There she stands, the combine harvester has made its rounds, and Theresa May is now alone in an empty field. I bet she wishes she’d ran out sooner.
On June 8th, 2017, less than two months after it was called, the people of Britain set off to the polling stations to vote for their next Prime Minister. The polls said Conservatives, the papers said Conservatives, the result said change. But where did the ‘strong and stable’ leader go wrong, how did the woman who led the polls by 24 points ahead of calling the snap election, end up losing a net of 13 seats? And why is this result such great news for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn?
Theresa May called a snap election on 18th April, a whole two years before it was due. Why? She asked for her hand to be strengthened in order for her to be able to negotiate with more success in Brussels, concerning the very issue that got her former leader to resign. This ignorance was the first indication that May may have been in for a shock. Mrs. May, and unelected Prime Minister, stood before 10 Downing Street, and told the British public rather explicitly, that this snap election was merely her own personal power play. The election that was going to cost the tax payer, a figure has now been argued to be around £120-30 million, and actually disrupt Brexit preparation for whoever would be in charge, was clearly just for the Conservatives to gain a few more seats while they were ahead. Well, I bet Mrs May is wishing she stayed at home on that historic day.
This wasn’t the first thing that May did wrong, however, that was believing that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would not be a challenge to this scrap for more power. But, this was not only believed on the part of the Conservatives, but also Labour members themselves. Such a miscalculation comes down, primarily, to a lack of understanding of Corbyn’s support, especially the demographic they most commonly come from, and they are the very thing that has ousted the Tory majority. I have been a profound fan of Jeremy Corbyn since his leadership win back in 2015, becoming myself a member of the Labour party due to his influence in May of 2016. My support for him only grew, and even into the announcement of the snap election in April, as anyone who knows me will know, I was still strongly proposing that he would have a strong victory, not win, but truly reignite the Labour party. Although Corbyn isn’t, as of yet, the Prime minister, that prospect no longer looks all that unlikely, something I and other Corbyn supporters have been predicting for some time now, usually to responses of laughter, even from his own fans. What we saw, that most people didn’t, was the sheer number of the public who voted for his leadership in the first place. Even after his vote of no confidence, his MPs begged him to leave, yet thousands of new members flooded in to support the leader, and ultimately secure him the biggest leadership contest win in the history of Labour, with round 300,000 votes. Yet, here May stood, an unelected leader, totally discounting a leader who had shown he could get the public behind him, and most crucially the youths.
Jeremy Corbyn offers hope in the face of the horrific state that the Tories have created in this country. With the national debt raised by £555 billion in 7 years of Conservative rule, yet the deeply disturbing lack of funding and closure of areas of the NHS, and Schools, cuts to the disabled and raises in university fees, much of the country could see the rise of the nasty party once again, giving tax cuts to their rich colleagues in the process. Yet, May thought her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ catchphrase would cause an amnesia effect, calling for us to simply vote on the idea that this election was merely an election for the chair of Brussels. She may have also forgotten that, while yes, our county voted to leave ultimately, just over 48% did indeed vote to remain, her in fact being one of them, and therefore this prospect of a hard Brexit may have caused a lot more damage to her campaign than she once thought. Corbyn did of course also advocate for Brexit carrying its course, however, he told the public what that meant, and promised a friendly process. This was much more ‘strong and stable’ than the soundbites May provided, made even worse by the fact that she stood at Downing Street and tried to call wolf on Juncker, arguing that he was intentionally sabotaging her campaign. This petty act further instated the belief that Theresa May truly was making this election about her, not her party, and was hell-bent on sabotaging relations with Europe because of it, losing yet more of their respect.
