The upcoming snap elections for the British Parliament to be held on June 8, will be a watershed moment for the country. Held in the shadow of Brexit, the elections were called by Theresa May to strengthen her ability to negotiate the terms of exit, but with Jeremy Corbyn and the labour party gaining day by day the result may surprise many
In a surprise snap election called by the British PM Theresa May, post-Brexit England will go to vote in a week on June 8. The election may not pan out the way she hoped: repeated surveys and polls have narrowed the distance between her and Jeremy Corbyn. The latest results released on May 30–31, put the Labour party three points behind the Conservatives. According to YouGov, a polling company, chances of a hung house also exist.
This election stands in the midst of several political processes unfolding not only in England, but all over the world.
In April, when the elections were announced May was buoyant and optimistic about an easy win. The labour party was in a disarray under Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrats weak and the UKIP, after Brexit, were riding high.
On April 18, after chairing a committee meeting, at a press conference she held outside 10 downing street, May said, “Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership, and since I became prime minister the government has delivered precisely that. Despite predictions of immediate financial and economic danger, since the referendum, we have seen consumer confidence remain high, record numbers of jobs, and economic growth that has exceeded all expectations.”
Initially, May’s posturing and optimism was at a high. The pollsters and the spike in the pound sterling also echoed May’s optimism. The difference between the Conservatives and their closest rivals, the Labour Party was above twenty points, signalling a rout. While reports expected a landslide win similar to that of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair for the Conservatives.
Labour Manifesto Leak: Left Populism
In the run-up to the General Elections, Jeremy Corbyn, the much maligned, leader of the Labour party has been battling a sinking ship. Before the election, Corbyn was seen as an autocrat unwilling to leave the leadership to others. Now, however, the leader of the Labour Party has become a rallying point for much of the youth in the England: a record number of the youth is registering to vote and giving a bounce to social media campaign.
The leak of the labour manifesto, and its formal release on May 12 changed the election altogether. The leak, generated interest in the party’s policies. The document has been touted as a radical vision that plans a fairer Britain post Brexit.
It promised reverse the ‘growing inequity within British society which has been exacerbated by seven years of a Conservative government’. The document promises to abolish university tuition fees, renationalise the railways and boost infrastructure amongst the several promises. In a youtube video Corbyn called the manifesto ‘for the many’, while he called the Conservative manifesto ‘for the few’
The ambitious document has been followed up by a vigorous social media strategy. Videos and social media messaging has allowed the Labour Party, to string a narrative that is anti-establishment and put Jeremy Corbyn at centre of a vote that is for reclaiming the rights for the ordinary citizen. The effort then became to humanise, and make Corbyn a relatable leader who spoke for the youth, the disenfranchised and made his ‘radical’ views against the British ‘establishment’ more palatable. He spent time with musicians, went to football matches and challenged Theresa May to a public debate. However, the Labour party still trailed despite his best efforts.
While the distance between the two parties remained as wide as 15 points, Labour began to inch upwards crossing the thirty percent mark.
Manchester Bombing and a change in narrative
The brutality of terror and its senseless targeting of children on May 22, in Manchester’s Arena Stadium, sent shockwaves throughout the world. Campaigning was suspended till May 26, as both parties allowed families and the nation to mourn. After a terrorist attack, conventional judgement gives the incumbent an upper hand in the run up to an election. Theresa May was pegged to benefit from the change in narrative towards security, as she was Home Secretary for six years, she promised to be a safer bet in comparison to her opponent.
However, things drastically changed, the lead that the Conservatives took for granted began slipping. In a week, the Labour Party is snapping at the heels of the incumbents. Jeremy Corbyn took a radical position on the Manchester attack while condemning it, he pointed to the involvement of the British Foreign Policy in the Middle-East, he linked ‘terror at home to the wars abroad’. In continuation, with his long-standing point of the involvement of British Forces in Iraq being illegal and to bringing Tony Blair and others under the trial for the war crimes.
This narrative shifted the momentum in favour of the Labour Party, who have slowly and steadily climbed to 39 percent, while differing polls point to different gaps, the truth is that the lead once held by May has been squandered. PM May, after the Manchester Attack, went after Corbyn. This attack was rebutted by the Labour Party, and accused the government of not ‘telling the truth’.
This strategy has been gaining much traction. The opposition has steadily attempted to paint the Conservative government as liars beginning from calling for ‘snap election’ to many of their policies. This strategy has been paying dividends, May has shown her unwillingness to engage in a public debate with Jeremy Corbyn and this has seriously hampered her electoral fortunes.
Now seen as a leader who speaks the truth, challenges the establishment, the Labour Party candidate has become a leader backed by the youth. Young men and women are rallying behind him, on social media websites, in comment sections and he is seen as a man who may actually now win.
BritainJeremy CorbynLabour PartyManchester BombingMargaret ThatcherPoliticsTheresa MayTony BlairUK Election