Open the road to the youth!December 20, 2019
200 years ago at the Peterloo massacre, when the ruling class felt threatened by a strong working class movement, they sent in the yeomanry. In the recent UK election, they sent in the press.
Despite the attacks, however, Corbyn’s leadership inspired and mobilised the youth like never before. 56% of 18-24 year-olds voted Labour.
The establishment put all manner of barriers in the way of young people, pulling out all the stops in an attempt to dissuade the youth from voting. We even saw student societies being banned from campaigning for Labour. In the years to come, all of us, both young and old, must come together to fight back against the ruling class.
Obstacles and resistance
Corbyn attempted to take on the establishment, and came up against vicious resistance from the billionaire press.The capitalist press were horrified by the prospect of a radical Corbyn government, running a campaign against Labour built on the foundations of hatred. Voters were also subjected to the relentless demand to “Get Brexit Done”.
Sadly, these influences contributed to the outcome of the election, with many former Labour seats being won by the Conservatives. But a big proportion of these Conservative victories were based on the difference of only a few hundred votes. In light of this, we should be demanding an investigation into why thousands of young people did not receive their polling cards, with many scandalously being turned away from polling stations.
Right across the country, in places such as Cardiff and Liverpool, young people were turned away from polling stations – despite claiming that they were registered to vote. Many more reported that they had not received their polling cards.
Nowhere was this complaint more prevalent than in York. From 9am to 12.30pm, outside the polling station at St Thomas’ Church, Lowther Street, I spoke to 53 people under the age of 24 who claimed that they had not received a polling card, despite being registered to vote. This was in stark contrast to the one person over the age of 24 who made the same claim.
Obviously, these numbers may not seem very high, but the data was collected over three and a half hours, outside one polling station. In York alone, there are well over a hundred polling stations spread out across the city.
This leaves the question of how many young people were unable to vote – not just in York, but across the whole of the UK? If young voters were turned away from multiple polling stations in other constituencies – such as Kensington, which had a Tory majority of 150 votes – then this may very well have cost Labour seats in parliament.
I spoke to Fred Whibley, a student living in York, who was one of the many young voters who did not receive a polling card. He explained: “I expected to be told I was voting in the polling station that was about two minutes from where I lived, but instead me and my housemate were sent on a three-hour long walking trip, to an obscure village outside of Osbaldwick.”
I approached York council, asking them to comment on why it was that so many young people did not receive their polling cards. In response to my question, York council did not offer an apology to young voters. Instead they stated that, “if an elector did not have a poll card, if they were eligible to vote in the election, they were still able to vote”.
They failed to acknowledge that the address of a voter’s polling station is always printed on their polling cards. Many young people, who had never voted before, woke up on the day of election not knowing where it was that they were supposed to be going. York council did not have anything to say about this. They also chose to ignore questions regarding the two people who had been turned away from the polling station.
Clearly many young people have been let down by local councils, which are now struggling to cope after 10 years of Tory cuts. These same cuts have led to a record high number of young people in the UK using foodbanks.
Recently, when Greg Knight (Conservative MP for East Yorkshire) was contacted regarding people using foodbanks, he replied with a generic email, vaguely offering several redundant solutions and suggesting that “the best way to get people out of poverty would be to get them into work”.
Post-election, instead of celebrating the election of Jeremy Corbyn, we are instead facing the untrustworthy rule of a man who spends his time pocketing journalists’ phones and hiding in fridges. Bojo the Clown is back in charge, but this time nobody is laughing.
With the prospect of another five years under the rule of these Tory parasites, unless we challenge the ruling class and their representatives, nothing will improve for young people living in Britain.
Time for action
Fiona, a York based, forward-thinking Labour councillor for Guildhall, told me that moving forward “we have a lot to do to get young people interested in the Labour Party”. One of the ways in which we can achieve this is by fighting back against the Blairites.
Today, the working class in Britain are still being haunted by the spectre of the “moderate”, centrist politics of the past; the policies of Blair and his crooked mob.
Despite the attempts of the capitalist media to try and convince us otherwise, there is no longer any demand for the failed politics of the “centre-ground”. If there were, then perhaps the already forgotten Jo Swinson would have managed to retain her seat in parliament.
The result of the Brexit referendum in 2016 highlighted how many communities feel that they have been left behind by Westminster politics.
We now need to continue building our movement with a renewed energy, focusing in particular on mobilising and organising young people. This means establishing Labour Students and Young Labour as militant, fighting organisations, which galvanise the youth around bold socialist policies.
Now is not the time for apathy or despair. Now is the time for action. We must continue to build a powerful Marxist tendency within the Labour Party, welcoming comrades of all ages, as we fight to ensure that the party stands up for the many, and not just the privileged few.