But the polls still placed May as favourite, despite May’s abominable campaign of unanswered questions, soundbites that had no meaning and lack of debating with Corbyn, the weak leader was still predicted by almost all polling companies to win a majority, some by even 100 seats. This massive miscalculation was made up of downright ignorance. Ignorance about the younger voters. To be fair, the number of young people that have turned out to cast their vote has dwindled for decades, and so the projection that they would continue to do the same was an almost fair one to make, until you looked at the phenomenon that is the Labour party under Corbyn’s leadership. Far from the centre based parties that we met in 2015, of which were so similar that which colour seemed to be one of the stark decisions that could really swing the voter, these parties gave you a clear choice. This was another one of May’s repetitive statements that I’m sure she now regrets stating so blatantly. The youth saw their choice. On one hand, they saw a leader who was galvanising support, who really spoke to them, who offered real hope in the face of austerity, and most importantly of all, he asked our demographic to vote. A far cry from the Tories who clearly banked on a low youth turn out, and rather refused to even suggest that they should register. Arguably the smartest move of Corbyn’s campaign, away from his policies, was to capitalise on social media. While May relied on the backing of the Sun, and other redundant right-wing newspapers, Corbyn well and truly took over Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat, to deliver a much fairer image of his party. While the older generation looked to newspapers and news such as the BBC for their information, the young looked to social media, bursting with memes, real facts and a clear love for Corbyn’s real values, far from the terrorist sympathiser that he was said to have been elsewhere.
This was what really baffled me about the consensus of the campaign being a personality contest that Corbyn was losing. The sheer ignorance of the older generation really proved disastrous for those who opposed Labour or its leadership. From my little ‘lefty bubble’ I saw things wholly differently, I saw a massive influx in people interested both in politics and in making a better country for us all. As a young person, I am rather an anomaly in this sense, I have taken a great interest in politics and Labour since Corbyn gained leadership. His values spoke to me, and I found his leadership much more inspiring, as a woman, than May ever could. This was a man that had fought his whole life for others, and on the right side of history and still made it into power, for us, for the right values, and that was inspirational and somewhat ground-breaking. Especially through the election I was hooked, watching the news constantly, making sure I tuned into the BBC, then Channel 4, and caught up to what other channels would be saying. I watched Question Time weekly, along with PMQs until it was halted for the dissolution of parliament, I watched Marr and Peston and every debate I could, I even went to see Jeremy speak. All this is well and good, and really gave me a good perspective over the election and what the leaders were really saying, but it was twitter that really gave me a platform to speak, and also read others’ opinion. Not only this but on a personal level, it allowed me to help engage others, who maybe weren’t actively seeing both sides and wanted help, with many of them messaging me to ask, regardless of how close we were. I believe that this optimism and energy that Corbyn gave so many people, including me, had an immense knock on effect. Not only this, but with social media, people really began to question what they were being fed, and saw that Labour and Corbyn were not getting a good enough representation, and in turn saw the true colours of a ‘nasty party’, smearing Corbyn with every chance they could. People who never really took an interest in politics before, saw that they could have a say and were important, and they had Corbyn to thank, not May.
Of course, the manifestos also had a great deal of impact in the election. May, it appears, believed that she could get away with anything, with one of the worst and most damning manifestos in some time. She clearly banked on her soundbites working, and the older generation handing her their vote no questions asked. But the young, and indeed many of the other demographics, saw her as spending more time and effort smearing Corbyn and attempting to derail their costings and manifesto, than actually costing their own. Once again, the right-wing papers felt redundant, more reviled than listened to. May certainly didn’t help herself, going through countless interviews with the same rehearsed statements, never really giving an answer, and leaving more of a generic soundbite at every turn. Her constant smear of Corbyn and a ‘coalition of chaos’ prospect only further presented us with an image of a weak leader who couldn’t fight for her own policies, and instead had to resort to attacking a man who was, and doing a great job of it. Not showing up for debate was a massive failure on her part, but the reasons given were even more damaging to her case. Laughed at by journalists, she contested that it was because she was focussing on Brexit. She was actively stating that the election, of which SHE had herself called, was disrupting this, an extremely weak and damning reply. She also regularly contested that the people did not want to see two politicians fighting out their policies, while Corbyn said she should defend her record, yet, she rather contradicted herself by sending Amber Rudd. In doing so she advocated that it was her weak and unstable leadership, and lack of social skills even, that relegated her into hiding. While she hid, Corbyn rose, with even his harshest of critics praising his strong and calm answers to questions, and almost impeccable presentation. You might not have agreed with him, but at least he had an answer to give. This was refreshing to so many.
