I woke up this morning in a country that, while technically the same one in which I went to bed last night, already feels very different. Elections tend to bring change. And I’d long suspected that a majority Conservative government was a distinct possibility. But now that we have one it has hit me hard. And like many others, I’m struggling to know what to do about it. And how to feel towards those who brought us here.
It’s been a pretty shoddy election campaign. The major parties seemed more concerned with their own internecine squabbles than with the future of the nation. The huge challenges that we face as a country have been obscured by lies, recriminations and politicians hiding in fridges.
And anyone who thinks seriously that we can ‘get Brexit done’ by the end of January is in for considerable disappointment.
So what happened? Was the election a ‘second referendum’ on Brexit? Does Boris Johnson have some inexplicable electoral appeal? Did the Tories get out the ‘boomer’ vote?
Or did Jeremy Corbyn put off potential Labour voters? Were Labour’s policies a bit too extreme for those in the political centre? Did the Liberal Democrats bungle their campaign?
Or are we simply a nation of bigoted, right-wing xenophobes?
I suspect that the answer is more complex than any one of these. It may be a combination of them. Or it might be something else entirely. Either way, there’ll no doubt be more discussion of this in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
What concerns me now, though, is what happens next. The Conservatives have never exactly been the voice of compassion. Yet we seem to have given the zealots on their right wing the keys to the kingdom.
We have entrusted them with our public services. We have charged them with overseeing our departure from the European Union. And we have given them free rein to reshape our relationship with the world.
This does not, in my view, have the hallmarks of a particularly well thought-out plan.
And so I worry for the weak and the vulnerable, who rely on us to support them in their time of need. I worry for our young people, whose future we are denying them. And I worry for those living in poverty or despair.
I worry for the European Union citizens – and, indeed, those from all nations – who have chosen to make our country their home. And I worry for those who come to our country seeking escape from war and violence, or simply a better life for themselves and their families.
I worry for our very planet, which is – quite literally – in flames.
And I worry also that the country I knew, the country of which I felt a part, no longer exists. Or perhaps never existed at all.