Beyond the ballot: a spirit that will not be broken

By Jill Segger
May 8, 2015

A desolate day follows a long night and the metaphors are a measure of the shock: “ a tsunami”, “ a landscape changed out of recognition”, “ sweeping all before them”. The reality is that the polls were wrong and we were ill-prepared for a Conservative majority.

But, slender though it is, that majority is a reality and now those millions among us who are devastated at what another five years of ideological austerity will mean, have to learn, in the words of activist and trades unionist Rebecca Winson, “ how to survive a full-blown Tory government.”

There are the structural and – as yet necessarily theoretical – considerations which demand our attention such as 'Beyond protest politics to change agency', by Simon Barrow (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21670) and the challenge to 'Throw sand in the works', by Michael Marten (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21687), reminding us of the power of civil action and use of the tools of a representative democracy in defence of those at the margins. These are all essential components of looking 'beyond the ballot' and refusing to be squashed into despair.

But it is to a series of Tweets by Rebecca Winson to which I want to return here. Earlier today, my eye was caught by these words: “Okay I had my bacon sandwich and cried a bit and now my plan for how to deal with this. Because we *have* to deal with this.” It spoke to my condition – both as an acknowledgement of the trauma and as a call to action. What followed was to me both inspiration and consolation, practical sense and dear charity. With Rebecca's permission, I reproduce the Tweets here.

“If you're in work, join a trade union. The more union members, the more chance we have of fighting zero hours, low wages and other shit. Get involved in community activism too. Housing groups, food banks, local strikes, local progressive parties. Work for the vulnerable. Soz, but we're going to have to be tireless. Fighting the cuts is going to be hard. But we have to do it. So get ready for a long fight. Don't be tied by party lines. Labour, Green, even Lib Dem – progressives must work together to oppose what's going to happen. Be kind. Be so, so kind. Be kind to your comrades, who'll get as tired and as angry as you.”

She continues: “If you can, be kind to those you argue with, because compassion changes more minds than anger, even though it's harder to muster. Be kind to the poor. The disabled. To immigrants. To workers. To anyone who's a bit different. The government won't be, you see. Finally, if you're one of those who's sat terrified about your life under the Tories: there are lots of people here for you. Find them.”

This is a spirit that will not be broken. It grows as resilient green shoots will in specks of earth. It will crack concrete and bring down prison walls.

* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.