By the time you’ve read this, this column will already have aged. The election is over, and we (probably) now have a Government. The last column I wrote was about how grim the polls looked for Labour and how the notion that people being super into certain policies doesn’t mean they’ll actually vote for Labour. Now, a week is a long time in politics, but these past two weeks have been absolutely forever in terms of the polls. Labour, at the time of writing, are now behind by a small matter of single digits, with some sources at one point reporting that the Tories had revised their internal ceiling to about a 70 seat majority and their floor to a hung parliament. I still can’t believe I’m typing that, but here we are. Labour have managed to turn things around in a big way.
It’s not all cakes and sunshine though. My prediction is that my last column in fact won’t age that badly – and I don’t think that’s just hubris on my behalf. Labour are still trailing the Conservatives on leadership and the economy, two crucial factors in 2015 terms, but let’s give the credit that is due to Labour. They’ve run a really good campaign. In fact, this election will be really interesting in terms of studying what good campaigns actually do. Labour went into this absolutely terribly, as real no-hopers. They’ve run a great campaign where they’ve done basically everything right and the Conservatives have done basically everything wrong. The result on the 9th will tell us an awful lot about the impact of campaigns – but the impact they’ll have right now is more important than what historians and politics lecturers will make of this in ten years’ time.
To look at YouGov’s polling, Labour could actually do quite well. But I think it’s doubtful, because their analysis has a high youth turnout. And there’s usually not a high youth turnout. People angry at the influence of the grey vote rarely stop to look in the mirror and ask why it is that older people seem to be catered to by various manifesto promises – the answer, of course, is because the youngsters don’t turn up on polling day.
Look, I’m going to try to spend much of my time on this column being impartial. Those who know me personally know which way my political bread is buttered, and I don’t credit myself with enough levelheadedness to actually be able to actually be entirely impartial – I’ve no doubt that my personal prejudices will seep through frequently. But from my perception, and I could be wrong, most people on this campus are Labour, Green or ‘Don’t Care’.
So vote. If it’s a left-wing government you want, it’s not out of the question this year to be able to achieve it. But I really worry about that message, because I view the potential harms as decidedly grim. I can’t help but wonder if the unfettered Corbyn optimism is actually a positive. People are making much of certain polls placing Labour within sniffing distance of the Tories, and I don’t condemn anyone for optimism. The analysis of the polling should have galvanised the young and lefty – it should have been a huge impetus for everyone, but on the off chance it isn’t, let me put it like this. The take-home headline was that Tories are over. (If you want it.)
But like I said, that’s a worrying message. Because what if you all do vote, and May remains in office? This isn’t improbable. It’s actually the likely scenario (Graduates vote, I assume many of you will vote as we’re all future Grads, I also assume a Tory win.) So what if the whole of QMUL comes out to vote and yet don’t get what they want? I suspect disillusionment, but I hope for engagement. As I type this, I’m struck by the oddly detached tone I’m taking. I really want to emphasise that I’m not viewing this election as some grand experiment.
But I hope that if people turn out and the result doesn’t go as you’d like, then the response is to remain engaged, and ask questions about why it is that your party lost. Academically, when you tried hard and didn’t get what you wanted, I imagine that you knuckled down and got engaged into your work. I hope this mentality is the one we take after this election.
Join a local party. Knock on a few doors. It’s always a good time to take an active role in politics.