I’d be grateful if you would give a few minutes quiet reflection to the question below, and possibly even write down your answer. It’s quite important.
Why are you going to vote in the onrushing General Election? Not how. Why?
Have you considered it carefully? Are you ready?
I believe that most of you will have answered with something that depends on emotion or personal value judgements, because, ultimately, how we vote comes down to how we see ourselves and the society we live in.
Most people reading this post will have a liberal outlook. We love our values of tolerance, diversity, rationality, and I’m as passionate about them as anybody. But they are personal value judgements, not absolutes. It’s perfectly possible to have a functioning society with autocratic rule and persecution of minorities. You and I wouldn’t like this, but it would work. North Korea is a case in point.
When people vote Conservative on June 8th it will be because they want to.
This is a paradox, because most people are not likely to benefit from a Conservative victory.
Now, it may be that they simply don’t realise the damage that is being done to the NHS and to schools by Conservative policies. It certainly won’t hurt to remind them of this, preferably with local examples. But what are the positive reasons for them to put a cross in the box for a Conservative candidate?
In short, why are turkeys going to vote for Christmas?
The answer, I think, lies in a sense of belonging, of group identity.
Time after time, on the television news, we have heard ordinary people – voters – say (about Brexit), “We’re going to take back control of Britain”. This sense of group national identity is being fostered assiduously by the Conservative Party and the right wing press. They will control migration “to protect British jobs”. They will restrict asylum to a handful of children “to protect the British public against terrorism”. The subliminal message throughout is “You’re in my gang. I’ll take care of you.”
We need an equally compelling emotional narrative if we are to convince these voters. I confess I do not have one. Our vision of a just and caring society needs to be set down persuasively so that people don’t feel threatened or bullied by it, but rather feel cherished and valued.
That is for the future. For this election we can only concentrate on turning out the liberal vote, and building electoral alliances where we can.
Good luck, friends!