Short of spending the last three months hiding in a locked cellar and living of off tinned pilchards, there’s been no escaping the fact that this is an election year in the UK. Despite generally lacklustre campaigns and TV debates which, by all accounts, most people wish had ended in a Game of Thrones style massacre, the story has been everywhere. In large part, this is because not only are we almost certainly headed for a hung parliament, but no-one has any idea what the make up of it will be.
It used to be very different. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, whoever enjoyed the support of newspapers owned by the odious Rupert Murdoch could be guaranteed victory at the polls. The first time I voted in a general election was in 1997, when Tony Blair swept to power, buoyed by support from the tabloids. Like many, I voted Labour that year, keen to see the back of the Tories who had been in power since 1979. The following day, when it was announced that Labour had won by a landslide, it seemed to mark the beginning of a new chapter for the country. Both this and the extraordinary national response a few months later to the death of Princess Diana – weirdly reminiscent of the celebrity death scenarios explored by JG Ballard in Crash – created a sense of Britain having changed.
In 2015, nothing is guaranteed. None of the parties can command a majority. The once trusted Liberal Democrats are despised after five years in coalition. New strands of political narrative have opened up: the idealism of the Greens; the fear and past-fetishism of UKIP; the game-changing vigour of the SNP.
Some of the things I’ve seen and heard in the run up to this election have been extraordinary. For example, on Facebook there is now a right wing page called the Knights Templar. Yes, in 2015, British nationalism is apparently identifying itself with religious fanatics, despite several centuries of separation between church and state (though you have to wonder if the people liking it are aware of the Templar’s fondness for chastity) . I’ve heard Liberalism compared to Fascism – somewhat missing key features of both ideologies – and conspiracy theories worthy of The X Files.
While it’s been a largely unpleasant and dispiriting campaign, it felt important to vote today. While I find much to admire in the Greens – and I think there will come a time when their politics may become paramount – I felt that it was ultimately better to support the party with the best chance of stopping the Tory/Lib Dem onslaught on state protection for the vulnerable in British society. So while Labour may not be perfect, this time they have my vote. Perhaps the fact that I’ve heard the staunchest criticism of Labour from those with the most regressive, reactionary views also swayed my opinion.
No-one seems to know what the election outcome will be. Interesting times. It remains to be seen whether they will prove a curse or not.