It’s now a week since the General Election, and I’m beginning to feel ‘normal’ again. I say ‘normal’ simply because the election is parasitic of candidates; it slowly and imperceptively takes over your whole thinking, and only reluctantly releases its grip on you. Thankfully this grip is now sufficiently weak that I can both start to focus on my routine council work (which I have neglected these last few weeks) and rationally reflect (as opposed to emotionally react) on the result.
My first thoughts refer to the widespread degree of tactical voting that took place. At the start of the election I was very sympathetic to the call for people to not vote for the candidate they most supported, but to ‘hold their nose’ and vote for the one they thought most likely to beat the Conservative candidate, and in the end it was obvious that tactical voting was very prevalent; even though I managed to increase the size of my vote from the 2017 election it was still greatly squeezed, with many, many people coming up to me to say “I would like to vote for you but…”. However, on reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that such an approach to voting is undemocratic. It implies that smaller political parties like The Green Party should stand aside for the ‘big boys, further marginalising new political thinking. It attempts to deprive voters of choice. But most damning of all, it has a tendency to be coercive, in as much that towards the end of the election period I started to hear reports from voters that they felt under pressure to vote differently from how they wanted. I found this worrying and of great concern.
I, like many others, felt very depressed at the result of this election. Not only am I very worried that the size of Tory majority effectively side-lines any effective opposition in Parliament, giving them free reign to do what they like, I fear that an effective response to our climate and ecological emergency will be tepid at best – that their deep belief in neo-liberal economics, a belief in the power of market led solutions, will drive us further and further towards the brink. However, as these initial dark clouds start to lighten I am starting to feel a determination grow in me to fight politically more than I have ever done before. I am starting to feel a determination to harness everything I have learned from my relatively short experience of politics, but perhaps even more importantly from my experience of philosophy, to do all that I can to break the stranglehold this neo-liberal ideology has over our thinking.
I say over our thinking on purpose. I’ve come to realise over the years that whether we realise it or not we structure and give meaning to our lives in line with a background story, a story that becomes so imbedded in our thinking that we start to consider it ‘just plain common sense’. For many centuries this story was supplied by religion – in the West predominantly by some form of Christianity. However, slowly and imperceptively this story has been superseded by neo-liberalism and the belief that we are all individuals naturally controlled by rational self-interest. At the moment we are all predominantly under its spell. But we don’t need to be. There’s nothing natural about it beyond our need to have some grand-narrative – a narrative that can and should be changed if we want to give humanity a fighting chance of flourishing in the decades to come. I intend to find a way, probably through a book, of explaining my thinking here in some depth.
And finally, a conversation I had with my Town Clerk greatly restored both my spirits and motivation. He pointed out that whilst communities could not resolve all our problems they have got the power to make a real difference to people’s lives. And at this level not only can we all become involved in change and make a contribution to our collective lives, but we can actually come to realise the power and importance of our collective life together – we can come to realise first hand the power of cooperation and community. So on that uplifting note I wish you all peace and happiness. This, I think, will be my last post of the year. Have a great holiday. See you in 2020!