Yesterday, Andrew Turner - MP for the Isle of Wight - resigned.
The resignation's timing was almost guaranteed to be a response to the revelation that he'd attended a publicity event in a school, at which he had expressed some very backwards and highly homophobic views.
Andrew Turner has been our MP since 2001. Previous to this he ran in Hackney South and Shoreditch in 1992 and European elections in Birmingham East in 1994. In 1997 he finally decided that if he couldn't get in anywhere else, he'd show up here, and in 1997 lost to Peter Brand of the Lib Dems.
Some people believe that we get the political representation we deserve.
I'm going to dismiss anything and everything he has said in press appearances and in parliament. It is very easy for anyone to say anything. What I will discuss, what I will expose and lay bear, is his voting record. Any MP can lie. When it comes to their voting, that is where they truly show what they are all about. You can't vote against something and then claim to be for it.
He's consistently voted against every kind of welfare and benefits, and voted for reductions in spending on benefits. Contrariwise he votes consistently against taxing those who earn more than £150,000, mansion tax, corporation tax and capital gains tax. A believer in trickle-down economics, it seems.
He wants the NHS privatised. This is usually phrased in a mischeivous way like "against restriction of private provision of health service" or "reforming the NHS to allow purchasing of private treatment" or any other way to make Literally Selling Our Health Service sound like a positive thing.
He votes to defund local government, votes against more proportional representation, votes for tuition fees to go up pretty damn consistently. Against younger people getting the vote. For stronger border controls. Against regulation on Fracking. For selling off our national forests. Against stopping train fares increasing. For privatising Royal Mail. Against secure tenancy. For tearing apart foxes with packs of hounds.
We're building a picture of who this man is, at this point. He's pretty much everything that a left (or centrist even) hates in this world. Combine his consistent refusal to vote in favoure of equal rights of ANY kind, and he's that stereotypical right-winger that wants to buy the community centre in a kids film. You know the one? Wherein the protagonists have to take part in the dance contest to win the prize money to buy it first? He's that guy.
This island can be beautiful.
I have often spoken about it in a disparaging way, and I don't think I have done so unfairly. For all the gorgeous coast and for all the particular things which are considered positive and good, this place has big problems, which can only be solved by doing difficult things. A recent article in Vice actually very eloquently addressed this.
A big part of the problem is that a significant proportion of those who live here - not all, maybe not even most, but definitely a large part - lean to the right. Older people, traditionalists, wealthy people who have second homes or retired down here; this island houses many of them, and isn't helped by the fact that representation of non-white folks has classically been very small. (I mean for god's sake there's a shop somewhere on this island that still sells gollywogs, as if that's fucking clever.)
I don't believe a lot of these people are actively bigoted, or purposefully hurtful toward others. I don't think they take time out of their day to write thinkpieces about how wrong homosexuality is or how asian people are ruining everything. I DO think, however, that these beliefs are in there, somewhere; and they're never really questioned or challenged by the island as an environment, or the majority of the British press, which has a well-defined and globally recognised right-wing bias. 40th most free in the world. Isn't that something.
So of course they vote for this guy, because he reflects all the things they quietly assume to be true, and have never had to disbelieve, even if it would make the world a better place.
I daresay there's also a large proportion of voters here that voted for Turner over and again because he's the devil they know. For the same reason as many people stay in bad jobs or bad relationships, because they are afraid of the alternative. Whatever that alternative might be.
I've written to Andrew Turner on many occasions. I only received an actual reply from him once, and that was in my first letter to him - wherein I asked him to challenge Tony Blair's appointment of Ruth Kelly, a highly relgious woman and member of Opus Dei, as the Education Secretary (and subsequently Communities Secretary). Something he did, with applomb, and I will give credit. I saw the PMQs in which he questioned this appointment.
I now recognise the distinct irony of asking a bigoted MP to score political points by taking down another bigot. Every other letter I had written since called on him to question his party on matters of rights, equality and welfare, and I received a stock response from the desk of his secretary and little else.
The kind of people that actually have a lot to lose under Tory governance, the kind of people who are directly attacked by Andrew Turner's voting record, find a lot of problems heaping on them. It's easy for those whose lifestyle and welfare is threatened to not pay attention to the political issues that cause those problems. That's an old trick. It's the trick being played on all of us, consistently, and has been for years. We're discouraged from caring about anyone else, because we've got our own shit to worry about. Why should I help put up the tent? My hands are full holding onto this guy line.
That's how Turner came to hold the seat for as long as he did. That's why it took actually being a bigoted asshole in public for him to be forced into resignation, as I have no doubt he was. It wasn't that he was a poor-hating homophobe - it wasn't even that anyone else KNEW he was - it was that he said as muchm and was called on it by a teenage girl who deserves the heaps of praise heaped on her for standing up for what we should all know is right.
For as long as I have been politically aware, this dinosaur has represented dinosaur isle.
Now he's gone.
It's time for us - for the people who have been the target of his parliamentary attacks - to put someone in place that actually represents us. The real us. Not the dying, decaying holiday town that the money has made us.