Following last week, many of us are still reeling from the shock of the election results, and still trying to work out how to we fit into this new reality, following a result we never expected to happen. Having seen this before, I have put together a few suggestions on things that you can do to try and reduce the impact, work out what to do in the coming days, weeks and years, stay positive, be helpful and, above all, maintain your sanity.
Many of us awoke last Friday 13th, that auspiciously feted day of the results of the General Election, to discover that we had, once again, slipped down the worst trouser-leg of time. Somehow, what we hadn’t expected to happen, had happened. Despite the blatant lies, the use of tragedy to further political means, the ignorance of accountability, the gaffes involving angry fathers and children on hospital floors, the British people had voted to elect Boris Johnson Prime Minister, and, with him, his rogues gallery of the snide, the conniving, the supercilious and the simply uncaring. Even Jacob Rees Mogg had been re-elected, in spite of his clearly patronising comments about Grenfell, and then being hidden away for most of the campaign. Our worst nightmare had been realised, and the British people, caught up in the Tory psychodrama that is Brexit, had decided that more of the same was in order, just with a bigger mandate this time.
Much has already been written, and continue to be written, about what happened – what went wrong and why. There will be much soul-searching as the political parties on the Left regroup and work out why the British people did not support them, and all the meantime, the newly elected Prime Minister and his government will hasten to their purpose with a renewed vigour. I won’t lie to you – if things go as I expect, life for us in this country will get more difficult over the next few years – we must expect regular headlines which make you want to shout and scream at the sheer ignorance and injustice of it all, we will watch in frustration as politicians lie, connive and slander each other, and we will count the cost as more public and social services fall to Tory policy.
However, one thing I have recognised is that I have already seen this same state of fugue that we’re in, and that is following the 2016 election of Donald Trump in the USA. Having seen how my friends over there reacted, along with reading pieces written during the fallout from that event, I’ve put together some suggestions of how we on the Left in the UK can weather this storm, together, holding onto our sanity and happiness along the way:
- Know when to step away: Inevitably, there will be much in the headlines, in the coming months, which will make you despair. It’s not easy, but try to know when this flurry of information is having a detrimental effect — it’s often easier to spot in others, so check in regularly with your partner or friends, and ask them to keep an eye on you. You don’t have to read every news story, or get engaged in every social media post. Learn when it’s better to put your phone down, and do something else instead. For ideas on what else to do, check below.
- Practice self-care: I’ve always followed the maxim that, if you can’t look after yourself, how are you going to look after anyone else? We’ve just been through a gruelling election, the nights are getting darker, we’re all rushing around, trying to finish Christmas shopping and work assignments before the holidays. Make sure you take some time to stop, breathe and care for yourself. It might be tempting to overdo the booze, just to shut out the horror, but make sure you take the odd day off, to give your liver a break, and to actually take time to think things through. Take a walk outside, and enjoy some time to yourself, giving yourself a break from the festivities for a moment or two. Ensure you get enough exercise and activity in your life, especially after that second helping of turkey, and make sure you sleep properly, as insufficient rest can make everything much, much harder. Check in with your friends as well, and see how they’re doing, as all of you may well be needing a little support, too.
- Be tolerant: May of us will be spending Christmas with family and friends, some of who may well have voted in opposite ways to us. We should try our best to get along with them, and not just for the festive season. There are many reason as to why people voted the way that they did, and, it isn’t because they’re malicious, or uncaring. I’ve seen a number of people in my timelines on social media, following the election results, vehemently declaring that if you voted for the Tories, you should unfriend or block them right away. Whilst this might feel like you’re taking a stance against a world gone wrong, I’m sorry to say that it’s not helpful. In order to progress, we need to be able to have the conversations to understand what their reason were for doing so, and what we can do, in the future, to hopefully show them that the Tories don’t have their best interests at heart. If you don’t have Tory voting relatives, or want more insights into why things turned out the way that they did, then can I suggest watching the Guardian’s series “Anywhere but Westminster”, which examined people’s voting intentions and the outcome, around the election?
- Be kind: there are already a lot of recriminations going on about the election, and everyone seems to have their pet theories about why things went wrong. Just bear in mind that calling people “Yellow Tories” or “Blue Labour”, or referring to people who voted for the Conservatives as “stupid” really doesn’t help. We need to look after ourselves, and each other, through these difficult times, and blaming other people isn’t going to help.
- Find a creative outlet: You might already have a way to channel your feelings of anger and despair into a creative process, which can help you in turn process those feelings, and maybe even make something creative out of it. I’ve found that my writing helps me work things out, and sometimes helps people feel better, so this is why I do this. You might draw, play an instrument, or knit, for example. These activities can provide distraction, focus, and can even create things to help the cause – you might end up drawing a satirical cartoon lampooning the latest government policy, or write the next protest song, or even just knit a hat that keeps you warm. If you can’t currently do anything creative, why not try something you’ve always been meaning to do, or haven’t tried before?
- Find a cause: Having seen the effects of the last nine years, one thing we can be sure of is that a number of organisations that provide support to others will be under threat. As the government won’t be willing to help, it’s up to us to do so. Donating our time, money, or support in other useful ways will be a great help to them, and to our local communities. Here are a few ideas, to get started:
The Trussell Trust, which helps run foodbanks across the UK, can give you details of your local foodbanks, who are always happy to receive contributions of money or food, to help people who can’t afford to feed themselves. There are often foodbank collection points at local shops, so you can just buy a few extra items from the shopping lists published on their websites, and then pop them in the collection bank.
Shelter helps those looking for housing, or experiencing trouble with their current housing situation. You can give monetary donations, donate clothes, books and other unwanted items at their shops, or, if you have the time, even volunteer a few hours to help out.
It may well be worth doing some investigation into causes which matter strongly to you, either national, or local, and seeing what you can do to help out with them.
- When you’re ready, rejoin the fight: Whilst the election has left many of us reeling, we will, eventually, have to think about how we want things to continue. Yes, it looks like Brexit is a done deal, and so we will be leaving the EU at the end of January, but it’s still up to us to work out what our country look like after that. The election was not our only chance to affect politics, and we will need to hold the Tories to account, trying to prevent the “bonfire of the humanities” that has been threatened post-Brexit. We need to ensure that the standards that we value from the EU, from clean beaches to food safety, are maintained. We need to ensure the likes of Tommy Robinson, who aligned himself with the Tory party in the election, does not see this as an invitation to continue to spread his hateful nationalistic views. There is much to do, and, after a period of recurperation and reflection, those of us who feel ready will have to get back to ensuring that our country remains an open minded, fair place for everyone involved.
I hope that some of these suggestions have been useful, and wish you all the very best over the coming festive season, as well as the months to follow. Hopefully, we can all get through this together, and emerge, invigorated for what’s to come.