Photo: Steve Bell (https://www.theguardian.com/uk)
It’s always testing to voice political opinion on social media. You run the risk of alienating friends, families and colleagues. To be clear, this is not an attack on Tory voters, your ideological standing, or an attempt to score cheap moral points. Nor is it suggesting that the left hasn’t been partially responsible for demonstrating an unwillingness to debate (a topic for another blog). No, this is an attack on the Tory party – and in fact anyone who is unwilling to debate- and their current neglect of the democratic process.
I’m not going to talk about May’s shameful treatment of refugees, the disabled, the aged, the young, and low income workers. I’m not going to talk about her suicidal Brexit policy, or outdated economic ideas. I’m not going to talk about the hypocrisy of statements like ‘Strong and Stable Government’ or ‘A country that works for everyone.’ I’m not even going to mention her lapdogging of Donald Trump. No, here I want to talk about the risks that voting conservative this election has for our democracy.
While before, disagreement between left and right could be described as ideological, one thing that most agreed on was the necessity for that disagreement to exist. Most would agree democracy, that so many have died to obtain and protect, is something that should be valued and cherished. The conservative decision to hold a snap election is narcissistic, yes, but more importantly it is an affront to the right to debate and to disagree, a fundamental pillar of our democracy. It seems, then, that we have moved beyond ideological disagreement.
May’s aim in holding a snap election is to eradicate opposition. Her aim is to use the voting system that so many in the past have fought for to homogenise parliament to a sufficient extent to be able to push through barbarous policies. Her aims subvert our democratic right to a political system built on disagreement and discussion. The anti-democratic stench of this Tory election campaign has putrefied the political system.
Democracy isn’t just about voting once every few years: it is built on discussion. While the Athenian model of democracy was far from fully representative (it excluded slaves, certain foreign occupants, and women), and idealistic in our current world, it was built on discussion, debate, and disagreement. Several times a year, all adult male citizens congregated on the Acropolis to discuss, debate, disagree, casting their votes in favour of leaders in certain positions, and of preferred policy. Democracy isn’t just voting; it is an organic process where decisions are forged by debate and disagreement from a variety of different views. If we call ourselves a democracy, Theresa May’s conduct in this election crumbles one of its key pillars.
A refusal to debate is a refusal to fully participate in democracy. In doing so, May has placed herself above the political system, above democracy, above values of freedom of speech. She is using the guise of one component of democracy to solidify her party’s power (voting), demonstrating contempt for another key part (debate and discussion). Like an autocrat, she justifies it as ‘protecting the will of the people.’ Invoking this popular sovereignty, isn’t the same as protecting it, and popular sovereignty isn’t necessarily democratic.
I am not saying that the Tories are embarking on some right-wing coup- although, if they were, we would say it was inevitable with the benefit of hindsight. What I am saying is that the Conservative aims to eradicate opposition and refusal to debate, show a disregard for a holistic democracy. Nor am I publicly endorsing Labour, or any other party, for I am very critical of all British political parties and their internal ideological rifts. This is an endorsement for any anti-Tory party -an endorsement for any party that might stop the Tories and their increasingly oppressive policies and ideals.
Find out what your best bet is to stop the Tories, and vote for them. Be willing to compromise with those you disagree with to unite against this oppressive Tory party. Let this be a stinging reminder to people who show disregard the democratic process. Don’t vote for a party that demonstrate such contempt for our democratic system. Don’t vote Tory tomorrow.
-George Penn @Gtcpenn