Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 11-28th April 2017: The Generation Game-And Why I Vote Tory

Friday 28th April 2017

Day 11

My parents and  I are at dinner when our generations clash.

Or rather, my generation clashes with my grandparents' generation.

In my mother's view, we're the ones who should be making the effort, not the older generation. "You don't know what they lived through." That's the constant refrain. "You don't know what they endured."

(I'm not trying to disrespect World War 2 or anything, but my grandfather was five at the most. My grandmother was a baby. I know they lived through rationing, but I don't think they exactly marched onto the battlefields on toddler legs.)

But even if they didn't, apparently, that means they mustn't be contradicted. Because whenever we do contradict them, it's us that gets told to be quiet. They're allowed to say certain things, because they've "earned the right" by simply being old. By that logic, an old person who's never done anything in their life has the right to speak how they want, simply by accomplishing the great virtue of sticking around long enough. How exactly are the young meant to earn their right to speak? By waiting a few extra decades?

I'm pretty well aware that there may be opinions I hold now that I won't hold in the next twenty years or so, and I'm pretty sure I've got a lot more maturing to do, the same way most people my age have. But that doesn't mean the opinions I have now aren't valid and don't deserve to be heard. Of course they do. Sometimes, it seems as though older generations have either forgotten they were ever young or hold onto an idealised version of how our generation should behave that comes from another age and is completely unrealistic for this generation.

They're called traditional, but we're told we're being closed-minded, and unappreciative.


Of course, my own generation aren't immune to that, either, as I find out when someone posts an ask to an author after I've chatted with them and remarked that I'm voting Tory, commenting with the utmost sarcasm:

i wish I could vote tory and still be a feminist like that ask.

He/she then posts, in the most brilliantly patronizing manner imaginable, apparently under the assumption that I am some kind of idiot who has simply selected the Tory manifesto in a game of One Potato, Two Potato and thought that means I have to vote for them:

Someone's going to get a bit of a shock when they find out-*list of supposed Conservative policies, apparently ignoring the fact the country was hit by a recession that was made significantly worse by the amount of money Labour had borrowed before the global financial crisis.*

The author, to be fair, doesn't get involved, but does simply implore people to please not vote Tory. Fair enough, that's her view. But if that plea was to me-tough. I'm voting Tory.

I have the right to vote for who I like and what I like. That's how democracy works. For someone to apparently assume that you can't be a feminist and vote Tory just shows the depths of their ignorance.

Feminism means you believe in the equality of men and women. That's it.

Absolutely nowhere in the Conservative manifesto does it say men and women should not be equal.

There are a lot of reasons I'll be voting Tory. I find Labour-the other "main" party in the UK-to be completely useless in their current state for one thing, but then that's the case for a lot of people who'll be voting Tory this time round simply out of being fed up with Labour, and I'd have voted Tory anyway.

I'll elaborate more on this either in an article or another time, but put short, Labour are the party I find anti-aspirational.

Under Labour, we paid more for doing well. For my parents working hard, dragging themselves up from a background of council estates and struggling, all the way up to earning a decent living and owning their own home.

They were told their money had to provide for others.

 They were allowed to leave less and less of their money to their own children, whose future was their main motivation for working so hard.

They saw their own parents in tears after Gordon Brown had the nerve to cut their pensions overnight  as part of a frantic attempt to make up for a deficit that was partly caused by his own government's borrowing. People who'd worked their whole lives and paid their taxes every year had to sacrifice at the very time of their lives they should finally be able to rest to pay for Brown's government's incompetence.

They saw their nieces and nephews become more and more unhappy at the divide in society, as they struggled to earn money, working all the hours God sent, while realising that they'd been given more on benefits than they were being paid working a full-time job, trying to feed their children, trying not to be a burden on the state, under a Labour government.

They saw a Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, send their niece's husband to fight in Iraq, in a war that, it transpired, didn't need to be fought. They saw their niece's husband lose his leg, after he stepped on a land mine. They saw that injury change him forever, change their relationship forever, and leave him with scars he'll never get rid of, for fighting in a war, the country had been assured, needed to be fought.

We all saw the other extreme-a Labour leader, Ed Miliband, promise a Conservative Prime Minister action on Syria when a leader attacked his own civilians, and then back out every time the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister made concessions to ensure his support, before sabotaging the vote in what some of his own side would admit was a cowardly attempt at making political capital. We all saw the consequences of it three years later, as that leader attacked his own civilians again, and that same former Labour leader assured us that he cared and that he found the images "ghastly", and expected us to feel sorry for him, while little children were left lying in the streets, little babies screaming, unable to understand what was going on, while saran gas burnt out their tiny lungs.

My father saw the man who'd been falsely imprisoned for murdering my father's brother, the man who had tried to help our family by telling the truth, a man who served sixteen years in prison for a crime he never committed, simply released onto the streets, with no help from the Labour government to reintegrate. He was left to make his own way in society with no support, having had the previous sixteen years of his life stolen.

