Today is drawing to a close in a country that feels somehow smaller. A country where the NHS, which we so proudly celebrated at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, now faces the prospect of being further broken up and sold off to the highest bidder. A country where our children’s educationwill be outsourced to unaccountable academy chains and free schools, while undervalued and demoralised teachers have to ignore childrens’ individual needs in favour of box-ticking and teaching to the test.Where the right to a secure home becomes a privilege for those few who have sufficient inherited wealth to afford spiralling property prices.Where the sick, the poor, the low skilled, the disabled will be punished for daring to need state support, and rely instead on foodbanks.
Today I feel as if this country is a more small-minded, mean-spirited place. If people in the ‘squeezed middle’, who are just about making ends meet, see and secretly fear the fate that’s already being meted out to the most vulnerable, it’s easier to convince us that we – the “strivers”, the “hard working families” – are somehow better, more deserving. So sections of society turn against each other, we find a convenient ‘other’ to blame for the economy’s problems – the jobless, the long term sick, the public sector workers with their fat pensions, the immigrants with HIV – and the nasty party have created a nasty society in their own image and likeness, who will dutifully turn out to vote for their masters, egged on by wealthy non-dom newspaper owners who vilify any politician who dares to stand up to them.
It seems that mistrust and dislike of those perceived as ‘different’ has now become an acceptable political position, breeding a sense of alienation between England and Scotland. The promised referendum on EU membership brings the prospect of us turning our backs on our neighbours in Europe, a thought which I find particularly sad on the anniversary of VE Day, the beginning of a peace which has lasted 70 years.
All this is enough to make me drown my sorrows with a large glass of wine, swear a lot and post irate comments on Facebook. But it’s time for more than that. In the words of someone who has done their best over the last five years to make Britain a better place “the course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don’t give up.” (thank you Ed Miliband) So although I’m feeling utterly depressed about the election results, I’m not switching off from politics. It’s time to engage, get involved, campaign, protest and hold our government to account. We don’t have to stand back and let them get away with it. We don’t have to be that country.