General Election 12 December 2019
I spent the last election in an office, alone but for the company of a colleague. We watched the BBC's coverage while I drank wine, downbeat and expecting austerity and the absence of hope to triumph. Then we saw the exit poll and hung around, disbelieving at the sight of the kindled embers and lukewarm glow of a fairer society. I don't know what to expect this time, I love elections like I love football World Cups, though I know this could end badly. Boris Johnson only needs a small majority and Brexit will be finalized. To continue with the football analogy, it's like the wrong team is poised to win, the one that cheated, the one with fans chanting racist songs. Not all their fans, of course, but strangely, they're a side that the thugs seem to gravitate around. And their players seem to foul and simulate more than any other, unless of course you've got a Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage poster on your wall.
That's where the analogy ends, because when a football team wins, even one you hate, it doesn't really change anything. You avoid the news for a day and it goes away. This, though, is never-ending. The disaster capitalists, feigning support for people-power, are poised to asset strip the land, selling off the health service while removing worker rights. The media blitz will tell anyone who's listening that it needs to happen, or otherwise it's communism.
We officially become a different country. My identity becomes anti-immigrant, my passport signifies I'm from a country in retreat. By proxy, I become a Little Englander. If I choose to stay. Will it be like football, accepting defeat graciously, even if the winning side cheated? But in football, after your team's defeat, you're not then compelled to support the winning side, while abandoning your own team. And meanwhile, the society you live in becomes a meaner, less welcoming place.
It helps not to think too much about it. Perhaps a 'UK Day of Independence' will be established. Union Jacks everywhere. The poppy as the national flower. Nigel Farage to have a monument. Wetherspoons to become a site of pilgrimage: a temple of Brexit spirituality. Tourists will flock as they do in Edinburgh to JK Rowling's Elephant House, to the giant Nigel Farage Statue of Britons Never Will Be Slaves, to have their photos taken. That image of England in 1966 winning the World Cup, replaced by the glorious team of Farage, Boris Johnson, Kwasi Kwarteng, John Redwood, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and David Davies. A victory in which the referee wasn't really sure if the ball crossed the line, but enough people screamed 'Goal!' A victory to be absorbed into the national mythos. Two world wars and one world cup – and Brexit. Let's not forget austerity and the gig economy as well, the new de facto orthodoxy. This really isn't football at all, not with these kinds of stakes. Though chillingly, given the blurring of truth and lies channelled through a social media nobody seems able to control, this election, like Brexit, may as well be decided on penalties, watched through fingers, as a nation's destiny gets decided on chance.