We saw the horrific failures in Mid Stafford, under a Labour government, where people were left lying in their own filth in hospital beds, where people died humiliated and scared and alone, when family members who watched their loved ones-their grandparents, their husbands, their wives, their parents, their brothers, their sisters, their own children-left to deteriorate in those conditions told Labour never to call itself the party of the NHS again.

We also saw some of our family members get their first homes, under the Tories' Right To Buy Scheme.

We also saw some of our friends finally be able to get married, when the Tories brought in same-sex marriage-an act which the current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says would not have come about without the then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's persistence and tenacity.

We saw better protection on the Internet for the kids in our family, when the Tories set up the National Crime Agency.

We saw the people in our city who'd fought for seventeen years, through inquest after inquest, to get justice for ninety-six of their family members who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster, crushed to death, and then blamed by the authorities, finally receive an apology from a Conservative Prime Minister, in response to the work of the families with Labour MP Andy Burnham, and the instigation of more inquests, after a previous Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, refused to set up new inquests.

We saw our family who'd worked for years to own businesses, no longer punished and seen as wrong for wanting to do well for their families.

We saw our family able to pass on those things to their children, who were their whole motivation for wanting to do well in the first place.

We saw our own family feel secure, after years of feeling uncertain under a Labour government, not knowing what they might decide to tax next, whether they might decide to punish us for doing well or demand more of the money my parents had spent their lives struggling to earn, so that they could patch up their own mistakes or encourage more people to stay on benefits by offering them more than they'd get in many jobs.

We watched ourselves feel like there was a government on our sides for the first time in years.

The Tories aren't perfect. But they did more for our family than Labour ever did. And don't ever think I won't vote for what protects my family.

(My family which includes disabled children. My family which includes mentally-ill children.)

So, that's why I'm voting Tory. And don't ever patronisingly assume that I don't know why I'm voting.


Friday, 28 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 10-Thursday 27th April 2017: Mugwumps And Magic

Thursday 27th April 2017

Day 10

Today is spent-well. Tipping people off.

I'm good at tipping people off. I'm good at knowing things, I suppose. The photographic memory helps. But ever since I was little-when I used to sit quietly, reading-people used to say things in front of me that they probably shouldn't. Maybe I just conveyed a look of someone who generally wasn't interested in the world. But just because someone isn't interested doesn't mean they're not listening. It's good news for someone who's thinking about becoming a journalist, one day.

There's also something that gives me a rush-about putting sightings together, working things out about people. Working out secrets, reading between the lines. Perhaps that comes from my AS-I've had to learn consciously to read between the lines since I was tiny, because it didn't come naturally to me the way it does to other people. Maybe that's why I tend to pay more attention to the tiny things people say. It's interesting in an election campaign, because those "tiny things" can mean a lot more.

Of course, in the middle of the afternoon, we hear about the terror attack on Whitehall. Luckily, this time, no one was hurt, but it could have been a lot worse. People often talk about the increase of anxiety in my generation being down to the additional stresses of life, and that's true, but to be honest, we know about all these things immediately. Rather than simply seeing snippets of chaos on the morning and evening news, we're bombarded with them 24/7 via social media updates. I don't know when but slowly it's sunk into a constant feeling-a feeling that's almost comfortable because of how accustomed to it I am-that nowhere really is safe, that we're constantly waiting for the next attack, for the next disaster to happen. I don't remember a time before that, and it feels strange to know that other people do.

On the brighter side, we do get Jeremy Corbyn starting off his speech facing the wrong way and Tim Farron inviting us all to smell his spaniel. So perhaps I can forget about impending nuclear war and possible terror attacks with that.

And mugwump. Boris Johnson-that blond-haired mop of etymological veracity-has managed to brighten the day.
Boris and his Borisisms have long been the cause for much hysteria in our family-my youngest cousin's rabbit was christened in honour of him. (Perhaps like its' namesake, it developed a remarkable knack for survival, sticking around stubbornly through guinea pig attacks and winter illnesses. Perhaps unlike its' namesake, it simply decided it had had enough one day and conked out in its' hutch, leading to a funeral with solemn hymns as the rabbit was lowered morosely into a carefully-dug hole. At the moment, we're just hoping the foxes don't dig him up.)

Of course, Boris-while slipping in a little remark about us possibly going to war in Syria, a classic Boris trick-has managed to make the headlines by calling Corbyn, amongst other things, a "mutton-headed mugwump" and "an Islingtonian herbivore." It says a lot for our family's Harry Potter fanaticism that we can all immediately label the term "mugwump" as being a term of office in the magical world.
This leads to excited speculation-since he attended Harry Potter and the Cursed Child-that Boris is also a Harry Potter enthusiast. If we should ever meet him, I imagine Boris would be knocked over with excited hugs from some of the children in our family and a frantic array of questions about whether he'd want to be Minister for Magic in the Harry Potter world. From both children and adults.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 9-26th April 2017: Going Nuclear


Wednesday 26th April 2017

Day 9

Today's a day when I sleep a lot. To be fair, this is partly normal for teenagers'. But for me, it's a slightly different story. I hate to tack the Aspergers/anxiety label over everything, but for me, that's what it's like. My sleeping patterns are off, and whenever I'm going through/coming out of a time when my anxiety/excitement's rocketed, it leaves me exhausted and wanting to sleep.

