Una Mullally: Corbyn's success is a result of youth discontent

The British media and political establishment failed to predict a revolt by the young

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was time for Prime Minister Theresa May to stand down after election results indicated she had lost the support and the confidence of voters. Video: Reuters

 

Whatever happens in the aftermath of the British general election, Theresa May failed to get the mandate she sought and her reputation is in tatters, Brexit continues to be a noose rather than an opportunity, and Ukip has been confined to history.

But more than that, there is a clear dislike of the Tory party and its policies under May following the vote for Brexit, as well as a yearning for a more equal society.

On top of that, the British mainstream media’s demonisation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backfired, or, more worryingly for Britain’s media, its hysteria about him didn’t matter.

He was patronised and ridiculed in a manner that ignored how people felt about him and his party’s policies.

Corbyn understood that equality has become central to young people’s politics

With such a large array of information available to people, the conservative British tabloids are now the equivalent of an aul fella shouting in the corner of a pub.

Sure, they make a lot of noise and occasionally cause enough controversy for other punters to shout “Ah, here!” in response to their ramblings. But ultimately they are irrelevant. No one is listening, no one is paying attention, their influence has waned and they are out of touch and unfashionable.

Tabloid screaming may have worked at a time when the dominant force in information was the old media across press, radio and television. But now it’s the internet, and Photoshopping Corbyn in a bin on a front page doesn’t actually have an impact.

It’s worth mentioning that Rupert Murdoch’s papers are the ones that have struggled the most to carve out a relevant online presence.

Negative campaigning

Whatever happens next, young people can claim the biggest victory from all of this. Corbyn’s messaging, for a generation very much aware of and inspired by grassroots activism, cut through with the kind of energy conjured up by Bernie Sanders in the United States.

There will be comparisons drawn between the media’s treatment of Trump and how Corbyn was treated. But they are two very different scenarios, not least because May was the one who campaigned negatively, talking about tearing up human rights laws, seething about “tolerance” and stoking ugly fears. Corbyn offered an alternative, a manifesto that resonated. He offered optimism.

As Corbyn’s support grew online, May refused to give the campaign viral moments that could have made an impact. In an era where communication is everything, she pulled back from debates and verged on the curiously terrible in media performances.

In an era where U-turns and fudging are seized upon, and being hypocritical is unforgivable when authenticity is a precious currency, May bungled her own party’s manifesto.

Corbyn and those close to him understood the undercurrent of discontent, the desire to dismantle austerity, and the realisation that fairness is in fashion, that equality has become central to young people’s politics.

The latter are questioning the economic and political structures that have completely sold their generation short, landing them with insecure jobs, student debt and the inability to buy a home.

Activism is central to youth culture, around women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, LGBT rights and anti-fascism. Brexit stung, it was time to strike back.

Meanwhile, newspapers remained full of people who think and look the same. Journalists lecture people about echo chambers and liberal bubbles, without acknowledging that they too – we too – also exist in one. Everyone does.

Hanging out with and conversing with people who think and live like you wasn’t invented by the internet. And so the influence of British tabloids on elections has disintegrated.

No amount of Corbyn-bashing and May-fawning could steer opinion in the direction Murdoch & Co wanted it to go. As I wrote last month, the rough ride Corbyn got in the press, if anything, actually bolstered his anti-establishment credentials.

Generation gap

Grime stars, at the cutting edge of youth culture in Britain, called on young people to vote for Labour.

Stormzy spoke to the Guardian about his peers not being able to afford housing in London. AJ Tracey made a video for Labour talking about student debt and how the Tories wanted to dismantle the NHS. Jme met Corbyn to talk about the youth vote, a vote that is now very obviously mobilised, politicised, engaged and one which has exposed a generation gap that can exist only after the emergence of a new generation with distinctive characteristics.

The media and the political establishment is blindsided but the kids know what’s going on

An older generation confuses the much-maligned “identity politics” (previously known as civil rights) as self-indulgence when it is actually about equality and community.

Although old-school media commentators indulge themselves in the horse race of electoral politics, the youngsters are talking about issues.

May called the election for cynical reasons. The mind boggles as to why a Tory leader would call an unnecessary vote, given what happened with that other unnecessary poll: the Brexit referendum.

People saw through her scheme and she’s left with Therexit. Whatever the make-up of the next British government, young people – who overwhelmingly voted Remain – finally have a victory of sorts.

The shy vote is always where you don’t expect it to be. The media and the political establishment is blindsided but the kids know what’s going on.

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