When Theresa May called a snap election in April, opinion polls had her Conservative Party 20 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Media commentators predicted her government would be returned with a majority of around 90 seats.
For the entire campaign Corbyn and his fully costed policies – including more spending on government services, a more equitable tax system and re-nationalising former government owned enterprises – were dismissed as unaffordable and unworkable.
The narrative that Corbyn was a ‘disaster’ and that the only option was for people to vote for more austerity and corporate cronyism, was proclaimed not only by the Conservative Party, corporate interests and the mainstream media, but also by a significant portion of his own party.
In spite of this, over a million 18-24 year-olds registered to vote during the campaign. On the final day before registrations closed, a record 622,398 people, two-thirds of them under the age of 35, registered to vote. Turnout on Election Day was 68.7 percent, the highest in 20 years, and appeared to be highest in seats with large numbers of young voters.
The result was the biggest swing to Labour since 1945.
This is a victory for Jeremy Corbyn’s mantra of ‘for the many not the few’ over Theresa May’s hollow rhetoric about ‘strength and stability’, neither of which she now possesses.
Theresa May is still the Prime Minister but she leads a minority government dependent on the erratic, and Brexit-sceptical, Democratic Unionist Party. May’s government is weak and lacking credibility, it is Corbyn’s Opposition who are strong and stable. Labour’s policy platform is now firmly entrenched in the political mainstream and, unlike the government’s austerity measures, have given people hope.
Corbyn didn’t succeed because of an Obamaesque vision, or a Trudeau like charisma, he succeeded because of his policies, and the passion with which he campaigned on them. Those policies are as old and well-worn as Corbyn himself. They come from the same beliefs held by the equally uncharismatic Clement Attlee, who lead Labour to their biggest endorsement ever in 1945. They are the policies of Social Democracy. The foundations of the modern welfare state. We tried them before, and they worked very well. They created a fairer and more equitable society, a society we’ve started to lose.
When it comes to living in a capitalist system, we’ve exhausted our options. There’s nothing new to offer from anywhere on the political spectrum. What many incumbent Right wing governments are offering – austerity, curtailing of civil liberties, and ‘trickle-down’ economics – have all been tried before. They are as harmful today as they were before Social Democracy took up the reins in the wake of the most destructive war in history.
Social Democracy created the National Health Service, it entrenched free education as a right for all children, it generated near full employment and real wage growth. Social Democracy made capitalism bearable. It has educated more people, created more equity and fairness, and resulted in more peace and prosperity for more people than any other political system.
The UK election has shown that Social Democracy belongs very much in the political mainstream. It is austerity measures and corporate greed that is unaffordable and unworkable.
Social Democracy is far from perfect, and it won’t in itself save the planet from war, injustice or the destruction of our environment. It’s obvious however that our current political trajectory is creating more conflict, inequity and environmental degradation. Those who benefit the most from the political status quo are afraid of Social Democracy, they have good reason to be.