We’re almost there now, staggering to the end of the least inspiring, most depressing General Election in living memory. And that includes the experience of Theresa May’s robotic performance in May 2017. It’s not just the punters, even the parties don’t appear to have their hearts in it this time, certainly in my part of the world. Here in the East End of Glasgow I’ve seen one single solitary election poster in someone’s windae – an SNP one. I’ve had just two pieces of election material through the door, both from the SNP. There’s been nothing at all from Labour, the Tories, or the Lib Dems. This is a marginal constituency which Labour needs to take if it is to prove that it’s on the road to recovery in Scotland, yet the party is invisible locally.
Yet despite the boredom, the ennui, the exhaustion, this is a vitally important election. This is the election when Scotland decides who gets to decide the future of this country. Is it to be Boris Johnson, or is it to be the people of Scotland? Are we content to sit back and watch passively, silently, as foodbanks burgeon, as homelessness spreads like a cancer, as in work poverty blights more and more families, or do we say that enough is enough. This election is fundamentally a choice between Conservative selfishness or an assertion that there has to be a better way.
It’s fine to speculate about what might happen next, about the precise mechanism by which Scotland can wrest an independence vote from a reluctant Westminster, but the fundamental truth remains that the vital first step is to ensure that the only pro-independence party which can win seats tomorrow wins as many as possible. It’s imperative that independence supporters are motivated to get out and vote. It’s only by returning a large majority of SNP MPs tomorrow that we can take that first step that leads to a referendum that leads to independence that leads to something better, because if the party falters now, then all is lost.
I was in town yesterday, in the rain and the cold I lost count of the number of young people sitting in a puddle of hopelessness, a battered disposable coffee cup in front of them collecting their pennies of relief. They’re everywhere. Even in streets in the East End where you never saw homeless people before. We are now a society where all that some of us have to hope for is contained in a disposable coffee cup. The Tories did this. With their destruction of the social security system, their decimation of drug programmes, their callous disregard for social housing, Tories did this to those young people. The Tories have done it to all of us.
Every time I go into town I keep a few pounds in my pocket to place in a coffee cup. I don’t judge what it’s spent on. If the person who happens to be the first one that is stumbled across chooses to spend it on alcohol or drugs, don’t judge. Who are we judge how another person copes in a situation that those of us who are more fortunate don’t have to face. Who are we to judge what it takes to get through a long dark cold and wet night of desolation of body and soul. Who are we to judge how to cope without hope. And then I pass another battered coffee cup, and another, and another, and there are no pounds left in my pocket.
The Tories create callousness in all of us, because we can’t individually help every single person in need. We need to turn a blind eye, to walk by in our warm dry clothes towards our warm dry homes while the coffee cups are empty on the streets. The Tories tell us not to care, because it’s the only way that we can cope with the overwhelming nature of the problems that their greed has created. We need to make all of society to care, to make government care, to make those with power care. We can’t solve the problem of homelessness with a few coins in a cup, we can only solve it together. That means electing people who care, and rejecting those who don’t. It means voting out the smug arrogance of a Boris Johnson who lavishes handouts on the rich, on banks and big businesses.
Not all poverty is visible. There’s the poverty of the mother who huddles with her children under a pile of coats in the bedroom, because she can’t afford to pay her gas or electricity bill. There’s the poverty of the couple who trudge to the foodbank in the rain because their social security payment has been sanctioned. There’s the poverty of the man who sits in a van while an app controls his life, hoping for a little bit of work to put food on the table. There’s the poverty of a lifelong struggle, that has caused poor health and illness, that gives men in the area where I live a lower life expectancy than Mexico.
None of this was inevitable. The Tories just want you to think it was. None of this was necessary. The Tories just want you to think it was. None of this needs to be this way. The Tories just want you to think that it must. All this is a result of deliberate choices by a British government, a British government that the people of Scotland don’t want. They can inflict poverty, illness, and marginalisation upon us, because we don’t matter to them. And that is why it is important that we do not allow hopelessness and despair to overtake us, because when those of us who have the strength do not speak up, when we don’t say enough, when we don’t say that there is a better way, we become complicit.
Tomorrow we have a choice. We can choose not to be complicit. We can assert that there is a better way. We can demand that the empty coffee cups are a sick abomination in one of the richest countries in the world, a result of deliberate choices made by a government that doesn’t give a shit. Well we give a shit, and tomorrow is our chance to make sure that Boris Johnson hears that. There’s only one way to teach him, and that is to ensure that there are as few Conservative MPs in Scotland as possible, to ensure that Scotland insists that the people of this country have the absolute right to determine the path that this nation takes. And that is a path that will not be littered with huddled bundles of despair. It’s a path that will not lead to foodbanks. It’s a path that leads to empathy, to compassion. Vote SNP tomorrow. Vote for a future that can’t be contained in a battered coffee cup.
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