Voting Tory, disability, fear and privilege

TL;DR If you think it is acceptable, or right, to vote Tory then you are either very privileged or very naive. Or a billionaire, in which case voting Tory is arguably a reasonable thing for you to do, but only arguably. Chances are you are not a billionaire.

The moment that the exit polls were announced after the UK general election was devastating. I had the radio on for the coverage and results and was also logged on to social media. I was horrified and pretty much lost for words when they said that the Tories would win with a majority of 50 or so seats; “please let the exit polls be wrong [followed by lots of crying emojis]”.

Many of my friends and I took to Facebook to share our shock at the result and fear of the prospect of five more years of a Tory government. Personally I was most immediately gutted by the fact *so* many people had voted for the Tories. It was a complete betrayal that such a large number of fellow citizens, including some “friends” had voted for a party whose policies of austerity have already caused thousands of deaths of sick and disabled people, a massive rise in poverty and homelessness, cuts to public services, lack of action on climate change etc. etc. etc.

The demographics of this group of devastated scared people is relevant. All disabled. All of working age (from about 16 to 60, but mostly 30s and 40s). Some of us are LGBTQ. Many of us are the sort of disabled people who sometimes get those “compliments” of “you don’t *look* disabled” and “you must be really high functioning” and “I don’t think of *you* as disabled” etc. Most of us have the privilege of a university education (and the associated debt). Most of us are working, though all of us that work are under employed in low paid part time, often precarious, roles. We all have a roof over our heads but are equally all one small change of circumstances away from not doing. Many of us are in unsuitable, precarious housing situations. I don’t think any of us own our own homes, or could even dream of doing so in the foreseeable future.. Many of us are the offspring of immigrants but we all have the privileges of being white and British, as far as I know.

I mention all these facts because if *we* (educated, white folk with British nationality) are feeling this scared how are more “marginalised” and or “vulnerable” – I.e. oppressed – disabled people feeling? Immigrant disabled people, disabled people of colour, more “obviously” disabled people, less “articulate” disabled people? Hate crime of all kinds is on the increase and it doesn’t take a psychic to foretell that it will continue to do so in the next five years. More “visibly disabled” people will bear the brunt of this I suspect.

After making a couple of impassioned Facebook posts about the afore mentioned devastation, shock and fear that I was feeling, I was told by several “friends” that I am being “dramatic” when I point out that my disabled friends and acquaintances and I are very very scared about the prospect of another five years at least of Tory rule. Some said my tone and language were offensive. I used “the F word”. I swear. “The F word” is a very useful and versatile word in our language and IMHO necessary to convey the level of my feelings on the situation. Apparently I was “vitriolic” when told a young disabled Tory voter the facts of how misguided he was and to maybe consider this next time he gets to vote, if indeed there is a next time. I don’t think I even swore on that one, very restrained under the circumstances I think.

Kind of ironic that I get laid into by Tory apologists for speaking my mind with occasional colourful language whilst shocked, fearful and sleep deprived. How does a little swearing due to the hurt and betrayal caused by your fellow voters compare to the violence inflicted by the Conservatives in the past nine years and throughout history?

One friend commented that “I never thought our political choices and voting record should affect friendships”. How can you *not* think your political choices should affect friendship? Look at what you voted for!

The demographics of this group is also relevant. All white; mostly cis men; mostly straight or straight passing; none identify as disabled people as far as I know (though I suspect several could); most over 50, from what I can gather all seem financially comfortably off with a car, a house, a well paid job. I guess they have so much privilege that they honestly can’t fathom why people with less could possibly be feeling scared.

They seem to have forgotten or overlooked the fact that perhaps they are doing OK partly because they benefited from free education, a welfare state as a safety net for if things went wrong and the fact that house prices were such that home ownership was a realistic possibility for many of their generation – be that through the right to buy their council houses or homes being generally more affordable in the 80s and early 90s. Being straight, male and non-disabled probably helped too.

It is unbelievably frustrating that these people seem to lack the empathy to comprehend that people like me are genuinely scared, for real reasons, which we have patiently and repeatedly explained to them and provided evidence for. I don’t think any of us will get any pleasure from saying “I told you so” when were are proved right about how another five years of Tory rule is going to affect us individually, as communities and as a society and country. I would prefer for them to turn out to be right and for there to be “nothing to worry about” but it has already been happening for years: we are sleepwalking into fascism and unless something changes drastically then history is in very real danger of repeating itself.