The general election and a new world breathing

By Jill Segger
June 14, 2017

There are times in our common lives when the tune changes, the light shifts a little and what had seemed monolithically oppressive begins to crack. Possibility starts to nudge at the apparently intractable and hope becomes something more than wishful thinking.

This is what has been happening across the country since the exit polls of 8 June first began to lift the spirits of millions. The best outcome had seemed to be that Theresa May's majority would not be greatly increased. That it would be wiped out seemed too much for even the most optimistic. We had not dared to allow ourselves to believe that Labour would gain seats throughout the night – increasing their share of the vote by more than any leader since 1945 – nor that they would turn previously safe Conservative seats into marginals.

A wretchedly wooden and evasive campaign performance from the Prime Minister, together with her floundering response to anger over the 'Dementia Tax' was countered by an increasingly sure-footed and impressive Jeremy Corbyn. Electoral rules on equal media coverage made the Leader of the Opposition far more visible and large swathes of the electorate liked what they saw.

Nothing is going to be quite the same again. Those parts of the corporate media which had sought to destroy Corbyn through misrepresentation by omission and commission have been dealt a blow that may prove to be the beginning of the end of their influence. For despite all the sniping, belittling  and outright untruths, Jeremy Corbyn was still standing and unbowed when the final bell rang. The diminution of the power of Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Viscount Rothermere and Richard Desmond is to the good of democracy. Because in a democracy, papers should seek to explore policies in a critical manner, to take well-reasoned stances but not to make kings.

Nor can the lazy protest of inchoate discontent carry the weight it once did. “They're all the same” is manifestly no longer true. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has shown a clear alternative to the neo-liberal consensus which had so insouciantly wounded and abandoned those outside its pale. The distasteful response of many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party to the popular leader who embodied and enabled this challenge was a disgrace. That most of them have now admitted their failings and, with varying degrees of grace, apologised for them, must be welcomed. Schadenfreude is an ugly emotion which does not chime with the new dispensation now coming into being. It is time to draw whatever is positive and hopeful together, to turn aside from past shortcomings and to build for a better future. The re-invigorated engagement of young people is both a pledge of, and an invitation to do exactly that. Those of us who are no longer young cannot afford to look away.

Yes, by simplistic binary calculation, the Conservatives won and Labour lost. But very few really think that is in any way a meaningful summary of what has happened, nor that it is a forecast for the future. Austerity is over. Hard Brexit is no longer a realistic prospect and the harshest policies of the Conservatives' manifesto will not now be implemented. There are many pieces of wisdom which point to the true nature of what has begun: the last being first, the mighty cast down. And for me, these words from Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.co/quakerpen

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