It should have happened in the first instance. Ever since the result of the EU referendum was announced, Labour and Jeremy Corbyn could have made gains off the back of a vote against the political establishment. A crumbling Conservative Party, defeated by its own arrogance over the remain vote, could have been held to account for its mistakes. Now, in a moment of pure déjà vu, the Tories have returned to that very same state – except this time, the Labour Party will be there to hold them to account.
Blairism has well and truly died – in its place, an appetite for socialism clearly displayed amongst the youth vote and the fact it simply wasn’t a landslide for the Conservatives. Now, Theresa May and the Democratic Unionist Party (or May’s successor) are trapped in a political stalemate: a minority government (even if it is with the appalling DUP) is not strong enough to deal with the mammoth task of Brexit. “There’ll be a second election soon,” predicted the former Labour MP on ITV News last night.
It could very well happen, and it’s essential that Corbyn uses this interim period to continue to build local support for Labour. The Conservative majority diminished this time around, and could fall by even lower numbers should the state of play with the Con-DUP pact be so catastrophic. Much like how Labour MPs were subtly preparing for (and some, fearing) a snap election shortly after Brexit, Corbyn’s team and Labour members must continue campaigning and putting pressure on the Tories as though another election is imminent.
Now, there’s nothing in Labour’s way – there’s no coup or a sense of identity crisis which could throw Jeremy’s leadership into question. The party is now united, redefined, and is pushing out an anti-establishment sentiment which has been brewing for almost a year, and has now returned to the surface.
We’ve seen passion and engagement present amongst Labour voters. It’s important now, should there be a second vote, that election fatigue does not allow our young people to fall back into disenfranchisement – nor should a divisive Conservative and DUP partnership.
Labour must continue putting out its message in Parliament, and local communities need to do the same. A new wave of voters are engaged, and that’s not going away easily.
After nearly three weeks since the triggering of Article 50, the Tories have finally spat out the Brexit pill which no party wants to swallow. A snap election on June 8 will continue to create more uncertainty that Theresa May promised to end.
“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division.
“The country is coming together, but Westminster is not,” the Prime Minister said in a speech earlier today.
We must be suspicious. An arrogant Conservative Party determined to defy the rulings of judges and Lords to pass the Brexit Bill has once again resorted to Cameron’s levels of cowardice. Voters will remember that, but they must question the true reason for calling the election.
The immediate presumption would be that it is an attempt to decimate Labour, but that is questionable. It seems too great a risk for May to sacrifice the Tory majority (and a supposed lack of opposition on Brexit from Corbyn) to ‘kill’ the left-wing party. If the PM expects to win back a majority in June, then she is forgetting that a general election has become more than a Labour vs. Conservative battle.
A call for a snap election is – of course – a gamble, and it’s one May appears to have taken due to the disunity in other parties (according to her speech, at least).
With Labour’s in-fighting continuing to bubble every once in a while, the SNP tackling their own referendum and the Lib Dem’s membership slowly rising, it seems as though May is aiming for a wipeout whilst building upon her majority. But when has disunity within other parties ever hindered the Tories’ Brexit plans? If anything, it’s almost given May a ‘carte blanche’ to do her thing without any real scrutiny.
It’s even more confusing when the Conservatives have always been arrogant and stubborn when enforcing policies. To gamble their majority for the sake of silencing other parties, or getting them to support their plan, seems unfathomable.
So what is the explanation for the snap election? My friend Jarrad Johnson raises an interesting point, saying on Twitter that “someone or something has forced May’s hands behind the scenes.”
It’s an interesting comment when we look back at the past. The last time we had a vote between the typical five-year period was, of course, the 2016 EU referendum. On that occasion, it was believed that this was to end the internal conflict within the Tory party about whether we should leave the European Union. Now, as we face another surprise election before the end of the usual five-year term, we have to consider whether the same arguments are occurring once more.
Jeremy Corbyn was on a train talking about how ‘ram-packed’ it was. What happened next is up for debate, but ‘#traingate’ was soon a trending topic on social media. However, in amongst the fact-checking were talks about the re-nationalisation of our railways. Even if this one train Corbyn was on isn’t the best example of overcrowded carriages, then we all have our own experiences of it. The controversy worked, as talks about the public ownership of rail services manifest themselves in society.
