A letter to the left: Don’t lose hope – we’re in this together

Now is the time to rest - and then regroup.

If you’re young and left-leaning, it may feel like the world ended at 10:01pm, 12th December 2019.

It may seem like nothing we did made a difference. The time spent organising and informing yourself, the hours spent canvassing on weeknights and weekends, the debates with Tory friends and relatives – it was all for nothing. We lost. And now, we have to shut up and put up for five whole years.

This mentality is wrong on two counts.

Firstly, the work young people have done in this general election and the years since the Brexit referendum was not for nothing, nor a waste of time. Think back to 2016. Imagine, just for a second, if we hadn’t mobilised and organised ourselves on the scale we did. If instead, we had just sat down to watch a spectacle of misery unfold; telling ourselves that there was nothing we could do about it. Imagine the state we would be in now.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your efforts were in vain – least of all yourself. There may be a part of you saying “We failed, and there’s nothing we can do now. Just wait until next time, we’ll try again then.” This line of thought is a trap, and you should treat it with the contempt it deserves.

Esther Perel (if you don’t know who she is, then stop reading this immediately and look her up) has an incredible take on this, in the context of healing a damaged relationship. “Time never exists on its own. It’s what happens in it. You have to give it meaning. You have to shape it.” We will only have lost if we treat the next five years as a period of hibernation.

Secondly, this isn’t over. Yes, the future is dark, but darkness means uncertainty. Uncertainty means possibility, and possibility means we have everything to fight for. It means hope. Too often, the word “hope” is used in a passive sense. Rebecca Solnit uses it far more convincingly: “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.” This is an emergency, and young people have to believe in a better future in order to achieve it.

Take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. If I’ve learned one thing over the last few years of campaigning, it’s this: there are quite literally millions of people like you on these miserable little islands.

People who, by their very existence, make this divided kingdom slightly more bearable. Find them. Talk to them. Support them, and you will be supported in turn, with a generosity you might currently think is impossible.

Boris Johnson was granted a historic majority by an electorate whose main impression of him was “best of a bad bunch”. This is hardly a ringing endorsement. The Conservative majority is large, but shallow and temporary.

Take the holiday period to regroup, and then come back ready for a fight. I’m spoiling for one already. The most vital five years of our lives are upon us. Let’s make the Tories regret every single one of them.

Cathleen Clarke is Public Affairs Officer for For Our Future’s Sake.

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10 Responses to “A letter to the left: Don’t lose hope – we’re in this together”

  1. Rory

    “…these miserable little islands…”
    Oh dear. Such a very lot to learn.

  2. Linda nicklin

    Let Murphy law prevail for BJ. We have the time to build a new broad, non class movement which doesn’t feel threatened by ‘others’ value humanity is strong and connected and is impervious to divisive lies.

  3. Alice Aforethought

    My main thought as I watched ITV on the 12th and early 13th of December was to marvel at the clarity of thought we were hearing from Ed Balls and Alan Johnson, both now gone from the picture.

    What Labour now has instead is tripe like this. How on earth a sentient person can write this I do not know:
    “the work young people have done in this general election and the years since the Brexit referendum was not for nothing, nor a waste of time. Think back to 2016. Imagine, just for a second, if we hadn’t mobilised and organised ourselves on the scale we did.”

    Well, actually, it was all a waste of time. Because all that happened in those three years was that the country went nowhere while the losers of a referendum that they’d promised to honour welshed on their word and did their damnedest to frustrate it. And Labour just got savagely punished for its part in that because Remainers failed, TOTALLY FAILED, to make the blame for this belong to Boris. So he won.

    “If we hadn’t mobilised” – we wouldn’t have a totally discredited LotO and ten years of Labour in opposition in prospect. Because what all that showed was that Labour’s not a national party or a workers’ party any more. It’s an urban liberal ball-pond for halfwits to talk to themselves about gender identity and the wicked ignorance of anyone who disagrees with them, and hence demonstrate that Labour is totally irrelevant to anything important that’s going to be happening these next 10 to 15 years.

    That’s what you achieved. Well done.

  4. Alice Aforethought

    PS – I just looked Cathleen up on LinkedIn and sure enough OFOC is a London-based pressure group dedicated to overturning the referendum result.

    What was it you thought you had to say to the country again? Because it’s not listening to anything from that increasingly weird London bubble.

  5. nick w

    The term “:miserable little islands” is exactly the kind the thing that makes people think less of the labour movement, what can I say, other than when push came to shove all those bright young members who voted for JC to change the world always seemed to have a reason for not coming out canvassing, or leafletting, it was the same old faces I have seen for the last 20 years, what have I learnt from the election? a little less adulation from the “Glastonbury” crowd a little more effort into the core may have had more of an impact .

