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23 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 22 November, 2019 10:46:16 PM
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UK: This is my first vote. I’m elated it’s in such an important election

Nesrine Malik
UK: This is my first vote. I’m elated it’s in such an important election

This is the first election in which I am allowed to vote. It has been an exasperating experience having to sit by and watch, election after election, restricted by a Home Office that was either sitting on my application or taking wrong decisions, delaying my naturalisation as a British citizen far beyond the moment when I felt like one. But a British passport arrived earlier this year, and Brexit has provided a bonus general election to slake an appetite built over years locked out of the democratic process. Whatever the opposite of jaded is, that’s what I am.

My sense of exclusion has intensified over the past three years as a Brexit referendum and a general election have plunged the country into a state of instability that still seems to have no resolution. This election feels crucial to the point of angst. The stakes could not be higher. Not only does what happens with Brexit hang in the balance, but also the very character of the country and its ideological direction. After a decade in which austerity is estimated to have cost more than 120,000 lives, it is not an exaggeration to say that the coming election is a matter of life and death.
It is baffling that so many consider this a vote between two parties and leaders that are as bad as each other. During the leaders’ debate on Tuesday night, my social media feeds were flooded with wry gloom. “What a choice we have been given!” despaired Gary Lineker, followed by a facepalm emoji. False equivalence merchant Jo Swinson retweeted this, adding the comment: “You do have a choice.” The Liberal Democrat tactic seems to be saying anything to secure votes, up to and including the falsehood that Labour and the Conservatives “merge into one” on Brexit, even though Labour promises a referendum with remain on the ballot. Facepalm emoji indeed.
Mine isn’t a position born of a self-righteous attitude that people died for the right to vote, but of the obvious distress in which the Conservative party has landed the country. It is staggering that after the past two years, in which the Tory party has proved itself to be a clown car of liars, cynics, careerists and ghouls, anyone can think there is no distinction. This doesn’t mean that the choice we do have is a perfectly clean, binary one between a flawed governing party and an unimpeachable alternative, but how often is that the case? How many elections, to the floating voter in particular, are black-and-white choices? Those come around once in a lifetime. Not every election can have a “hope” candidate such as Barack Obama. We vote in the elections we are given, not the ones we wish we had.
Neither candidate nor party has to fill you with passion for you to be excited about voting, or even just to acknowledge that in recent history a vote has never had so much potential to determine the future of the country. One may not like Jeremy Corbyn. One may think he is uninspiring or waffly, or that he wears wonky glasses. But against the backdrop of the Brexit-obsessed Conservative party, these are trivial concerns that reveal more about the kind of candidates and policies that are embraced in our political culture and the media.
There is a petulance to the frustration that parties and candidates are not nailing the optics and supplying the charisma, especially when it is directed at those who have never even had a shot at government. This sulky false equivalence dominated the last US presidential election. Hillary Clinton was framed as a Democratic party apparatchik, a hawk who was just as establishment as Donald Trump and even more dangerous.
A Foreign Policy article stated that: “From Haiti to Syria, the Democratic candidate’s long record suggests she’s looking forward to being a war president on day one.” The jaundice extended to Hollywood elites who would never vote for Trump. “I thought Hillary was very dangerous,” said Susan Sarandon. “If she won, we’d be at war.” Her “singular fate”, wrote the US historian Joshua Zeitz in Politico, “tells us far more about the state of contemporary politics and journalism than it does about Hillary Clinton, whom history may very well judge with greater retrospection and consideration than her contemporaries”.
It’s true Clinton ran a campaign whose slogan might as well have been, “It’s my turn.” But the view that there was no difference between her and Trump cut through. It hasn’t worked out so well for America, as Trump proves not only that he is hardly a foreign policy dove, but that he is a hawk when it comes to domestic policy as well, sowing racial and partisan division. And yet there still is a whole cottage industry that declares that, although things under Trump are bad, they would be even worse under Clinton. Some would rather have an obviously bad guy in charge than a good guy who isn’t good enough.
There is a certain privilege to the eyerolling. The Conservative party’s policies, as with Trump’s, have an impact on the more vulnerable in society, those who cannot afford to be cynical or ideologically purist about who gets to have a real effect on their lives.
We know the danger of another five years of Conservative government. The alternative is, at worst, untried and untested. In addressing those who rail against measures to increase diversity in contemporary politics and culture, the author Hanif Kureishi captured this disdain for what still has not been demonstrated. “No one knows what a more democratic and inclusive culture would be like,” he wrote. “It is fatuously omniscient to assume it would be worse than what we already have.”

The writer is a Guardian (UK) columnist

 

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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