The Scottish Mail on Sunday


My fam­ily’s ‘youthquake’

- Rachel John­son Fol­low Rachel on Twit­ter @RachelSJoh­n­son

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.

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 ??  ?? Vic­to­ria Beck­ham in New York last week BRIGHT IDEA:
Vic­to­ria Beck­ham in New York last week BRIGHT IDEA:
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