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Reading ‘The Last Hundred Days’ in Lagos

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The book: The Last Hundred Days, Patrick McGuinness

The place: Lagos

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From one country in the aftermath of elections to another, although Nigeria seems a lot happier with the way that things have turned than most of the people I know in the UK. I travelled back to Glasgow to vote on the 7th, trying to expurgate residual guilt for not voting in 2010 (I was in Yei, Southern Sudan as was, and had been of no fixed address in the UK for a year previously, so there were a number of obstacles between me and the electoral roll, but still), and then spent most of that evening and the small hours of the 8th watching in slack-jawed horror as seat after seat fell to the Conservatives. I voted SNP, so in some ways I have no real cause for complaint – but a had hoped against hope for a broad left-wing alliance in Westminster, and not only for that not to come to pass, but for it not even to be a possibility was a rude shock.

I know a lot of my friends back in the UK are getting more politically involved in the traditional, party sense, and that’s great, but if anything, this election has confirmed my disillusionment with the political process in the UK. That doesn’t mean that I’m admitting defeat, far from it – just that I am less upset about the election result itself than about what the election result says about the electorate and its priorities. This feels less like a political crisis than a crisis of compassion. I do not want a Labour party in power that has compromised its core values in order to appeal to a callous and self-interested electorate; I want a compassionate and egalitarian electorate that demands these same values of its government, whatever party happens to be in power. I was brought up in a Labour household, but ever since my first election in 1997, my support for Labour has been gradually eroded: tuition fees, the Iraq war, right up until the way that they handled the Scottish independence referendum last year, and that bloody mug in the approach to the election. I understand that Labour is responding to the concerns of the electorate when it comes to immigration and benefits; what I don’t understand is how I’m supposed to compromise some of my key values to vote for a party to which I have ideological loyalty, but which reflects so few of the values I find meaningful. If I might briefly embrace my inner geek and quote Lois McMaster Bujold, who wasn’t writing about the UK 2015 General Election, but might as well have been, “the only thing you can’t trade for your heart’s desire is your heart”.

Also, this is the best article on migration that I have read in a long, long time.

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Meanwhile, Nigeria! We were advised to be out of the country for the election, as all international observers were predicting at least some violence, and yet in the event the elections went off almost without a hitch, and Nigeria has a new president. I’m not sure where all the PDP supporters are hiding, as everyone I’ve spoken to seems very pleased with the results. We’re currently in an interregnum that lasts for another ten days before the new government takes power and then: we will see.

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Written by Jess

May 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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