All the post-election tortured commentary about what mean people the Tories are doesn’t only confirm that sixth-form sentimentalism has entered the mainstream, elbowing aside cool analysis. It’s also mind-blowingly ironic. For if hatefulness has come from anywhere since last Thursday, it has been from Labour backers outraged that their party didn’t win. In the same angry breaths with which they denounce the Tories’ contempt for ‘ordinary people’, these dumbfounded supporters of Labour reveal their own far deeper disdain for ordinary people, for what one of them calls ‘gloop-brained voters’ who don’t know what is in their own best interests.
As soon as the polls opened last Thursday morning, influential Labour supporters started panicking. Their distrust, even fear, of that unpredictable blob entrusted to select the next government was palpable. I ‘still fear the Tories’ campaign of fear and smear will work’, said Guardian columnist Owen Jones. He echoed a clearly concerned Russell Brand, whom Labour hoped would win it the youth vote, who took the opportunity of election day to tell the electorate to ‘ignore Murdoch’. Brand promoted the ad campaign of the online activist group Avaaz, which shows a huge picture of Murdoch alongside the warning ‘[Don’t] vote for who he tells you to’. The idea that ‘ordinary people’, especially tabloid-reading ones, are easily swayed by Murdoch, referred to by Jones as the ‘Dark Lord’, is commonplace on the left, speaking to their view of the electorate as an easily instructed herd.
Other celebs, including Steve Coogan and John Cleese, supported this election-day hectoring of the electorate to break free of their alleged slavishness to Murdoch. ‘Vote for what’s best for you… not what’s best for Rupert Murdoch’, they said, conjuring up a bizarre image of unthinking plebs heading to the voting booths thinking: ‘I must obey Murdoch, I must obey Murdoch.’ The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee used election day, not to celebrate the great right of people to choose their leaders, but to continue the slurs against what she called ‘weak readers’ — members of the electorate whose ‘mind-blowing ignorance’ means they are ‘unaware how their daily struggles will be fought out in distant Westminster’. In a profound irony, Jones tried to get people to vote by reminiscing on the struggles of the Chartists and Suffragettes, yet he and other prominent Labour supporters trotted out the same arguments that were used against the Chartists and Suffragettes: namely that working men and women are too fearful and emotional to be trusted with voting, since ‘government by emotion quickly degenerates into injustice’, as one anti-Suffragette magazine put it.