Even without a Labour government, this election was a victory
Labour didn’t win the election but the result represented a victory that was just as significant
As the dust settles in the wake of the general election, the political landscape is not what it was when the election was called on 18 April. Theresa May, full of what we now know was hugely misplaced hubris, was confident in a whitewash. A landslide victory that would decimate Labour, capitalise on the Conservatives’ lead in the polls and maul an opposition leader in Jeremy Corbyn who didn’t have the backing of his own MPs. Nor did he seemingly have the backing of an electorate that appeared to lack an appetite for his left-leaning policies. And there was no need to make an effort in bashing Corbyn and assassinating his character as the media were already doing it. They were providing the familiar narrative that Corbyn was unelectable and would be bad news for Britain.
While Labour supporters backed Corbyn and his policies, and the marked departure from the Blairite era that so many of his shortsighted MPs yearned to return to, many of us struggled to be optimistic about Labour experiencing success in the election. I include myself in that. I wanted to see broad support within the electorate for the policies and ideals I believed in but I just couldn’t see how the tide could change before the election. We’d effectively allowed the establishment and media narrative to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Much of my earlier doubt over this election came from precedents in politics of late. Take Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Usually moderate societies had opted for radical, right-wing and ill-considered choices in the voting booth. Wouldn’t a convincing re-election of the Tories therefore be a logical conclusion?
For May, calling an election wasn’t a political gamble, it was a no-brainer. Increase your majority and get a mandate for a hard Brexit with the ability to claim that it’s what the country voted for. Yet unbeknownst to May and many others, the electorate didn’t get the memo.
As campaigning began, there was a palpable shift within the electorate. Labour was gaining on the Conservatives in the polls and Corbyn’s popularity was surging. This wasn’t part of the plan for the Conservatives and their assumed increased majority didn’t seem so sure after all. The youth vote was being mobilised and in a significant first for a British election, the ‘grime vote’ was too. Traditionally apathetic sections of society were planning to vote and it would be a vote for Labour.
Like a sure fart that actually followed through and materialised as an unanticipated poo, there was now no turning back. But May and the Conservatives had now politically soiled themselves and everyone could smell it.
The morning after the election, what might have been tears shed over Labour taking a shellacking at the polls was replaced with jubilation. It was a hung parliament so Labour hadn’t won the election. They hadn’t even won the most seats; the Conservatives had. Nonetheless, this was a victory for Labour, and indeed Britain, on so many more fronts than being able to form a government.
When you consider the respective campaigns of the Conservatives and Labour, the former’s was beyond lacklustre and Alan Partridge-esque at times. This was not the campaign of a party that was expected to win big and was riding high in the polls. It was the campaign of a party whose support had been seriously eroded and it took the election for everyone, including them, to realise it.
Conversely, Labour’s manifesto was applauded and it was clear that it was underpinned by a desire for a fairer Britain. Supporting Labour was considered the right thing for a better Britain.
The Conservative manifesto, however, was lambasted and they were forced to make a U-turn on the so-called ‘dementia tax’. Beyond disliking the Tories, the public really didn’t like Theresa May either. Calls of her being a bottle job for refusing to debate Corbyn became common and she didn’t seem to be resonate with anyone. She was mocked on social media and her claims of representing strong and stable leadership became more laughable by the day.
I don’t know one person who articulated in person or via social media that they were voting for the Conservatives or even vague support of any of their policies. Not one. That’s probably more of a reflection of my circle but it’s a first in any election I can recall. Usually there’s at least a few lost, middle class minorities working in finance or similar (did somebody say Priti Patel?) who’ll openly back the Conservatives but this time they’ve also piped down.
Admitting to voting Conservative was something people were seemingly ashamed of because voting Conservative was now roundly considered synonymous with being selfish or deluded. Or being a douchebag who was voting for a fellow douchebag. Douchebags who represent the privileged few with unchecked and encouraged greed at the expense of the less fortunate. If I wanted to vote for the Conservatives, I’d be ashamed too.
The Conservatives’ label as the ‘nasty party’ was back and in full effect. People had seen the Conservatives for what they are and they didn’t like it. Consequently, they stopped listening to the media’s narrative about Corbyn and started making up their own minds. They decided that they actually liked Corbyn and what he stood for and supporting him became en vogue.
