There’s so much news, all day, every day, it almost makes you wonder where you can start to make headway on it. Spare a thought for the journalists racing from crisis to crisis trying to get it covered.
I wanted to write this post – a treat to myself in the final writing up of my PhD – to share just one short video relevant to tomorrow’s UK General Election. Cassetteboy has previous good form when it comes to well-timed, thoughtful and ‘yoof’-friendly campaign videos – take your pick from David Cameron’s Eminem-style rap or a neat lapoon of Jeremy Hunt’s attitude to NHS strikes – but this is the best I can remember seeing. With 5 million Facebook views in just 24 hours, it seems that a lot of you share that view. For those of you without Facebook (they exist!) you can see a version here.
This 2-and-a-half-minute précis of Theresa May’s failed initiatives, morally bankrupt policies and disdain for British public services gets right to the heart of the issue in an election where the Conservative campaign has been more about smearing the opponent than putting forward their own tenable ideas for social, political, or even – in a post-Brexit, post-austerity age, both managed under Conservative leadership! – economic change.
I say ‘they’, but clearly the Tories have seen the inexplicable (but perhaps waning) popularity of Theresa May in the leadership role and as a result telescoped most of the campaign to her and her alone. I’d be hard-pressed to think of Tory names in the running for her future cabinet, and the guest appearances from Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Culture Secretary Karen Bradley have done little to suggest that bringing other Tory figures into the running would finesse the campaign approach. If you’re expressing confusion about Karen Bradley, rest assured that I hadn’t heard of her either. It says a lot about the Tory attitude to culture and the arts in Brexit Britain that the Tory manifesto barely covers some of these themes, even in relation to education (which is its own unique disaster, evidenced by the school on my street having to cut the length of its school day). Bradley deserves some sympathy for having to rationalise cuts to police numbers – hardly her expertise – on live TV in the suspicious absence of May. Rudd meanwhile buried her father 48 hours before appearing in the BBC General Election debate, making May’s insistence on stand-ins all the more laughable.
Leadership involves, you know, presenting your ideas to the public: inviting feedback and listening to concerns. Whereas Corbyn’s team seem to have finally coached themselves on speeches, outreach and debate – and improved dramatically as a result, albeit not across the board – May is more leaden than ever, seemingly comfortable only when attacking the opposition or boosted by bigger personalities. Her terrible negotiating skills and singularly uncharismatic sociability should ring alarm bells for her capabilities in negotiating Brexit, and yet so many members of the voting public seem willing to run that risk. Is a bad Brexit better than no Brexit?
It also says a lot about this election that it was announced just 7 weeks ago (rather contradicting May’s argument that a general election is not in the best interests of the British people) already feels like it’s gone on for years. This is because it has been engineered by a ruling party uninterested in the transformative power of politics. An election campaign that does nothing to offer its own roadmap for an imagined future is no campaign at all. If the Tories win tomorrow’s election it will be in spite of, rather than because of, their work, and younger voters in particular will have a hard time aligning the politics they saw happen and the opportunities for change left untaken.
Crisis after crisis has piled on in recent weeks, and yet May’s response as the leader of the country has been repeatedly found lacking. The gall of the Prime Minister complaining this week about extremism in the UK after 5 years as Home Secretary tasked with tackling exactly those issues says it all. How exactly does her promise to tear up the Human Rights Act really tackle the root causes of homegrown terrorism, and why aren’t more people pointing out that the Hillsborough Disaster inquiry has this exact legislation to thank for the overdue investigation into the police and government cover-up? Why does May consistently fail to speak out against Donald Trump’s increasingly damaging geopolitical fiascos, including the Paris Climate Agreement, and why has she not more convincingly defended the hard work of Sadiq Khan after Trump’s repeated criticisms?
This year has felt like the end of days sometimes when it comes to the global stage, and it is youth who will suffer from the egotistical machinations of older leaders and voters. At least the age group most involved in ubiquitous technology are those best placed to act on what they learn through online content when it comes to the ballot box. Bouyed by the age-divide in Brexit voting, my only hope is that today’s young voters will maintain their tolerance and their thoughtful outlook on the issues affecting our society not just in our current political climate, but as they age over the years to come.
I wanted to end this post with a note to say how saddened I was to learn that Martyn Hett was a victim of the Manchester terror attack, one of the funniest people you could possibly follow on social media and a some-time writer for Huffington Post and Attitude magazine. Even the Telegraph (the Telegraph! no lover of tattoos, Buzzfeed or gay culture) gave a nod to his infectious humour. You can read one of Martyn’s own articles, on internal homophobia here, and his Buzzfeed tribute to his mum’s craft work, which has since gone very very viral, here. My friend Alistair Bealby, a fellow blogger, has just published a fantastic Guardian piece on the impact of Martyn’s death and his mission to #BeMoreMartyn here. Finally, I have Martyn to thank for the Mariah Carey meme that my blog sported exactly a year ago in the run-up to the EU membership referendum. Here it is again for you to enjoy: