The U.K.’s Prime Minister Theresa May has suffered an embarrassing onslaught at the historic general election this week, and I’m not talking about the 249 votes won by Lord Buckethead.
Clearly expecting this election to be a “slam dunk” for the conservatives, May has had to face the fact that her decision to hold a snap election has resulted in a hung parliament – leaving her claims of a strong and stable government something to be desired.
Despite garnering more votes overall, the Tories lost many conservative seats for which the PM felt compelled to apologize. In order to form a cohesive government, Theresa May has negotiated a tenuous agreement with the right-wing Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland whose controversial stances include an opposition to gay marriage and abortion. There are concerns that this agreement will cause ructions for Northern Ireland as it stops just short of an actual coalition, which would violate the terms of the Good Friday agreement, an integral part of the Northern Ireland peace process.
There have been calls for the defeated conservative leader to step down from the Labour party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as suggestive remarks from within her own party. Corbyn, as the returned member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North (a seat he has held for 34 years) said, “She wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go.”
Under Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party has achieved the staggering feat of regaining its position as a force to be reckoned with. Spearheading their campaign based on the slogan ‘for the many not the few’ Jeremy Corbyn has managed to overcome claims, from the media and within his own party, that he is ‘unelectable‘. The surprising result saw Labour increase their share of the vote to 40 percent which is just under the 41 percent Tony Blair gained in his 2001 landslide victory for the party.
This election has been even more interesting looking at specific demographic results. Pundits are calling this week’s election the result of a “youthquake,” in which the number of voters aged 18-25 was at an all-time high. Furthermore, surveys suggest that nearly two-thirds of the youth vote went to Labour. Interestingly enough, commentators are attributing this surge, in large part, to the influence of the U.K.’s most famous grime artists who came out in support of Corbyn. Stormzy told the Guardian last year that: “I feel like he gets what the ethnic minorities are going through and the homeless and the working class.” The youth vote contributed significantly to Labour’s rise in the vote share. For example, the number of students who voted in Canterbury meant Labour won the seat that has been held by the Conservatives for 100 years.
The election has also seen a record number of women who were voted in, including the UK’s first Sikh female MP, Preet Gill. The number of female MP’s is now 208 up from 191 in 2015. But the heroine of the hour, however, has to be the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, who was first elected as an MP in 1987 and was the first Black woman to sit in Parliament. In the weeks leading up to the election, Abbott suffered horrendous coverage in the press and stood down from appearances due to health reasons but still won her seat with a majority that closely rivaled that of the entire Conservative party.
Figures are scarce but it will be interesting to see how much impact the BME vote had on this election. The BME vote for Labour was recorded as just 68 percent in May 2017 and has seen a steady decrease every election since 1995. From a Muslim perspective, I have noticed a shift in attitudes with many Muslim-led organizations running campaigns encouraging Muslims to vote. The not-for-profit organization MEND led a ‘Get Out and Vote!’ initiative urging UK Muslims to register and wield their voting power. Traditional imams have also been vocal about encouraging people to vote. Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad said in a Facebook video that “voting will be a part of Thursday’s ibadah (worship),” a stance that has been somewhat controversial considering how prominently Hizb ut-Tahrir-type Muslims have campaigned publicly to warn people of the ‘evils of voting.’
Personally, I have noticed a massive push on social media encouraging people to get out and vote. Whereas in previous years it was only individuals who were already politically engaged that posted about the elections, this year my newsfeed has been full of people expressing opinions, concerns for the future and the urgency to vote. Studies suggest that Labour, in particular, dominated social media platforms via discussions, hashtags and YouTube videos.
More than anything, this election has been a call to action. People who never previously cared enough or felt inclined to vote took positive action in bringing about change, a fact punctuated by the voter turnout that hit the highest in 25 years. I would argue that Brexit truly shook the general public and motivated those who were previously quite apathetic towards politics to act. Several people took to social media to share their stories of voting for the first time or taking time out of their days leading up to the election to canvas for their chosen party. Rabab Ghazoul shared her thoughts: “It’s the first time I’ve ever campaigned or got involved directly in support of a political party…if we all got involved come the election just a tiny bit each, we would genuinely shape politics.”
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, declared that in this election we have “changed the face of British politics” and with such hopeful results, I believe him.