After all, Brexit, the fall of BHS and the crisis with Southern Rail have all exposed the elite and challenged the case for privatisation. The topic of conversation has turned to anti-establishment sentiment and the desire for public ownership. We have Jeremy Corbyn – the politician who represents these views on a political level – being challenged by Virgin Trains over ‘traingate’ and being attacked by the right-wing media at every opportunity. It’s understandable that some people believe Branson’s rail company argued against Corbyn’s statements because they have an interest in private ownership of rail services. Meanwhile, the right-wing press create this narrative of an unelectable left-wing Labour leader because his election would mean their voices being silenced. Corbyn poses an existential threat to both the right-wing media and Virgin Trains, so of course they will argue back when they can.
The left-wing Guardian columnist Owen Jones writes in a post on Medium about the ‘questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters need to answer’, with one of the main questions revolving around a “clear media strategy”. As a new Labour supporter, I’ve always steered clear from writing a response to this. However, whilst the true events of ‘traingate’ remain unknown, underneath the controversy lies the truth that we’ve all been on an overcrowded train. That’s the winning strategy for Labour.
As the Corbyn vs. Virgin Trains debate dies down, Jeremy’s team have said that ‘traingate’ has helped the Labour leadership candidate with his calls for public ownership of the railway network. It’s because there was a relatable truth about rail services at the heart of the video Corbyn made on that train. After that, Virgin Trains and the media quickly jumped at the opportunity to dispute his tale of events. In the end, it was unnecessary and pointless. Even if Virgin Trains’ account is correct, it does nothing to justify the many train journeys other people have had to take where not enough seats are available. The panicked response to Corbyn’s call for public ownership only publicised Jeremy’s policies further. It’s a risky tactic, but could these pedantic scandals and controversies be the way for Corbyn to thrust his politics into the media spotlight?
Jones also talks about Sadiq Khan conquering the media after his election as London mayor, and how “he was remorselessly portrayed as the puppet of extremists by his opponent and his ally — the capital’s only mass newspaper, as well as several national newspapers. He managed to counteract it, and won.” Yet, the original media attacks on Sadiq Khan and the current media attention surrounding Corbyn aren’t completely identical – of course – and so it would be hard to use this as a case study or template for Jeremy’s new media strategy.
That being said, Londoners were sick of the personal attacks made at Sadiq Khan, so could this hatred of ad hominem remarks also benefit Jeremy Corbyn? If anything, his media strategy should be continuing to promote relatable policies, and then watching the right-wing media squirm. It will be repetitive, but the retaliation from right-wing bodies will only prove that what Corbyn is saying is true, and that will be their big mistake.
The enigma that is the Labour Party and its leadership debate is something I’ve always avoided and steered clear from writing about. Whilst I have a sense of the factors which come together to fuel this frustration in the left-wing party, I’m not a member of the Labour Party, nor do I have that inside knowledge about how the party operates. With that in mind, I feel as though I am an observer, and since I won’t be voting in the leadership election, I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the two candidates. However, that being said, I do have a stance and that is what I’ve decided to talk about today. I stand with Corbyn, and I think he should remain as leader of the Labour Party.
For a long time, I was torn between the two parties. Labour was the party of inequality, but were forced to borrow and overspend. The Tories had strong economic principles, but I found their policies on disability to be absolutely appalling. Uncertain about Ed Miliband being a potential leader, I voted Conservative last year. However, I soon realised my mistake. Books by Owen Jones and my general frustration with the government’s running of things brought out my left-wing stance.
It wasn’t long before I started to see it: the rise of left-wing attitudes and an anti-establishment rhetoric. Unions burst back to life when Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP launched his new plans for junior doctors, the vote for Brexit was in response to big corporations influencing democracy and the planned changes to Personal Independence Payments angered most of the general public.
If it isn’t because Tory policies have affected you in some way, then most people in society desire an honest politician with integrity. Prime Minister’s Questions has descended into theatre, with the Conservatives often resorting to ad hominem attacks rather than answering the questions from the opposition. So, when Jeremy Corbyn suggested a new style of PMQs, he certainly got my respect, and probably appealed to a lot of people annoyed with the personal put-downs which dominate today’s politics.
The treatment of Jeremy Corbyn by the media and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) shows so much about the state of both. The PLP still has Blairism lingering around, and of course, with right-wing millionaires controlling the newspapers, they’ll find any opportunity to tear apart a man with radical socialist principles. In both cases, Jeremy Corbyn poses an almost existential threat to them – be it the silencing of Blairite views under his leadership, or taxes on the rich as part of a redistribution of wealth.
