I am angry. So angry. And I will take that anger to the streets when I can. I promise this. Because I’ll be mostly okay under a Tory government; I have a job, a home and a wonderful network of family and friends around as support. But I didn’t vote for me. I voted for society. Tory voters did not. Tory voters could not give a shit about anyone but themselves and their wallets. And I hate each and every one of you for this.
– Gareth Bundy, blogger and moralist
As this blog has noted, furious rants like this are not unusual among left wing activists. They were frequent before the election, and they have only increased in tone and volume as the Left lick their collective wounds after an unexpectedly heavy defeat.
So long as they remain the preserve of crusading online moralists such as Gareth Bundy – or the people who, in their sickness, deface a London war memorial – this is not really noteworthy. The problem is that many non-activist Labour supporters, normal people who have marinated in the same left wing groupthink since at least 2010, quietly concur with the anti-Tory hysteria currently consuming the Left.
Used to hearing anti-austerity arguments and accepting them uncritically, it is taken for granted by many people that conservative ideas are inherently selfish and evil, and that people who vote Conservative (or, god forbid, UKIP) are heartless monsters, idiotic dupes at best and eager participants in a genocide of the poor and disabled at worst.
This is not to say that left wing ideas are not misrepresented, attacked or ridiculed by those on the right – they often are, and one certainly finds comments section bores and internet trolls of all political stripes. But at the moment, it is a particularly acute problem for the British left, because so much of the angry, activist hyperbole is accepted as truth by society and the popular culture. Of course Labour want to help the poor. Of course the Conservatives only govern in the interest of their rich friends.
The truth is never that simple. There is good and bad in everyone, and in most political parties – but many on the left do not want to see this. While those on the right tend to see their left-leaning fellow citizens as misguided or naive, the Left are increasingly inclined to view conservative ideas as inherently evil.
According to this blinkered mindset, someone can only possibly support the Tories out of a selfish concern for their own wallet or business prospects, certainly not because they believe conservative policies might actually do the most good for the most people. This is particularly ironic given the fact that many Labour policies consist of nothing more than conscience-soothing exercises in money-bombing intractable social problems, failing to tackle the root causes and trapping millions of people in lifelong dependency.
Besides, the Conservative government whose victory plunged the Left into such a deep depression is hardly truly conservative at all, having enthusiastically adopted the language and many of the policies of the left in their desperate bid to stay in power.
Universal benefits and free perks for even wealthy pensioners? Check. Support for nationalised healthcare? Check. Run down national defence to prop up bloated but protected social spending? Check. Support Britain’s continued membership of the EU (as David Cameron does)? Hell yes!
But so common is the perception that the Tories are the “nasty party” – and that conservative policies are inherently regressive, embraced only through personal selfishness – that the Conservatives could only win their election victory by dressing up in Labour Party clothing. And still people who were planning to vote Tory were so hesitant to admit their preference that the polls consistently failed to predict the scale of David Cameron’s eventual victory.
The Labour Party can make a serious, good faith effort to understand the nature and scale of their defeat, or they can retreat into the angry denialism favoured by some of their most ardent supporters – and as they did in 2010 when they chose Ed Miliband as their leader. At present, there are few encouraging signs that the British Left will take the higher road.
Far easier to just keep shouting “Tory scum, off our streets!”