Due to a combination of factors, I gave up on the BBC’s election night coverage after a quarter of an hour but not before that exit poll had given me the shock of my life. Like many, I had been banking on a Labour landslide – all but praying for one, if I’m honest, though I never truly believed Ed Miliband had won over so much of the electorate – or, at the very least, a Labour/SNP coalition.
The first exit poll, then, felt like disaster and when I woke the next day to discover a Conservative majority I was stunned. This is the first time that I, as an adult, have experienced a Tory Government and I fear for what the next five years hold. I feel this most acutely given my job – as a health professional, I have seen the impact of swingeing cuts to health and social care budgets up close. I know what effect the NHS reorganization has had on services and I have witnessed the sell-off of public services through the back door with a growing sense of fury and dread. The rest, you will be familiar with – the Bedroom Tax, Workplace Capability Assessments; the thundering destruction of the welfare state.
Obviously Clegg and Miliband had to go, as did Murphy, north of the border. And although the Greens got their highest ever share of the vote (one bright spot in a sea of gloom) it was hard to feel positive about much else. In my decimated state I began to wonder, as did so many others, whether the Left was dead, whether we were condemned to this horror for all eternity. But the Left isn’t dead, of course; it’s just that not enough of it is Left enough.
Labour stopped being a party of workers over a decade ago (for a movement rooted in the industrial heartlands of the UK, I find it extraordinary that it hasn’t supported a strike in the past two decades) and, rather than following the SNP’s lead in fighting austerity, it tacitly went along with it. It’s no surprise Labour lost; it utterly failed to distinguish itself from the opposition. As for the Lib Dems, they were destined to be ousted from the moment they entered into a pact with Cameron and colleagues.
So it’s easy to think Leftist politics went out with the 1990s and that we are now doomed. But there are movements to protest against the effects of unfettered Tory rule; effects that will touch all of us and which will make life far harder for those who do not have the luxury of a secure financial background. June 20 will see what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of anti-austerity protesters London has yet seen. Join us. Our strength lies only in our numbers. There are challenges ahead and now, more than ever, the most vulnerable in society need us to fight with them, to back them up and to know that the Left still exists.