The Scottish Mail on Sunday
My family’s ‘youthquake’
MY DAUGHTER voted Labour, as did the offspring of one Cabinet Minister who squeaked home, the sons of a working Conservative peer and the spawn of several leading Tory QCs and even sitting Tory MPs.
Many, many of my daughter’s Facebook friends also backed Jeremy Corbyn (some posted Labour roses called Twibbyns on their profiles with pride) as did millions of other 18- to 24-year-olds. Wow.
Milly voted in Kensington, where we live, in what used to be the truest, bluest, richest Tory constituency in the country. Now the red flag flies over this seat of parks and palaces and princes, of the Diana Fountain, and Peter Pan, for the first time in history. I know. Incredible.
No wonder the nervous rattling of teacups can be heard from City offices, in boardrooms and tearooms, from London to the Home Counties, the shires and beyond.
This was not an election. This was not an earthquake. This was a youthquake.
When I asked why she voted Labour, Milly sighed. ‘Mum. It’s blindingly obvious why me and my friends all voted for Corbyn,’ she said. ‘I believe in a fairer society. A more egalitarian system.
‘I think there should be better housing and more money for the NHS and I think that corporation tax should be higher and the rich should pay more. And yes, it was tuition fees.’
IF MILLY and her mates are turning to Labour, then this is the poll that proved that UK politics isn’t so tribal or class-based after all. This was not an election that pitted red against blue, North against South, toff against pleb, town against country, even Leave against Remain – even though it was supposed to be the Brexit election, which we will come to in a second.
It was young against old. It was positive against negative.
And in that fight, the young didn’t stay in their blue corner out of habit and apathy, but came out, fists flailing, from the red one.
With hindsight – how we love hindsight – we can see what happened, and what the student tsunami might portend.
As invited by the PM, our young looked at May and her Red Tory manifesto of masochism, and then they looked at the Zen Master of Corbyn, his prodigal offer of free university education south of the Border, his dopey hopeychangey mantras, and they swiped left, going for Jezza by a whopping 44 percentage points. For the first time then, maybe ever, our young people changed the course of an election, simply by not standing by and allowing government by the old, for the old, again. I might mention at this point that my daughter’s vote was more than cancelled out by her two brothers. But I still believe that we owe the youth Labour vote and the high turnout (about 70 per cent) of younger voters overall a special debt in this Brexit election, even as we note and grieve the fact that if three-quarters of them hadn’t not bothered to vote during the EU referendum last year we wouldn’t be in the omnishambles of possible permalections we are now. As for the consequences of the youthquake: as well as ‘hope against fear’ (copyright Corbyn) many, when asked, indicated it was also a protest vote against the way their futures have been ‘stolen’ or ‘hijacked’ by the referendum result. They have therefore helped deprive the Prime Minister of the mandate to execute the ‘stronger Brexit’ she still seems to crave. If unmandated Mrs May genuinely wants to show this shattered country, suffering from a surfeit of too much politics, that she really can reflect, and adapt, and speak for the whole of Britain, then she must accept this.
She must accept that the consequence of the stunning youngervoter-led Labour surge should be, by rights, a soft or softer Brexit, where we stay in the single market, and the customs union, and we do a deal that doesn’t beggar our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
It’s amazing to me that Milly and her millions have, maybe, succeeded in halting a hard Brexit where the old dinosaurs of Remain, from Blair to Campbell to Clarke to Clegg – not to mention all the Remoaners like me who defected in despair and joined the Lib Dems – all failed. Comrades, my daughter voted Labour – and I couldn’t be more pleased and proud.