Let’s be honest, I’m pretty political – increasingly so, over the last few years. I think it comes with the territory; you can’t work on social justice issues and not be painfully aware of the wider factors and systems that impact on the people you are working with.
I’ve actually tried to keep relatively quiet on the whole election front. There are very few people in my personal network who aren’t on the same page as me in their political leanings, and we all learnt from the Brexit vote quite how dangerous it can be to feel confident that the views of your own echo chamber are the views of the majority. If you’re reading this from my Facebook page, odds are that we are in agreement.
So I suppose this really is a plea to those whose voting tendencies I can’t be sure sure of, which I think boils down to my family. So here are some thoughts for them as the 8th June draws closer:
Last week, it occurred to me that at the end of this next parliament, the one we will vote in on Thursday, I will be 30. That really hit me, not so much because of my age, but what that will mean for my situation in life. The big thing is that I may well start thinking about having children then, which suddenly throws this election into sharp relief. As I imagine the future that we are heading for, it feels increasingly dystopic and, in a word, scary.
I imagine the day my first child is born, under the smiling painted face of Richard Branson which presides over the Virgin Health maternity ward. One exhausted midwife, nearing retirement, struggles to support multiple women and their partners because of the ever-falling staff numbers.
Some years later (let’s gloss over the whole childcare situation because right now I don’t even want to consider being forced to give up my career because childcare is too expensive), I will have to make the decision of whether to stand by my principles on fair education or send this child to a grammar school for a superior education at the cost of their peers’. I suspect the answer will depend on which is in a better position to spoil the children with luxuries such as government-funded toilet paper. Either way, they can look forward to a childhood full of testing and stripped of music, art and theatre.
But I rush ahead. I have assumed that my child will get the full set of functioning genes that I would anticipate from its parents, and that they will grow up healthy, able-bodied and neurotypical. If not, the future looks even bleaker.
A reduction in autism diagnosis will mean that more children than ever will grow up misunderstood, bullied and isolated with a lifetime of consequences for their mental health, self esteem and employment opportunities. Whatever the issue, pressures on school staff and a reduction in resources may push my child out of mainstream into special schools, whether they need it or not. Their social opportunities will be dictated by the local government’s purse, ever shrinking, while those who work as TAs or in respite struggle by on minimum wages. As they get older, they will be pushed into a humiliating and degrading system of benefits which sees them as a body rather than a person, of limited value in society.
Whatever their own situation, I would do my utmost to bring them up as open-minded, tolerant and welcoming – a struggle in a world where those in power (political and economic) seek to create fear and mistrust.
I could go on. I could talk about the crushing weight of their university debt, the restriction on their international travel or the pressure to be interested in STEM subjects, but we’ll be here all night if I do.
I don’t fear North Korea or terrorism. What I fear is the impact on our society of we continue to prioritise funding war over health and education, and how reductive black-and-white thinking seems to prevail over critical analysis. I worry about supporting leaders who limit human rights far more than supporting those whose human rights have been contravened. I want to be part of a population which reasons, shares and explores than one another, understanding but intolerant of intolerance.
The long and short of it is this. We can either carry on as we are, ostensibly saving money but really only exacerbating the problems of poverty, disability, mental health etc. and pushing them further down the line. Or we can choose to try something different. There are different choices for what kind of different, but really that’s dictated largely by where you live – do your research into the most viable alternative where you are. Choose different, choose a positive outlook that puts longterm human progress above short term policy wins. I won’t tell you who to vote for, but whoever you choose, please don’t vote Tory.