I am, in a word, frightened.
This is not going to be a happy blog post (though for once, I’m not going to be telling sad personal details of my life). I have had three hours sleep in the last two days, and I feel jittery and disorientated. It’s compounded by some personal stuff I’m going through at the moment, but really, what scares me is that the Tories just won a general election.
Feel free to rain your contempt on me in the comments. I frankly don’t care. The prospect of the Conservatives in power for 5 years is truly horrifying and morally repugnant.
A common joke made about the last Lib-Dem Tory coalition was that the Lib Dems basically did nothing and went along with the worst excesses of Tory austerity. In many cases, this is true, but credit where credit is due – Nick Clegg’s party did try to curtail some of the worst of the Tories ideological programme. The so called Snooper’s Charter, a shameful assault on the right to internet privacy, was stopped when the Lib Dems refused to back it, as just one example. The Lib Dems did the wrong thing by going into coalition with the Tories, but they had their (all too infrequent) moments of political clarity.
But of course, the Lib Dems were annihilated – there’s only 8 of them left. The Tories, on the other hand, won a whopping 326 seats. They beat Labour by almost 100. This result is such a curveball because as an electorate, we have for months been told that today, 8th May, would be the first day of a hung parliament. I, and I expect many others, expected that the next days and weeks would be filled with agonised attempts to form a coalition government. Nightmarish scenarios of a Tory UKIP coalition floated around (though, thankfully, UKIP only got one seat, and Nigel Farage has quit as leader, a small positive of a very negative night). I had hoped that a Labour led coalition would be formed – Labour, with SNP, Plaid and Greens (and perhaps SDLP) would form an anti-Tory bloc. It would be a tough coalition – Labour’s austerity lite programme conflicted with the SNP, Plaid and Greens more sound program, and there would be compromises and difficulties, but this government could at least have taken some steps to try and repair the damage done to the country by the Coalition.
When I say damage, I am not exaggerating – this is the mildest term I can think of for what has happened to the country in the last five years. The Tory mantra of “our economic plan is working” always left a bit of sickening taste in my mouth. Britain is the 7th richest nation on earth, and yet according to the Tressell Trust, 1,084, 064 people relied on foodbanks in 2014-15. In 2011-12 (one of the coalition’s early years in power) 128,697 used foodbanks. The Tressell Trusts research, as well as other independent sources, attribute to this to the harsh changes in benefits brought in by the Coalition. Under the Tories, the number of Academies and Free Schools has sky rocketed, and according to research by the University of Glasgow, this has “ has lost sight of the original aims of the programme and is likely to create a more inequitable system where private interests are attracted. to low risk settings where easier returns and greater profits can be gained.” During the last parliament, Mental Health Services had their budgets cut by £60 million, or 8%.. Huge cuts to disability benefits have been linked to numerous deaths of disabled and vulnerable people. The Coalitions back door privatisation of the NHS has led to poorer standards of care, and a real fear among health care workers. The tripling of tuition fees, and huge cuts to Higher and Further Education have led to a funding “black hole” in our education system. The list, sadly, goes on.
And let’s not forget that all of the above took place when the Tories were in a coalition. What we have here is a majority Tory government, with no party (no matter how incompetent) able to hold them back. Already, we know the Tories are planning £12 billion in welfare cuts, that will affect more disabled and disadvantaged people. We have the prospect of the scrapping of the Human Rights Act. Reports emerged a few days ago that the Tories plan to increase tuition fees again. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. We don’t know what else the new right wing government will do.
With a majority, a new age of Tory ideological extremism is firmly on the agenda. The welfare state will be stripped away and sold off. The vulnerable will suffer, the poor sink deeper into poverty. People with disabilities like myself will find it harder and harder to get support. The University system I hope to work in will become closer and closer to a privatised model, the prevail of the rich. All the while, the corporations and the wealthy will carry on gaining.
I’ll be blunt – the Tory party is an extremist party. It has a single minded vision for the world which it can couch in whatever creative language it chooses, but does not change the chilling scope of its plan. We face an unbridled threat of a government that frankly, does not care for those outside its class.
And why does this frighten me? Because honestly, I don’t know if the left can resist. Many Leftists have written today that we must agitate, organise and build a new resistance. Perhaps it is my pessimism speaking but I fear that like the resistance we saw to the coalition, it will build and then fizzle out like a dying star. The Tories will remain in power until I am 30, and I have to ask myself, seriously, if I will recognise the world at that point, or if it will be something worse, something darker, something that has no place for me and mine.
In short, I am afraid.