Vol. XLI No. 26 June 25, 2017

UK General Elections 2017: Youth Awakens

Harsev Bains

ONE of the biggest gambles by any sitting prime minister in the history of British politics has spectacularly backfired on the cautious Prime Minster Theresa May.

When May called a snap general election, she required a change of legislation to repeal the fixed time parliament that had three years to run.

The main opposition parties of Labour and the Scottish National Party were confronted with Hobson’s choice to either endorse the call for an early election or be highlighted as running scared of the will of the people.

Theresa May influenced by opinion polls that were placing the Conservative and Unionist (Tory) Party and her individual standing as PM, 20 per cent higher than the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, buoyed by the polls called for a fresh mandate to exert her authority. She called for a strong and stable government with an increased Tory majority to strengthen her hand in negotiating  Brexit deal. There was no question in her mind or that of her closest advisors about the victory, the only debating point was about the size of the victory. Tories were to win the elections by a historic landslide, sweeping the Labour Party and consigning the left ideology into the annals of history.

Such was the scale of their misplaced confidence and arrogance that the Tories produced a hastily pulled together manifesto which came across as an irrelevant document with untested policies that deepened the austerity agenda. Attacks upon their   traditional supporters, property owning class created by Margaret Thatcher, endangering their built up life time wealth to pay for social care , removal of winter fuel allowance, dementia tax, cuts to public services reducing the number of Police officers, closure of Police stations, Job Centres and Hospitals, sale of public resources. Nothing new on offer to the youth except an increase in personal debt, zero hour contracts, no prospect of long term employment or opportunity to own their own homes.

Foreign  policy  became totally shambolic with Foreign  Secretary, Boris Johnson, making continuous gaffes and a British Prime Minister that publicly cosied up to President Trump without any reservations or care for national pride. With greater concern for demonstrating as being prepared for the first to use Nuclear Weapon killing millions of people rather than their welfare. When the whole world was opposing the unilateral withdrawal of USA from the Paris Environment agreement, Theresa May could only express disappointment.

Contrast this to a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, who barely got on to the leadership ballot with a bare minimum of 35 MP’s two years ago. With the initial sponsor expressing regret at having proposed his name.

The Parliamentary Labour Party and its “experienced former ministers” refusing to work with Jeremy Corbyn, openly criticising his ideology and return to basic socialist values with emphasis on substance rather than style. JC’s activist style of engagement with people, representing their concerns at the dispatch box, listening to young people rather than the media pundits, putting forward an alternative to austerity and private ownership that created wealth for the few with misery and poverty for the many was openly criticised as evidence of being stuck in the past and on his inability to provide leadership. The question these former ministers asked was not that Labour would lose but if there will be any Labour Party left after the elections.

Attempts were made by Tony Blair, Lord Peter Mandelson from Labour and George Osborne former Tory Chancellor to try and create a new Centre Party with the rump of the Liberal Democrats providing the core. This was to circumvent the peoples decision in the European referendum and ensure defeat of any alternative policy to the new liberal agenda.

Meanwhile, Jeremy  Corbyn, saw off another attempt to oust him as the elected leader of the Labour Party , with the Parliamentary Labour Party passing a no confidence motion in his leadership and again subjected to an election. The Labour Party membership that had grown since his initial nomination two years ago , kept faith in the authentic credible hope, values and beliefs that Jeremy had consistently projected. Much to the annoyance of the establishment Jeremy simply decided not to play according to their rules.

A quiet revolution started to stir among the youth, who though able to vote had in the past ignored the urge to participate in the democratic process and engage in politics.This was a new phenomenon of youth awakening, after  generations of young people systematically depoliticised by Thatcher and Blair.

Young people between 18-24 became the main team of The Jeremy Corbyn , following him as the new messiah providing him with rock star status. Social media campaign reaching out to millions were being launched. The creative energy of the youth was being unleashed, no longer influenced by the right wing media, a new way of digital communication came into effect. New merchandise, simple slogans “For the many not the few” “I don’t play by rules” the initials JC for Jeremy Corbyn and Jesus Christ, “Making June the end of May” were among the most effective and widely shared. Video clip of a five year old girl eloquently expressing her anger and  challenging Theresa May to do something for poor homeless people rather than squander the nations wealth on war went viral.

Than came the manifesto, described by some as the star of the show,providing a realistic costed outalternative to the failed Tory policies of austerity. Excerpts were posted on the media and its impact discussed by the generations effected currently and likely to be impacted in the future.

There was reassurance of inflation proof pensions and health care for the old, employment rights with a new National Minimum wage, bringing back into public ownership health, rail, mail  and energy companies, removal of higher education tuition fees, allowing all Europeans already living in UK to stay on post Brexit, increasing police numbers,  2% increase in corporation tax and the creation of a National Investment Bank were just some of the manifesto commitments that touched the people. This was the first time that ordinary people were talking about a political party’s manifesto.

Enthused by the Corbyn team  mantra that an alternative was possible, over 300,000 young people registered to vote for the very first time. Political pundits were still of the mind set that they may have registered but they wont actually vote. The young people of Britain again proved the establishment wrong , the youth vote of 18-24 year olds rose from 43% to 66.3%, the turn out in the elections was the highest recorded.

The Communist Party of Britain, the Association of Indian Communists and other left forces in an unprecedented move decided not to contest elections from any constituency. Based on the manifesto commitments being projected and the sheer arrogance of the Tory Party, a public call was given to all members and sympathisers to not just vote as mere bystanders for Labour but actively work to bring about this change. The total numbers of votes cast reflect this small yet significant support by the communists to Labour.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) totally collapsed following the Brexit referendum with its reason for existence no longer relevant. The misconception among the political sages and Theresa May’s advisors that the UKIP vote would simply transfer to the Tories failed to materialise. The people of the working class who had been attracted to UKIP went back home to Labour.

The Scottish National Party that had swept Scotland with 56 seats in 2015 declined to 35 seats, with voters opting for Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. The reason why people in Scotland preferred Conservatives to Labour requires further analysis.

Constituenciesthat have not voted labour since the First World War like Canterbury and others like Kensington (includes Buckingham Palace) have returned a Labour MP for the first time. Over 200 female MP’s have been elected. TaranDhesi newly elected MP for Slough becomes the first turbaned MP in the  British Parliament. He joins a number of MP’s with Indian origin like Ms Preet Gill and Virendra Sharma.

Theresa May is desperately trying to cling on to power by doing a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Ireland and their newly elected 10 MP’s.

There are two Queen’s speeches being prepared or opening of the new Parliament; one by the lame duck PM Theresa May and another by Prime Minister in waiting Jeremy Corbyn. We know who the people want. In the words of Jeremy Corbynbelow “ I have got youth on my side” and we are ready for another election.