A lifelong Labour voter, a left-wing liberalist and a hardline Remainer all go to a Polling Station. They each take a ballot paper and place a cross next to the Conservative candidate. As they leave, they all pull faces of distaste at the right-wing nationalist entering the booth. The latter votes for the Brexit Party. They all knew their choices would lead to a Tory government.
It sounds like a bad joke. It is a bad joke. It is also the reality of Britain’s 2019 winter General Election. Boris Johnson kept it simple with “Get Brexit Done”. In these divisive times, it became a unifying message. People couldn’t face another period of an ineffective government. Those who voted Leave and Remain started to wonder why they voted in the first place and lost the passion for either argument. Not all the people, but we’ll get to them in a moment.
Another hung parliament would have been a disaster so some decided to take the lesser of two evils. It shouldn’t be surprising that the same MPs who spoke down to the public, were condescending and ignored their wishes for three years, would suddenly be able to reconnect during campaigning. They had made their beds, the British public were prepared to sleep uneasy by making a painful choice.
For many, like those that propped up The Red Wall, the acceptance of a Tory government was something painful to stomach. Actively seeking it would, under normal circumstances, seem impossible. Labour has placed the entire blame on Brexit. Corbyn detractors blame his extreme socialist manifesto. There is some merit to this idea. No one quite believed the sums behind the promises. The Diane Abbott factor didn’t help.
As grim as some try and paint this Tory victory (others, of course, have rejoiced) how does it link to the blueprint for dystopia this article’s title suggests?
Literature and film is full of not-too-distant futures where recognisable countries have fallen to facist regimes. The most obvious, due to its London setting and strong political undertones, is V for Vendetta. Like all such set-ups, the viewer accepts the basic premise. They get fed a bit of backstory setting up the proposition and the rest of the film sees the heroes try and fight for freedom and justice.
Every time I’ve seen V for Vendetta, there’s always a moment where the suspension of disbelief is removed and the chances of it occurring are analysed. (If that doesn’t make me sound like the most exciting cinema date, nothing ever will.) Could Britain ever really fall foul to a facist regime, especially with its inherent pride of defeating the Nazis in World War Two?
It always seemed highly improbable. Then Brexit happened. Then the post-Brexit divide created the sort of environment to nurture extremism. It’s clear now that for a country to turn bad at the top, it doesn’t need a majority of its citizens to make ignorant, evil, or poor choices. You don’t even need to mislead them too much. The bad eggs will always exist but their numbers will never grow to the size required to swing a General Election.
Nor will the do-gooders ever multiply in vast quantities to fend off a facist uprising. The battle is won and lost in the centre ground. To be more precise, those that sit to the left and right of it. Ask Tony Blair. His 1997 landslide was all about making that massive part of the population believe in him. The far-left in his own party didn’t, they just accepted it was preferable to further Tory rule.
Now Boris has secured the vote of the same people. But there’s a difference: they don’t believe in Boris like they did Blair, they voted with fatigue and fear. Fear of more uncertainty. Fear that the opposition was inept. Fear that they were out of time and choices.
In dystopia, the keys of power are always legitimately handed over. Once in power, the rights and freedoms slowly retract. The Emperor in Star Wars didn’t take the galaxy by force (no pun intended). A council voted in his explicit rule during a time of uncertainty.
An evil chancer getting the hot seat isn’t enough in itself for dystopia to take hold. The centre left and right need to be subdued further but that can only come once they see no other choice. Enter the disenfranchised left-wingers. They are the unwitting secret weapon of the far-right. During the election campaign, and the anti-Brexit movement that preceded it, they recruited more people for the Conservatives than any Tory MP or the Prime Minister, any fraudulent advert or piece of misleading information.
It was the self-righteous left-wing movement that insisted they knew better than the people. This made the people defy their message. Even after election day, papers like The Guardian and The Independent ran articles that continued the notion people didn’t understand what they had chosen. So yeah, after telling them for three years they weren’t educated enough to understand their Leave vote, they decided to patronise them over the General Election too.
The ignorance wasn’t from the people, it was the self-proclaimed “Good Guys”.
During the campaign, it’s clear the “Good Guys” believe the ends now justify the means. Morality can be shelved until later because for now, it’s more important to stop the “Bad Guys”. The “Bad Guys” in their eyes being the Tories, who should have been easy to make the villains no-one from a Northern working-class background could vote for.
But people are willing to risk further austerity, policies like Universal Credit and the mistrust of Boris over the floundering, patronising tones of the absent opposition.
In a time where we invite devices into our home that are always listening (Alexa, ask Siri if the government care what I’m making for tea), how we all become guilty of Orwellian doublethink and accept that Diane Abbott really does make 2+2=5 when she’s penning budgets, the malevolent threat of the Tories became safer than the mutually assured destruction born from further indecision.
And the protests continue. There’ll be no People’s Vote so instead a minority takes to the streets attacking the notion of Boris as PM. They will now fight hard for Proportional Representation even though such a system virtually guarantees endless cycles of hung parliaments, something the British public will never want again.
Their continued and slowly more aggressive attacks will see sympathy from the voters in the centre dwindle further. The police are required to man more marches, using appropriate force. V for Vendetta’s police state then appears on the horizon. Scotland get their independence or get back under Westminster’s unquestionable rule, either way, unchallenged isolation takes hold.
And the remaining “Good Guys” keep recruiting for the regime they oppose through nothing more than their own ignorance. Dystopia creeps in just like this, V for Vendetta goes from fiction to fact, Boris from buffoon to Emperor Palpatine.
Of course, it doesn’t have to go this way.
The Conservative Party may well reinvent itself as something not too dissimilar to New Labour. Boris said he would try and earn the votes he knows are being “lent”. The left may re-emerge with more progressive ideals, a clearer message, and an apology for the air of superiority it has expressed during a time it fell lower down the political standing.
For the time being, Britain doesn’t get the government it deserves but the one it needs right now.