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Wednesday 6 November 2019

Our election diary: Week 1

From Bristol to Belfast, nine brave Tortoise members will share their experiences of a particularly volatile election 

It’s happening. And here’s the Tortoise general election plan:

ThinkIns we’re setting off on a five-week ThinkIn tour of six swing constituencies, plus a weekly election ThinkIn here in the newsroom. They’re all open for booking now – come along if you can. They’re open to non-members too, so do let friends and family in those local areas know they’re welcome to join us. The Readout will appear in the app on Mondays.

Podcast each Saturday, we’ll publish a dedicated election podcast. Ideal for those of you who need a distraction – cooking, running, driving – to take the edge off while you absorb the implications of political shenanigans.

Emails we’ll decode the latest developments in brief, as you’d expect, in your regular daily Sensemaker. In addition, if you want it, Matt d’Ancona and Chris Cook’s analysis of the week will land in your inbox on Sunday evening. If you’re one of those people who can’t get enough of this stuff, it will be brilliant. If you’re not, just hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom.

Members’ election diaries starting today, eight brave Tortoise members, from right across the country and the political spectrum, will share how they’re feeling about it all. They’re taking part voluntarily and we’re incredibly grateful for their time and candour.

Over to them…


Lydia, Belfast

A self-defined ‘intrepid commuter cyclist’ and wannabe triathlete, 28-year-old Lydia is a whole-hearted Remainer. She is learning Italian and Gaelic, and lives in Belfast with her boyfriend. She feels despairing and unrepresented politically and can’t remember how or whether she voted in the last three general elections.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the UK – socially, politically – right now?

Brexit. The environment. Unity. Whatever happens on the never-ending Brexit journey, the social and political divisions brought to the fore by the entire Brexit process will continue. Northern Ireland has been without Stormont for over two and a half years, and Brexit has overshadowed everything for so long.

Political leaders and society have failed to take stock because for three years all oxygen has been spent on deal or no-deal. It seems increasingly unlikely that there will be a joined-up response to the environmental crisis. The scale of behaviour and policy change needed to address climate change is monumental.


Piyush, Manchester

Thirty-six-year-old Piyush lives in Manchester with his Labour-supporting, Corbyn-sceptic wife, two year old son and their cat. A medical doctor and anthropologist, Piyush joined the Labour party when Jeremy Corbyn became leader. He voted Remain and is a member of Another Europe is Possible, an organisation that recognises the problems with the EU, but also sees the benefits of internationalism and cooperation outside the UK.

How do you feel about British politics in general?

In 2016, in the aftermath of all the electoral surprises (Corbyn/Trump/Brexit/etc) that Gramsci quote kept coming to mind: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters”. It seemed to be a time when we didn’t know what would happen, opening the possibility of change, but also of descent into worse inequality, fewer opportunities, a country that was at risk of becoming nastier.

Now I feel that we may have missed that window of opportunity, and that we are following the second path. But I still hold out hope. And I’ll be honest here: I’m still pinning that hope on Corbyn, even if he was wrong on some of his Brexit strategy, even if he was slow on anti-semitism, even if he has at times been cack-handed with how he has handled Labour’s internal politics.


Mike, Tyne and Wear

Mike is a committed Brexiteer and lives in Birtley, Tyne and Wear. Following a long career in communications, including senior roles in Whitehall and local government, Mike now spends a lot of his time in non-league football in the north east.

How do you feel about British politics in general?

I feel genuinely betrayed by MPs and the political classes generally. If forced to go through another referendum, I will vote in that referendum and then never vote again.

On social issues, the rift between London and the south east and the rest of the country is now becoming a chasm. The “what London wants, London gets” approach is doing significant, lasting damage to the rest of the UK (and England in particular).


Janet, Edinburgh

Janet is a Scot who lived most of her adult life in England before moving back to Edinburgh last year. She’s 60, with two grown up children who both live in London. She paints, is a trainee counsellor, volunteer and interiors enthusiast. Her inclination is to vote Labour, but she’s recently adopted a tactical ‘ABC’ approach – Anything But Conservative.

