so, what *is* going on with british politics?
It’s a mad, bad confusing time – so we took a second to try and understand what’s happening and what we should be doing to keep the momentum going
Only six weeks ago, Britain was a very different place. Theresa May was living her best life: bellowing "Brexit means Brexit"-- apparently unaware that actually meant nothing at all. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader and part-time Lord of the Mics, spent his days holding enormous marrows and getting ritually merked by Britain's right wing tabloids. Tim Farron was weeping about the EU while looking like a 9-year-old who nicked his Dad's best suit, which, it turns out, doesn't get you all that far in Brexit Britain.
On 18 April, despite repeated promises she wouldn't, Theresa May called a snap General Election. Officially, she wanted a renewed mandate in order to begin Brexit negotiations with a strong hand. In reality, Corbyn's abysmal performance in the polls presented an opportunity for a Conservative landslide that would wipe out any effective Labour opposition for a generation.
But, none of it went to plan. The British public did what it does best: fuck everything up.
How did we get here?
Corbyn, deemed the most hopeless leader in Labour history by every talking head available, unveiled a campaign that sent tremors through the political establishment. Pledges to scrap tuition fees, build hundreds of thousands of affordable new homes, and increased taxes to pump money into the cash-strapped NHS offered a radical alternative to the status quo. Theresa May, when she managed to stop shouting "strong and stable" into any mic she could lay her hands on, instead proposed tough curbs on immigration, marginal increases in funding for the health service, and a "hard Brexit"-- effectively ending freedom of movement and access to the EU's single market. Tim Farron spent his time avoiding questions on whether or not gay sex was a sin. Ok hun.
While Jez went from strength to strength, the Tory campaign collapsed. Plans to make the elderly pay for their social care was quickly dubbed the "dementia tax", forcing an early U-turn from Tory party headquarters. Conservative-led cuts to police funding that took just under 20, 000 officers off the streets since 2015 left May's credibility in tatters after the Manchester and London terror attacks. Mistakes by Jez -- usually not knowing his figures -- were quickly eclipsed by monumental fuck-ups by May: refusing interviews and skipping the Leaders' Debate showed an unwillingness to engage with voters that killed any chance of a Conservative landslide.
In the early hours of 9 June, the results rolled in. Of a total 650 seats in the House of Commons, the Tories took 318, falling short of the 326 required to form a government outright. They were the largest party, but they had lost 13 seats and, with them, their majority. The result has left May's leadership -- and the country's future -- in doubt. Labour won 262, an increase of 30 since 2015 with a staggering 9.5% increase in their vote share, largely driven by an upsurge of support among women, people of colour, and young voters. UKIP collapsed without their snake overlord, Nigel Farage, and the Lib Dems failed to make significant gains.
In short: Labour lost, but the Tories didn't win. The result was a hung parliament, a system in which no party has the required majority to rule.
What happens next?
Prediction is a fool's game -- every pundit was proved spectacularly wrong on election day. With that in mind, here are our definitely correct predictions.
Without a majority, the Conservatives can't form a government. Their only option is a coalition and Northern Ireland just might give it to them. The Democratic Unionist Party, who won only 10 seats, are now kingmakers: by entering into coalition, they can effectively secure a Tory majority to lead the country.
The DUP are divisive. When they aren't blocking marriage equality and claiming that gay parents sexually abuse their adopted children, they're defending the region's abortion ban. The 1967 Abortion Act (which legalised abortion in certain circumstances in England, Scotland and Wales) still doesn't apply in Northern Ireland. Women are prosecuted for obtaining abortion pills and serve prison terms for seeking terminations.
Yet worse is how a DUP deal might affect the very stability of Northern Ireland. After decades of conflict between those fighting for a unified Ireland, and those who wanted the North to remain in the UK, only in 1999 did fighting come to a formal close. The peace relies on a delicate power-sharing agreement between Sinn Fein -- the Irish Republican Party -- and the Unionist DUP, a deal which collapsed in January leaving the North without a government. After years of ignoring Northern Irish politics, the UK now depends on it, and nobody except the DUP is particularly happy about it.
As it stands, the coalition will go ahead: May will secure seats from the DUP and a Conservative-led coalition will govern the UK. How long that will last, however is another question. May's leadership could yet collapse, triggering a new leadership contest within the Tory party. Neither is another election off the cards: Brexit negotiations, a precarious coalition dependent on the divisive DUP and a resurgent Labour party could all mean another election before you have time to say "coalition of chaos".
What should we be doing?
For all the uncertainty a hung parliament brings, there's also enormous opportunity. Young people, so often ignored by party politics and patronised by the ageing hams that still act as Parliament's power brokers, were mobilised like never before in this election. Regardless of how you voted, the fact that women, ethnic minorities, and Britain's youth took the streets, canvassed, and turned up to the ballot box is cause for celebration regardless of the election's outcome.
So what can you do? First, if you haven't already, register to vote. As well as proving polls and pundits wrong, this election shattered the myth that your vote changes nothing. For the first time in a generation, Britain is being offered very different visions for the future. Be part of that choice. It might not be long until you have to make it all over again.
Second, read up. Brexit negotiations, stability in Northern Ireland, and public spending on health, education and policing all affect you. They aren't simple; but they do matter. Parliament still determines the course of this country, and it determines the course of your life. Make your own decisions, just make them with the best information available. (Alternatively, do whatever JME says.)
Third, act up. Politics doesn't begin or end at the ballot box and you don't discharge your political duty just by voting. If you're angry that two women a week are killed by their partners or ex-partners, or that two in three women desperately seeking shelter are turned away, join Sisters Uncut or donate to Women's Aid. If you're committed to refugee support and a world without borders, march with Movement 4 Justice and smash the detention system. Or if you're sick of extortionate university tuition fees, get involved with the NUS.
If protesting isn't your thing, find out who your MP is, check their voting record, and contact them via phone, email or -- if you're a mad retro bastard -- letter. Get involved in local community projects, or if you're angry that there's a million more people using food banks now than there was in 2010, volunteer. If you're in work, join a union as soon as possible.
You don't have a choice in whether or not politics affects you. You do have a choice in how it does. Young people made this election: don't let it be the last.
Text Edward Siddons