As May forms an unholy alliance with the DUP, there is a sense that a movement has been born, writes Jamie Kelsey-Fry.
Britain General Election of 2017 saw the biggest vote share increase for Labour since under Clement Attlee’s leadership in 1945. It was greater even than Tony Blair’s landslide victory.
Unlike Tony Blair though, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign faced two obstacles: an unprecedented media onslaught that targeted him and his allies with unrelenting, personal attacks; and a large faction of his own MPs hanging on to Blair’s vision and actively working against their leader.
Corbyn’s movement spectacularly defeated both obstacles by winning 35 new seats, turning the ‘landslide victory’ predicted by Conservatives, Labour’s Corbyn objectors, and all the corporate media commentariat – into a hung parliament.
One can only speculate how different the results would have been if all his party had been behind him, or if he had enjoyed the kind of cosy relationship that Tony Blair had with the hitherto ‘kingmaker’ media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Theresa May now prepares to establish a new coalition with the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP). We are now looking at a government that will be even more right-wing than May. The DUP are anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights and some are even climate change deniers.
In spite of all of this, this is a genuine grassroots victory. A movement has been born: whatever the corporate media and the machinations of Westminster, ordinary people from across Britain have started to see through the destructive ideology of neoliberalism and its three key tactics of deregulation, privatization and punitive austerity. All coupled with increasingly generous corporate welfare, turning a blind eye to tax avoidance schemes and the kind of casino banking practices that led to the 2008 financial crash.
Likewise, the behavior of corporate media, including the BBC, have engendered a sense of disgust and betrayal that has driven even more people to seek alternative sources of media and commentary – some that are not controlled by the small cabal of usual media owners.
Our own series of #GE2017 guest blogs started with Mark Curtis’ description of the Conservatives’ foreign policy that was almost completely absent in corporate media, showing us to be a ‘primitive warmonger’ that has no problems with brokering deals with some of the most tyrannical regimes on the planet.
This grew in horrendous relevance over the next weeks as Britain experienced two despicable terrorist attacks, and the public began to make the connections between our government’s support of despotic regimes that can be linked to the funding, training and arming of terrorist organizations. The public has begun to realize how they are misled by corporate media, which, although appearing independent and rich with views and opinions, actually seems to operate under a very controlled narrative.
Corbyn’s key slogan ‘for the many not the few’ echoes the ‘we are the 99 per cent’ rhetoric of the Occupy movement of 2011, and the movement that has built around Corbyn has shown many close parallels.
It has been easy for masses of the public – particularly the young, who have come out to vote in record numbers – to see Corbyn’s Labour as a movement that belongs to them.
His choice to use his first Prime Minister’s Question Time as a way to ask questions sent to him from ordinary members of the public – a choice that was ridiculed at the time – has become symbolic of a form of politics that genuinely listens to the public instead of dictating to them.
Likewise, Occupy was a movement that created a forum for ordinary people to be heard and come together to share their views of what they saw to be a major crisis that was not going to be fixed by the representatives and institutions that had caused it.
Occupy specifically saw that a movement needed to be created outside of the established political and corporate realities that they saw as having failed them so spectacularly.
Everywhere that Corbyn has campaigned, he has received crowds greeting him, and this has been due to his ability to tap into that much deeper notion that establishment politics is dead – it ceased to represent the people, and instead represents the demands of the corporate bodies and financial institutions.
In contrast, Theresa May, backed among others by hedge funders and dirty oil, could hardly fill a room when she made her last campaign appearances. In a very real sense, the public has awoken to the fact that the election was not about Tory versus Labour, it was more about a rare chance to challenge the rule of the 1 per cent.
As our April 2017 Populism issue highlighted, the word ‘populism’ does not need to be a dirty word associated with the rise of far right, xenophobic demagogues. It can also be a movement of the people, for the people, and a stark challenge to business as usual.
As May forms an unholy alliance with the DUP, there is the sense that British politics is about to transform, and that transformation will not be marked by corporate media, and will not be forged in the corridors of parliament: it will be found in the streets instead.
It will be found amidst the rallies and gatherings, that are only bound to grow from what Jeremy Corbyn has started by touching people, and by delivering to the 99 per cent of us that rarest of notions again: hope.