Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Who do you vote for when there is no one to vote for?
It was a disappointing question to be asking for my first general election. They’re events of significant fanfare, after all. The broadcasters break out their ever-expanding collection of infographics and CGI maps. The BBC dust off that opening music. We get treated to weeks of blow-by-blow coverage as party leaders, each with their own comet tail of reporters, staffers and activists, shuttle around the country, giving stump speeches and (if we’re lucky) occasionally sinking their teeth into each other in a scramble for the keys to Number 10.
Of course, eventually the country arrives at the business end of matters. Polling Day. Cue a curious absence of political content on the news, as the cacophony of election coverage is hushed by legally-binding tradition. Pictures of smiling party leaders at polling stations. And the small matter of actually casting your ballot. But I was torn.
First off, as a student, I had to decide before polling day where to vote, and frankly I was none too sure. Both my home and shared house in Southampton were in Labour constituencies. The Labour party was a bit less entrenched in my home constituency, so I was tempted to vote there, to keep the red flag flying. But did I really want that?
Despite being able to trace a labour-voting tendency in my family through to the generation of my great-grandfather, I wasn’t necessarily convinced I wanted Labour in power. They were weak on the issue of Brexit, which I saw as an era-defining error, serving as a vehicle to legitimise the far-right. I thought their leader was well-intentioned, but weak and foolish, content to be carried by his fan club. I thought their policy programme looked good. It was somewhat congested, and perhaps over-ambitious. But better to fail while daring greatly, so my thinking went. But again, Brexit. Trying to ‘both sides’ morally charged division, and failing to oppose a project that would leave us a xenophobic set of islands off the coast of Europe in the eyes of the world. Had we always been that way? Possibly, but Brexit threatened to entrench that in the heart of government. Not to mention threatening to disrupt the Northern Ireland peace process. And our food supply. And the immigration of healthcare workers that keep the NHS on its feet.
But Labour were offering something. A second referendum. Another throw of the dice, however absurd it was that the leadership was undecided on whether it would campaign for or against its own deal. Plus, it became apparent over the course of the campaign that Corbyn would only make it into Number 10 with either the Lib Dems or the SNP, both of whom could be relied upon to force Labour into a more pro-Europe position. Furthermore, voting for the Liberal Democrats, as much as I admired their decision over repealing Article 50, would only have split the anti-Conservative bloc in either constituency. So, Labour it had to be, in my home constituency.
Enter the punchline: none of this mattered.
Why not? Surely all of this agonising can’t have been for nothing?
Reader, it was. Because at 10 pm on 12th December 2019, I saw the exit poll indicate a major Conservative victory, foretelling the political earthquake that would fell my dreams of harmony and cooperation with Europe. Elections are theatrical, they are exciting, but they can also be crushing if you care to believe in them.