“Me and my friends sort of used to run through the fields of wheat…” the Prime Minister says, a gleam of merriment finding her eyes, “the farmers weren’t too pleased about that… Their cries were sort of like those of animals. Gosh, they ran and ran… their filthy, skinny haunches carrying them as best they could. But we were faster, of course – children often are – and because we were quite small they could rarely see us beneath the golden heads of wheat. We laughed a great deal when they swerved or swore or prayed. Blood takes on a different odour when it’s agitated, sort of like… marzipan. My friend April would always reach them first, then myself, then June. Farmers are rather well acquainted with dying. I imagine they learn it from their livestock. Goodness me… Nobody is ever perfectly behaved, are they?”
For UK readers who aren’t volunteering for Labour in today’s election because victory is still a long shot, even with the tightened polls, here’s a short letter from an Australian perspective.
Last year Australia’s conservative government called an election. They were led by an exceedingly popular PM who came into office a few a months before. He was an investment banker who believed in slashing healthcare and education, but many thought of him as a moderate because he sounded articulate and sensible compared to the far-right lunatics who had risen to prominence in the last few years. Everybody thought the conservatives would win in a landslide and have a mandate to do what the hell they wanted for the next term.
Progressive volunteers refused to let that happen, and knocked on doors to chat to voters. The PM’s approval rating dropped by 20% over the course of the election campaign. The conservatives still won a majority, but only by a single seat. The establishment was astonished. Since then, the government’s popularity has collapsed so profoundly that our PM’s leadership is constantly under threat his own party and Labor are almost a sure thing for the next election.
More importantly, our conservative’s austerity agenda has been crippled. They just released their first budget since the election, and they’re so shaken by the final result it’s the most moderate budget the party has released in decades. They’ve hardly touched schools and have decided to fully fund the insurance scheme for people with disabilities that a past Labour government introduced. People are still going to suffer because of their policies, but a lot fewer than would have if they’d won by a bigger majority. And they’re still on track to lose next time.
Our Labour opposition is basically a neoliberal Blairite party. You guys have a tough fight ahead of you (though no harder than ours was) but a hell of a lot more to fight for. People across the globe who hold progressive values are looking to you in hope for a humane alternative in a world dominated by Trumpism. If that means a day of slightly awkward interactions handing out leaflets to inspire previously disheartened people to vote for the interests of them, their family and their community, that sounds like a good deal to me. At worst, it will make for some great stories, and at best it will be something you can always be proud of. Making things less bad is still always worth it. And even as the crows of Brexit circle, there’s a real – if small – chance that this time, there’ll be a shock result that’s good news for the many, not for the few.