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Watching the reel as it comes to a close, brutally taking its time

6 May, 2010

Following the UK general election as an overseas voter has been a strange experience. I’m not sure I have anything cogent to say, either on the issues or on my reaction to them. Nevertheless, I was struck today by an impassioned article by Johann Hari of The Independent (and elsewhere):

When you remember the country that we voted to leave behind on May 1st 1997, what do you see? I remember the science block in the sixth form college I was studying at, where they couldn’t afford to fix the roof, so every time it rained, water seeped through, and lessons had to stop. I remember my friends who earned £1 an hour, because there was no legal limit on how little you could offer a human being for their labour. I remember one of my closest relatives having to decide whether to buy nappies or heat her flat, because there were no tax credits, and single mothers were the subject of a Tory hate campaign. I remember how it felt to grow up gay and discover I could never have a legally recognised relationship. I remember my elderly neighbour waiting two years for a hip operation on the NHS, crying every night with the pain.

Read the whole thing – it’s a well-written bit of polemic.

However… the trouble — and, as the cliché goes, “it’s not you <sadface> it’s me” — is that when I get towards the end of the article and see this:

… But if you choose to split the anti-Tory vote in your area, you should know: you will be more likely to wake up tomorrow and find David Cameron in Downing Street to the tune of Things Can Only Get Worse.

The gap between Labour and the Conservatives is far too small, but a lot of people live and die in that gap. If you say this difference doesn’t matter, you are saying all these people whose lives have been changed since the sun rose over the Royal Festival Hall that morning in May don’t matter to you…

on the one hand, I appreciate the point; yet on the other, I’m unfortunately reminded tonally of this old chestnut:

“… Surely, comrades,” cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, “surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?”

Now if there was one thing that the animals were completely certain of, it was that they did not want Jones back. When it was put to them in this light, they had no more to say.

(I’m not trying to compare young Mr. Hari to Squealer, of course; that would be both harsh and unfair. But it is unfortunate that after 13 years there is no better card left for Labour than “we wasted and lied, we bullied and insulted, we reneged and weaseled, but at least we’re not as bad as the Tories”.)

Anyway. Enough of this maundering. Proper mathematics blogging may resume later this month. Honest.

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