One of the (few) things I remember distinctly from my politics A Level was the huge problem facing UK democracy – political disillusionment of the youth. Turnout in the 18-24 demographic has been on the decline since the millennium, and with the tendency for older people to produce a higher turnout and be more right wing, the process of political disengagement has been a vicious cycle. The more right wing a government becomes, the less represented young people feel, which leads to them checking out of a system they feel does not involve them any more. At the rather naive age of seventeen, I scorned these irresponsible other young people for neglecting their democratic duty. I never thought it would happen to me.
The past few years have been politically devastating – from the 2015 election, to the vote to bomb syria, to the EU referendum, to Trump and everything in between – it has been really hard to be a young person who feels emotionally invested in global progress. Every time I woke up to a new, heart-wrenching notification on my phone that signified the huge gap between myself and the decision-makers, it chipped away at my political spirit. I know I’m not the only one who felt this way, especially the day after the Brexit vote. Until that moment I had never considered the power politics could wield over my emotions, and as I spent the following days and weeks recovering from a temporary state of depression, I had to start blocking things out, just to retain my sanity. I stopped watching question time, stopped listening to LBC, stopped reading the news. Logically, I understood that this was a terrible crime to commit in such a fragile and fractious time, that information is the only weapon we can arm ourselves with if we are to become better, achieve more, and go further. However, I just… couldn’t take it anymore.
It has only been a year since Brexit, but because of all the madness that has happened since, it feels like decades have passed since we had the startlingly pink face of Nigel Farage stretched odiously across our television screens, gloating in a most repulsive way as he commended the Brexit camp for winning, “without a single bullet being fired”, horrifyingly forgetting that a bullet was fired, a woman lost her life, and two children now have to grow up without a mother.
After a fractured Labour Party failed to demonstrate the authority needed to truly oppose our awful, dystopian government, I lost my faith in politics. Jeremy Corbyn was never going to be the deciding factor in the Brexit outcome, but his indeterminate weakness on the matter was enough for me to just give up hope. The political spark that I had felt so strongly in my teens, in the months leading up to the referendum, had just fizzled out.
Even when the robotic Theresa May called what she assumed would be her election, I didn’t care enough to fight. The best I could hope for was for a reduced Conservative majority. I would vote Lib Dem because our constituency was a safe Tory seat and Labour have never been successful here. Not that it mattered, I thought, because it was all doomed anyway. I resigned myself to another 5 years of devastating political decisions being made in my name despite the fact that this was not what I had voted for.
It was literally the morning of the election that I changed my mind.
Something clicked inside my brain as I thought about making that tiny gesture of a cross on a ballot paper and I knew that I couldn’t vote any other way than in accordance with my beliefs. Also, in the final few days of the election campaign, the media had been in such a frenzy trying to conjure any kind of disdain for Corbyn that my cynical brain thought: if these guys are so desperate to keep this guy away from power, he must be dangerously on the side of the people (in their eyes at least). As much like a wacky conspiracy this might sound, it’s what I honestly believe. When I dragged myself through the rain to my polling station and backed my local Labour MP, I felt like I was on the right side of history.
Despite being only three days out of surgery, I stayed up all night to watch the election result. You might think I sound mad, but it was kind of exhilarating. As soon as the exit poll came in, it felt like democracy was functioning as it should for the first time since I reached voting age. And after a long time of denouncing the nation I was born into because of its terrible voting public, I finally felt like I belonged.
The following days and weeks were filled with the most powerful sense of hope and strength that I’ve ever felt, as it no longer seemed like the world no longer belonged to me and my kind – the young, the poor, the people of the future. At the centre of this feeling was the figure of Jeremy Corbyn.
I’ll admit, I had many doubts about the Labour leader’s ability to command. If he couldn’t be an authority in his own party, then how could be possibly lead a whole country – especially during such a turbulent time? Well, I have never been happier to be proved wrong.
I could spend a whole other post talking about why Corbyn has become the attractive option for people like me, who couldn’t really afford university, can’t really afford life after university, and have a passionate interest in preserving the greatest institution we have: the NHS. A lot of other people have detailed exactly how Corbyn secured the young person’s vote, and the Remain camp’s vote, despite being a bit iffy on the EU.
But what it all comes down to is this: Corbyn is a man who believes in a better world for us all. He thinks globally, he thinks of the minorities, he thinks of finding peaceful resolutions where others want to drop bombs. He’s a jumper-wearing, jam-making gardener who happens to want to change the world. If that doesn’t inspire you then I don’t know what will.