One of the words which the Conservatives and the media both continued to use was ‘unelectable’. They made that comment at a time when left-wing politics didn’t appeal to the majority, and Labour still had aspects of its identity to address. But, as I’ve said, a socialist leader has emerged at a time where anti-establishment rhetoric is rising. Why couldn’t he be Prime Minister?
The argument to this would be to say that Corbyn is a respectable politician and a good man, but he is not a good leader. There are certain things which have happened under Corbyn’s leadership which is respectable, such as the boost in membership figures. However, for this point, I thought I would turn to fellow candidate, Owen Smith.
In all honesty, my knowledge of ‘famous’ Labour politicians is quite limited, and I think I wouldn’t be alone when I say that I hadn’t heard of Smith until this debate. Whilst his skills as leader may be better, I can only see him as being a continuation of a Labour party which is out of touch with working class people. It’ll be more of the same, in my opinion. People want change, and that’s in terms of both politics and the direction which the party is taking. Would Labour members rather have a leader which shifts the political debate, or continues the status quo of the party?
If anything, this debate has forced Corbyn to redefine his policies. Granted, his stance against Tory austerity is what most people know him for, but Labour supporters need the specifics. Now, as he talks about a redistribution of wealth, the public ownership of railways and more done for our National Health Service, I think Jeremy Corbyn is the closest personal representation of the anti-establishment and equalist politics which are apparent in today’s society.
Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour leadership election, whilst Theresa May’s government will move to the right as it tries to deal with all the political baggage from Brexit. The EU referendum has accelerated the main parties’ move towards the far ends of the political spectrum. At a time where hatred against the establishment is brewing, the Conservatives will carefully enforce more right-wing policies. Meanwhile, Labour’s ‘unelectable’ position under Corbyn won’t appeal to the electorate. With that in mind, the Liberal Democrats will continue to rise as voters long for a middle ground.
The Liberal Democrats have been blessed with a stress-free rebirth, free from the scrutiny of the right-wing press. Most people have presumed that the party is extinct, wiped out after the 2015 General Election, but under the fresh leadership of Tim Farron, the Lib Dems are making a comeback. Whilst young voters may resent their broken promise on tuition fees, those longing for a party to fulfil the need for left-wing policies may be tempted by the party which aims to “balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”.
I’ve already talked about how the Liberal Democrats should have been at the forefront of the fight against tuition fees, and that would have been the best way for the party to heal the open wound left by Nick Clegg. Whilst that is something Lib Dems still continue to address, the Tories are still recovering from the internal war caused by Brexit, and Labour is trying to deal with the remaining issues of the Iraq War and the conflict within the Parliamentary Labour Party. When you look at it like this, the Liberal Democrats have less of a remnant to get rid of.
Whilst Tuesday’s poll puts the Conservatives at a 16-point lead ahead of Labour (with the Liberal Democrats on 8% of the vote), we must remember the times when the polls get it wrong, and the fact that May’s government will slowly start to introduce far-right policies which will feel out-of-place in a post-Brexit society.
Theresa May’s election as Prime Minister may have brought some temporary stability, but uncertainty still lingers amongst the general public. In-fights will only frustrate the electorate more. Now is the time for a united party, and the Liberal Democrats may be the party which fits the bill.
Brexit has forced us to redefine our society. Existential crises have hit the two main political parties, with talks about Cameron’s replacement and a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn dominating the newspaper headlines. Attitudes in Britain have changed because of the decision to leave the European Union, to an extent where we don’t completely know what politics, or being British is anymore.
After a leave vote, the electorate is fed up with lies and political propaganda. Corbyn’s promising ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ line he said last year would have worked wonders in a post-Brexit Britain, but not when his ‘half-hearted’ attitude led to an unsuccessful campaign from Labour for us to remain in the European Union.
“At a time where the Tory government is fractured, a dominant opposition could make monumental changes to government policy.”
It is this which has prompted rebellious Labour MPs to trigger an attack against Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party – a move completely unnecessary when he has overwhelming support from unions and the party members, who would obviously vote Jeremy back in again should he be unseated. At a time where the Tory government is fractured, a dominant opposition could make monumental changes to government policy. Instead, we are challenging all aspects of British culture and politics. It something which prompts so many questions that we simply don’t have the time to answer – there is no clear schedule or anything which is keeping British politics alive.
David Cameron was right to resign and create a stalemate across the whole of the political spectrum – not just his own party – to save his career. By delaying both the election of the new Conservative leader (and Prime Minister) and Brexit negotiations until around September, David Cameron will still be known as the Prime Minister who brought about a vote to leave the European Union, but he won’t be the one to actually do it. It’s up to his successor to live with that label, and to move Britain towards an independent state.
