I’ve been discussing the election quite a bit recently and have been keen to get other people doing so as well. In this guest post, Gill Frigerio offers her reflections on the election and shows how what she plans to vote emerges out of, and interacts with, her life and career. I’d love to feature other guest posts like this, so, please get in touch if you’d like to contribute something. So now over to Gill…
An English woman, a Frenchman, an Italian and a German are at the top of a mountain.
Not the beginning of a joke, but a scene from summer 1996. I was the English woman and I was on holiday with my flatmate and our two close friends. I vividly recall marvelling that I, brought up very traditionally in the North West of England, with a fortnight in North Wales in the summer, eating spaghetti with a spoon and Vesta curry (exotic!) would have such an international group of friends. Of course my friendships were shaped significantly by my working in higher education, as EU funded opportunities were what had brought the other three to the UK.
Wind forward to May 1997 and I cast my vote for Labour as usual then caught the Eurostar to meet the Italian in Paris. We were ‘an item’ by then and he was back in Italy so I missed that Portillo moment for romance.
When we married in 2000 it never occurred to me that freedom of movement between our countries might not last forever. I carried on carrying my Labour membership, although I had a terrible record for picking leaders (I preferred Beckett to Blair, David to Ed, Cooper to Corbyn) and voting that way. I was complacent leading up to the 2016 referendum and the Leave result felt very personal. In particular, for family and friends who were open about voting leave (there weren’t many but they know who they are) I considered it a statement that they didn’t think our family should exist.
Since June 2016 I have given considerable thought to why the UK voted to leave and in particular why I didn’t see it coming. And I was so angry with Corbyn that I resigned my labour membership. I still managed to cast a labour vote in 2017’s snap election but in large part due to the excellent local candidate, an active County Councillor whom I knew and respected. The manifesto acceptance of the referendum result made me want to weep. Most of my activism has been with Warwick District for Europe rather than the Labour Party. I voted Green in the bonus European elections in the spring. I hadn’t seen anything from my labour MEPs to inspire.
And that considerable thought has led me to a more nuanced position. Of course its about stopping Brexit, but also the causes of Brexit: austerity, disenfranchisement, a sense of entitlement so great that the ‘ruling class’ can resolve internal party disputes on the international stage. We can’t just revoke article 50. The privilege I had accrued since the vesta curry days, largely through education, needs to be acknowledged and power redistributed, rather than simply swopping between a traditional ruling class and a liberal metropolitan elite. I’ve mistrusted the Lib Dems since before 2010, having seen some truly dispiriting dishonesty in local campaigning and Tristram’s post about the problems with centrism and moderate politics crystallised why for me. In my professional world, supporting people into and through labour markets, I don’t see much in late capitalism that enhances working life. If anything, my post-referendum angst has moved me to the left and am voting for the many, not the few, even if that means giving up some of my privileges.
My local constituency of Warwick and Leamington was Labour 1997-2010 but in a surprise move went red in 2017 when that excellent local councillor, Matt Western, became our MP by a narrow majority. He has been a remain advocate within and beyond the labour party and the tactical voting sites support him. The Lib Dems can’t win here, nor can Green. As I am out delivering labour leaflets I heartily wish they would stand down.
I don’t believe the polling. I don’t know what will happen on Thursday. But I truly hope a big shift will emerge, even in the form of a hung parliament, and that Matt Western will remain my MP.