One of the things a lot of people don't get about anxiety disorders is the fact that positive stress and negative stress have the same effect. Negative stress is the stress one gets when dealing with something unpleasant-exams, etc. Positive stress is the stress one deals with when looking forward to and dealing with something challenging but exciting-John Green once outlined the difference very well when talking about how his tours for The Fault In Our Stars movie exacerbated his depression and anxiety. But they have the same effect-they can both increase symptoms of mental health disorders, so even something exciting can leave, either before, during, or after, someone feeling more depressed/anxious. For an event like a General Election, which can bring both, it's exacerbated a little.

Given that I sleep a lot, I miss PMQs, but I get the picture of it from Twitter and the news. The cheering of Jeremy Corbyn by the Tories in the House of Commons mirrors the cheering in our kitchen. The Labour MP backbenchers look like they've just been told they're walking into Azkaban. Or like Jeremy Clarkson when he's told there's no hot meal available, but without the intimidation.

On the plus side, Conservative candidates have started to be announced, and so I message my campaign manager friend, who tells me to check Conservative Home for the latest candidate announcements. Esther McVey isn't a surprise-my friend told me that one last week.  Given Tatton's one of the safest Tory seats in the country, she's pretty much certain to get in. It becomes slightly more embarrassing for Labour when you see them lining up to endorse Corbyn on Twitter, while knowing that a good majority of them voted for him to stand down last year. Former Labour Michael Dugher writes a pretty hilarious article in the New Statesman, praising Corbyn for doing so badly.

On another note, we're now hearing more rumours about North Korea and nuclear bombs, all of which doesn't exactly make the dinnertime news pleasant. To be fair, it sometimes feels like I've been hearing rumours about North Korea and nuclear bombs all my life, and in that teenage stage of pondering the apocalypse, my friends and I have speculated that there'll be World War 3 sometime in our lifetimes.  But everyone's acting like this is a bigger deal than usual.
 So less than 9 days into a General Election campaign and now we're headed towards a nuclear war. North Korea can't stand anyone else being the centre of attention.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 8-25th April 2017: Trolling The Trolls

Tuesday 25th April 2017

Day 8

8 days since the election was called. To "celebrate", if you could call it that, I find myself making a playlist of everything I've been listening to in the last week. For me, the last General Election was dominated by the song "Black Magic" by Little Mix, which played over and over throughout the election campaign. It was also near the end of my first A-Level and the time I left school, so I tend to associate the song and the  whole time, plus the fact it was the first Tory majority in 23 years, with celebrations and parties, and going on nights out to celebrate school leaving.

Of course, like I said, being a young girl on Twitter generally opens you up to the height of abuse, particularly from those who can't handle the fact someone disagrees with them about anything. The common image of a troll, and indeed, the type often being paid attention in the media at the moment, is the idea of some guy in a Trump shirt, pausing from brushing his hair like Donald Trump in the mirror of his parents' basement before banging out tweets in capital letters calling someone a feminazi.

But actually, I've found some of the young girls on Twitter can be far more vicious-particularly those on the left. Maybe that's more my experience-since I'm on centre-right-but some of the young people on the left seem to find themselves more able to be vicious online, simply because they've convinced themselves they have a right to. Young people are generally just learning about politics or social inequality-they see themselves as fired up to change the world. If they find themselves with a lot of anger and not much to do about it, then targeting someone on Twitter who they don't agree with can give them both the satisfaction of getting their anger out, and they get to comfort themselves by convincing themselves they're making a difference in the world.
I've learnt this many times. Today, amongst other joys, I get told-and the tragedy is that this comment is quite sincere-that I'm being "very silly and immature" by the same person who has obsessively screenshotted one comment I made disagreeing with her on an occasion I can't even remember, and then manages to contradict herself on when I made the tweet three seconds later. 


When I point out to her the slight irony of this, hysteria breaks loose. I picture her typing away at the keyboard so rapidly her fingers break the keys, choking on the ableism flying out of her mouth while punching her fist into the air and nodding at the shrine of Jeremy Corbyn staring down at her from her wall like the photo of the guy above the blackboard in Dead Poets' Society.
She's nothing, compared to the woman who begins insisting that I'm "mocking suicide" and then ends a stream of bile with the words "whatevs" before randomly posting photographs of me on her Twitter page. She ends her inaccurate rant-that is deeply ironic since I don't need any lectures about using the mental health services-with  the words "so absolutely fuck you." 

