Up Front by Emma Hart


What's the Big Idea?

The other day, I was looking at my younger son sitting on the couch watching the news predict imminent nuclear war, and thinking, “This 80s revival is going a bit far.” But surely, it’s my generation who’ve been there before. Gen X, we’re the ones who grew up in the shadow of nuclear winter. I should have some advice for dealing with this level of existential dread. Perhaps Sting could write a song speculating that maybe North Koreans love their children.

Then I remembered. We’re Gen X. The only thing we know is that we know nothing, and nobody’s ever going to ask us. Our job is to keep the peace between our parents and our adult children who still live at home.

Then Theresa May called a snap election, and we were all, “Sure. Fine. This is just what happens now, in this world where everything is shit all the time, there’ll be another bit of utter crazy along in a minute, there it goes.” I was trying to work out who I would vote for in England, what with Labour being your basic omnishambles and the LibDems apparently run by a confused homophobe. Then I remembered that they don’t have any kind of PR, and all English people can do is vote for their local MP, and I ran a bath and drank wine in it.

We’re having an election this year, and I feel no more sanguine about that than any of this other bullshit.

It’s been my determination this year to somehow get through it without building a Merlot Bunker under my desk. That’s probably why I’ve been drinking so much wine in the bath. I don’t want to hide away and ignore all the shit, but it’s so hard. It’s easy to get distracted by how unoriginal Eminem’s music is, or just how afraid Paula Bennet is of dildos. Or how to spell the plural of ‘dildo’.

Just like any time you find yourself in the middle of something overwhelmingly complex, it pays to take a step back and say, “What’s the big picture? What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What’s the ultimate goal? With that in mind, does what I’m doing make any fucking sense? How great are screwcaps?”

I know it’s got nothing to do with me, and the last thing the parties on the Left need is more Advice on the Internet, but here’s what I’d like to see in the lead-up to the election: big ideas. “What do we stand for?” “Who do we want to be?” They’re not the last questions we should be asking, ‘how’ has to come in there somewhere for sure, but we should still be asking them.

I feel like the left has got scared of big, ‘feeling’ words. We’re liberal social justice warrior snowflake virtue-signallers. But you know, who didn’t fucking cry watching “Pride”? We get big words like Justice and Equality and Diversity. They get jumping out from behind the couch and yelling “BOO! IMMIGRANTS all up in your ECONOMIC INSECURITY!”

I believe in big things, because small things are big things. The political is personal, if you will. I’m not afraid to say that, in part because I’ve demonstrated that I can throw down in the policy-wonk stakes, at least in my own areas. I hold my position on public access to electoral rolls because I believe in Democracy and Fairness.

Even so, just writing this column is making me squirm, just a bit. It’s awkward. It makes me want my bath. I understand how hard this would be, and how much mocking. But I want a country where everyone can feel safe, no matter their race or sex or orientation or gender identity. I want a country with clean water and protected environments for native species. I want a country where everyone has somewhere to live, that’s safe and warm and healthy. I want a government that wants those things too, and I do not have one.

Yes, govern in prose. But maybe we could do a little bit of that campaigning in poetry first?

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