Of course, you wouldn’t have thought this looking at the right-wing newspapers. Yet, Murdoch and his merry billionaire friends’ support for May at every turn was perhaps destructive to her campaign on the whole. People were reading through the lies, curious as to why they would still support her after such damning policies, mistakes and U-turns. The public began to see that they clearly had a motive, and a stake in the Conservative government, and that only gave the people more motive themselves to show their power. The trust in the papers was lost, especially for those with active access to social media, and therefore the access to a sea of different ideas and fact checking, away from the ploys of the mainstream media. Credit must also be given to celebrities, and prominent labour speakers, for really pushing this movement. Grime4Corbyn of course had such a large impact, and rallies held with musicians such as Wolf Alice and Clean Bandit made Corbyn appear more like a headline act for a festival. His appearance ahead of a Libertines concert was received with mass cheers and chants, May on the other hand resorted to banning the sale of flour and eggs on her visit to Wrexham. Owen Jones was one of the most active speakers, and must be credited with having an extremely positive and strong influence on young people supporting the Labour party. One of his most successful campaigns was asking young people, through social media, to call up their grandparents and ask them to vote Labour. This was revolutionary, further thrusting the older generation away from the mainstream media and into a much more open form of debate, and opened the eyes of many older people to see the truth behind both party claims. I myself gained the support of my family for labour, with even my nan voting for them. Being disabled herself, she relies on surgeries and help with a car, far from being a scrounger, before she retired she worked seven days a week running her own pub, living in it and working tirelessly despite her disability. Yet, even she had been swept into the anti-Corbyn image, not even really questioning her vote for May, even though she abhorrently disliked the policies. This was the case for many of the older generation especially, however, social media, and the youth movement really pulled that house down, and paved a way for a new kind of politics.
That is what lost May her big win. Her ignorance in ignoring a whole demographic, and continuing to do so in her campaign meant that some very safe seats were lost to Labour. It was the youth turn out that really swung this, rumoured to be about 66-72%, depending on sources. It meant that Chelsea and Kensington were now Labour, unthinkable before this election. It meant that for the first time in almost 100 years, Canterbury turned red surrounded by a sea of blue. Despite the calls from the media, this WAS a personality contest but in an extremely contrasted sense to what they had first thought. The image of Corbyn and his personality was based on his sheer stability, through this campaign and his whole political career. It was the fact that he always stood up for the people and did not back down in the face of regressive opposition. He was interested in our voices, in our ideas, in our wants, our needs and our well-being. He put that across to us, he told us that we held the power, he told us that we could question the establishment, that we didn’t have to stand the cuts and inequality that we were facing. He inspired hope, while May inspired fear. Not once asking us to vote. Going to meet the people to her meant clearing out warehouses and repopulating them with her own picked out supporters and reporters. It meant sneaking through the back in and out of events. It meant only answering questions she wanted to, and even then, not really answering them at all. It meant blaming every failing on other people. It meant hypocritically smearing Corbyn for things such as being a terrorist sympathiser while she sold arms the Saudi Arabia, and don’t get me started on her proposed coalition of cruelty with the DUP. May arrogantly and ignorantly led a campaign of smearing and scaremongering, all her faults within it would take ten more posts to state. And while it must yes be recognised that Corbyn didn’t win, however May certainly lost, and she lost big. This appears to be the end of the Conservative party rule, it appears to show a rise and revolution of the true Labour, and the end of the ‘New’ Labour party that was formed under Blair. This IS change, and this IS a win for Jeremy Corbyn. A man who was always disregarded, who refused to step down in order to make sure WE were heard. He ran a campaign for the people, and he well and truly won this election when it all comes down to it. But he wouldn’t say that, he’d say it was you.