Of course, that will promptly send me shivering. How am I meant to go on? How can I possibly continue when my arguments have been smashed into pieces by the young woman clearly of such towering intellect that she has dismissed facts, statistics, common sense -and instead, simply conjured up the words "fuck you" as the height of wit? How can I possibly continue with my own opinions when they have been so horrifically denigrated in one blistering phrase-one line of pure genius, articulate and concise all at once: 


 How? How?
She accuses me of patronising her. I thank her for being one of those people who is very easy to patronise.
 Or the young man to whom I have never spoken who earnestly assures me that "no one in the world is interested in you, not one" after having got in touch with me himself precisely to tell me that-as he assures me, out of a lack of his own interest, the same sort of excuse I imagine he once gave to his mother when she caught him watching porn. Maybe I should be flattered by his ostentatious lack of interest. Perhaps this is the true way to demonstrate lack of interest. After all, what on earth is the point of not being interested in someone, if you do not go out of your way to assure them of your lack of interest? I imagine him now turning away to study Sanskrit, while assuring it of his lack of interest.
They can tell themselves that any insult they lob, any comments they make, even when it constitutes harassment, is justified, because this person is the enemy for being someone who opposes their "cause." They can convince themselves they're making a difference, and that they're entitled to say what they like.

They're not, of course. They're exactly the same as the alt-right trolls-pathetic, insecure individuals who are bitter at the world and everyone in it who doesn't think exactly the same way as them. They also happen to be very, very amusing on occasion when they get angry.

On the plus side, discovering where one of your trolls goes to university and sending that university a copy of all the bile they're posting online can be really satisfying. And getting their Twitter account shut down.

Now I can go back to making my playlist.

The Election Diaries: Day 7-24th April 2017: Writing The Balance

Monday 24th April 2017

Day 7

It's now 7 days since the election was called, and my campaign manager friend messages me to let me know I'll get info about campaigning this week. Meanwhile, a row's brewing over Tulip Siddiq, which I'm happily privy to, and I'm also balancing my own writing with planning an article out.
I'm currently working on my first novel, with help from my writing mentor, and also write freelance articles from time to time, and was about to start studying for my A-Levels online, so the election could have come at a better time. Still, it's not like I can do anything about it. Plus, writing is one of the things that I can do any time. It's one of the things that I did almost before I knew how to do it-I've always told stories, so writing them down was just a natural step.
I have a weird writing routine. It varies between  getting up early and getting everything done by mid-afternoon, and happily sitting up all night. It's a strange dichotomy, but it's made easier by the fact that since I was a child, I've needed very little sleep, much to my parents' chagrin. Perhaps it's to do with being creative, but whenever I tried to sleep, I would invariably descend into telling myself stories, which were more exciting than lying there, trying to nap. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome that we realised that there was an explanation for my lack of sleep-children with AS can seem to need no sleep at all. The bad side is that I can never know whether tonight's going to be a good night's sleep or a bad night's sleep. A good side was that I got ridiculously excited over my dreams, which to me, were more stories, and thanks to being a lucid dreamer, and the photographic memory, I'd sometimes write them down when I woke up.
Either way, I get on with writing, but at the same time, I'm already combing my memory for all the contacts I have, and for anything I know about any of the candidates we might need to unseat. It's a lot, which is good. At school, people called me Google, and there's been some theory that for kids with AS, that's how our brains work-like a giant computer. We can retrieve information that others would have "deleted" years ago. But for other things, like social signals, it can take longer to process. It's a tired cliche, but it's as if everyone else runs on one operating system and I run on a different one. It's an overused analogy, but it's accurate.
That night, I message someone who's shown an interest in my blog and we talk for a while. He happens to be a journalist, so he's interested in some of the things I know, especially about certain politicians. He also is interested in the level of detail I can pay to things in my blog, which gives me an idea for an article. Part of the way AS affects the way I see the world means that I can see things in excessive detail-ordering/organizing things gives me a sense of control. But another key feature of Aspergers is "special interests", which can be anything from simply knowing a great deal of information about the subject through to using it as a lens to see the world. Regardless, it's given me a great idea for an article. It's a pain sometimes not seeing enough about girls with AS-particularly in the media.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 6-23rd April 2017: Scares And Snooping

Sunday 23rd April 2017

Day 6

I wake up with a nosebleed. I haven't had one in years, so there's a bit of concern.
For most people, a nosebleed wouldn't be a big deal at all. But with me, the last time I had nosebleeds was a series of severe ones that only ended with blood clots and fainting and nearly being rushed to hospital, so it's more of an issue. Nosebleeds in the past have also been the sign of a headcold, so we have to make sure my inhaler's nearby. I have viral asthma, which acts up with colds or coughs, so everything has to be prepared.

It doesn't last too long, but it does worry my mother. I haven't had a nosebleed since the severe spell ten or eleven years ago, when I was nine or ten, and my mother thought I was going to pass out from blood loss. It passes quickly, but she makes me lie down for a bit, just to be certain.

As a result, it's a quiet day. I mainly spend it arguing-a particular favourite is one idiot whose best line to me has to be something along the lines of "I bet you watch anime"-but also, planning a couple of articles, and writing. (Always writing.) As it is, we're trying to book a holiday, and also fit that in around campaigning, hospital appointments, and general mental health, so that's fun. My friend also messages me-having decided to take the campaign manager's job, which means I should be able to help out with campaigning soon. It's a quiet day, but I spend the evening arguing with someone who simply can't understand why you would vote Tory if you aren't wealthy. The only good part is it might prompt a bit of an article on my part.

