The die-hards of the Labour electorate, on the evening of their election defeat, did not go gentle into that good night.
Indeed, there is currently a concerning trend among the supposed ‘left wing’ in this country to shelve reasonable discussion in favour of vitriol, and abandon inclusivity for self-righteousness. Instead of quietly hanging their heads along with their disgraced figurehead, the urban left took to the streets; ‘stop the Tory coup’ events were held on every self-respecting campus, and anyone who admitted to voting Tory was immediately savaged on social media. Some months on and young Conservatives (and left wing journalists) are being egged at the Tory party conference. The archetypal ‘wet lefty’ now has a hardened, embittered visage and an over-active twitter account.
I’m not saying that I always disagree with them. The cuts introduced by this government have been harder and deeper than expected; gone is the moderating influence of the Lib Dems, leaving us to face the stark realities of a truly Conservative Britain. My objection is instead that such behaviour is not constructive. A democratically elected party preparing to enact its manifesto is no justification for protests at number 10, and an egg splattered over the face of a teenager has never led to intelligent debate. Both are reminiscent of a toddler stamping its foot because it didn’t get its way.
Worst of all, this kind of behaviour is intimidating. Perhaps the most worrying symptom of this trend has been the so-called ‘million mask march’ which gave London’s youth the unique opportunity to disguise their identity in a V for Vendetta mask and act really pissed off for a while. Like all the worst elements of Twitter made flesh, ‘anonymous’ took to the streets to protest against ‘capitalism’ and ‘the establishment’ – whatever that actually means. It seems to have been merely an expression of youthful fury and aggression, a directionless outlet of impotent bile from people who get a kick out of causing fear. Whatever it was hoping to achieve, it didn’t achieve it and it never will.
The protests brought us the wonderful images of costumed anarchists picking up their named cappuccinos in Starbucks, with their masks on the backs of their heads. But 50 people were arrested, several injured, and large sections of Westminster closed for the night. So please can we put our masks back in the cupboard, our eggs back in the fridge, and stop convincing Britain’s Tory-blue heartlands that they’ve made the right decision.
It is of course grossly unfair to group these radical few in with the quiet majority of British left-wingers, those who desire discourse and benevolent government rather than those who are baying for the souls of their centre-right victims. In fact I’m sure that the self-styled Milibaes are far more distressed than I am at the moment.
But there has to be a realisation that the so-called ‘authoritarian left’ – the marchers, the clicktivists, the egg-throwers – are more active on social media and on the streets, and are swiftly giving the British left a public face-lift that it could desperately do without.
I know the response I would get on Twitter: ‘Blairite!’, ‘Tory scum!’ (these have apparently superceded the c-word as the no-go areas of British swearing), or even ‘we don’t need you!’ But you do need me. I’m a London-based, left-leaning, environment-caring, diversity-loving, pro-choice, anti-war, Elton John-listening Guardian reader, who would happily spend an entire lunchtime debating George Osborne’s uncanny resemblance to a ferret. If you’ve lost people like me then you’ve lost the next election. The British left is dead, long live the British left.