Hope renewed

By Bernadette Meaden
June 9, 2017

This morning I am more hopeful about UK politics than I have been in a long time. The events of the night have produced a fluid and somewhat messy situation, and there are very difficult times ahead. There are cuts planned which will leave the poorest families even poorer, and our schools and NHS in dire straits. But it seems that at last, the grip of austerity and neoliberalism on the public psyche seems to be ever so slightly loosening.

What has been done in the name of austerity, to our public services and to the poorest and most disadvantaged people in our communities, seems finally to be registering with the wider public, and as time goes on surely dissatisfaction and opposition to this can only grow. We are stil stuck with austerity, but for the first time in years it is facing a serious challenge.

Democracy is the winner here, as the election campaign proved that given the opportunity to consider two very different political approaches, the public were receptive, engaged, and willing to change their minds. Almost a year after the death of Jo Cox, it was immensely heartening to see that peaceful debate and campaigning could bring about real political movement.

Equally heartening was the clear evidence that the disgraceful smears and divisive rhetoric of the right wing press may not be as effective as they once were. For a party leader to be demonised and vilified on a daily basis yet still see a surge in support suggests that people are no longer under any illusions about the motives of billionaire non-dom press barons. Perhaps this is due to social media, where people can within minutes supply rebuttal evidence for stories that are simply untrue, or expose information that is being deliberately suppressed. Or, even better, perhaps people are just increasingly rejecting xenophobia, racism, division, and the stigmatising of the poor which has characterised much of the press in recent years.

For the first time in many years, the electorate was presented with policies which were socialist. The types of policies which are considered mainstream in much of Europe, but are portrayed in the British media as dangerously extreme - almost too extreme to seriously contemplate. Yet large numbers of people saw the merits of free education, nationalised railways and fairer taxes. They were at last given permission to imagine a better country, where foodbanks aren’t necessary and a secure home and job is not too much to ask for. They were, in fact, being encouraged to be aspirational, to aspire to a kinder, fairer society. Government and media can no longer keep pretending that aspiring to such things is unrealistic, naïve or unreasonable. Decency is not unaffordable.

And perhaps best of all was the way our young people rose to the occasion, registering and turning out to vote in bigger numbers than anyone predicted. Whatever happens next, if those young people remain informed and politically engaged, they will strengthen our democracy and eventually ensure that the powerful cannot go on simply protecting wealth and privilege.


© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

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