So, I’ve just been to vote.
I was uncertain about who I’d be voting for almost to the moment I walked into the polling booth. I spent an unending amount of time on Fullfact before the election, and it sometimes didn’t help much. Much to my relief, I’m in a safe Labour seat (56%, followed by LibDems 16%, Greens 12%, Others 7%, Tories 4% and UKIP 3%, well done Sheffield). Whilst I am (clearly) a raging lefty at heart, the Greens lost me over their changes to copyright law (although I do applaud their willingness to adapt in consultation with those affected), I have some doubts about their economic policy (although I applaud its general drift) and there have been obviously problematic local candidates . It’s a shame, because the vast majority of their policies I am ideologically right behind. I considered the LibDems; I am sympathetic to the narrative outlined here, and indeed it’s one that several of my nearest and dearest appear to subscribe to. A relatively well-intentioned LibDem party falling on their swords to mitigate the worst excesses of the Tories is plausible – and the Independent’s Who Do I Vote For thingy suggests I agree with a lot of their policies – but I also have (understandably) reservations about their commitment to the policies I actually care about. My doubts of Labour are manifold, particularly regarding Trident, immigration (that mug. Why?) and Owen Jones pretty much sums up my feelings here. But I looked at the voting record of my incumbent Labour candidate, which tallies pretty much with my wishes with a couple of exceptions (I WOULD LIKE MORE TAXATION KTHXBAI, although he was very strongly in favour of the mansion tax…), and he seems a pretty decent guy. I went for him in the end – although I split my vote – and don’t really have any regrets.
So what sold me? Ironically enough, it was Piers Morgan.
I’d already been pretty horrified by the tabloid front pages yesterday. My personal favourite is clearly the Mail – don’t let the class-war zealot ruin our country! and btw the NHS is fucked for REASONS ENTIRELY UNRELATED TO THE PRESENT GOVERNMENT! – but the Sun’s questionable anti-Semitism is horrendous, and don’t even get me started on the Times’ insinuation that any Labour-led government would be unconstitutional. (As if we have a constitution. And David Cameron swept to victory on a wave of popular acclaim, obviously.) As for the Express, I don’t even.
(Just incidentally, where does the myth of the British media having a left-wing bias come from? And the BBC? I mean, what?)
Obviously, the mainstream media immediately before an election have never been much fun. But this time round is something special. This campaign against basing you political decisions on ‘fear and smear’ is brilliant, although possibly too little too late; this article discusses the truly problematic level of fictionalising involved, and none other than, um, Alastair Campbell has a go here.
I’ve always been disturbed by the tabloid take on Miliband. (In fact, that article covers most of the stuff I was planning to bring up here.) All the North London geek stuff (like, that’s a bad thing? Are we supposed to disapprove because he seemingly has principles and lectured at Harvard?). Mocking his facial expressions and his clumsiness. (I don’t really see the problem with his facial expressions. He looks a lot less porcine than David Cameron. A friend has a theory that he’s mildly dyspraxic, which may or may not be the case. Either way, I’ve always liked clumsy – that strange combination of awkwardness and grace – and really, truly do not see much political insight in the way he eats a bacon sandwich.) Jeremy Paxman’s hardline insistence that he’s not ‘tough enough’ to be PM merely serves to solidify my desire that he should be – I’d like a PM with empathy and awareness, actually, maybe even some tentative, humanising, admirable degree of self-doubt, one who might actually (as Miliband has promised, questionable as leading politicians’ promises always are) listen to the suffering and the wishes of those in his power. I’m not quite Milibae, although I have a sneaking suspicion that adolescent me might have been; I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog.
Anyway, Piers Morgan. He wrote some godawful screed yesterday I’m not going to link to that derided Miliband for ‘struggling to “be normal” and eat a bacon sandwich’, and I just thought…well, okay then. I called him out on Twitter for sounding like a schoolyard bully (and the curious may inspect the results for themselves here. Twatnav is go.) Fuck that. Obviously, playground name calling is symptomatic of an idiot mind and no evidence of political insight, but that does sum up the media attitude to Miliband – and actually, for me, that’s a good thing. I don’t want to be ruled by someone who takes being ‘normal’ for granted and thinks everyone should be the same (and punishes them for not being). If Ed Miliband is ‘struggling to be normal’, then he is my people. If that’s the inaccurate result of a pathetic smear campaign, then I am still all in favour of him having emerged from it with purpose and courage undimmed.
Sure, gut instinct for resisting bullies and coercion may not be the best basis for electing our future leader. I’m not particularly proud of it as a gut response, although fortunately it tallied with my intellectual judgement. But it’s better than ‘because Murdoch says so and I don’t see the need to examine the facts or the context for myself.’ I’ve done the thinking and I’ve read the analyses and I’ve examined the figures, and I would generally welcome a Labour-led left-leaning coalition government, and I am in fact pretty grateful to Mr Morgan for summing up so eloquently just what it is I like so much about Ed Miliband.
As for what I think will happen? Owen Jones, again:
‘We are sleepwalking into a dangerous moment. If there is a left-of-centre, anti-Tory majority in parliament then the Tories must fall, however many seats they have won. Left-wing parties will have won the election and a left-of-centre government led by Labour must take office. And yet it would be deemed “illegitimate” by the Tories and most of the media. That really would be a situation with few precedents in an advanced democracy: where the opposition and media refuse to accept the democratic legitimacy of the national government.’
Taking bets now…
EDITED POST-RESULT TO ADD:
My partner described Ed Miliband as ‘a leader only Labour people and clever people will vote for’. Which is a savage indictment of our political system and the electorate of this country to boot, not to mention the media. (It also inclines me to reflect with fear on how much cleverer than most people my friends and my social bubble must be. Urgh.)