I also tip someone off as to some behaviour from an MP that might not be considered entirely appealing to voters.  I don't know why and how I really got into giving people tip-offs-maybe it stems from being a kid, roaming my primary school playground and knowing the only way to avoid being shoved over was to have something on someone. Doesn't sound like a good way to cope with things, and it probably wasn't, but kids adapt, I suppose, and they adapt in the way that best gets them through. I basically epitomised the Snooping Little Kid trope, so maybe that has something to do with it. But I was always good at picking things up and-thanks to a photographic memory-holding onto it. I can remember things I overheard as a toddler, things that someone did once, years ago, and everyone else has forgotten. In a situation like a campaign-or just surviving school-that can come in handy. Like I said, kids adapt. They don't always adapt well, but they adapt. If they didn't adapt, they wouldn't survive. None of us would.

The Election Diaries: Day 5-22nd April 2017: Aspergers And Alone Recovery

Saturday 22nd April 2017

Day 5

We sleep until sometime past eleven, and my best friend and I are awoken by my mother with a cup of tea and a cooked breakfast each. The news of the day, however, seems to be that Jeremy Corbyn has now insisted that he won't stand down, even if he should lose the election, which, as David Cameron might have put it, is good news for the party, if not good news for the country. It's a fine line between wanting some competence in the opposition to keep us on our toes, and wanting whatever keeps our preferred party in government as long as possible. I message my Tory campaign manager friend the news with the simple words "Oh joy!" But it's a worry. The whole basis of democracy is that a government is faced by a strong, competent and respected opposition. The whole essence of democracy is choice-ideally a choice between two strong parties-and at the moment, voters seem to have a remarkable contrast in strength between the party of government and the party of opposition.

Going out for lunch with my friends provides a slight break from the world of politics, though typical me, I've already managed to start an argument with someone who seems to be making the argument that sleeping with anyone who's a Tory is what she refers to as a "self-drag." I have no idea what that means, but can pretty much infer it's meant to be insulting. But it's a nice day to eat lunch out, though there's a breeze in the air, and we're still dealing with fallout from the night before.

That night, my parents go out, which I'm grateful for. One of the problems with having AS-particularly during times of political campaigning, etc.-is that after a period of time with other people, you need some on your own. Everyone knows that feeling of being fed up with being around other people, but for someone on the autistic spectrum, it's that multiplied by a hundred. You start to feel like you want to crawl out of your skin. It's nothing to do with the people you're around-it's that you feel utterly drained by interaction. It feels as though a million questions are being asked of your brain at once, until every one is an irritation. Sometimes your only option once alone is to start screaming or go into a panic attack. A Saturday night on my own gives me time to recover, though when my parents bring their friends' home for coffee, I can give them the good news that the Tories are now polling on 50%. When I tell them the names of a few Labour MPs who might lose their seats, my mother's friend punches the air. When I tell them there's a rumour Angus Robertson might lose his and the Tories could gain 12 in Scotland, general hilarity breaks out. My parents' friend asks "He's the cranky one, isn't he? Always causing trouble." My main knowledge of Robertson comes from his performances in the Commons, in which, he does seem to fit this description-though maybe not as much as we first think, as he and David Cameron are very friendly behind the scenes. Perhaps some of the crankiness is an act.

Of course, Clive Lewis has managed to blot his copybook by accusing all Tory voters of being selfish or snobs on his Twitter page, which I'm sure will persuade the lot of us to vote Labour because insulting people has always been the best way to change their minds. Then again, Clive's apparently on track to possibly lose his seat. So maybe he's desperate. It gets a lot of criticism, including from his own party-but it highlights one of the problems of Labour. They're still clinging to the idea that only the rich vote Tory. Rather than accept the fact that they've lost a lot of their appeal to the working-class and the Tories have gained some, they're still peddling a line that has blatantly failed at the last two General Elections, and according to the polls, is still failing dramatically now. It's beyond me why they can't see that it's doing them more harm than good.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 4: 21st April 2017: Arguing With Amanda Abbington (And Other Things)

Friday 21st April 2017

Day 4

Not much goes on today, as I'm getting ready for a birthday night out, so much of my political interactions occur on Twitter, where I manage to somehow enter into an argument with Amanda Abbington, the Sherlock actress, for supporting a party firmly against private schools while sending her own kids-guess where?-to a private school. To be fair, at least she knows what a private school is, unlike someone to whom I have to explain that "private" in this context, is not related to privacy, but means fee-paying.
Being me, I manage to do it right in the middle of my birthday dinner, much to my friends' amusement, especially those who are Sherlock fans. I feel a little better by the time I get to the restaurant-part of my Asperger Syndrome involves becoming incredibly anxious before any social event, which can be a bit of a pain when it's one I've organized, because then I feel the onus is on e to keep everything going. Luckily, my friends all know I've got AS, and so they're pretty understanding if I dissociate from the conversation, which happens more often than I'd like, but I've accepted probably isn't going to fade. I suppose, for most people, a night out doesn't usually involve considering how to breathe in a panic attack and dissociative spells, but welcome to the life of an anxiety-afflicted Aspie. 
 We discuss the election a little-my friend, who's always maintained that Labour is the party of the student, is already leaning towards May. "I like her. She seems pretty strong. And I can't vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I just can't." It seems to be the prevailing view amongst a lot of longtime Labour voters. One of my friends, despite defending Corbyn, still can't vote for him, so might plump for the Lib Dems. Since we're Merseyside residents, we're pretty much guaranteed Labour MPs-or always have been in the past-so a lot of tactical voting goes on in our areas. That generally means, for us, voting Lib Dem, or whoever's most likely to keep Labour out. It's always been a theoretical vote more than anything else-Liverpool's always been a guaranteed Labour city-but with everything that's going on at the moment, who knows?

