In the early hours of this morning Boris Johnson fulfilled his lifelong dream to become "world king". Well, he came as close as he’s ever going to get anyway. After years of election results which are far from unanimous he’s managed to secure not only the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1987 but the biggest overall majority since Tony Blair won with a landslide in 2001.
Our country has been divided since the EU referendum in 2016 and many are attributing the win to Johnson’s hard Leave stance, packaged up neatly with his "Get Brexit Done" slogan. So effective was it that what’s known as Labour’s "red wall" across the Midlands and north of England has turned blue. Familiar faces from the left like Laura Pidcock and Dennis Skinner have lost their seats, as has the former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.
If this was a once in a generation election, intended to settle the issue of Brexit once and for all, then it was also a once in a generation result – some of these seats have not had a Conservative MP in decades. In the case of Burnley, it has been over a century.
And the reality is that an election result like this will take more than one four-year cycle of parliament to overturn.
Social media is awash with broken heart emoji and wilting red roses as those who voted Labour and supported Corbyn’s radical manifesto of social and economic reform, as well as a second referendum, mourn the loss of a future that they dared to hope might be brought into being.
Boris is, understandably, a divisive leader who has been open in his admiration of Donald Trump, accused of misleading the British public during the EU referendum campaign and made a cacophony of problematic – no, wait, racist, sexist and xenophobic – comments over the years, ranging from but not limited to: calling black people "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles", comparing Muslim women wearing the veil to "letter boxes" and "bank robbers" and writing in his Spectator column in 1995 that single mothers were bringing up a generation of "ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children."
If you voted Labour (or Lib Dem or Green or Independent...) it’s understandable that today you’re feeling more than a bit hopeless, dejected and concerned about the future of this country. If you can’t change things with your vote (which, let’s face it, in some places around the country you actually can’t because of the way our first past the post voting system works), what can you do?
1. Write to your MP
Okay, so this sounds obvious. But it’s often worth stating the bleeding obvious because we so often overlook the things that are right in front of us. It might not feel like it right now, but we do live in a democracy. If you write to your MP they have to read it and will respond to you. They are elected to represent you. If you don’t want to leave the EU, tell them. If you’re worried about the housing crisis, tell them. If a vote comes up on our abortion rights and you’re concerned that there will be a vote against further liberalising them, implore them to vote in favour of decriminalisation. If you’re worried about the unaffordable cost of childcare, make your voice heard. If you voted Labour because you know Universal Credit isn’t covering people’s rent, say that you want them to introduce a bill to have the Local Housing Allowance increased. Advocating for the things you believe in isn’t just for the election trail.
2. Support grassroots organisations (if you can)
There are a lot of posts on social media today imploring us all to donate to charities to help those who have been affected by the last nine years of austerity. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t all become responsible for the failings of the state but if you can do this, then absolutely go for it:
One of the great things about the Labour manifesto was that it pledged to give proper funding to local renters unions. So often, these groups – like Acorn, the London Renters Union and Generation Rent – are doing the work that the state is not doing to support tenants who are falling victim to rogue landlords. They need as many volunteers as they can get.
Raise people up who don’t have the privileges you have. Give what you can. Do what you can. Stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and classism as often as you can in your everyday life.
But remember that the reality is that not everyone – least of all those who are most affected by the transition to Universal Credit, the housing crisis or the staggering cost of childcare – is going to be able to do this.
3. Stop waging intergenerational warfare
The myriad variations of the OK Boomer meme were funny, yes. They were shareable. They were relatable. But they were also divisive and reductive. In recent years a "them" and "us" divide between older and younger generations in this country has become entrenched. It feels impossible to bridge and the conversation is getting increasingly nasty.
On Instagram this morning, someone I follow posted a screenshot of an older relative’s Facebook status about the election and said: "Kill old people. Screw everyone who voted Tory." It made me feel ashamed.
Is this how we win people over? Is this how we get them to vote for a progressive agenda?
Their account has since been deleted.
4. Talk to people you wouldn’t normally and actually listen to what they have to say
On that note, it’s time to bring back conversation. Talk to people who voted Conservative, try to understand why. And before you respond, make sure you actually listen to what they have to say. It’s easy to dismiss anyone who voted to leave the EU but it was about so much more than immigration. It was about austerity. It was about unaffordable housing. It was about declining social mobility. It was about London becoming a megacity while other towns and cities have been left in decline.
The only way to heal the divides we face as a society is to listen. It won’t necessarily be easy but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
5. Remember that your social media is only a reflection of who you’re following
And, finally, we live so much of our lives online now. But unfortunately that means that we inhabit echo chambers of our own curation. Based on my feeds over the last few weeks, a Labour victory in this election was nothing short of inevitable but when I spoke to people about how they were voting, I heard a different story.
So when you can, get involved as much as you can, get out into society and make your world bigger.
After Donald Trump was elected in the United States, Rebecca Solnit released a new book called Hope in the Dark.
In it, she made the point that hope is an embrace of the unknown. It's an acknowledgement that in among the uncertainty there is always the power to effect change, even when things feel hopeless.
Hope isn't blind optimism, the naive idea that everything will work out in the end. It's an acknowledgement that you have to do the work to make things happen.
"Hope," she wrote, "just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope."