The divisive message of British nationalism has won. Heartbreakingly, that can’t be disputed. And now, you will be told it is time to “get over it”; “the public have spoken, you lost, move on.”
Those things will be said without a hint of irony. Without any self-awareness that it kind of proves the point you’ve been making all along. That this is not simply a game where you cheerlead your favourite side chosen by the colour of the shirt they wear, red or blue. Where you can win, gloat, and then move on to the next match. There might be triumphant laughter now, declarations of pride in a nation becoming “great” once again, and, devastatingly, a further rise in xenophobic rhetoric and hate crime across society. But, for the victors, political debate will likely soon fall out of everyday public conversation, because now that the big political decision has been made, politics won’t be such a crucial issue anymore for many of those who got what they wanted.
If you continue to engage in political debate, opposing the route the country has decided to take, you will be told that, “nothing will change anyway, the sun will still rise in the morning, and you, your friends’ and family’s lives will carry on as normal.” Without any acceptance that whilst that might be true for some, maybe even you or I, it won’t be the case for those so callously consigned to the harshest realities of their party’s calculated cruelty for at least another half a decade.
Whilst the sun will still rise for many, the darkness will linger for those forced onto the streets; for the millions waking up everyday not knowing where their next meal is coming from; for the doctors and nurses watching their health service collapse in front of their eyes; for the teachers witnessing the education system crumble all around them; for the disabled and sick forced back into work at the risk of their long-term health; for the LGBT and ethnic minority communities targeted by crimes of hate, incited and ignited by the rhetoric emanating from the party in office over the last decade; for the millions of EU nationals that have made the U.K. their home only to be told by the Prime Minister that they’ve been doing so for far too long, propped up by a baying mob screaming about now having their country “back.”
There is, of course, the possibility that the Prime Minister will initially sling some money their way, a sweetener to show that this government truly does care, but, alas, as the DUP discovered earlier this year, once their purpose has been served, they will be tossed aside and natural order restored.
Had the election somehow gone the other way, there would have been anger too; loud, vociferous confrontation. “Brexit” not being “done” overnight (N.B. it can’t be) would mean those solely fixated on that issue may have had to keep up their faux concern regarding the wider political state of this country for a whole 6 months more, but once the dust had settled, ultimately, for them the sun would still rise. The day to day lives of the most comfortable and well off wouldn’t have been drastically affected then, just as they won’t be now, only in this instance the vulnerable would’ve been offered some of the desperate support they need.
The high earners might have moaned, they may have cursed the “communists” in power for taking an extra few quid off them each month – Spotify might be worth paying £10 a month for but having to stick an extra tenner into HMRC’s coffers each month to help salvage our NHS would simply be one step too far – although they themselves, of course, would have also reaped the rewards of a reinvigorated health service and free higher education for their children.
However, it is those from the working classes who switched allegiances so dramatically, particularly in the fallen Labour heartlands, those whose day-to-day lives are heavily affected depending on which government is in power, whose concerns needed to be better understood and addressed. Criticism is often rightly placed at the door of the younger generations, and “champagne socialists”, for talking down to and patronising the working classes during debates about their own communities, but, following nine years of devastating austerity, it is fair to question just how such Labour strongholds could turn so drastically towards the party of damaging elitism. Was it really all just about leaving the European Union?
There is little use though in simply looking back and daydreaming about what might have been, a large focus must now be placed on what happens next, and what can be done better. The upcoming political fallout is going to be tough. Fingers of blame have already been pointed, in fact shoved, towards the “cultist” supporters of the socialist Labour movement, with the usual accusations of being “naive”, “unrealistic” and “extreme” flung around.
For four years the right-wing media machine has told us all that Jeremy Corbyn was dangerous and unelectable, but whilst the impartiality of the national mainstream media may be disgraceful, it is sadly unsurprising. What has been more alarming however, throughout Corbyn’s leadership, has been Labour’s liberal faction’s incessant, and very public, attacks on Corbyn at every possible opportunity along the way. His leadership has been belittled and undermined, his ideology labelled impossible, his belief in an equal society ridiculed.
