The post UK-election shitstorm continues this week. Another week, another set of polls, another set of recriminations by politicians and the mainstream media that really didn’t see this coming. They’re running round like angry and frustrated dads whose kids have run off with the remote-control. Not only run off with it, but left the TV on a crap kids’ channel that no-one can switch off or understand, and are now standing in the lounge doorway shouting ‘ner ner ner ner ner’, while dad alternates between bewilderment and anger. Anger, because after all, he pays for the tv, Netflix, the licence, the house. How dare they do this? All this while mum sits back smugly in her armchair. She knows what it’s like to not have control over the TV. She saw this coming.
On Friday morning we woke up to the news (or Thursday night if you stayed up to watch the rather accurate exit poll play out to its conclusion) that the UK had its second hung parliament in seven years. The pollsters, the pundits, the right-wing press, even the lonely old left-wing press were safe in the knowledge that the young wouldn’t turn up and vote. They’d simply fall out of bed on the afternoon of election day and bury their heads in Facebook for the rest of their indulged and lazy ‘generation snowflake’ day. How wrong they were. It turns out that democracy in this country looks a bit different if it’s a little more even distributed across the ages and not just a big fat bulge in the 60-plus category. If, in fact, for once people felt engaged with the debate and wanting their say.
I disagree with many pundits on the Brexit result. I’m sick of reading that it was the thick, the zenophobic and the extremely right wing that voted us out of the EU. I partly blame the 2015 election, whereby we have an archaic system that suggests that for one party to have four million people vote for it and return just one member of parliament is somehow a fair way to run a democratic country in the 21st century. The Tory government gave the UK people a simple yes or no choice and they voted in droves, for a multitude of reasons. And whether that referendum made people angry or happy at the outcome, suddenly they realised that voting for what you believed in made a difference. People had suddenly got sick of sitting in front of a TV where the viewing material was entirely controlled by someone else.
If you live in a country where the legal voting age is 18, then complaining about them actually exercising that right because you don’t think that they know what they’re talking about is a bit disingenuous when age is really no guarantee of wisdom. But the thing that has really blindsided people with this election is the way the traditional political narrative has been bypassed. The mainstream media, the histrionic right-wing press, all of them were circumnavigated by the social-media tech-savvy generation, who both fed and tapped into an anti-austerity, anti- inequality movement that has been largely overlooked by the patriarchy, and until now has been on the periphery of the left.
I’m really rather enjoying sitting back on the sofa and watching the scrap continue over the remote. It might finally result in something approaching a functioning democracy, where people feel that politics is something that they are part of rather than something administered from on high.