Around this time, our meals arrive and the night out starts. Even I'm not going to be checking political Twitter during my birthday night out.

The Election Diaries: 20th April 2017: Day 3 : OCD, Insomnia And Aspergers Reactions


Thursday 20 April 2017

Day 3

It's a quieter day, as I don't have to go anywhere except to the spa, but it's been another bad night with OCD. It's not anything to do with the election-it's just something that happens at times of stress, and probably always will. After about an hour of not being able to settle, I just get on with writing again, until I finally fall asleep sometime around dawn. Of course, first I'm plagued with the old rituals of having to tap doors, drawers, shelves, etc. the "correct" number of times until things feel "safe." Part of CBT was learning to overcome that-but it's still liable to come back from time to time, and the last few months, it's been a little stronger.

When I wake up, it's to get on Twitter and start immediately scrolling through the drama that's occurred while I was asleep. I've missed May and Corbyn's speeches, but apparently, everyone's gone nuts because May didn't invite any journalists in. The news of the morning is of a prominent Labour MP apparently preparing a leadership bid. I DM both my Tory campaign manager friend and one of my journalist contacts to ask if a) Corbyn will now go if he loses and b) if this MP could win. My journalist contact, a former Labourite himself, responds that he thinks yes, Corbyn will go-but not immediately. He thinks the MP could win, but it would depend on how big the loss is. My campaign manager friend, who's got access to the insider info, responds to the second question with a definitive "No."

After that, it's a day of writing and editing-and also of moving out of my room when required, as we've moved house in the last few months, so we've got someone in measuring the windows. It's also a day of booking a restaurant, as it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, so I'm arranging a night out with friends. It's not busy, though, but quieter than usual, which means I get to focus on emailing one of my other journalist contacts to keep in the loop about tip-offs, etc. Every journalist seems to be frantic-understandably.

It's in the afternoon when I hear that Michael Dugher's resigned, along with several other Labour MPs. I try calculating the total, but can't keep track of them all. But Dugher's a pretty impactful one. That gets blown away though, when I hear Dawn Butler's interview on Radio 4, which has me laughing until I nearly fall off the bed. Apparently, May's trying to rig democracy with an election that Butler herself voted for. It's a pretty good moment.

In the meantime, however, I've got writing and editing to work on, as well as editors to email. I'm also rereading old excerpts from Samantha Shannon's blog, A Book From The Beginning-I've always liked rereading things from the start. It amuses me to see how it all comes together.

It's in the evening that I hear about the terrorist attack in France. It's awful, but the worst part is that it's now such a common occurrence that it doesn't provoke the same shock it used to. It's not a good feeling to realise that we're becoming accustomed to waiting for news of an attack somewhere. Part of my AS is that I react differently to things, anyway-it can be unnerving to realise I'm still waiting for the emotional reaction to hit me, when everyone else seems to be able to cry immediately, while I still feel numb.

On the slightly lighter side, I've discovered Paramore's new song "Hard Times" which seems relevant. As a Paramore fan since I was a preteen, it seems pretty suitable that I'm still listening to them now. It's very weird to look back at how young I was when I first started listening to Paramore-I guess it's a pretty common occurrence, but you don't realise quite how young you were, until you see how much you've changed years later.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 2: Osborne Out And Massive Majority

Wednesday 19th April 2017
Day 2

"Osborne's gone" is the first thing my campaign manager friend informs me, as I walk up to him in town. I watch him shouting on his phone down his headphones, the news too big for us to keep our voices down. Then he tells me that, and I scream in shock.

It doesn't take too long to recover. We walk to Cafe Nero, where we discuss the irony of Osborne's resignation being announced in the Evening Standard. My friend informs me that he knew of Osborne's resignation the previous evening, thanks to a few friendships, but of course, it was kept mum until today. As we order hot chocolate and tea, it strikes me as ironic that the biggest political story two days ago was Andy Burnham starting a ludicrous row over what counts as posh coffee.

My friend is already in campaign mode. He yanks out a notebook and proceeds to scribble down some constituency names. He quickly tells me that he's being approached to either stand as an MP or run a campaign to unseat one of the sitting Labour MPs.  He's only two and a bit years older than me-he's 22, I just turned 20-but I don't doubt he could do it. It's up to him, though, and it's not as though running a campaign couldn't do well in the long run.

