The rain fell down today. It started early, overtaking the bright sunny morning with fat, grey gobs that spattered on the windows and rolled depressingly down. In a few hours, the ground was slick with puddles and the drains were starting to back up.
That’s not an apt metaphor for how I feel about the election, it’s literally a description of how the weather turned from a sunny morning to a rain storm that pissed down from on high and ruined the plans I had of gathering some like-minded friends and seeking post-work commiseration and company outside a pub in the sunshine of a glorious spring evening.
It’s also an apt metaphor to describe how my mood slumped from the first drops of 10 o’clock last night to the horrifying swell of filth water that ruined everything a few hours later. That’s just coincidence.
I don’t think I’ve seen so many people who looked like they wanted to cry before.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to cry so much before.
I posted something on Twitter last night, while we were all still riding high on the waves of collective decision making and before any of us knew exactly what decision we’d collectively come to. It was something I’ve had rolling around for a while now, and like any good Islington* media-set faux intellectual I’ve done nothing about it.
“No matter who’s in charge tomorrow,” I said, “keep this going. Don’t sit on your arse for five years. Tell your MP what you think. Constantly. Tell them when there’s something they do right. Tell them when there’s something they do wrong. Keep on them. Your democratic responsibilities aren’t discharged only twice a decade”.
It’s still true, even now the excitement’s over and the miserable rain’s set in. Some people are lucky enough to live in seats where they got the MP they voted for. Most people aren’t, but the principle’s true either way. Our democracy’s fucked not necessarily because of the voting system, or the selection system (both of which do whiff like day-old underpants) but because there’s no follow-up. The assumption is that, well, they’ll do what they want now, and what can we do?
We can annoy them. We can make sure they know we’re paying attention to them. We can flood them with our opinions on their every vote, if we want. And not in a 38 Degrees, cut-and-paste email way (though I love 38 Degrees), but in a personal way too. Tell them our stories. Tell them how we’re hurt by the things they do. Tell them how some of the things they do help us.
Do you know about Dunbar’s number? There’s only so many individuals our primitive ape brains can cope with before they just fizz out and boil new people down to paper cut-outs. Your friends and family are great, they’re well-rounded people. That guy who just raced away at the lights is a prick, like all Audi drivers. Your brother has a diverse set of interests like football and Polish cinema. All Millwall fans are aggressive thugs. See how it works?
Our job now is to make sure our new crop of MPs remember they’re representing individuals, not paper cut-outs. It’s to make sure the Tories know every drop of harm they do, and that Labour know too. It’s to stop Labour lurching to the right in terrified response to today’s results. It’s to stop Nigel Farage and his ilk from using Dunbar’s number against us and making the paper cut-outs into the enemy.
So that’s my first thought. I intend to have others, later. I’ll probably Dunbar a few people on the way, because nobody’s immune. But I’ll keep the faith. There are decent people all over the country. Don’t let them Dunbar each other. Don’t Dunbar them.
* Actually I live in Leeds