I think it’s pretty fair to say that we in Britain are sick to the back teeth of politics. In the last 2 years, we have two general elections and a major, country defining vote on our future with the European Union; all three of which, depending on who you ask, went either brilliantly or were disastrous. Personally, I am at ‘Brenda from Bristol’ levels of irritation with politics, even though my tweets seem to suggest otherwise. If you don’t know Brenda from Bristol is, she is my favourite woman of 2017 (watch this video for my info on her). I am at that level of done-ness with the mess that has happened over the last two years.
I was sat at my accommodation at school, watching the telly, like many, when the exit poll came out. When we tuned the telly on at 9:55pm, although I had a thought that a hung parliament could come around, inside I honestly believed that a Conservative majority was going to be the result.
HAHAHAHA HOW WRONG I WAS.
Now, I’m not saying that I WANTED the Conservatives to win the General Election – indeed I would rather walk on Lego for 5 years than have a Conservative majority. What I am saying, however, is that I thought that the majority of Britain was quite happy with what Theresa May was doing and would be quite happy to strengthen her lead as a way of saying “CBA with this chop and change malarkey, let’s just get on with it all.” But, like with e v e r y t h i n g this year, life took a completely different path to the one everyone was expecting.
Sure, the Conservatives won the most seats – but they also had less seats than they did at the last election (about 17 less). Labour gained around 30 seats but still had about 50 less than the Conservatives. Neither of the two biggest parties in the UK have enough seats to form a majority – a party must have 326 seats in the Commons to be the ruling party. The result? We currently have a hung parliament.
At time of writing, the Conservatives are going to form a minority government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, who, for those of you who haven’t put on a computer, television or looked at a newspaper for the last two weeks, are from Northern Ireland. I could go on for a while about the issues I have had with this election such as:
- All the ‘progressive’ parties (bar the Greens and the SNP (kind of)) putting their foot in it by saying they wouldn’t form Coalitions in the event of a hung parliament, during debates and hustings.
- The centrists of the Labour Party not supporting Jeremy Corbyn enough, even though we all sat through the Blair years, where they had what they wanted.
- The Liberal Democrats not sorting out Tim Farron’s stance on social issues quick enough.
- The SNP not speaking about Brexit enough.
- The Scottish Conservatives only filling their campaign material with stuff on a potential second independence referendum.
- The Scottish Conservatives and the SNP both sending me General Election material when I’m not eligible to vote yet.
- The Greens not fielding more candidates in Scotland.
- The Conservatives holding an almost Trump-like stance on media presence at hustings and events where the Prime Minister was present.
- Labour not turning up to leader’s debates quick enough.
- The DUP being political dinosaurs.
- We on the mainland of the UK have only just started caring about the DUP because they’re going to affect us, when Ireland has had them spilling their bile for years, which, along with Sinn Fein, has resulted in their devolved parliament sitting at gridlock.
- UKIP breathing.
However, I’m wanting to focus on one particular angle that has infected this election like a germ-ridden child passing round chicken pox at nursery – that is misogyny.
I am very proud to say that I am a feminist; I believe that the rights of people, wherever they lay on the gender spectrum (including non-binary and transgender people) should be respected wholly. But the blatant misogyny, from all areas of the political spectrum, towards female politicians this election has left a sour taste in my mouth. The two examples I wish to pull from this election are Diane Abbott and Theresa May, starting with the latter.
I am, naturally, a more left leaning voter. In the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2016 (my first experience of democracy at 16), I voted SNP and Green. During the 2017 Scottish council elections, my top 4 choices were Green, Labour, SNP and Lib Dem in that order. However, I do have respect for a couple of Conservative women who work in Parliament, especially Anna Soubry, with whom I want to go to the pub with one day (Anna, call me). The Conservatives are known as the more traditional party here in the UK, so it is encouraging to see that more right leaning women are at the forefront of their politics. Theresa May is the second female Prime Minister the UK has ever had – and yet, with the power she has, she is still hounded daily by many and has to face abuse both online and even within her own party. Apparently, calling the Prime Minister a whore (here’s looking at you John Niven) is funny, the continuous comparisons to Margaret Thatcher when her predecessor was never compared to Michael Howard or Ian Duncan Smith is absolutely fine, and Conservative activists calling her ‘Mummy’, rather than respecting her as their boss, makes my skin crawl, shown here in this quote from A.N. Wilson of The Spectator:
“Mummy sweeps onwards, borne in heavenly chariots, floating above painted clouds…”
As for Diane Abbott, the misogy-noir that she has faced over the last few weeks is even more sickening. Diane Abbott is one of the hardest working MPs that Britain has ever had – she is smart (she went to Cambridge at a time where racism was more explicit than it is now), a fierce debater and has supported women, children, the homeless, nurses, refugees and students for over thirty years. And yet, now that she is the most powerful black woman in the country as part of the Shadow Cabinet, and a member of a left leaning party, she is abused constantly, more than previously.
This election cycle, she made mistakes in one or two interviews with LBC and BBC, which lead to anyone making a mistake with numbers being called ‘doing a Diane Abbott’. Yet, white conservative men can plaster numbers pulled out of the air onto the sides of buses and no-one bats an eyelid. For example, Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP, sat in a van doing an interview with the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire and messed up on the amount someone earns minimum wage and other numbers several times during the conversation. However, that was overlooked completely because a black woman is sitting on TV making mistakes, so we can all laugh at her instead.
Recently, Abbott took some time out from the front bench of the Labour Party in order to rest. Whilst many would say that she was hiding from the public, we should have a little think about some of the things she’s been through this last year:
- Making mistakes on live radio and everyone and their mums attacking her whilst white men make mistakes all the time and it gets very little coverage
- Being physically abused by David Davis in public after a Brexit-related vote (for which he should have been fired immediately).
- Day after day of race, gender and appearance based hatred online.
If you were being called ugly, fat, nigger, a gorilla or whatever, thousands of times a day, that is going to scar you mentally for weeks, if not months. As Jack Monroe has said on their blog;
Online abuse has made me suicidal more than once. I have taken the pills. I have stood on the train bridge. I have been driven insane. I have had periods where I have been unable to work because I am such a wreck from sustained hatred and vitriol. I have lost work. I have been literally driven insane by hatred from strangers. It interrupts, it diverts, it permeates, it seeps in, you bullying bastards. It’s there when you’re reading bedtime stories to your kids. It strangles you in your sleep. It follows you in your hand, in your head. It slowly destroys you from the inside, a rot starts to set in. You become scared to say anything, scared to be anyone. You hide. You cry.
Imagine 30 years of getting up every day and putting your suit on and going back to work to make life better for your abusers despite them.
In summary, although women are at the forefront of politics and making wonderful and brilliant changes for their constituents and people, we as a nation still have an issue with misogyny which is incredibly worrying. Whatever part of the political spectrum you sit on, respect is essential in criticizing another. You can dislike Theresa May without sitting on a pile of intolerance because she is female. You can disagree with Diane Abbott without misogy-noir influencing your every move. Women are a valid part of politics – it’s time that ALL of us respecting them appropriately.
Until next time,