- Text by Michael Segalov
I’ll never forget waking up the day after the 2015 General Election. Rubbing my eyes and realising that what had happened the night before wasn’t just a stomach curdling dream. Here in the United Kingdom we’d had five years of callous, devastating Conservative government, and in what I now recognise as naivety I just couldn’t believe what I saw to be true. The Tories had won, again.
It was my twenty-second birthday on the day of that disastrous general election, and sure, I was no fan of the Labour Party back then. What was being offered up by Ed Miliband as Labour leader hardly excited me, but still I was desperate for the party to win.
And I assumed, that when it came to polling day, the country would feel the same. Voters would have seen the impact cuts were having, they’d be angry about poverty increasing and the dismantling of public services in communities up and down the UK. The trebling of tuition fees, slow but creeping privatisation, just the tip of the iceberg of all the changes happening in this country that we would all ultimately resent.
Then the Conservatives took power, no longer reliant on the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government from 8 May 2015 David Cameron would go it alone. There’d be no controls or counterbalances on Tory rule in this country, a shift to the right seemed an impossibility, one we had no power to avoid.
Each step I took outside filled me with resentment and anger, the smiling faces of those on the street made me question how they’d voted and why. The community I lived in began to feel alien, I lost faith, I thought we were better.
Then Brexit happened, and I felt it all again. Once again my expectations and my hopes were slashed as Boris Johnson guffawed on our screens.
In the run up to Thursday’s election I like tens of thousands of others decided we just couldn’t take it: we knocked on doors, we campaigned and we organised, desperate to ensure no repeat of what had happened in the past. And this time, to be totally honest, I didn’t feel positive. Some polls might have put Labour in a stronger position that I was expecting, but I didn’t believe it, I’d been let down to many times before.
And then the seemingly impossible happened. Labour took 40% of the vote share across the country, increasing their take on 2015 by almost 10%. What was a vanity project by our now doomed Prime Minister to bump her ratings and seats in the Parliament for entirely selfish reasons was exposed as a total sham. Overall the Conservatives lost 13 seats in Westminster, Labour upping its seats in the Commons by 32. Sure, the Conservatives still have the most seats of any party, but not enough – as before – to form a government with a majority, their reliance on the batshit DUP will no doubt soon collapse.
Theresa May is now a zombie Prime Minister, her two top advisors this morning offering their resignations, her party and cabinet resent her for kicking off their now inevitable decline. There’s a change coming, and it’s thanks to all of us.
It happened because we were tired. An electorate exhausted with being taken for granted, young people no longer content with being taken for a ride. And like lions, as Corbyn so boldly put it on the eve of the election, we raised from our slumber, finally with a platform of radical, progressive politics on offer from the Labour Party we turned up and we said yes.
What has happened across the country in the two years since Corbyn’s leadership of Labour began marks a change in this country, one that’ll shake up the state of British politics for years, and arguably generations to come. We’ve proven that Britain doesn’t need to be a place brimming with inequality and injustice, that an offer of a radical platform can slowly turn the country red.
As someone who so often despairs at the state of our country, I’ve been trying desperately to label the burst of butterflies and the rumbling I feel deep down in my gut. I think it’s a sense of pride, a sense that my city of London and my country are better than the Tories and right wing media would have us beleive.
This weekend is for reflection and celebration, a time to take stock and to feel a thrill of what now seems in our grasp. But let’s remember how this happened, it was through tireless dedication and hard work. This is no time for complacency. 42% of people who voted still opted for Theresa May, and in the coming days we’ll see how many still didn’t feel empowered enough to vote.
But just imagine now, what is possible, dare to dream of how this country might look in years to come. The infighting that has characterised Labour under Corbyn must now be finished with, radical, progressive policies are resonating and we’ve proven those arrogant naysayers wrong. We know our country deserves better, and now I believe it won’t be long until the majority of this country once again believe that too. Soon Britain could once again be great again, and fuck me am I proud at the thought.