A year ago today I became completely immobilised by my emotions. I’d been up all night watching television, staring with a mixture of disbelief, outrage, and heartbreak, as the results of the General Election rolled in.
The 8th May was a Friday last year. I know that without looking at a calendar, because elections in the UK are always held on a Thursday. I don’t know why that precedent has been set. There’s probably a reason. In the lead-up to the election, I spent a great deal of time talking to people, encouraging them go and place their vote to register their voice.
I was full of excitement and hope in the lead up to the General Election, anticipating (perhaps foolishly) that the electorate could not possibly be willing to sign up to another five years of savage cuts to funding for education, health, and social support. That the country could not in good conscience reappoint either party that had hiked up tuition fees for students, whilst cutting the financial support for our least well-off youngsters to access further and higher education – especially when one of these parties had explicitly promised not to. Nor would citizens of the UK re-elect a party that had signed the biggest deal to privatise sections of the NHS that the country had ever seen. We could not, surely, be happy to vote for a party that led to the huge number of people using food banks in a country (this one) that should have no need for people to live on an income that doesn’t even cover a hand-to mouth existence.
On the morning of Thursday 7th May 2016, I woke up and looked out at the start of the sunny day with butterflies in my heart. I was excited. The Green Party election bus came down my road and Caroline Lucas rallied a call to vote – to all people. Although I live in Brighton, where she sits as MP, I am not actually in her constituency; her voice was a reminder to us all to go and put an X on (or spoil) our ballots. I left home to go and work in the lab, and stopped to vote at the school I live opposite. And I came out with butterflies in my stomach not my heart. I was worried. I was scared. I cannot – still – pinpoint what happened, but somewhere between entering the polling booth and coming out of it, I realised that up and down the country, there would be millions of people who would perhaps not think as I thought. Who would not vote as I had. Who would sign us up to many more years of Tory rule, believing that the government had not been strict enough, not been hard enough, not been pulling their purse strings in enough.
I went to the lab to carry on with my practical work for my Masters’ project. I’d been in the lab most days for the previous weeks, and had been spending the evenings revising for an exam that was to be held on the Monday (11th May). I hadn’t stopped a lot, but when I did, many conversations were geared toward the election. I couldn’t concentrate for most of Election Day. I had a bad feeling that I didn’t want to acknowledge might portend the results.
I spend most of the weekend in tears, immobilised for much of it. I went up the to the uni campus on the Sunday to revise but couldn’t concentrate. Everyone was carrying on as if the country hadn’t just elected into a government a party that would only make life more difficult for all but the richest citizens and business owners. Everyone could concentrate.
I could only cry and panic.
I missed the exam on the Monday morning. All my knowledge was absent and I couldn’t stop panicking or crying long enough to get my brain into gear so I didn’t go. Who wants to be sat in an exam room when they can’t stop crying and panicking? I find exams bad enough under usual circumstances, without the country having just signed up to another half decade of misery, poverty, and selfishness from those in power.
May 8th last year marked the beginning of a sad time. I realised only recently that it’s only in the past few months I think I’m starting to get past the gloom that began the day after Election Day last year. I’ve had a long spell – almost a year – of ups and downs, and although that’s not unusual, there’s been a big tipping towards the downs with only momentary ups. It’s hard to quantify, but qualitatively, I can say the past year’s been a tough one. But I’m on the up; I’m finding my voice again, and my creativity, and – most importantly – my fight. And boy, do we all need some fight at the moment. We’ve got four more years of this government to get through.