After weeks of build-up, the so-called ‘closest election’ in years is at an end and the results are nowhere near as close as expected. The result has been met with relief by some, sadness by others, but almost everyone is united by confusion due to the vast disparity between opinion polls and the actual outcome.
A recent article in the Independent saw self-proclaimed ‘proud’ Tory, Lewis Barber, attribute this discrepancy to the ‘shy’ Tory vote. Barber claims that quiet and retiring Tories find themselves unwilling to disclose their political allegiances for fear of vilification from the Left. According to Barber, the ‘shy’ Tory vote is what skewed opinion polls and ultimately won the election. He is of course right, the Left are famously an outspoken bunch – the multiple protests and petitions against austerity are testament to this. But dismissing them as a vitriolic rabble fails to take into account one key consideration: the Left are only vocal out of absolute necessity.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the result of this election will be a death sentence for many of our society’s most vulnerable. The number of people using food banks has risen, homelessness is on the up and it’s impossible not to link the dramatic increase in the deaths of disabled people with the dramatic decrease in their benefits. It has been proven time and again that the poorest in society have suffered the most as a result of the coalition, while the very wealthy have prospered. For the poor and disabled, the fact that we now face an unfettered Tory government is a justified reason to panic.
When Barber says that defending his beliefs isn’t ‘worth the Facebook argument’, it’s because that is all politics is to him. Ultimately, most people who voted Tory find themselves in a uniquely privileged position: the outcome of the election ultimately does not have any drastic impact on their lives. They may be taxed a little more on their earnings, they may have to cut back on a few luxuries or shop at Sainsbury’s instead of Waitrose, but ultimately, they will be fine. However, this is absolutely not the case for those who rely on the policies of the Left.
For these people, the result of this election is more a case of whether they will get to eat today or whether they can put clothes on their children’s backs. Not all supporters of the Left are in this position, but those who are lucky enough not to be are not ‘self-righteous,’ as Barber puts it, but simply have a modicum of social awareness. This means that we are not afraid to speak up for the rights and needs of those who are marginalised by right-wing politics. It is no coincidence that the most vulnerable are often the most disenfranchised and in the face of Tory apathy, it frequently falls to the Left to vocalise their needs. The Left is unique in that it encompasses people from all walks of life and social class, and so when we shout and scream, it is often not just in defiance but sheer desperation.
Barber’s assertion that these ‘shy’ Tories have some dignified moral highground is merely an example of the naivety and blitheness that typifies Tory voters. To have led a life of such relative comfort that you cannot envisage the hardship endured by millions every day is a blessing, but for those of us in this situation we have a responsibility not just to envisage, but actively challenge the status quo. Being blasé is well and good if you can afford to be, but when politics becomes a matter of survival, silence simply won’t cut it.