Party politics doesn’t bring out the best in people. Perhaps they improve with age, but most political discussions I’ve partaken in to date have been a case of who shouts the loudest. Often literally. In this aspect, the Left undoubtably triumphed on social media. In between fear-mongering infographics and Russell Brand soundbites (with a few simple “FUCK TORIES” banners thrown in for good measure), not a single Tory voice was to be heard; if it was, it was swiftly shot down.
Social media carnage followed the Left’s defeat. Lots and lots of carnage, with caps lock firmly pressed down. Which is fair enough. But between reports of hysterical crying and plans for a revolution, emerged a toxic narrative from a certain liberal middle class student contingent.
Appalled by the Conservatives’ success, these people were unable to concede that the people voted for what the people wanted. They resorted to blaming the media for manipulating the electorate, or else blaming the electorate for stumbling blindly and stupidly into a Tory government without knowing what it entails. Two questions underlaid this reaction: why did the “masses” (read: working classes) vote them in? Do they not know what’s good for them?
Here are their main arguments as to why the Tory government is bullshit, and here’s why those arguments are bullshit.
1) “But don’t the people care about equality/ benefits / the NHS?!? Don’t they know that equality / benefits/ the NHS is going to be buggered?!?”
No. Stop. You do not speak for “the people”. The assumption that the working class exists as a homogeneous block is patronising and stupid. Furthermore, it’s entirely possible for supporters of the same ideals to vote for different parties. Means and ends and all that.
2) The electorate was manipulated by a right wing media.
This is asserted by the lucky few, gifted with intellects powerful enough to penetrate Murdoch’s evil fascist designs. With grave generosity, they sift the miasma so we don’t have to. One Facebook commentator claimed the press had “scared middle Britain into submission.” But not them, presumably? Brave, clever them?
This reeks of snobbery, and rests on the classist assumption that the general Sun or Mail waving public naively gobbles up tabloid journalism and asks the chef for more. This is a snobbery of the worst kind; even worse than the perceived snobbery of the Tories’ Eton-educated leadership.
3) First Past the Post is broken
Perhaps it is. But not half a decade ago the UK held a referendum, where the public voted overwhelmingly against the Alternative Vote. You cannot argue this line without again criticising the general public’s capacity to make decisions. (Allowing, of course, that we have not yet voted on full blown Proportional Representation.)
Regardless of whether or not the Tories would have won as many seats under an alternative system (they wouldn’t have), they still won the largest proportion of votes: 37% to Labour’s 30%. I didn’t see anyone complain about FPTP when it meant that, despite gaining 13% of votes, UKIP won a single seat while allowing the Lib Dems to win 8 seats with 8% of the votes.
The unfortunate truth is that Labour lost out because of an uninspiring election campaign, and by abandoning their core voters. In doing so, they lost Scotland- an ENTIRE BLOODY COUNTRY. And not to the Conservatives, but to the SNP: a group who actually bothered to cater to their core vote’s needs, rather than rest on their laurels knowing they rested in a “safe” seat.
This is what democracy looks like. It’s not great, and certainly not pretty, but it’s the best we’ve got right now. (I for one yearn for the day when we can vote on policies on our iPads and do away with party politics altogether.) You may be upset. That’s valid. Protest; march; riot if you must. But don’t criticise the electorate for making the wrong decision. Don’t make the Left endorse everything it stands against: the paternalistic, condescending tones of snobbery.