Hope – its been in short supply recently, certainly speaking for myself, and I imagine for many others too.
Labour may not have won last night, but with all the dust starting to settle, Theresa May definitely emerges as the loser.
It’s true that May choosing to form a government with the Democratic Unionist Party is undoubtedly a grave omen – for anyone not familiar with the DUP, it would require a history lesson to explain how deplorable they actually are, but for the sake of brevity here’s a summary of their main views:
- Anti-women’s rights
- Anti-LGBT rights, including the right to marry
- Pro-hard Brexit
- Climate change deniers
- Historically supported the UVF (loyalist group in Northern Ireland – look ‘em up, they’re a fun bunch)
But in the face of this union, and in the face of what was ultimately an election defeat for the left; I still feel more optimistic, more hopeful, and more inspired about the future of this country than I have in my lifetime, and if you’ll allow me, here’s why…
May had the arrogance to call a snap election after months of saying she wouldn’t; costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds during a time of severe austerity measures in the process, because she believed that she would come out the other side with a stronger majority and mandate.
She also did so knowing said election would take place just days before vitally important Brexit talks begin – for someone who couldn’t answer a straight question or string a sentence together which didn’t use the term ‘strong and stable’, she has plunged the country and our economy into greater instability than we have seen since the Brexit vote, and left us in a far weaker position in Brexit negotiations than we were in previously: a hastily put together and deeply shaken government now have just days to prepare to face EU negotiators who will have been waiting patiently for these talks for months, carefully solidifying their position.
This all sounds pretty negative so far, and it is don’t get me wrong, but I’m getting to the good part so stay with me here!
I don’t think anyone seriously expected Labour to win a majority, but it’s clear that virtually every expert, pollster, newspaper & broadcaster hugely underestimated how well Labour would actually do – crucially, May and the Conservatives underestimated how well Labour would do.
Labour and Jeremy Corbyn have defied months of aggressively biased, slanderous and vitriolic campaigning from the Tories and the mainstream media, in one of the most obvious examples of the establishment trying to bury an opponent that I can remember, but despite this, have managed to oversee one of the greatest turn arounds in UK election history. Last night, Labour proved everybody wrong.
The Tories and the mainstream media also went to huge lengths to try and stop young people voting: they patronised us, they belittled us, they insulted us, but ultimately they were complacent. They banked on the fact that 18-25-year-olds didn’t care enough to turn up and vote in the numbers we did. Last night we proved them wrong.
Voter turnout among 18-25-year-olds was a staggeringly high 72%.
Last time around this figure was 58%.
The credit for this drastic surge in younger voters has to be credited to Corbyn and the Labour party. We don’t have figures yet on exactly how each age group voted, but an overwhelming number of first time voters polled, said they were doing so because of Labour – on top of that the Conservative party were doing all they could behind the scenes to make sure young people didn’t vote.
It might not immediately seem like it given the final result, but last night Corbyn and the Labour Party drastically changed the face of British politics.
I don’t make this statement lightly, and I don’t make this statement based on my own personal beliefs or bias. What happened last night was a genuine shock to the establishment, and will have a direct effect on politics in this country.
Last night an entire generation whose voices until now, have largely been ignored, overlooked or derided, spoke up and said ‘We are here, we matter, and we will make sure our voices are heard’.
Can you really blame 18-25-year-olds for their historically poor voting numbers, when up til now nearly every political manifesto and campaign has been aimed at the elderly and the middle class? These groups are always the primary target for politicians, because they are the ones who turn out to vote in the highest numbers; as a result we end up with election after election of politicians ignoring the young people because they know that young people won’t turn up to vote against them.
Until last night.
For the first time, this younger generation of voters have seen in Jeremy Corbyn, a man who represents their views: a man who doesn’t fit the Westminster archetype, who doesn’t bow to the rich elite, and who understands their concerns.
For the first time young people have a politician who will fight for them, rather than fighting to rule them.
In Corbyn, we were offered an opportunity to push back against the establishment and send a very clear message that we will no longer tolerate their greed and corruption – and we took it.
It’s not just the government that we just stuck two big fingers up to either, but the right-wing media who have used every resource they have to push the narrative that the establishment is strong and good, and that the ‘radical’ Corbyn is somehow simultaneously weak yet dangerous.
They ran a campaign of hate against a man who refused to succumb and sink to their level. They threw whatever they could at this man to bring him down, and rather than rising to it, he rose above it. Every. Single. Fucking. Time.
And a huge number of people in this country (over 40% in fact) began starting to see through it; not least those at the younger end of the voting range.
In the words of Owen Jones this morning – “The British right wing press led a vicious campaign of lies, smears, hatred and bigotry. And millions told them where to stick it”.
A further point worth mentioning is that after retaining their seats, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott are now the most popular constituency MPs in the entire history of the United Kingdom. Let that sink in.