The alternative Corbyn presented was credible and underpinned by a fairness and integrity that couldn’t be argued against without being seen as a wrong’un. Modern politicians can rarely engender such support organically. Although here, a left-leaning agenda had managed to garner sizeable endorsement that clapped back against the establishment and the media and dispelled the myth that such politics couldn’t experience support from the public.
Corbyn managed to convert apathetic sections of British society into electors. After years of being eligible, this election was the first that some people had ever registered and voted. They finally felt there was a party with a leader that could make a difference and was worth their vote. That’s a major endorsement and measure of Labour’s success.
For the Labour MPs who didn’t back Corbyn, like the media they too now need to pipe down. Calls of Corbyn being unelectable hold little weight when Corbyn being the leader probably saved some of said Blairite MPs’ seats. Oddly, many of them don’t seem to have an issue with Uncle Jezza now either.
As Ned Flanders would say, May and the Conservatives are now faced with a dilly of a pickle; one that is the gift that just keeps on giving to Labour. May has refused to resign, despite leading her party to a sham result that has lost them their majority. So much for being strong and stable eh? Her position is untenable, her own MPs will now be against her and she has lost their respect.
The electorate and the Conservatives will increasingly resent May for staying on and what little authority she thinks she might have is dwindling by the day. Corbyn will therefore become even more attractive as Prime Minister the longer she remains and continues to dig her heels in. Given her government will fall and she will either resign or be ousted imminently, he’ll soon get another chance to prove it too.
Without a majority, May has also been forced to enter into a confidence and supply deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) It’s essentially an arrangement where the DUP will support the Conservatives in voting with them on key issues. If the Tories wanted to lose the tag of the ‘nasty party’ that lacked ethics, a deal with the DUP has just seared it into their skins like the Dark Mark of the Death Eaters.
For anyone not familiar with the DUP, their socially conservative stance on a few matters significantly calls the ethics of the Tories into question with their new arrangement. They oppose abortion, are staunchly and openly homophobic and are climate change deniers. Oh, and they’re backed by terrorists in the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). That’s right, terrorists.
After May’s claims that Corbyn was a terrorist sympathiser (he actually said that he condemned both the loyalists and the IRA), she’s actually sought an alliance with a terrorist backed party. You couldn’t make this up. Nor could you envisage such desperation. May has also undermined the Northern Ireland peace process by entering into an agreement with the DUP as the British government will hardly appear impartial in Northern Irish negotiations when they’re backed by the DUP.
This only serves to reinforce the ethical vacuum that is the Conservative Party and the lack of moral fibre within Theresa May. You could despise Corbyn but right now you can’t deny he isn’t a more appealing Prime Minister than May on morals and ethics alone.
May argued that the snap election was a way to ensure she had a strong hand in Brexit negotiations. Well, that’s backfired, hasn’t it? Contrary to popular opinion, I’ve maintained that Brexit, or at least a remotely hard Brexit, may not be realised due to the outlandishness of any potential deal and how much of a disaster it would represent for Britain. But with this election result, May has edged Brexit that bit closer to the long grass. How’s she going to push ahead with Brexit negotiations now? With the DUP’s goons bringing a new meaning to the position of Chief Whip? For we Bremainers, May has possibly done us a favour because Brexit isn’t moving anywhere with her at the helm. So much for her aspirations in using it as a xenophobic and ideologically driven vehicle for Tory ideals.
Millennials may not remember the economic and social scars of Margaret Thatcher’s governments but they captured exactly what the Tories were, and still are, about as a party of the privileged that has often been on the wrong side of history. Theresa May, a far less adept politician than Thatcher, has now managed to create her own narrative that also shows a new generation their true colours.
Today’s Conservative Britain is a Britain where food banks and poverty are accepted alongside crippled public services, underfunded schools and a health service being primed for privatisation by stealth. Meanwhile, the Conservatives ignore the tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance of their backers and friends. However, the electorate has finally realised this and rejected it. Presented with Corbyn’s alternative, they’ve expressed their preference for the latter in their droves.
So Labour didn’t win the election and Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Labour and its supporters have much to celebrate and it’s a new day for Labour and British politics with the foundations for a better and fairer Britain finally being established.