Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Day Democracy Died

So this morning, I was feeling pretty sunny. Shallow creature that I am, cute boy in the office telling me I was beautiful yesterday brightened up my mood no end. It's not like that; he has a girlfriend, and it's not like *that*, for those of you who are unfortunate enough to know me so well they're about to point out that men having girlfriends hasn't exactly stopped me falling head over heels in love with them in the past, it's total harmless fun. I wear short skirts and bend over the photocopier, he stares at my arse, everybody goes home happy. If I were his girlfriend I'd probably not be best pleased, but recent experience has left me feeling rather unsisterly, to be honest. I'm not interested in this guy in that way, but I'm coming round more and more to my friend's saying, "girlfriends aren't mountains, they can be moved" - prefereably to the bottom of the ocean, weighed down by their giant noses, in some cases. (To my loved up female friends I should probably mention I'm still all talk, and I don't fancy any of your boyfriends. To the boyfriends: sorry. You're nice people though.)

Anyway, I was in a good mood. And like most of my good moods, it wasn't to last. If you want to feel the full extent of my incomprehension of what happened next, check my Twitter feed from about 9.30am, where I live-blogged my rage. Otherwise, read on. Up fairly early for a Saturday (and a little pleased for it), I stepped, blinking, into the early morning sunshine and went to buy a paper. I already knew about Alternative Vote (AV). Last night, as the results filtered through, I wasn't even angry. Just sad. Sad and incomprehending how anyone could turn down the first and probably last chance we'll have in our lifetimes of a real democracy. Obviously I'm doing my stages of grief in the wrong order, because anger came this morning when I was halfway out of the shop door, Guardian in hand, and caught the front page of the Daily Flail:

"The Day Britain Stood Up For Democracy"

I thought until very recently that that comedy skit thing, where people are so shocked by something their jaws drop open was nothing more than a comedy device for sketch shows and cartoons. But I stood there, literally agape. They were crowing, triumphantly, about *keeping* FPTP. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCKING FUCK?!?!?! Because of FPTP our Prime Minister is the leader of a party that won 35% of the vote. That's democracy? Our deputy prime minister, who literally decided what shape our government would take, having the official responsibilty of choosing between the Tories and Labour as coalition partners, is the unpopular leader of a party that won less than a third of the popular vote. That's democracy?! AV isn't perfect, but at least the winning candidate has to have accrued 50% of the vote, even if it's on aggregate. Under FTPT we've ended up with a government who more than 50% of the electorate didn't vote for. How is that fair? All the main parties elect their leaders using a form of AV or Single Transferable Vote (STV). Cameron went through four ballots before winning the Tory leadership contest on aggregate. Using FPTP it would have gone to David Davis. Is that how Cameron governs? Sticks his fingers up and says "do as I say, not as I do"? How is that fair? Plus, if I were Australia I'd have something to say about the Tories and the fucking Dail Fail labelling AV "undemocratic" - Australia have been using AV for more than 100 years. Oh, and the NO campaign argument that AV results in more hung parliaments? Australia have had one, in 100 years. We've had two in 50 under FPTP. Maths - not a Tory strong point.

So now all that is left to do is apportion blame. I'm not blaming no-voting Tories; they're Tories, they're evil, that's just how they roll. I blame fucking lefties. Yeah, like a cannibal, I'm savaging my own. Deal with it.

Not all lefties, obviously, all but one of my friends who shared their voting preferences with me voted yes. That's not surprising, my friends are all lovely, intelligent people. And the YES campaign didn't even fail because of people voting no. It failed because of idiot lefites NOT VOTING. It breaks down like this:

Idiot Group One - Those who didn't vote because they felt AV was a compromise when what they really wanted was Proportional Representation (PR). Is your face sore, since you cut off your nose to spite it? It's called progression people - AV, like cannabis, is a gateway drug, nobody *starts* on crack. For fuck's sake, you morons, SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE.

Most bile however reserved for:

Idiot Group Two - Those who didn't vote because AV won't stop the cuts/end world hunger/solve every problem that has ever existed ever. A dichotomy of our times is that younger people are more politically aware than ever before, and yet more apathetic than ever before. Fringe reactionaries like Laurie Penny have devoted their entire careers to getting young people to pay attention to politics, but by convincing them that all MPs are facists, all governments are oppressive, and there's no point voting because the only person who speaks for the poor and socially disadvantaged is her. One might question how much insight Laurie really gained into poverty and social injustice during her time at a fee-paying secondary school and then Oxford University, but obviously she's learning by Cameron's example.

I'm not saying if you're wealthy you can't care about poverty, or that anyone naturally doesn't care about something that doesn't affect them directly, but honesty is key. My upbringing was nowhere near as privileged as Penny's obviously was, but I've still lived a comfortable lower-middle class lifestyle. I live in a small house in the nicer part of a run-down town, but I never wanted for anything I really needed. I was pissed off that when I was at school because I never got to go on the foreign exchange or the big trips with the school choir, or have dance lessons or horse-riding classes or any of that because my parents couldn't afford it. But I had my own bedroom, I had access to books and a computer, and I had nice clothes and good food on the table every night, and as you get older, and you realise that a lot of children grow up without those things, you realise how lucky you really were. And part of that is owning up to your relative privilege. There's something so snide and slimy about the way Laurie Penny is always reporting from "inside" the squatters camp, how she's always pretending to be "one of them", but at the end of the night she goes home to her nice flat, or by her admission, to drink free champagne at posh parties with all the other media luvvies. It's no different from all the upper class Gap Yah! kids going to piss all over Africa for their holidays and then talk about how it like, *totally* changed them - it's poverty tourism in its purest form.

So yeah, you've got the Laurie Penny anarchist-lites, who didn't vote because "no authortiy represents me man, no matter how it's elected". Then you've got people like Lisa Ansell who inexplicably is a regular contributor to the Guardian, despite not being a particularly talented or engaging writer, and only having one area of interest - herself. Everything is seen through a prism of how it affects her, as a single mother. Hence the appaling piece of trash the Gruan shamefully ran the day before the referendum where she droned on about how she wouldn't bother voting AV, because it did nothing to halt the cuts, which were making her life, as a single mother, very difficult. "Why vote for AV while public services are being cut?!", she and her cohorts cry. "Why not accept that they are totally seperate concerns whose relative merits have no bearing on one another?!", replies the voice of sanity, drowned out by all the madness.

Feeding from that, and from the whole Laurie Penny Gao Yah! thing, there are those just too *global* to care about aything as *parochial* as a national referendum. "Who cares about AV when children in Africa are starving, dude?" "Will AV stop the hurricanes? Fuck AV man. Now pass the weed." You can tell I spend too much time in Shoreditch.

To borrow a line from an erstwhile favourite band of mine, you lazy hipsters make me sick. With your one moment of arrogance, you've screwed everything, for a generation or more. Think about it. Who wants politcal reform? The Lib Dems are the strongest supporters, and they'll be lucky to see power again in 100 years after what they've done. Labour are split on the issue, but could be convinced to pursue it if public favour ever turned that way. But when will they ever get the chance? If they offer another referendum within ten years they'll be accused of trying to force people to change their minds when they've already spoken. Bring it in without a referendum, which is the better option, because the British voting public have continually proved themselves to be idiots, and they'd be slammed for bringing it in by the backdoor and get chucked out at the election along with their policies. We may never see a chance like this again in our lifetimes. And lefties, that's on you.