UK election stampede

Photo by Tjebbe van Tijen

After such an arduous and hard-fought campaign, and such a cruelly unexpected result, we may all be forgiven for wanting nothing more fervently than to see the back of Elections 2015 and to get on with our lives (possibly even some sleep?).

It was an honour and a pleasure to hold the fort with you all throughout the sleepless Election Night, even and perhaps especially in the hairy moments of finding out about that ominous exit poll before the counts even got going; of staying up to hear sometimes nothing but bad news for sleepless hours on end; and of watching a gloating prime minister return to 10 Downing Street. I think I got a grand total of 3 hours sleep in those 24 hours! How about you?

But it was also a pleasure to keep counting the Green vote and realising that we have a lot to celebrate: not just Caroline Lucas’ well-deserved and convincing win, or Darren Hall’s massive increase in the Green vote, or the countless good news stories about Greens coming second or third or keeping deposits across the land. But most importantly, we should take heart from the fact that the #GreenSurge held fast and delivered over 1 million votes for the Greens across the UK in spite of an electoral system stacked against us.

Technically, it is all over for another five years as the polls won’t open again until 2020. However, in spite of the bone weariness I suggest we take the time to debrief, analyse, and process the results of this historic elections at great length. It’s important to do so as looking away now with a sigh of relief or despair, as the case may be, could cost our movement dearly in years to come.

Of course, I don’t mean we should not party or take a break, quite the contrary: but while hanging out with friends and comrades in the aftermath we should be fully aware of the significance of the informal chats, the laughter, the moaning, the ranting, even the crying on each other’s shoulder as part and parcel of building this remarkable movement for change that is sure to deliver an even greater result in 5 years time: provided we don’t take our eyes off the prize and don’t disappear from each other’s side at this crucial moment.

Today, many activists (not just in the Green Party but beyond) will be feeling horrified and beaten down by the way the Tories cleaned up on election night. The horror and gut-wrenching worry are not only understandable but perhaps even justified. I am certainly kept awake at night by the thought that in 5 years’ time it will be too late to stop the fossil fuel industry from fracking every meadow and field in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (if hopefully not in Scotland). We would be deluding ourselves if we did not feel a serious degree of alarm at the prospect of the UK closing itself off even more from Europe and against immigration or at the slow and continued decline of the NHS.

Others among us will be trying very hard to put a brave face on it and just carry on fighting the good fight. The latter of course we must do or die (even if it sounds dramatic): the urgency of that is not only to do with the clock ticking when it comes to climate change; or with the fact that we all feel a bit like the last bastion of progressive democracy in England left unharmed by Friday night’s bloodbath; but also with the equally pressing need of giving our members and supporters something to root for and something to sink their teeth in as soon as possible. All of these are valid arguments, and I am not taking issue with any.

And yet… the danger is that the disappointment and discouragement at facing yet another 5 years of Cameron in Downing Street will find us alone in the wee hours when it can take hold and sap our belief and energy. Which is why it will be good to acknowledge those feelings openly and head-on, taking the time needed to process them as fully as possible while we still have the momentum with us. It will be important to do this especially with and for those many new members who have joined the Green Party in the past months and whom we need to keep engaged in years to come.

So I propose that we each of us carve out the time to get together in the next few days and weeks with those nearest to us who understand what just happened in British politics and who have campaigned alongside us for change, and talk for as long as we can bear it about how we feel about #GE2015 and its results: despondent? pissed off? REALLY low? bone tired? still vaguely hopeful? or put off politics forever? Also about how we feel about the surge in the Green vote. And the huge successes. And the good work we did. And the happy or extatic moments we may have shared (even if at Nigel Farage’s expense). It’s a cathartic exercise whose significance as individual activists and as a party we mustn’t underestimate.

Failing to engage in it could result in those legitimate feelings festering, taking on a significance they do not deserve and ultimately pulling our movement apart. So please feel free to share those feelings widely – in comments to this article, on Twitter, over a beer with your mates or why not at Green Party meetings?

Of course, once that process is complete, to get back into the fray of political struggle is the only way forward. We cannot give up and go away, we and our relationships are too precious for that. We have built up some muscle, we have solid gains to cement our future work: as tempting as it would be to switch off and go on permanent holiday, we cannot stay away for long because there is everything still to play for in UK politics. The struggle is sometimes more important than winning. In struggle the bonds are forged and the lessons are learned that will stand us in good stead in years to come.

Violeta Vajda

About Violeta Vajda

Violeta Vajda is a researcher and activist working to end anti-tziganism (racism against Roma people). She lives and works in Budapest, Hungary, where she leads a program to create the basis for grassroots political advocacy in Roma communities and beyond. Violeta is Romanian and Hungarian and is a member of Lewisham Green Party in London, UK.