So I was wrong. Perhaps naïvely, I did not think the Tories would win with a majority this election, and I was almost right. I stand by what I said the other week however, if the election was the day after my post there is no chance the Tories would win a majority, and the outcome of the election would probably be more favourable for all.
The Tories in reflection, definitely had the stronger campaign (although I am not saying Labour’s was not also effective). However to me, having watched all the debates, all the Question Times, I would say that the Tories won largely on the backs of the economy. It is fair to say that Labour did not tackle the fallacy that the economy crashed because of them and this from the get-go gave the Tories the upper hand, even if it is not necessarily wholly true. Similarly, it was the perhaps predictable pander to people’s fears of a British government held at ransom by a radical bunch of left wing socialists from across the border. This was clearly a successful strategy, and something neither the SNP nor Labour effectively combatted. As I write this I am listening to the rolling coverage of the election on the BBC, and, I do not know his name, but a man interestingly noted that every vote for the SNP reduced the likelihood of a Labour win, partly because they would be taking Labour seats, but also it shattered those in England and Wale’s confidence in a post-election Labour government, one which would inevitably have to be propped up by, not a Scottish party, but a nationalist party – it is the nationalist part which fielded the danger. This is partly where I am torn with my support for the SNP – I am wholly in support of more Scottish representation in parliament, and and really taken by Nicola Sturgeon, but it was poor planning in terms of her party tactics, even if I did not realise this myself when the election campaign was happening. Because of this, both Labour and the SNP need to rethink how they will approach these issues in the future, because after all, Sturgeon and the SNP ultimately failed her electorate – elected on the back of a promise to ‘oust’ David Cameron, a promise she has not been able to keep.
That aside, I am still struggling to fathom how the Tories managed to pull this win off to such a great extent. Everyone was in a state of disbelief at those exit polls. My flatmate ran in and told me and I could feel my face drop. Almost every person I spoke to was either voting Labour or Lib Dem, certainly not the Conservatives. When I consider this, I feel maybe it’s the fact I know mostly young people, and their associated naïvety. At the start of my first year in university my economics lecturer said everyone comes into economics left wing and optimistic and leaves right wing and as a pessimist. I find myself wondering if this is true? Is this what has just happened to every university graduate ever? I am regularly told that you grow up and begin to understand the real world when you have to live in it and pay your own bills for a few years, and I guess I can see why.
That being said, I think it is fair to say the the Tories have most of their support from people over say 35, and that is perhaps why this election is especially devastating. As if young people’s voices weren’t being heard enough before – given the governments complacency after they raised tuition fees and all the subsequent marches, rallies, occupations and social unrest. No there is effectively no one for us. Labour’s promises were no way near perfect, but a reduction of tuition fees by a third was obviously never not going to be welcomed – it would have been a start. And now what? The Tories want to prevent people under the age of 25 claiming multiple types of benefits, they want to get more people into apprenticeships (despite the fact from my experience I have found no one actually wants one), and they are apparently ‘open’ to increasing tuition fees even more.
I have a lot of friends who have been heavily involved in the University of London occupation, campaigning for a lot of noble causes. Perhaps shamefully, I regret not getting involved – it was perhaps a combination of laziness on my heart, and my own complacency regarding the issues I so often say I care about. This month the LSE occupation, one of, if not the longest ones running at a London university, was forcefully brought to an end with an injunction letter serviced to them after controversial (yet ultimately right, in my opinion), Russell Brand came to answer a few questions after the occupation screened his new film, the Emperor’s New Clothes (which is well worth a watch). Whether you like Russell Brand as a political persona or not, his film is undeniably enlightening, and it should have been released much sooner, to a much wider audience (although the occupation was packed with people wanting to watch it). It revealed in a concise manner a lot of what gets mixed up in the barrage of different media outlets released each day; effectively how unfair the past 5 years of a mostly Tory government has been on ordinary people, people the government is supposed to be working for. Bias and propaganda aside, when you appreciate the numbers, if does leave you worried about the prospect of what a Conservative-majority government will do to the UK and to its societal pillars, namely the NHS, education and governmental welfare.
The importance of the occupation aside, the right-wing media’s barrage of attacks on Russell Brand, perhaps not unfairly, a self-branded spokesperson for the young (despite his not-that-young age. How can all of these attacks, perhaps on what young people actually consider important – fairness, equality, equal opportunities amongst others – inspire any sort of confidence? With young voters so often overlooked and ignored, having their voices manifested behind Brand’s media vehicle was perhaps their best chance of getting their voices heard, and that’s why I supported Miliband’s decision to meet with Brand in an interview that although did not really reveal much, it at least showed he was willing to engage. Young people (according to conversations I have had as well as my Facebook feed) are everywhere pretty devastated that their votes amounted to virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I think lots of people thought change was coming, and this sudden loss in moment, perhaps a temporary blip in the left or just progressive liberals success over the past 5 years, is certainly disheartening, but they are not down and out. Even before the day of the election there were plans to occupy Downing Street just in case Cameron tried to get into No. 10 when he technically had not won the election. Similarly today, I see a couple of people attending this Facebook event – the Radical Left’s General Assembly, and one of my friends total disbelief culminated in saying ‘We’re fucked, mums going on strike and I’m gonna throw some bricks [sic]’. I think this is the beauty of the young (and old), mobilised left – they never give up, and this is something which should be bolstered given the unexpected result of Thursday’s election. I know that this is something that will increase in momentum over the next five years, and the feeling is hopefully the Tories will mess things up so much that there is no chance of them winning a third term (a term without Cameron).
Overall, I am sad and certainly eating my words, the Tories won (though not necessarily fair and square). I did not expect this result in the slightest, and was actually optimistic that Labour could actually win, but I remain hopeful. I’m optimistic that something better will eventually, however long it takes, come from this election. For all I know, the Tories might do a great job and in 5 years society could be great (a long shot, I know). That being said, I will now try harder than ever to stick to my promise of escaping the UK to Australia for a year, and today has just made that dream all the more important.
(I intended to post on Wednesday, before the election, with some final thoughts, but I could not finish my post in time, therefore I scrapped that and wrote this one instead).