In the biggest political earthquake for a generation, it’s far from obvious who’ll soon be grabbing the keys of No 10.
But it’s not too early to learn one lesson, and that’s that young people in this country have had enough. We’re tired of being told we shouldn’t be angry, fed up with being labelled as lazy, naive and deserving of nothing more than we currently get. If the exit polls are to be believed, then it’s young people who have changed the course of politics in this country.
They said we would tweet and trade Facebook posts, happy to be “keyboard warriors”, but wouldn’t bother to go further. Recent low turnouts in the youth vote meant we’d never show up, they’d said. Tonight’s results look set to show that young people aren’t naturally apathetic, we were just waiting for a political party to reflect how we felt.
Don’t forget that young people not voting isn’t a fact of nature, and historically this just hasn’t been the case. From the 1960s until as late as the 1992 general election, around 66 per cent of 18-24 year-olds turned up at the ballot box to vote. But when Tony Blair took the reins of the Labour Party, it abandoned the working class, progressive politics it for so long represented. Time, effort and policies were focused on upwardly mobile swing seats. New Labour as we now know it was born – and young voter apathy built.
The ascendancy of Corbyn as Labour leader has once again given young people a political party to get behind. It’s no coincidence we’ve now returned to the electoral fold.
But it’s not just at the ballot box that young people have shown our critics we’re not what they’d like us to be: it’s been on the doorstep, on campuses and in colleges, on social media too.
Today I visited five London marginals, being fought by Labour candidates from all sides of the party’s political spectrum. In each and every constituency an army was assembled: hundreds of young people (and plenty of older ones too) had taken days off or time out of studying to make sure that voters turned up when it counted.
Organisations such as Momentum were painted as brimming with Trotskyist entryists, a small fringe group of Militant leftovers with no comprehension of the reality of politics today. But for anyone looking beyond the headlines it’s long been clear this lie was wishful thinking. In meetings, events and in communities across the country, a movement has been growing, full of dedicated young people with a vision of something better, for us and society as a whole.
It should come as no surprise, really, given where our politics formed. Just think back to 2010, and the mobilisation of students, when we were pledged false promises that ended up being left broken and forgotten, we took to the streets. What was portrayed as mindless thuggery and misplaced anger was in fact the politicisation of a generation. We learnt how to organise, how to mobilise and how to campaign for our own rights; it was clear no one else was going to do it for us.
It’s no coincidence that those who sat in student occupations, who marched on Parliament and who expressed their discontent ended up becoming many of the same people who’ve put in the groundwork throughout this monumental campaign.
Because fundamentally it’s in the interests of those who don’t agree with us to call us snowflakes, to call us lazy, to repeat the lie that we’ll never bother and we don’t care. It means they can take away our housing benefit and sing the praises of zero-hours contracts without a care in the world, reassured in an echo chamber which repeats that we’ll sit quietly and take it. They thought that with every knock, our apathy would be increased and we would give up on democracy altogether. They didn’t realise that they could push us too far.
They told us we couldn't change things and that we wouldn’t. They said we don’t deserve to access free higher education just like they did, and a £10 minimum wage was a pipe dream we would never get. If the exit polls are to believed, then we have proved them wrong. The future of this country, as far as I can see it, is in good hands.Reuse content