I’m trying to get back into watching Question Time, which I stopped watching after immigration became a weekly topic. To be fair, this is because people submitted questions on the topic, rather than the programme makers wanting to flog a dead horse, but it got wearying.
I’ve dipped in a few times and I’m always struck by the amount of pain and anger from the crowd. The audience is balanced with people from across the political perspective and of course I respond more to points that resonate with my political views, but I’ve been most struck by centrist or Tory voters who are pissed with the government that they feel betrayed them.
There was the T0ry voter who cried on the programme in October last year about the issue of the tax cuts. Speaking of her betrayal she shouted, “Shame on you!”
Last night, another woman echoed the sense of betrayal, saying Cameron “has stripped us of everything”.
And another man, who seemed like just a common-sense bloke, pointed out that if we collected monies owed due to tax avoidance we wouldn’t have to do austerity.
To be fair, the Question Time audience is hardly the average person on the street and they are a tiny sample. They are politically engaged. But I do see a growing acknowledgment of austerity as a political choice rather than an economic necessity. And a sense of betrayal from a lot of working and middle class voters who were (yes, it has to be said) were happy for an axe to fall when they voted for the Tories, comfortable in the assurance that it wouldn’t be on them.
We on the left are told again and again that we must smile and not say this for fear of scaring the horses away from us with our scary socialist ways…but…
someone voted for this.
Sit with that for a while.
No, really. When we’re all cried out we really have to sit with this and think it through.
Because while I don’t think “I Told You So” is useful, that has to be the starting point for a re-education (or just plain education) on what solidarity is about.
We have to take up for each other because otherwise they will come for us all. It’s just that simple. This has to be something that the Left keeps on saying because that’s the only way to build a movement that will stick beyond the political opportunism of the moment.
Of course, we should stick up for those who have been betrayed, but they need to stick up for other people too. Those people they were happy for the axe to fall on in 2010.
Solidarity. It’s just that simple.