And so the message from the “centre” today is clear, it is the fault of those who believed in Corbyn, and his values, that this election has been lost to the proponents of hate. His support has been unwavering; unwilling to heed warnings about the leadership of the party. Socialists have been too resistant to compromise on their policies of hope; ones no more radical than those in place across many nations in Europe. The Labour manifesto has been painted as too extreme by the very people responsible for championing it. With the honest, humble, compassionate man conducting the movement portrayed as a villain by many of those supposedly standing shoulder to shoulder with him.
And for what purpose?
So that New Labour’s repulsion towards, and desire to drive out, the socialist values that the Labour Party was built on could be given more importance than the challenge of the rising far-right?
The mudslinging stuck, and again, without a hint of irony, is now being used as the confirmation-bias to tell you that it was right all along, with the narrative formed that the electorate’s rejection of Corbyn proves evidential that the four-year onslaught carried out by many of his own MPs was justified, and not, in fact, significant causation of such outcome.
These failings of the party must be recognised and remembered, and while there will be justifiable frustrations from the vilified socialists towards the liberals that refused to offer genuine support for the Corbyn-led movement, there is little to be gained from falling into the same blame-game trap.
Wounds will be raw for a while, but there are signs of encouragement to take from the past few weeks in terms of engagement and support. The 10 million people who voted for the socialist programme and the thousands of others, many from the so-called “hard-line fringe” of the party, who held their nose and tactically lent their vote to another party in this election, compromising their principles to put practicality first, as the only way to have any influence under our bankrupt first-past-the-post (FPTP) political system, will not simply disappear overnight.
The Prime Minister may tell you that the country has now spoken loudly and clearly, but he does so knowingly ignoring the fact that under a system of proportional representation he would in fact lose his such celebrated majority. That the incumbent of 10 Downing Street so successfully shifted all discourse during the election campaign towards the EU debate, dubbing this the ‘Brexit election’, has been hailed as the decisive factor in his sweeping victory, yet glosses over the fact that 52.67% of the vote share actually went towards pro-EU membership or second referendum supporting parties compared to the 47.33% share in favour of leaving the EU.
Though it cannot be denied that the Labour Party’s position of offering a confirmatory referendum was a major contributory factor in their devastating results in the north of England, it is somewhat ironic to now see such position – as the only party attempting to reach out to both sides of the EU membership divide – ridiculed by those same people insisting, “it’s now time for everybody to come together.”
The soundbites about “respecting the will of the people,” will carry on louder than ever before whilst simultaneously Scotland’s voice will continue to be ignored, and the Prime Minister will attempt to shut down each and every conversation about a second Scottish Independence referendum, dragging the country out of the EU against it’s wishes in little over a month’s time.
If our FPTP electoral system is prescribed to express England’s emphatic rejection of European Union membership, then Scotland has done likewise regarding the union of the U.K., only more distinctly and decisively.
For the first time in history Northern Ireland has returned more MPs, and a larger vote share, in favour of Irish nationalist parties over British unionist ones. Whilst Johnson may have secured his lifelong dream of being elected Prime Minister, his plans in both Northern Ireland and Scotland look likely to break up the union that he’s so preciously desired to rule over.
Even in Wales, which like England voted in favour of leaving the European Union three and a half years ago and witnessed a large swing towards the pro-“Brexit” parties in Thursday’s election, both vote share and seats returned still favoured the Labour Party over those in office.
This election looks increasingly like English nationalism deciding to go it alone.
It may have been a devastating and deflating few days for the opposition, and though it will take some time for everyone to rest, recover and refresh, this is by no means the time to give up on the fight to build a better society.
The terminology of “left”, “centre” and “right” must not continue to manipulate the debate. Whilst the current form of nationalist conservatism is definitively polar opposite to the socialist Labour movement, the widespread insistence to endorse the notion that the political spectrum follows a simple linear scale only serves the false equivalency between the two ideologies, as one is extreme, so must the other be, reinforcing an underlying narrative that as the natural middle-ground, “centrism” must therefore represent the tolerant, non-partisan majority.
To win the future debate, the positivity and possibilities offered by an open, multi-cultural, equal and caring society must be placed at the forefront of forthcoming discussions. Only once the politics of division and hate are consigned to the darkness can we ensure that the sun will rise in the morning for everyone.