Sometimes it all gets too much to keep kicking against the Government. Sometimes it even gets too much to watch. Sometimes it all feels futile and I just feel so angry that I have to turn away. I’m feeling that way at the moment. I need to dust myself off and throw myself back into the fray but I need to get to the bottom of the problem first. We’re being proven right day after day and if the Government doesn’t back up the juggernaut now so many people are going to suffer so much more badly this winter than they have been up to now. That’s the inevitable consequence of Government reforms. It leaves me feeling helpless. It adds to the sense that everything we say in opposition (in the non-party sense) is futile and the certain knowledge that what I’m feeling about all this is a drop in the ocean compared to the people who actually have to live with the consequences of the reforms. I’m feeling sociological angst while people are living in fear: dreading Atos assessments, utilities being cut off and the loss of their homes; wondering where a job will come from or living with the uncertainty of zero hours; going hungry and cold and walking to foodbanks to feed their kids. While they hurt, politicians are shameless enough to pose for photos at foodbank openings and I stare slack-jawed in amazement and speechless with rage at the utter inhumanity of the bastards who’ve made foodbanks a necessity grinning back at me. Did they even bloody well donate?
All that should really be making me shout louder though. I know myself well enough to know it doesn’t account for my current malaise. I said on Twitter the other day that conference season tends to wind me up and leave me feeling grouchy. It’s deeper than that of course. The self-congratulatory hypocrisy of the LibDems is likely to be followed by wishy-washy prevarication by Labour, who seem determined not to commit themselves to any ideological position until they can see what way the wind’s blowing, and more reactionary twattery at the Tory conference.
When I criticise Labour and make jokes about them on Twitter, it’s not because I don’t want them back in office. I do but I want them to be so much better than they’re being. I want a Labour party that makes the running and doesn’t just carp from the sidelines. I want a strong leadership giving us a clear and consistent vision of the future. I want a firm commitment to social equality, backed by actual policies. Right now, I’ve got no reason to believe that their policies on justice and civil liberties will be any better than they were last time around and I don’t see them reversing all of the Coalition reforms in areas like social security, healthcare and justice.
One of the frustrating things about conference season is the reminder that so much is about the quest for and retention of power, that it’s not about what’s best for people but about what sells. I don’t want to vote for a party that’s shoving the policy equivalent of salt and sugar into their policies to get me hooked. I want substance. I want what’s really right. If they want to sell me something, sell me hope. Sell me the hope of a future where there’s less suffering and more opportunities. But they probably won’t. They’ll sell us policies intended to make the lives of middle class voters like me better on the assumption that all we really care about is ourselves. What really burns is the possibility that maybe the only way Labour can get back in office is to sell middle class voters a little more ease at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. Yes, there are policies I would support for middle class voters (like a far more effective plan for pre-school childcare costs) but not at the expense of the poorest people in the country. Is that really the only way for Labour to get back into office? To compromise the party’s values further and further until it’s just Diet Tory? God I hope not and I don’t really believe it is.
I just don’t believe people are really as selfish as the current state of British politics would suggest. Some people are, yes, but I can’t ignore the level of misinformation we’re fed. The other day at work someone repeated the myth of rampant disability benefit fraud (while another colleague nodded along) so I told them the actual figure (0.4% – I’m going to keep saying it). They’d had no idea. Now they do. Two people’s world view just shifted a tiny bit. Is it too much to ask that instead of pandering to the simplistic arguments put by the Tories to enable them to divide and rule, Labour should say that the Tories are wrong, that they should change hearts and minds instead? I spend a fair bit of my working life delivering bad news (particularly during the past five years). Not only do people take that advice but they thank me for it. I believe (and some of them have specifically told me so) that the reason for that is that I give enough information and explain things clearly enough for them to reach their own conclusions so it’s not just faith in humanity which leads me to believe Labour could change the dialogue. I understand the importance and the difference that delivery of a message makes. Ed Miliband may not be perfect but when he actually makes the effort he’s sincere and convincing. Why can’t he take back the moral high ground by persuading voters to do the right thing? Why should politics be about brutally simplistic soundbites? Miliband shouldn’t assume people are too stupid or selfish to change position if you talk to them. To assume that is to dehumanise the middle class everyone’s so keen to court just as surely as the Tories dehumanise the working class.
I suppose I’m not very good at compromising my own beliefs. I can’t just support Labour without saying anything about the issues that bother me and knowing even now that the best we’re likely to get in 2015 is the least worst option makes me feel sad. Sad enough to overwhelm the snarky scathing voice that usually speaks its mind. Sad enough to just leave me staring silently at a Twitter timeline full of anger and despair, with no words to express what I’m feeling. I have to criticise Labour. If I don’t, I’m admitting I’ve given up on the possibility of us getting a better government, one which cares and treats all equally. What I really want is for Labour to give me a party to believe in. For crying out loud just give me a party to believe in.