Tuesday, May 04, 2010

UK: On hating Tories and voting strategically

So many elements of the British election are applicable to the Canadian experience it's astounding.

Oh sure, the NDP and the Liberals positions are somewhat reversed, both in power, perceived electability and some of the policies in the UK's Labour government and the Lib-Dem third Party, but otherwise, in angst about potential coalition government, in a dominant progressive party that has come adrift from progressive ideals and a right wing party that puts a kinder, gentler face on the same old class-war conservatism the parallels are positively eerie.

And Tories everywhere seem to generate the same kind of loathing.
I hate Tories. Not the people who vote for them. But the people they vote for. I make no great claims for that as a political position. But as an electoral category it is crucial. For I'm sure I'm not alone and it's pretty much the only thing keeping Labour going right now. It's certainly the only thing that could get me to the polls on Thursday.

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.

But it's not rationality that drives my disdain, it's a negative tribalism. Tories, like Labour, exist only as a political and electoral category. I was raised in the Labour tribe. But over the last 15 years that tribe left me, or rather showed such disdain for me that I felt I had to leave. They did terrible things I did not want to be associated with. I grew to loathe them, too. But there was lament in my loathing. I wanted them to be better. I thought they could be better. I never had much time for the Liberals. By which I mean I never gave them much thought. I didn't want a new tribe, and somehow they never seemed tribal enough. I wanted my old tribe back. This isolation came with regret. Labour left me tribeless. The only way I could define myself electorally was by what I was not. And I am not a Tory.

I don't hate them because they're rich. I grew up among working-class people and now know a fair number of rich ones, too. I see no more inherent moral quality among those who have little money than those who have lots. The fact that Cameron went to Eton is irrelevant. He had no choice in the matter. I hate him because he supports the rich and wants people who go to Eton to enjoy even more breaks than they already have.

Philosophically this is an impotent rage. I also hate them because for a long time they kept winning, and were able to convince more people than we could by appealing to their most base instincts. Because they managed to change the country in a terrible way and reconfigure the political conversation so that some of the more outrageous things they did are now orthodox. The memory of them and the prospect of them make me want to retch.


theo said...

Very eloquent. That’s exactly how I feel. It has always staggered me that so many people can be convinced to vote against their own best interests. The media certainly can be blamed for that as they have completely forsaken the title of the Fourth Estate. That said, the cognitive dissonance that I see from right-wing supporters makes me think a portion of society are certifiably mad.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Popular Posts