On Suddenly Having Hope In Politics

Photo: Meg O'Donnell
A funny thing happened at 10pm last night – an unfamiliar feeling. As the exit polls were announced, there it was. Theresa May's Conservative party – so arrogant, so entitled – was going to lose seats in an unnecessary election that they called. That’s when I felt it: hope.
If you align yourself with liberal politics, hope will probably be a bit of a foreign notion to you. With the exception of backing the incumbent London mayor Sadiq Khan, it has been over 10 years since I marked an X on a ballot paper in an eerie school hall and actually welcomed the final result. Sometimes I don't even get a say, but I'm just as disappointed.
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I was furious when I learned, at 5am via Twitter, that Donald Trump had been elected the President of the United States one bleak day last November. Earlier that year, on the morning of 24th June, I wept upon discovering our country had decided to leave the European Union. I sat mute when the general election exit polls arrived in 2015, suggesting not only that Labour would lose, but that they would lose badly. I could go on. That feeling – a heady mix of crushing disappointment, anger and fear – has become an iron jacket that I accept I will be forced to wear every now and then. It gets more comfortable every time. Certainly, there have been small victories along the way – Le Pen's defeat, the Richmond Park by-election – but, generally, I now read newspapers by peering through my fingers.
Of course, in reality, there’s not that much to be happy about. May is pretending like none of it happened, like she didn’t lose 12 seats, like she didn’t fuck up in a catastrophic way, and has promptly formed a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party. How will this play out? Who knows. It’s scary. But it’s also exciting. Young people are rising up and making their voices heard in record numbers. Labour gained 31 seats, proving the country is rejecting hard right politics. Could this result in any way change Brexit? Will it be softer? Could – and this is dreaming big here – it lead to another referendum, at the very least about the terms of the deal?
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Again: hope.
When you’re long used to backing the losing horse, this can make you giddy. As the exit polls arrived last night, my friends and I barely knew how to respond; we were already so tightly wound in the brace position, it took a while for us to untangle ourselves.
But when we did, we hugged, and drank, and rubbed our eyes in astonishment at this new, optimistic world. Perhaps next time we can go the whole way. Wouldn’t that be something?
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