The Word Rabbit


This article was written on 27 Apr 2017, and is filled under Uncategorised.

A change of sodding heart

On Wednesday, I went to a large DIY and garden store. Nothing especially unusual there. I live in an old house with a huge garden, which I’m inexpertly trying to tend and which I only have very sporadic control over. My list of things was short, and dull, and I won’t bother you with it, but in pursuit of some of my tedious items I asked the assistant for directions and then got talking to her. Out of respect for her, I’m going to have to fog over some of the details of her life, not because I think that she’ll have problems with idiots tracking her down, but because she deserves not to have them babbled over the internet. And the upshot was that I’ve decided to vote.

She had studied at a university in another European country and, having a parent who was English, decided to give life here a try. We talked about the insanity that is Brexit, about her course and sundry other things before we got onto the subject of religion. It turned out that she was the member of a Christian sect I don’t much like and generally avoid, albeit politely, but she was too interesting and engaging to write off and we ended up talking about her values, about my values and then she said something interesting that, as they say, spoke into my life with a strange kind of certainty and clarity.

The sentence was a simple one. She said ‘Sometimes, you just have to say what your principles are and you have to stand by them, no matter whether you think that will do anything or the other person will agree.’ And that was it. We shook hands, said what our names were and, should she be working there again, I’ll absolutely say hello and stop for a chat. But as I walked away, I felt as though, as you sometimes do, but very rarely, that the furniture in my head was the same but someone had moved it around a bit.

Minutes before, through the good offices of Twitter, I had been angrily saying that I would never vote because it was pointless in my constituency and I still do think that. All you would need to to see just how futile it is might be to look at Nicholas Soames’ thumping majority or consider that the seat has been a Tory one since the dawn of time. Nobody else even bothers campaigning, such is the certainty with which the local Conservatives see the place and they are, doubtless, right to be so complacent. Were a Tory to hungrily devour another candidate on the village green while singing Nazi marching songs, it would do nothing to damage this at all. All of his supporters would have to drop down dead on the morning of polling day and even then I think he’d still win.

But she was right. A principle does not have to be universally held for it to exist and it does not have to command widespread support for it to be right. If I was in a room full of racists who thought that black people were not human, my view that they were human would be correct, even if I was outvoted 99 to one. So it is with the election. I think Brexit is not only stupid and profoundly wrong-headed, but it is also the defining issue of this election and the point on which all others teeter, from the NHS to schools and welfare, so it behoves me to say so, even if everyone else thinks otherwise. My voice, however small, however inconsequential, will be heard because I don’t know what will happen next.

Chances are, it will be nothing. Theresa May will, I think, get a 180 seat majority, Corbyn will hang on because he’s utterly detached from reality and wedded to ideology above people, and the world will turn. And yet, the only thing that stopped me from walking up to that bit up the road from my flat where the trains ran past the road, pushing through the fence and lying on the tracks so that a train ran over my neck was that something would change. I didn’t know what form it would take or  what it might look like, but change did happen, incrementally and over time and, more importantly, in a way that I couldn’t forsee at the time. Did I imagine I’d end up living in a farm cottage in the middle of nowhere with my soulmate? No. Can I see political change ever happening here? No.

None of us have a way of seeing the future or knowing quite how events will turn out. Had I been around at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, I’d have thought Hitler was going to win, and had I been there for the mono-bollocked Nazi’s initially successful invasion of the USSR I’d have assumed the same. Both would have been proven wrong, in time, but only after immense work and grim determination. Perhaps this is what’s needed. We can’t know. So in the meantime, my vote will be going to whoever the Lib Dem candidate is, because that is the party whose stance on Brexit I most agree with and respect, and it will almost certainly be wasted, but I can do no other than to stand up, however fleetingly, and as the girl in the DIY store said, say what my principles are.

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