  6. Old Leftie

    Cathleen’s article reflects my own position very well. Distressed at the Tory victory, then, within a few days, realising certain facts. For one thing, of the people who voted, 52% supported Parties that wanted a second vote . Only 45% supported Brexit Parties. This reverses the result of the 2016 referendum. It also confirms all the public opinion polls that followed the referendum that regularly showed the majority of people being OPPOSED to Brexit. Nice to have it confirmed.
    Many new Tory seats have very slim majorities. They only just “got over the line!”

    Do we really imagine that Boris Johnson has the ability to cling to power while trying to achieve the impossible ie. to persuade the public that he has already “got Brexit done” when negotiations are dragging on into next winter and beyond? No doubt, his supporters in the media may suppress discussion of all the fraught negotiations with the EU, and within his own Party, but WE are not under any obligation to help him.

    He has already reneged on his promise to raise the minimum wage. There is so much more to come. A Johnson government will be a “target-rich environment”. Let’s enjoy the sport.

  7. Michaela

    I voted Labour all my life, even tactically this time despite corbyn to keep a Libdem out, but will not again. The party is finished for the foreseeable. The boundary changes will remove Labour’s unfair advantage and dealing with postal fraud will reduce them to maybe 150 seats at best. The NEC and shadow cab are looking for a Corbyn clone and the line up of possibles is pretty dire except for Starmer who has no chance. An alliance with the greens would be suicidal – they get no votes because they’ve cried wolf too often and their desperation is plain for the plain voter to see: the idiotic 12 years left; the exploitation of a schoolgirl with a developmental disorder (which was really disgraceful).

    Maybe the best tactic is to join the Conservatives and keep them to their one-nation tradition – Adam Smith, Burke and so on. The Conservative Home website is stuffed with learned and experienced commentators – quite unlike the sort of stuff you get with the Guardian or lablist. the Tories have all the brains too -can anyone name a single Labour MP who can stand beside jJsse Norman or Kwasi Kwarteng? There’s a need to accept that the wolrd ahs moved on and do the unthinkable.

  8. john Paginton

    Always there is hope even if just a small amount !.I was attacked online from my right leaning friends in life and others i do not know as I defended JC and the Labour party.I like the way JC cares about the less well off in life the homeless the poor the disabled.But the right wing media made sure that he was to be seen as a bad man :(.Most of the readers of these papers are like sheep and easily led to believe everything they see unfortunately!.Its the old divide and rule tactic pitting Race against race and class against class especially focusing on the working class vs those on benefits with TV programs like benefits street etc.The real focus should be on the big companies like Amazon etc who pay very little tax.Anyway I feel we will have a winter of discontent and strikes this should start to put some strain on the Tories and hopefully win us back some seats in the future?.It will take time and we need to go through some tough times right now and the next few years.I would like labour to stay the way it is and not return to far to the right so its important we get the correct leader,I really liked JC but feel its time for a change of leader and a new attack on the tory strongholds and a reclaim on our lost seats in the North and in Wales etc.BREXIT was one big mess and still is ! I feel BJ has his work cut out and it will start to anger his voters when they see he is not capable of delivering his flakey promises.I can never understand working class Tory voters never will.

  9. Michael McManus

    John – race against race and class against class? Who shouted tory Scum and sent death threats? Did you hear a single voice raised against ‘Labour Scum’? Tories never spoke of class – that was labour, and do you really think voters like being pigeon-holed like that? patronising.
    As for race. labour is xenophobic not tory. hatred of the USA and Israel. Cuddling up to the vilest regimes in the world – and especially Iran, in a strong field of vicious, hateful tyrants. get a grip man. Friends in the IRA and Palestine – a people who were granted democracy and used it to elect murderers and rapists. Labour are out of office for maybe two, even three elections unless they develop positive realistic policies that benefit the whole nation, not just a particular class at the expense of another. The message of hate and envy failed. What more evidence do you need?

  10. Dodgy Geezer

    “…… For one thing, of the people who voted, 52% supported Parties that wanted a second vote . Only 45% supported Brexit Parties…….”

    Er…NO. Your maths is wrong. And your politics. Nether the Libs nor SNP supported a second vote.

    Using approximate figures, the vote went:

    Remain in the EU come what may (Libs + Green + SNP) 18%
    Have a referendum and then leave if it votes to do so (Lab) 32%
    Leave the EU come what may (Con + BRX) – 45%
    Others – 5%

    This makes 77% voting for a party which accepted that we could leave the EU, while 18% wanted to remain. Quite a large majority of people who would accept leaving, then.

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