I’m proud of being left wing. It’s not something that really ‘defines’ me in a great sense, but if asked I wouldn’t hesitate. Amongst other things I believe the state should help those who can’t help themselves, and I believe there are certain services – like healthcare and education – that if left completely to the free market would be inaccessible to an unacceptable number of people. At every election in which I’ve voted, it has always been for a candidate on the left of the political spectrum.
I mention all of this to preface the comment I am about to make: I am at the moment embarrassed to be left wing.
I was 7 the last time the Tories were defeated in a general election, and I wasn’t in any way politically minded. We also didn’t have access to Twitter and Facebook in ’97 – mostly because the Internet was still something you couldn’t use if your parents were expecting an important phone call.
Nevertheless, I don’t remember there being such a huge backlash from the right when Tony Blair stepped into Number 10. Listen, I get that there are policies I don’t agree with, and I am as worried as any other leftie about the state our country is heading towards with a Conservative majority. That said, I wanted to vent some frustration at the reactions of some people, and the damage caused.
Twitter and Facebook are self-selecting circles, and as a result I will obviously have surrounded myself with people whose views broadly align with my own. I therefore don’t know if the left are being as brutally mocked by the right as I know is happening vice-versa. What I do know, is that I’ve seen a number of statuses, tweets, and other updates that have made me cringe. Aren’t we on the left supposed to be the nice, fluffy ones who care about the common good?
I’m not usually in the business of apologising on behalf of a group for whom I can’t really claim to speak, so this isn’t an apology to the right so much as a hat-tip. I can appreciate how angry some (not all!) of my left-leaning-kin are making you.
But this is also a call to those on the left. Yes, we have a Tory government, and a majority one at that. But it is not a large majority, and there is still a lot that we can do to help push positive change; I am in no way saying that we should roll over and take this. If you believe in something, then you should damn well fight for it. There are, however, good and bad ways of doing that, and I fear that those trying to push a good agenda and help create positive change are being drowned out by petty arguments and counter-rebukes from the right. They are better than us at arguing – we know this or they wouldn’t have won the election. Call me naive, but I think that instead we need to be trying to work together, find the common ground, and stop fighting.
We can argue about voting systems, the media bias, and the mood of the electorate. Indeed, we should argue about all of those things. But there is a time and a place for all of that, and blaming the system doesn’t make us look any better. This is a time for us to be looking to support each other, and together moving to create a better world.
Competition – of any kind – has the potential to bring out the worst in people. I fear that this time, it has done more harm to the political left than ever before. But it is within our power to change that, no one else’s.