Meanwhile, however, we have a list of other constituencies to look at. My friend scribbles them out in an A4 notepad. It's him who tips me off to the term D-Day. Some of the constituencies we could take from Labour aren't surprising-others make me stare at the page and ask my friend if I'm sure he's right. It's a slightly surreal moment when he gets a call from CCHQ.

As he talks, I think about what my father told me, driving me into town on his way to work, with The 1975 blasting.

"You don't think Corbyn can win, do you?" I asked, while The Ballad Of Me And My Brain punctuated the conversation.

My father just looked at me. "Lydia, picture a cat in hell. That is the chance he has."

My friend gets off the phone, chews his lip, and gives me the number of seats CCHQ are saying we might win. He then promptly phones a friend at Labour HQ-and waits.

When he puts down the phone, he leans back in his chair and exhales slowly. Then he tells me the number of seats Labour could lose.

I cheer, causing other people to turn and stare at us. My friend just shakes his head, grinning. He tells me that his Labour HQ contact's pretty sure we're being fed a line from Tory HQ to prevent us becoming cocksure-I tell him the opinion of another one of my journalist contacts, which pretty much matches up with his Labour contact's analysis.

My friend starts to go through the constituencies more thoroughly. Some of the names that could lose seats to the Tories surprise me. They could be gone, but as my friend tells me, it would be a massive swing. On the other hand, if it occurred, it could result in the decimation of the Labour Party.

I'm starving hungry, having forgotten to eat breakfast, and so we head to Byron's Burgers for lunch. Fittingly, my friend brings up a slightly whining article written by left-wing journalist Abi Wilkinson last night, urging the young to "get revenge" at the ballot box. We both burst out laughing, and, remembering her OTT reaction to Byron's Burgers last year, promptly toast her when the food arrives. I'm tempted to put the pictures on Twitter. Visiting the bathroom, a woman comes up to me to tell me shyly that her daughter would like to know where I got my galaxy shirt and Van Gogh Starry Night patterned skirt, as she really likes them. I tell her happily (Beautiful Halo, in case you're wondering.)

We eat and discuss my friend's chances of standing for an MP/running a campaign respectively, in more detail. It's only him who can make the decision, of course, and being the age he is, he's got all the time in the world. But I can understand that it's tempting. But then, if we've got more chance of getting a sitting Labour MP out-in Merseyside, of all places-that could be more tempting.

My friend's scrolling through Twitter as we eat, and at some point he begins scrambling for his headphones. The vote on whether to pass the election is taking place live in the House of Commons, and the MPs are in the lobbies. He scrabbles frantically with his headphones, nearly shoves them in the wrong connection in his iPad, and we both crouch over the thing like it might explode. The counting seems to take forever-my friend glances at the time on his phone repeatedly, muttering: "One minute late-five minutes late-" He predicts that means there's been a big majority, one way or the other.

Finally, the tellers come back in. I hold my breath, waiting. If we haven't got two-thirds of support for the vote, God knows what would happen. My friend says, optimistically, that it would be an anti-climax. We each take bets on what the majority will be. My friend says 455 for the election. I say something like 440.

The results come through. 522 voted for the election. 13 voted against. My friend and I both yell in shock in the restaurant. A majority of 509. I actually shake with surprise for a second. That's huge. Almost immediately, the list of those who voted against is out, and my friend goes through them with increasing glee. It's funny to watch. The meal's rounded off by the woman from earlier  approaching again to ask for a reminder of the name of the shop, accompanied by her shy daughter, with amazing pink hair. I admire it, my own being mostly blue but also with strange tints of purple and turquoise-green at the moment.

Outside, we sit on a bench and once again go through what could happen. Currently, everything seems to point to Corbyn staying on as leader. My friend's surprised at the number of abstentions on the vote, though not as surprised as he is at the number of Labour MPs who voted for it-though if they voted against, it would be seen as an open admission that they're not ready. He punches the air when we hear Ken Clarke's staying. Clive Lewis's reason for voting against-it might collide with his honeymoon-is probably the most amusing. I also give him a tip-off as to one MP who might well be getting divorced, though it's all just rumours at the moment.

It's also while sitting on that bench we hear Gisela Stuart's standing down. It's not surprising but that takes the number of Labour MPs not standing up to something like 10. Corbyn's PLP meeting seems to have been a disaster. Mark Francois summed it up apparently with the question "Is that it?"

"Wasn't Blenkinsop first (to resign)?" I ask my friend.

"Yeah. Then again, he's already blocked most of his constituents on Twitter."
By the time we head home, we're both mildly exhausted. The bus journey takes an age, so I sit and listen to music and think. The second I get home, I crash out for a nap, waking in the evening to check for the latest news. I've also managed to enter into a number of Twitter debates, which is always fun. Of course, Milifandom leader Abby Tomlinson has managed to post tweets to her followers insulting former Tory PM David Cameron's appearance, while simultaneously sticking fast to her rallying cry of how unfair it is that the media bullied Ed Miliband for his, which I'm sure she doesn't see as hypocritical at all. I get in a couple of hilariously stupid debates with a couple of real experts, including one whose remark "You look like a foot" is probably the most convincing argument for voting Labour I've ever heard. There are also a few more constructive ones, which don't descend into slinging insults at each other, which goes to remind you that however pathetic some Twitter whiners are, other people are actually able to engage in grown-up politics. In the meantime, I settle down to some of my own writing before  I crash out again, and get on with escaping into a fictional world.

