Simon Indelicate ( Of The Indelicates) tells us why he loves election night and why a Tory government would be no fun…..
Last Ditch Effort
“I have a serious character flaw: I don’t want to be ordinary. I don’t ever want to be a member of an audience. I am only happy backstage, peering out through curtains at amorphous crowds. I want to conduct them – to raise and quiet applause with a gesture – not stand among them. I want to commentate, not participate. I long for an occult understanding of the manipulable mechanisms that operate complex things. I want to be a witchdoctor, predicting the returns of summers and taking credit when I am proved correct.
As such, I’ve always loved elections. Like nothing else, they are a gift to people like me – arcane historical motions steeped in complex mathematics and eccentric insider traditions. When I learn that a party can come third in percentage terms and still be awarded enough seats to form the largest parliamentary grouping I get a little, embarassing thrill that I understand why and someone else doesn’t. When I hear that the Prime Minister has reacted pretty much as I would to hearing an old woman blather ludicrously on about eastern europeans, I don’t for a moment think that immigration is the issue at the story’s core: I think on a meta-level – I think about what it will mean, who it will sway, how it will play with undecideds, whether the public will warm to the glimpse of humanity or be disgusted with the Big-Brother-win-forfeiting crime of two-facedness…
This is all because I am, by birth and nature among the political classes. My parents never paid for my education, but I went to a state grammar school almost entirely populated by former prep school boys who had, by sheer and remarkable coincidence, been identified as the cleverest local kids in a fair and wholly accurate verbal reasoning test. I’ve got a politics A-Level, I attend counts and stay up all night for european election results. When I was 17 I won a national prize for debating, a title awarded to those who are the best at arguing a case with passion, commitment and eloquence that they have been handed a quarter of an hour before doing so. I’ve always known that politics was such a performance. We stripped belief for parts and reassembled it to convince people that we shared it. The Death Penalty, Abortion, Euthanasia, Privatisation, Poverty, Climate Change – they are just capitalised topics, fonts of rhetoric to be picked at for advantage, stages to play on. That’s what being of the political classes means – that people’s lives are chess pieces to help us to get our names onto little shields and precious websites.
I recognise my brethren everywhere in the media and politics. We are drawn to the swingometers and home-guard-ish returning officers and we babble excitedly about the process of it all. To us, ‘discussion of policy’, ‘smears’, ‘passion’ and ‘spin’ are all in the same category. They are tactics – like blows during a turn based RPG battle: Brown performs a medium strength appeal to class solidarity on Cameron’s upper body, yielding +2 EXP, -4 INT and a heartland bonus of +3 CHR…
It’s a game and we’ve read the rulebook and we don’t believe that anybody else has and that makes us special. More special than you, undecided voter so easily swayed by Saatchi posters and gaffes; more special than you, mumsnet whom we so nearly decided to name the election after; more special than you, old woman, worrying about your little care home; more special than you, ordinary man, charmingly expressing your little opinion outside Dixons. We’re the guys behind the curtain – quake before the great and terrible Oz.
And I love it. Deep down, I do. I love it all. Except, this time, there’s this thing that’s happening and it really feels like we might elect a conservative government and it isn’t fun – it’s horrible.
For so long it has been an item of received wisdom that the main parties are all the same. If you have only been paying attention for the last thirteen years, you might well feel that this is true – The Labour years have been awash with disappointments, attacks on civil liberties, terribly planned wars and stupid laws. But they have been punctuated with the minimum wage, huge improvements to the NHS, the lifting of huge numbers of children out of poverty, real peace in Northern Ireland, real Gay rights, even free fruit for infant schools… There is a gap between the records of these parties – a narrow gap maybe, but any gap with a million children in is a gap worth recognising the existence of.
To us who spend the days before elections writing self-serving blogposts and trying to make things trend on twitter – it is incredibly appealing to see the contest as between three rivals from our ranks. We like the narrative that identifies ‘change’ as a desire and animating force among the munchkins. We assume that David Cameron will be the beneficiary and we think it’s delightful that the Liberal Democrats might have convinced enough people to cause a plot wobble in the story arc.
We like to dissect whether or not this ‘Big Society’ thing is connecting with people. But what does it mean, really? When Tories promise to “Promote the delivery of public services by social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups, encouraging them to get involved in running things like “Sure Start”, does that mean that they will rely on the generosity of rich people to counter the aggressive cutting of services that make people’s lives more bearable? Does it mean that in poor areas where people aren’t willing to help, people will suffer? Johann Hari makes a persuasive case that it does.
When they promise to “Recognise marriage and civil partnerships in the tax system, bringing us into line with other major European countries and making 4 million couples up to £150 per year better off” does that mean that they plan to institutionalise a world-view that looks down on blameless single mothers, widows and unconventional couples while doing as close to fuck all as possible to actually benefit anybody on the basis of a basic misreading of the statistic that married people are less likely to split up (as close to a perfect correlation/causation fallacy as it is possible to imagine)? Well, yes, yes it does.
When they promise to cut spending immediately and usher in an ‘age of austerity’ (a phrase quietly dropped in response to bad polling) does that mean a double dip recession as poor, tired, silly old Gordon Brown warns? Well, yes, it probably does. It’s happened in some countries and has been halted in countries where the opposite policy has been pursued. Does it mean that the unemployment and house reposessions I remember from the early 90s will happen again? Again, yes, probably – Jonathan Freedland makes a convincing case here.
When David Cameron says that we can’t have a hung parliament because that will mean decisions being made in smoky backrooms by politicians – does that mean that, in the event of a hung parliament he himself intends to try and make decisions in smoky backrooms so as to overturn constitutional convention and ride press momentum into power? Again, reports say yes.
When he says he’s making ‘a contract with you’, does that mean that he’s going to honour it precisely until the moment when, driven by inevitable crisis or political necessity, he is forced to compromise with the base of his party in order to shore up his position? Does that mean he’ll be compromising with Tebbit? With Philippa Stroud? With the Chris Graylings who had the sense to keep quiet? With his Extremist partners in the european parliament? With, not to put too fine a point on it, FUCKING TORIES. Yes. Yes it does.
I have been criticised for not making a positive case for any party, just attacking negatively and I admit it. It’s not easy. I think there are reasons to support Labour, reasons to support the Libdems and plenty of reasons not to. But at this stage, I barely care – I don’t fear either party because they are on the other side of a real gap with real people in it who will really suffer. I do fear the Tories. They terrify me.
I’d like nothing more tomorrow than to stay up all night gleefully waiting for Portillo moments and unopenable magnums and good old Paxman having a nice old go at someone and swingometers and exit polls and Andrew Neill and funny old Nick Robinson and what will Galloway say and will Caroline Lucas win and who’ll try to put a positive spin on the exit polls and look its animated MPs in a CG parliament and aren’t we all clever with our analysis and predictions and isn’t Britain just marvellous…
But this is because I suck. I love the process and I don’t want to think about what it means. But fuck me and all my chums. We’re elitist, entitled nerds and we are obscuring the things that matter. It’s not fun anymore, it matters, and if you are scared of the country this will become if Cameron becomes Prime Minister on Friday then please do not let us distract you – just use your vote any way that you can to stop it happening. It isn’t too late.
So you know what to do….
Last word to sum up how many of us feel from Gary Younge
“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.” ( Full article here )
Not as offensive as The Suns front page