How do you feel about British politics in general?

I am a Remainer who cried when the Brexit decision was announced. But I’ve also been to Antarctica this year, and our sleepwalking through climate change makes me cry, too. The big questions surrounding social justice seem to have gone completely off the agenda, as all the oxygen in public life has been sucked up by Brexit.


Joel, Bristol

Architect Joel is in his early 60s but ‘feels like early 40s’, and is an active member of Bristol’s Civic Society. In the last three elections he’s voted Lib Dem, Labour, Labour. He believes in proportional representation.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the UK – socially, politically – right now?

Bad capitalism. An unregulated economy that leads to social polarisation, the haves and have nots. Airbnb is pushing up rents. Google, Facebook, Amazon are behemoths that need monitoring carefully. I do not see an alternative to a capitalist economic system, but we have to transition to a new ‘ethical capitalism’. I get that the welfare state is struggling financially, but there is very little fairness in society. I believe that early intervention saves money later on – on education, welfare and healthcare.


Paul, London

Paul lives on the very edge of north London with his partner and cat. A lifelong Tory voter, he’s a senior manager at a global company and is studying part time for a Masters degree. He’s a “product of Thatcherism, and a disciple of Freidman, with the general view of less government is better than more government” and a committed Leaver.

How do you feel about British politics in general?

It’s a shit show. The majority is caused by two factors. First, the lack of holistic constitutional reform over the past few decades has left us with a system that is unfit for a modern country. Electoral reform, Lords reform, devolution, even the infrastructure of the Parliamentary estate have been glossed over.

The referendum result has blown the creaky old network to pieces. It’s payback for failing to modernise. Second, we have a dismally low quality of elected representative, and of associated advisors, think tanks, media types and general hangers on. The political class is full of the privileged, the intellectually empty and the self-obsessed. Combine this with the broken system, and we are where we are right now.


Mwenya, London

Thirty-one-year-old Mwenya lives by herself in Chelsea and describes her job as “to bring people together creatively”. She would prefer we remained in the EU.

How do you feel about British politics in general? 

Moving away from single issue politics needs to be the priority. Surely, the only way is up?


Severine, London

A freelance journalist and digital marketing specialist, 29-year-old Belgian national Severine lives in north west London with her Italian partner and their three-year-old daughter. She does not have the right to vote, but is deeply affected by the content of the campaign and its outcome.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the UK – socially, politically – right now? 

The gap between what people want and what politicians do is the biggest issue facing the UK right now. Politicians put short-termism and personal interest first. The UK is not the only country to suffer from the rise of populism. It is important to bear in mind the influence that demographic factors and cultural attitudes had on the English electorate’s voting behaviours.

The voters’ age, their education level, their concern over immigration and the ambient Euroscepticism. It seems many Britons associated the UK membership to the EU with a loss of national identity and hope Brexit will bring market freedom and an economic boost to the country.


Martha, London

Martha is currently studying for a masters in London, hoping to pursue a career in journalism. She voted Remain and is worried about the increasing polarisation of British Politics and the elusive solution to it.

How do you feel about British politics in general?

Amongst my friends there’s a palpable sense of frustration about politics. Marches, referendums and elections haven’t gone the way of the youth vote in recent years, and I sense a danger that the constant warring in Westminster is inspiring indifference.

I think, though, that there are so many important issues on the line here, like Brexit, the NHS and the environment, that will affect young people’s lives in real terms, immediately. We can’t let the apparent divide between political and public make us apathetic; it should energise us instead. It’s an exciting time, and this is an election where the young vote can really make a difference.


WDYT? We’ll be hearing from our member election diarists every week throughout the campaign. They’ll return next Wednesday with their reactions to what’s happened so far. If you’d like to add your voice to theirs, please email our Members’ Editor on liz@tortoisemedia.com.