Edit: Well, the election went better than I thought it would, but I thought I'd leave this here as an accurate record of how I was feeling at the time.
It's hard to see an upside.
"The Tories are going to hugely benefit from this, aren't they?"
I despair at the idea the Tories remain a viable choice for some people even after... everything. But apparently this is where we are.
Imagine a long and strained groan. I despise everything about the Brexit situation. That means Labour is obviously a complete mess and difficult to go for.
There might be some merit on voting for individual candidates that rebelled on Article 50, like my own, but that party needs some sort of plan.
"To move past Corbyn?"
Look, Corbyn's a problem, and much of that is Corbyn's fault. A lot of it was the rest of the party's fault. Regardless, he's been made inert. I think that would have happened true even if he'd been able to muddle his way through a sentence sounding vaguely convinced that Brexit might be a bad idea. So he's dead in the water.
So ousting Corbyn isn't a plan in itself, it's an inevitability. Getting rid of him isn't going to solve the identity crisis. That's what needs a plan. At least Corbyn, as rubbish as he turned out, briefly inspired some people into thinking that maybe we could get better. Another vision-free, right-pandering candidate isn't going to inspire anyone.
"There's always the Lib Dems."
At least they're trying to oppose Brexit on behalf on the many people who didn't vote for it, and who actively voted against it.
"I sense an incoming 'But...'"
Of course you do. You're me. Here it is: But I understand unease for voting Lib Dems because while many of them will defend their record in the coalition, they botched a chance at electoral reform and rolled over on some key issues like university tuition.
There are still reasons to be angry and mistrustful. Good ones. And even besides that, I worry that a move towards centrism helps the Tories more than it helps anyone else.
"That's not every option, though."
There are other choices too, but none with any kind of realistic chance of even slowing the advance of the Tories' election goals, let alone reversing it.
"Can you bottom line all these choices for me?"
What do we go with:
1) The Baddies? (No)
2) A disarrayed opposition which has shown little appetite for reversing the disastrous decisions of The Baddies, and shirked their best opportunity to fight back in favour of a pointless power squabble?
3) The largest minor party who made some huge, huge mistakes last time they sniffed power and whose leader squirms so much under questioning that you'd think someone had put snakes in his underwear?
4) A small minor party whose goals might align more with yours than any of the above but in First-Past-The-Post have no chance of moving the needle in any direction?
"Hey, I remember being me a few years ago. You always used to advocate for voting for whoever you most closely align with."
Yeah, my instinct in this sort of situation has been to do that, for the simple reason that doing any sort of tactical vote feels like being a part of the problem. People not voting for who they agree with is one of the big reasons FPTP is such a bad system for democracy. People remain unrepresented through self-fulfilling prophecy.
But the only way to avoid that prophecy is if everyone (or at least enough people) agree to vote for what they really want, and we collectively do the work to change the result. But FPTP itself demotivates people to do that. People don't vote for what they want - they either don't vote at all, or try to vote optimally. It's a bit prisoner's dilemma in a way, isn't it?
"I guess. A little bit. Or is it the Monty Hall problem?"
"OK. How are we gonna dig out of this?"
I think I have to accept that it's bad news all around this time, and that the only way to turn this around is to start building a real, progressive-led case for electoral reform, a process that could take years and years.
"What kind of reform?"
That's a whole other rant.
"Getting people to agree to changing the rules of the game sounds a lot harder than just carrying on and hoping for the best."
'Work within the system' is only an acceptable way to approach politics for so long as the system isn't a terrifying quagmire from which good things only emerge occasionally and by accident. Only conclusion is that enough people need to be convinced of a need demand a change to the system itself. And that's a heck of a task for which I have no idea where to even begin.
"But the opposition parties, they agree on enough that it's not so hard to imagine them coming together in a crisis, right? What if the parties, in trouble as they are, worked together in the national interest to solve the problem of the Tories, while it's such a big problem? And then carried on working together to bring about reform?"
Yeah, what if that? And what if we had Theresa May visited in the night by three ghosts? Or what if the Tories just all spontaneously exploded? All good ideas.
"You seem agitated. So to finish up I want you to just rant about all this incoherently for a minute. Go on, I'll make a cup of tea."
Thanks. It's just so frustrating! The power to change all this is, we are told, in our hands. We could, collectively, overrule these awful choices. There are enough people either suffering from what the government are doing, or know people who are, that if they could look that head on maybe we could tear 'em to shreds. Ask for better. Demand better. Absolutely and unequivocally reject what is happening, en masse. Or even if we don't quite get there, at least, at least establish an opposition capable of making that argument competently. That, so we're assured, is the promise of a functional democracy. They work for us, and all that.
But they don't! Because the lesson they have learned is that they don't even have to, anymore. Catching a politician out in a lie used to carry some sort of political currency, I'm given to understand. Now it's just background noise. They don't care about doing it, and apparently not enough of us care about making them pay for it.
I don't know where this is from, so due caution and all that, but I read that only 9% of people who actually voted agree with the statement that politicians can be trusted. I doubt that number has been high for a long time, but I bet it's also an all-time low. People are so distrustful of politicians by this point that the idea that they could be trusted is thought of as almost beside the point. Voting is treated as a gamble.
Vote for the one that is making most of the right noises and hope that some of them accidentally come true.
Vote for the one that sounds the most 'reliable' regardless of policies, and hope that at least the country won't collapse.
If anything is an indictment of anything, then that is definitely an indictment. Of something.
So the voices of the still-significant number of people who are despairing at where the country is are just fading further and further into the background for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with what we actually want to be happening and everything to do with a tiny number of people playing silly games. And that's not even getting into the right wing news media's role in all this. Or even the not-so-right-wing news media. That's a whole other limb of this monster shitbeast that I'm just going to keep out of the way of here.
"Can you sum it up in a word?"