my eyes, Hilary Benn. Both in 2015 and 2016 I stuck up posters in my window, chatted eagerly at school with those not already savvy and who therefore avoided mentioning politics within earshot and I listened, enraptured during a hustings at my school, with dreams of victory and power bright and beautiful in my mind. In retrospect, or to another, such enthusiasm seems no-doubt sad, in more ways than one, but to me I was the vanguard of a victorious movement – proudly parading my rosette and stickers, knocking on doors and sharing an ungodly number of posts on Facebook. To me, both times, victory and glory was ensured.
Reality, when both results came about, was as a tonne of bricks on a collection of porcelain. That is to say, shattering.
As fresh as bread, the memory is of the fallout of Election 2015. On the night, I had gone for a shower as the polls closed at 10pm and walked in, adorned in pyjamas and dressing gown, when the prediction flashed upon the screen.
Conservative Party largest party.
It felt as if the floor had fallen out beneath me, a pit opening in my stomach to swallow up months worth of positivity, to be replaced with a vacuum into which despair and disappointment. That was the main feeling. Disappointment.
The next morning, two things are still clear. The first is waiting in the car, before getting out for what I knew would be a crucible when I entered school, for the results from the local constituency. Already we knew the Tories had gained a majority – not predicted the previous night and a sliver of hope reached out when I found Labour had kept its seat in the city and bucked the national trend with an increased majority. Later I would learn though that our Council ward, once with 2 Labour and 1 Tory Councillors, had become fully blue. The City Council fell to a Con-Dem coalition, where once was a Labour majority.
The second was entering school. I had been unashamedly open and proud about my party alignment and knew that people, whether they were political or not, would take potshots at such an easy target. Specifically, I remember the goading, smug faces of two Conservative supporters who had purposefully waited for me outside of our common room. They congratulated me and I, frankly, wanted to punch them in the face. Upon entering the common room proper, I remember as well the snide comments and sneers which felt like barbed wire as I crossed towards my locker. Very few times have I been on the verge of tears at school, but that I remember well, was the closest I came to weeping.
Rather than disappointment there was melancholy after the EU referendum. After the result, I think I recall, from Sunderland, which pointed towards a swing towards the Leave camp, I went to sleep and I thought, to my despair, that I would wake up to a Leave victory. A physical sickness is what I recall in my stomach when I awoke and checked the news the following day and the bland atmosphere of a blend of concern/shock/horror/fear descended upon the house as politics tore itself up outside.
Both times defeat was crushing but both times, afterwards but particularly after the Election, I dedicated myself to future victory. We would win the next election and reverse the wrongs of the past. What concerns me now though, is that a third crushing loss will break me. As soon as the Election was announced, as before, I dedicated myself to the cause – the Vote Labour poster getting brought out of storage from 2 years ago and getting displayed in my window before an hour had elapsed. Then it dawned on me that despite my optimism, things were unlikely to change. My Party would be bludgeoned again, my pride dented, my face laughed at and a wave of sadness overcome me when the loss had been confirmed.
Why then do I cling so firmly to a dogma which seemingly is bound to lose? Why shackle myself to a political movement which has seen nothing but failure for my adult life?
The simple reason is that I neither can nor want to change. Politics for some is a distraction every few years but to me it is deeply ingrained into my everyday, my heart and my mind. Being aware about the importance of politics has changed my life and is inescapable – occasionally I wish I’d picked something less depressing to be interested in such as football or bird-watching, but that was not destined to be so. Myself I decided that my values and beliefs aligned with those of the Labour Party. Circumstance early in my life helped me choose this: a duty or a responsibility I believe I hold in my heart to the Party, due to the NHS saving my young life and that I must stop at nothing to work against the enemies of that system: the Tories who wish to scrap it all for the sake of private wealth at the cost of public suffering.
To decide to change my allegiance would be a betrayal of myself and the core values which I have built myself around. It would be a gross destruction of my person, simply because we are not winning, to become a turncoat and seek victory alone rather than the victory I believe in.
At a more primeval level perhaps, I also know that victory will come eventually and when it does, having seen through the trials and tribulations of such crushing disappointments in the past will make it, when it comes, all the more sweet and all the more special to indulge in. Commitment will pay off and the hope that I hold in my heart that I am right and will be proven so along with my Party comrades will come true. For now however, the storm we must ride out and in the heat of war in the future remember the disasters we faced and pulled through, which will make the winning battle all the more excellent to enjoy. Whoever you are reading this, remember and hold the hope that I do that, eventually, your time will come and when it does the defeats of the past will make you proud that it did not stop you achieving what you knew was right all along.
Thank you for reading this far more personal post this week. It’s probably going to be something nice to look back on in the future for inspiration for myself but I hope too it gives you an insight into my political journey and what really drives me – if you were interested in the first place. Normal posts should resume next week with a look, if all works out, at Northern Ireland, although hefty college commitments may see that fall at the wayside.
UPDATE (19/6/2017): Looking back and knowing the actual result makes me realise how important this all is (and slightly smug that we pulled off such a turnaround!)