I admit I did very little work on Friday afternoon, fascinated with the UK election, the despairing mantra of ‘stability’ on a haggard Theresa May’s lips and the sight of Labour wins winking red all over the electoral maps of the British Isles where they had been expected to turn even bluer than before.
At one point in the day, it even looked as if a Labour victory was likely and – with the president-busting Comey revelations in the US – that both of the great North Atlantic financial hegemonies would be leaderless by nightfall (a pyrrhic victory given the most likely replacements would be vice president Mike Pence and Crosby-Textor posterboy Boris Johnson but signalling an end to a crumbling era).
Instead, complacent voting in the English south again turned the election maps permafrost blue about the time I went home, shaking me to the core that such depressed constituencies as those in Cornwall had filled in with the status quo.
If you slept through the drama, all you saw was Labour and the left-of-centre parties lost in the UK’s first past the post voting system.
If you were glued to the UK coverage, against every prediction, Labour by itself spent the whole election day count within a few hundred thousand votes of the Tories who lost their majority in Parliament.
Far from moribund, the Labour party gained 32 seats while the Conservatives lost 13, some of them humdingers.
Ecstatic pictures of young voters on fire to vote told a compelling story – another myth busted. And they are unlikely to go away any time soon. Though no one was counting, the youth turnout was rumoured to be 72 percent.
Gasping ‘strength and stability’ to the last, Theresa May secured, if only for a few days, Northern Irish DUP support for her Thatcherite manifesto of austerity, corporate tax rates on a par with Ireland, human rights law weakened, a faux nationalism and a perpetual-motion class war for hearts and minds.
However, history, and even this week’s contrite mainstream media, will be kinder to change now.
Among the mea culpas, the Guardian’s Owen Jones described Corbyn’s success as one of the most sensational political upsets of our time.
Fellow commentator Paul Mason, hailing the first battle in a long war against the ruling elite, said the real prize lay in forcing the ruling elite to abandon austerity.
A Tory party forced to fight the next election on a programme of higher taxes and increased spending, high wages and high public investment would signal how rapidly Corbyn has changed the game, he said. “If it doesn’t happen; if the Conservatives tie themselves to the global kleptocrats instead of the interests of British business and the British people, then Corbyn is in Downing Street.”
Seeing all citizens – in their essential humanity – as equals and entitled to their share of the global commons probably comes more naturally to us as colonials than it does if you are inside the hidebound 1000-year class system of Britain.
However, we, too, are mired in a sort of dimly perceived ‘common sense’ when it comes to national politics and our own September election will be the richer if we learn Britain’s lessons.
Watch our media and make your own judgements. As a journalist, I find it intolerable when headlines and stories put a Labour or Green policy to obvious lobby groups and quote them before the story has even laid out the policy being rubbished.
Notice the perpetual sneering and fearmongering about ‘costs’ that has turned us into a pretty ungenerous, scared and easily manipulated electorate.
Unless you are very, very complacent, what’s not to like about higher education that’s available to be harnessed by every citizen, a birthright. Or vibrant, deep-rooted communities, social justice, protections and resources to keep society intact and a government that’s for ‘the many, not the few’.
Perhaps the best part of Corbyn’s manifesto for the UK was in his well-costed policy, leaked for maximum effect.
The reality is that everything on the progressive agenda that he proposed, we have had before. And you’re only talking a bare 30 years ago.
In the days when debt was social and political anathema, we balanced the books. In 1912, when our population was a few hundred thousand and money flowed freely from us to Britain, we still built and endowed more beautiful buildings, parks and social spaces in Auckland than any of us can count.
As a London friend suggested after a week in our country, we too seem to have a current government that’s soggy and full of incompetents and complacency; that we too are ripe for an opposition with grass roots supporters, up to date skills, good communications – and a message of hope. Liz Waters