With that in mind, Boris Johnson made the right decision to turn Vote Leave’s post-Brexit plans into something which sounded like a manifesto. His idea of an Australian-style points-based system was one of the main policies which of course could only happen should a Vote Leave politician ever get close to the door of 10 Downing Street. With Michael Gove standing in the leadership contest, Vote Leave could see their plans for an independent Britain enacted through Gove as Prime Minister.
“The race to be the next Tory leader may be the vote which determines how the UK plans to leave the European Union, and whether the Conservative Party spirals over to the far-right or continues Cameron’s ‘legacy’.“
After all, there’s no doubt that the Conservative leadership contest will be about what each individual candidate plans to do with our relationship with the EU, rather than their manifestos being about new party policies. Earlier this week, Jeremy Hunt proposed that the general public should vote for a Brexit plan in a second referendum, but the race to be the next Tory leader may be the vote which determines how the UK plans to leave the European Union, and whether the Conservative Party goes in a completely new direction under Gove or continues Cameron’s agenda under May.
It’s a referendum which has seen both of the main parties shift in their political stance. The Labour Party is desperate to run away from Corbyn’s far-left attitude, and the Conservative Party is on the verge of a far-right uprising. If Labour and the Tories are both leaning off either side of the political spectrum, then the time may finally come for the Liberal Democrats to take centre stage.
As much as the vote to leave has highlighted Britain’s current attitudes towards the European Union, immigration and many other policies, the next Prime Minister will also have a huge part to play in defining Britain’s society and its politics. Questions about racism, xenophobia, the stigma surrounding immigration, the conflict between the younger and older generations are just some of the concerns that will need to be addressed as the country moves forward.
Politics always demands structure and definition, and after a vote to leave the European Union, this has broken down the foundations of British politics, and what it means to be British. It should not be up to far-right political parties, obsessed with nationalism, to decide our country’s new values.
The Conservatives’ constant attacking of people, not policies, has finally been exposed to us all. Zac Goldsmith’s shameful campaign for London Mayor showed us that when criticised, the Tories are forced to resort to name-calling to defend themselves. It’s the tactic which turned Prime Minister’s Questions into political theatre, and the British public are completely fed up with it.
In September last year, Jeremy Corbyn spoke in PMQs about the ‘theatrical’ style of the parliamentary session and how this should be changed following his election as the new Labour leader. Since then, PMQs has only become more dramatic. Jeers, hollers and put-downs still occur in Parliament and even make the headlines – one of the most notable being the Prime Minister’s “put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem” comment which he made earlier this year.
Granted, Labour MPs have shouted and cheered in the House of Commons since suggesting a new style of PMQs, but Jeremy Corbyn has always refrained from put-downs and one-liners. The Labour leader’s jokes tend to be more on the side of ‘banter’, whilst David Cameron’s comments are hostile. In fact, this arguing between Labour and Tories during PMQs – including the aforementioned ‘do up your tie’ dig – were all referenced in a recent party political broadcastby the Green party. The problem with the video was that the Greens cant change ‘PMQ theatre’, and they ‘told us things the public already knew and hated: PMQs is a theatre and we hate the ‘childish’ way in which the Tories attack individual Labour candidates.
There’s even statistics to prove it. In a report by the Hansard Society, 67% of people surveyed agreed that ‘there is too much party political point-scoring instead of answering the question”. It’s not just that the Tories’ comments are harmful, but said comments are the Conservatives’ main way of avoiding accountability in a key session where the Prime Minister should be held to account. How is this fair to British voters?
These harsh attacks actually have a more formal name – known as an ‘ad hominem’ remark. It’s basically a fancy name for picking on the person, not the topic of conversation, and it’s been used in PMQs, as well as the recent mayoral election. Unlike Prime Minister’s Questions – where David Cameron can launch these ‘ad hominem’ attacks under the safety of parliamentary privilege and away from the public – the Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith chose to make hostile remarks in a key election. People of the UK have to put up with avoided questions and put-downs in PMQs, but when these take place outside of parliament and in front of the electorate, a vote for Sadiq Khan has proven that the public cannot tolerate racism and personal attacks by the Tories any longer.
Much like how Labour’s Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone prompted an investigation into anti-Semitism, let us hope that Zac Goldsmith’s flawed campaign encourages the Tories to focus on their own policies and accountability, rather than continuously attacking the opposition.