The politics of Britain may be far removed from our daily lives but something important happened there which declared that the next generation of voters may have evoked electoral undercurrents which could determine the shape of things to come, not only in Britain but in many countries across the globe.
Jeremy Corbyn, a politician not known widely outside Britain turned up at the Glastonbury Festival and conquered the stage in front of almost 175,000 people who chanted his name. Who is Jeremy Corbyn, and why was he invited to a festival inspired by British counter-culture and headlined this year by the Foo Fighters, Radiohead and Ed Sheeran.
What does any of this have to do with us in Malaysia?
Closer to home we may be thinking of the next trendy food-outlet or speakeasy bar. Equally, the conversations lately have intensified around the cost of living, GST, the rising of fuel prices, the Dr.M vs Najib duel, 1MDB and the precipitative effects of all of these has on the economy. Our own political shenanigans and the divertissement from the Lee siblings across the causeway and their real-life soap opera have only provided temporary relief.
Corbyn was a once obscure socialist politician who was twice ( and convincingly) elected leader of the British Labour party. His own Shadow Cabinet and parliamentary colleagues had deserted him, asserting thereafter that he was leading them to political oblivion.
Fuelled by a rabid tabloid media ( an English version of our MSM ), psephologists and eminent pollsters; political soothsayers emerged from social media, predicting electoral doom for Corbyn and his party. His party-men through ill-predicted opportunism and expediency proclaimed that “he was not a leader”.
What happened later defied the odds. While he didn’t become the Prime Minister, the sheer and share and number of votes he obtained clearly exhibited that he was riding on a movement which expected those in power to behave differently and make decisions which are consistent with a globalised worldview.
This was totally different from the Trumpism which harnessed a voting engine by intoxicating it with xenophobia, sexism and fear-mongering never seen before from a main party presidential candidate. The Millenial voting engine which propelled Obama to power did not turn up in such numbers for Clinton in the key swing states and we have a global leader totally out of touch with reality.
Jeremy Corbyn, however, believed in a few fundamentals even before he rose to power as leader of the Labour party. Abolishing university tuition fees, renationalising some public services, free school meals and not selling arms to oppressive regimes are some but more significantly for his opposition to war as a ‘nauseating waste of lives and money’. Incredibly, more people have died in wars and conflicts than in World War 2. A resultant cost of US$2.5 trillion has been attributed to the costs of prosecuting wars post WW2.
Obama the Millenials’ Whisperer has come and gone and the euphoria and excitement which greeted his election are a past memory. Nothing has changed much around the world. In fact, global conflicts have made the world more unsafe than at any time in history with 65 million people displaced from their homes, with a third of them termed as refugees.
Is there much hope for change from those who have been voted into power?
Are political parties and grand coalitions relevant to the significantly young electorate who don’t subscribe to the political views of their parents and won’t “toe the party line”? Today’s youth mistrust politicians and only place their trust in people who advocate programmes which are consistent with their own view of how the world should be run.
More than 50% of the world’s population is under 30, and 90% of them live in emerging and developing economies.
If only 3 % of the oldest voters are replaced each year with voters from the other end of the spectrum (in terms of age, views and voting intentions) – in 5 years you would have a significant new “tribe” with policy demands which are real: nondiscriminatory policies and a more inclusive and globalized world, significant changes in both policy and funding for environmental, educational, and healthcare programmes, jobs creation with digital and entrepreneurial velocity. Free Broadband (which is like clean water and air have become a right, not a privilege) and bridging the digital divide would also be on top of the list.
Shouldn’ the government make these demands as their manifestos? What could US$2.5 trillion be used to achieve instead of funding manufacturers of arms and weapons of mass destruction? Is a nuclear deterrent really necessary in a modern society? Who really gets richer when wars are created?
The youth of today feel politically-connected and they have risen up to the fact that they have been conned. As their size rises in numbers all over the world they would vote en bloc against corrupt political regimes, and administrations which subscribe to wars to resolve conflicts.
Their idealistic expectations of government are measured by their belief that the government of the day is not the best avenue for change. They want their voices to be heard and demand greater access to public officialdom, making it count with demands on transparency.
Jeremy Corbyn will make it to 10 Downing Street one day. Suddenly, it not an improbable idea anymore. But what it signals is that across the globe many new leaders will arrive, driven by a belief system consistent with the new politics of hope and optimism. This will send a powerful signal to elected officials, corrupt regimes, and those who espouse the transgressions of war to enrich themselves and their friends.