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Election Diaries: Day 1: 18th April 2017

Tuesday 18 April 2017

Day 1

I have spent the entire night up on my laptop writing, so when my mother comes and shakes me awake at about midday, I presume I'm going to get another lecture which will result in me arguing that I am an owl, not a lark.

"I think you should get up" she says.


"You're missing all the fun."

I look up at her. "What do you mean, I'm missing all the fun?"

"Theresa May's just called a General Election."

I bolt upright and ask my mother about four times if she's joking. Of course, she isn't. At one point, she says the words 8th June, which is the moment I realise she really isn't joking. I then face the mad diving between either grabbing my iPod touch and checking Twitter or just switching on my TV straight away.

As it is, I end up sitting on the couch in the kitchen while my mother makes us both BLT sandwiches and tells me to calm down, while I stare at Theresa May on BBC News.  She manages to look statesmanlike, even with the wind blowing her hair about, which is some feat.

Then Jeremy Corbyn pops up on the screen. My mother bursts out laughing immediately. I just stare at him, and wonder what Labour were thinking for the umpteenth time. I haven't even seen Theresa May's full speech when the news of the first Labour resignation comes through, Tom Blenkinsop.

I've got a few people to message, but in true fashion, my first texts are to my best friends. Some of them are Tories, like me-some Labour, one a Green, and one UKIP. Out of them, they're all around my age. Only a couple of them are seriously into politics, though.

Most of them have heard about the election, however, with the BBC Breaking News Alert flashing up on their phones. My Green friend, a strong Corbyn supporter, texts me back to speculate that some right wingers might turn to UKIP. I send her a couple of the latest polls, including the one among youth voters. We then turn back to a less debate-tone conversation of when and where I'm having my birthday night out.

Next, I send a quick DM to my Tory campaign manager friend, who, by a strange coincidence, I'd been planning to meet up with the next day. He wonders if we should meet up today instead, but given it's the middle of the afternoon and I'm still in pyjamas, it's unlikely. We agree to meet for lunch tomorrow and start discussions.

Meanwhile, Twitter, of course, is blowing up. And of course, there's already some Corbynites apparently blissfully unaware of how offensive they're being, including one genius who insists that, "don't vote tory and then pretend to care about your mentally ill friends either"

As a young girl who's spent my entire teenage years in therapy sessions precisely for mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression, I give her a Tweet back, telling her what a disgrace the comment is. She doesn't reply but one of my Labour friends-who retweeted it without fully reading it-DMs me, telling me he's now deleted the retweet and apologising. It's a sweet gesture, especially when he reiterates that he admires my writing, even though our political opinions are so opposing. We finish the conversation by each telling the other not to let any Twitter whinger try and bully us for our beliefs, different though they may be.

I also email one of the journalists I'm in contact with, giving my previous message a slight bump and wishing him well for the election. All my political journalist contacts are presumably going to spend the next few weeks rushed off their feet.

Meanwhile, we watch the news. Later, when my famously apolitical, voting-apathetic father comes home, the first thing I hear him talking about is the election. We watch Theresa May's speech on the News At 10 together, the three of us.

"It's clever" he says. "It's so clever. She's essentially called all the others' bluff." My father, who I don't believe has ever voted in his life, has calmly looked at the TV during the previous three General Elections and announced who'll win. He's been right every time.

"You don't think Corbyn will win?" I ask my parents slightly nervously.

My mother laughs for ten minutes. My father looks at me. "He doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell."

You can never be too certain, though, so for the next ten minutes, we swap contingency plans if Corbyn did ever end up walking down Downing Street. Our best bet's moving to Jersey-the US is obviously out, thanks to Hitler's rejected nephew running the place, and the only other options are New Zealand or Canada. I remind my mother of her words in the 2015 campaign-"If Ed Miliband gets into Downing Street, we will leave the country." I never thought there'd be a day when Ed Miliband would look Prime Ministerial-and there still hasn't been. But Corbyn has done the impossible, and made him look marginally better than he did before.

If I had my vote in 2015 again though, I'd still vote for Cameron. God knows, I couldn't have lived with Miliband in Downing Street any more than Corbyn.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Election Diaries

So. It appears we're going into a General Election. And I'm campaigning.

At the last General Election, I was far less into politics than I am now. Now, I'm involved in campaigning and activism. I'm also a freelance writer, who produces articles for the Huffington Post and Hellogiggles, as well as a student.

So I think I might start updating this regularly. What it's like in an election campaign. What it's like in a snap election campaign. And what it's like being a young adult who-brace yourselves, guys-will be voting Tory.

And why.

And  a daily diary of trying to get on with normal life-including with mental health and homeschooling-when a snap election's just been called.

So. Get ready, guys. It's going to be a bumpy ride.