Well, Theresa May has played a blinder, hasn’t she?
Unlike some, I didn’t think her calling the general election was a bad idea. I thought she needed a stronger mandate from the people to negotiate Brexit otherwise she would be undermined by Remainers pointing out that she never won a general election. However, a lot of people got the impression that is was more of a ploy to kick Labour while they were down and reset the clock for a five year term starting this summer rather than in 2015. Whatever her reasons for calling it, she must be seriously regretting it now.
A lot of people are blaming the young for voting for Corbyn having not understood his history or policies. Basically, they’re saying he has offered them free stuff and they have fallen for it, being too young to remember the effect such policies had on the country a couple of generations ago. There may be some truth in this, but I’m not happy with it as an overall explanation. I didn’t like disparaging all Trump voters as being thick, backward racists and I don’t think we should dismiss Corbyn’s supporters in the same way. We’d be better off trying to find out exactly why people might have voted for him rather than May.
I saw Andrew McNeill’s interview with Jeremy Corbyn and I thought he came across very well. Not in the sense that I believed a word he was saying or wasn’t openly expressing a political stance that I found appalling, but Blair did much the same and look how everyone loved him before he went off starting wars. No, he just came across well, somebody who seemed reasonable. He didn’t look like someone who nobody could possibly vote for, at any rate.
The young folk won’t remember the IRA’s bombing campaign and were probably utterly confused when Islamic terrorists attacked Manchester and London and the right thought the best political response was to show Corbyn with Irishmen in balaclavas in the 1980s. If anybody under the age of 25 had the slightest idea what the connection was I’d be surprised. What they would have understood is Theresa May looking and sounding like a wrinkly, annoying Head Girl telling them she’s going to restrict the internet. It might not have occurred to May, but the young folk quite like their internet and won’t like plans to restrict it in any way. “Clamping down on online spaces” sounds a lot like a nagging parent banning their kid from going on YouTube, and coming from a 60 year old vicar’s daughter the effect would only be magnified.
So it is not difficult to see why people, particularly the young, were turned off May and preferred Corbyn. There may be other reasons too, wholly economic. Before we pompously dismiss the young for voting for free stuff, let’s look at who owns the wealth in Britain. No, not the Jews and not “the corporations”. It’s those who own property. One thing every government since 1997 has had in common is that they saw ever-increasing house prices as a central policy in order to trick the middle classes into believing they are wealthy. Having ensured that property was the only meaningful investment in Britain, successive governments dared not do anything that could make house prices fall – such as raising interests, or relaxing planning laws. In fact, it is hard to think of any government policy that has been more firmly entrenched than ensuring house prices don’t fall: I think Britain would go to war before that happens.
This policy, coupled with immigration which has put ever-more pressure on property prices particularly in London, has benefited people approximately over 40 to the detriment of anyone younger. If you were of an age around about 2000 when you were just buying your first house, suddenly you saw your “investment” increase threefold and you could strut around the office boasting of your business acumen as if you were Warren Fucking Buffet. Anyone younger found the price of a crumbling shithole to be “worth” eight times their salary and the deposit equivalent to what their parents paid for their 4-bed detached house in a leafy suburb in 1986.
I wondered when the younger folk were going to notice that they have been utterly stitched up by the generations above them, and now it appears they have. People say the country is divided between Leavers and Remainers, but from what I can see there is also a divide between the propertied classes and the younger generations who have had the ladder kicked from under them. All the Labour supporters I saw slagging of Corbyn were from the property-owning classes, who would have fully approved of the New Labour economic policies which saw the value of their houses magically skyrocket. Most of the Tories, whether they liked May or not, own their own homes.
To anyone sitting in a £600k house they paid £200k for and a mortgage with a 1.2% interest rate, things like the EU and Trident probably seem very important. To somebody just graduated on a salary of £25k per year and looking at paying £650 a month in a shared house worth £600k owned by a very average middle manager who happened to be born twenty years earlier, these issues won’t be so important. This situation will only have been exacerbated by the dismissive attitudes towards Millenials, who are portrayed by the media and middle classes as spoiled brats who don’t know the meaning of hard work.
Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking it was the current crop of middle classes who jumped out of aeroplanes over Normandy and ran up her beaches. A 40 year old now would have been born in 1977 and hit adulthood as Tony Blair took office. If he or she was lucky enough to be gifted soaring equity in their property, it is hard to believe the current crop of teenagers is any more molly-coddled by the government than they.
I am saying this with the benefit of hindsight, but it appears the middle classes who wanted either a return to New Labour or a Tory government (assuming there is a difference) vastly underestimated how out of touch they are with the younger generation. Sure, Corbyn promised them a lot of free stuff but maybe they think they are entitled to something given the older generations have helped themselves to a large chunk of the country’s wealth using no efforts of their own, and have been rubbing it in everyone’s faces for years.
Whatever the reasons, May has taken a battering and needs to go. This has thrown Brexit into disarray as her primary reason for calling the election was to unify the country behind the negotiations. As I said earlier, I am ambivalent as to whether Britain leaves the EU or stays in it, but I think any negotiations need to be done from a position of strength and by a person who the whole country believes is up to the job. It is clear that very few people think this person is Theresa May, and we need to find a replacement ASAP. That will probably mean another general election this year, then.