Election fever

BBC News screencap

This is how it’s looking at the moment. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so disheartened by British politics. In my constituency (Richmond Park), Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer has been ousted by old money playboy Zac Goldsmith. Letterboxes were bombarded with letters, leaflets and flyers from Goldsmith. It turned into a battle of resources, of who could waste the most paper. Susan Kramer was a fantastic MP for Richmond Park – she withdrew from the Lib Dem frontbench to focus on local issues in her constituency and did a fantastic job of it. I’m very sad to see her go; it’s lucky I’m looking to move out of Richmond.

As soon as I voted yesterday morning, I felt distinctly powerless. There’s something about elections that reaffirms the separation I feel from the decision-making process. Not only does my vote not count in a system that requires only a simple majority for victory, but no candidate represents me. Instead, I vote on the basis of who I definitely do not want. It detaches me and people like me from responsibility over the governance of our own state.

I’m tired and burnt out this week, hence a lack of posts. Flathunting is a very tiring process and I’ve got nowhere so far. I’m debating whether to move now or after I get back from Kenya. Oh yeah, I’m going to Kenya for two weeks in June – birthday present from my brother. Rather excited about it, though I have to get myself vaccinated and malaria-pilled sharpish. No doubt I’ll come back sunburnt, with a sick tummy, hundreds of photos, and a few stories.

By the river

(I stood and watched this coot for a minute as it struggled against the current)

Having acquired a new job (yay!), now comes the flat hunt. Inevitably, as I search for somewhere else to live, I become nostalgic for Richmond and all its prettiness. Richmond has treated me well for the past 6 months. It’s quaint and photogenic. It was always going to be a difficult transition for a girl from Croydon to move to Richmond, but it has been much better than it could have been. I guess my accent – honed through seven reluctant years at a private school – helps me to blend in, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in such a beautiful area.

The real difficulty I have living here is the microcosmic nature of it all. The wealthy and the middle class have found a haven in Richmond, and here they do not have to confront the real struggles that exist within London. There are hardly any homeless people to be seen here. The streets are impeccably clean. The crime rate is one of the lowest across the country. Left-leaning as I am, I am always taken aback as I walk through Richmond and Petersham on my way home by the saturation of front gardens with placards emblazoned with Zac Goldsmith’s face. These houses vote Conservative. These houses want to safeguard their wealth and protect the interests of the island. It’s a point of view I’ve never been able to understand, no matter how hard I try.

I love to look outwards. I love meeting new people and learning things about them. I love experiencing new things and trying to gain new perspectives. I’ve never been a part of one particular group over another; I have always been a part of different groups simultaneously. Perhaps, because of this, I have never felt threatened in the same way. Even if some of my interests are not being catered for, others inevitably are. My identity is shaped by a variety of factors: being a Londoner, being a child of first generation immigrants, being of mixed race, being British, being Irish, being Indonesian, being European, being Asian, being a woman, being a young person, coming from a deprived area, going to school in a rich area, being a university graduate, being a native English speaker, being bilingual, coming from a left-leaning family, being supported by the welfare state during my childhood.

Having these (sometimes conflicting) factors to consider means I don’t need to imagine things from the perspective of others. I, and many like me, see things from a range of different perspectives and we are constantly code-switching. I have made such a transition from my childhood that I have no tradition to safeguard – my life is changing all the time, though the roots of it never change. I have no island to protect because my island is constantly expanding – not just in an economic sense, but in a sense of an increasing wealth of experiences. With these expanding horizons, I find it difficult to understand those who are staunch in their commitment to conserving the status quo.

First Time Voters’ Question Time

I was in the audience for this ‘special’ edition of Question Time, broadcast live on BBC3 on Wednesday evening. As an opinionated and knowledgeable young person and first time voter in this year’s general election, I sat in the audience feeling insulted by the limited and contrived discussion taking place around me. Some members of the panel referred to the audience as “you guys” – they came across as patronising and detached from the realities of young people in Britain. Tim Campbell (political expert extraordinaire…) told us not to “sit idly”, as though young people in Britain are stuck in the state of nature, waiting to be enlightened and coaxed from the cave and thus enabled to contribute to a higher, nobler political life. Campbell said, “You can’t then complain if you don’t get the stuff that you want.” When an inflexible two-party political system with a dull and pandering third party doesn’t offer anything, perhaps Tim Campbell could explain the incentive to vote? The experience was tedious at best and utterly offensive at worst.

(Stills taken from BBC3 First Time Voters’ Question Time, broadcast on 3rd March 2010)

Questions were chosen very carefully and were edited to be ‘impartial’. Audience members were encouraged to be ‘lively’ and ‘provocative’. Difficult that, seeing as more radical audience members were sussed out in the warm-up questions and not chosen to comment once the programme went live. My question, for example, was a policy question on the living wage. The questions chosen to air were not related to any concrete policy decisions, which meant that panel members were under no real obligation to talk about policy. Answers to a question relating to struggling graduates were vague and the party representatives took the opportunity to sling mud at each other instead of offering positive alternatives. Panel members spent much of the hour talking about talking to young people, to “you guys”. There was hardly any scope of discussion and the choice of questions allowed panel members to skip around the same, repetitive themes. My verdict: a redundant exercise in puffing out thin subjects for discussion over an hour-long program.