Despite the horrific treatment she received from the public and the media, despite the sickening racist and sexist abuse (see for yourself below) that she has had to endure every day of the last 30 years as an MP (30 years as an MP just one of her achievements in a very long list by the way), Diane Abbot held her seat with a majority of 35,139 – a majority almost as large as the total number of votes May managed in her constituency (37,718).
And before the suggestions that Abbott is stupid/incompetent start coming in, I’d like to request you read this brilliant piece before commenting: https://cookingonabootstrap.com/2017/06/07/we-need-to-talk-about-diane-abbott-now-explicit-content/
(Don’t come at me over Diane Abbott FYI. I will physically fight you to defend Diane Abbott.)
So what does all this actually mean? How does this actually change anything when the Tories still won?
For starters, politics will have to dramatically change after this result. The voice of young people will have to be heard now, because it has become too loud to drown out. Jeremy Corbyn too must now be taken seriously: by his own party, by the Conservative government and by the public, because what he has achieved over the last few weeks has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Like it or not, the Tories can no longer laugh at the idea of Corbyn as a leader, because he has shown himself to be exactly that.
He has drawn crowds not matched in size by a leader in this country since Winston Churchill, and he has won back the trust of those already politically engaged young voters who have been skeptical of politicians since the broken promise of tuition fees.
More than that, he has reached out to an audience of young people who have been entirely apathetic towards politics until now – where Clegg succeeded in reaching out to young voters, Corbyn has gone a step further and inspired many who have never taken any interest before.
What Corbyn and the Labour party have achieved is far more remarkable than the results suggest; majority or not, they have successfully inspired the young and the disengaged and the disillusioned.
The left has been completely revitalised by this election, with the knock-on effect being that we will now start to see the Tories attempt to shift from the right back towards the centre as a response to this humiliating defeat – the Tories shifted to the right following the meteoric rise of UKIP, and that won them the last election; but it has failed catastrophically this time.
Make no mistake, this is the beginning of the fight, not the end.
The idea of a Tory/DUP coalition is bleak and terrifying. We don’t know what’s going to happen with Brexit for sure, but we do know we are in for a period of uncertainty and instability regardless. Our country is being hit by terrorist attacks that target our children and our very way of life, and one by product of this has been a not-so-quietly growing undercurrent of xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Our country is hurting right now, and it doesn’t show signs of improvement in the short term.
But let’s look at the long term.
Yesterday nearly 40% of this country voted for a manifesto based on the principles of compassion, unity and fairness. Of that 40%, a huge majority were young people.
A massive amount of love should of course also go out to our older allies who have been fighting for these causes for decades in many instances, but the young vote is particularly important for a singular reason – and this is the fundamental basis of the hope that I feel today – because the only thing the establishment can’t throw money and hatred at until it goes away is time. Time passes and we are the future.
This election has shown the power that young people have, the influence that we can have on an election, and sooner or later we will be the generation with the most influence. We will be the ones that politicians fear and pander to. We will be the ones they look to appease in their policy making, and the voice they must listen to if they want to win.
More than this, its shown that we are a generation of acceptance – of race, religion, gender, sexuality etc. – a generation of tolerance, of kindness, of brother/sisterhood. A generation of people who are willing to stand up for the rights of others, who are willing to fight injustice where they see it, and who believe the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
I have been so genuinely touched and inspired seeing the attitudes of my friends and strangers alike during this election. Despite the governments’ best attempts to scapegoat certain groups and make us see the worst side of people, and the seemingly endless stream of awful news coming in from all over the world, I have seen so many examples of the better side of humanity.
There was the Manchester concert for example, which was so deeply moving and inspiring. It showed that love and compassion can be far more powerful than hate. It showed that we are better when we get together rather than fighting with each other. In the face of an utterly barbaric tragedy, the people responded with a concert – a celebration of music and life and joy.
There were the heroes, police and civilians, who rushed unarmed towards three men wielding blades in London last weekend, to protect others without a thought for their own safety.
I’m not just talking about in our country either; you only need to look at the two incredibly brave men who were murdered in Portland nearly two weeks ago for standing up for a Muslim girl who was being racially abused, to see that this is happening elsewhere too. These men lost their lives standing up for what they believed was right. The younger of these two men was 23-years-old.
The onus is on us now, to not wait until the next election for an opportunity to make change happen. We have a responsibility to do what we can to make this country, and indeed our world, a better place for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, age or economic status.
There are so many ways we can do this, volunteering in your community or abroad, getting to know your neighbours and lending a helping hand when they need it, donating to causes which you believe in or actively campaigning for them; but the fundamental drive behind everything we do has to be the belief that we are better when we work with each other, not against each other.
I feel very strongly that this generation of young people embody this ethos, and for that reason I feel optimistic.