Published by GQ on 28/03/17
When senior figures within the Labour Party blamed the loss of the Copeland by-election on bad weather, a blustery exodus from the party became almost certain. But worryingly for Labour, it is young voters who are jumping ship. A recent ICM poll has shown that if there were a general election tomorrow, only about a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds would vote Labour and nearly half would vote Tory. Gone are the days when we spent our youth balancing our time between being in the pub and being on the left: today’s young voters simply don’t care for Labour.
It’s not too hard to see why. With his penchant for retro-chic clothing, many were enthused by Corbyn’s propulsion to leader in 2015. When it came to sporting a trendy beard, he out-Shoreditched Shoreditch. Still, a person can only take so much ineptitude, and Corbyn’s gaffe-ridden ride as Labour leader has been more than enough to force young people to hit snooze.
Only this month, Corbyn decided to jumpstart Labour’s dismal position in the polls by releasing his tax return. Unfortunately, he bungled it by forgetting to include his bonus for being the leader of the opposition. In the same week, Labour released a new policy video that misspelled “Labour”. Even Theresa May has started to feel sorry for him. In Corbyn’s dismal performance at PMQs last week, she was forced to remind him that “he’s supposed to ask a question when he stands up”.
Corbyn, with his support for the environment and nuclear disarmament, might seem like exactly what today’s young people are looking for, but it is his strange generalisations that have led to their flight from Labour: from his insistence that people stop eating junk food – at last year’s British Kebab Awards, Corbyn touted the benefits of salad – to previous calls for restrictions on tobacco, it’s pretty clear that Labour insists on treating its members as young people who need a shove in the ideologically orthodox direction, which is exactly what young people do not want. Young voters take ideas seriously, but with the party’s constant dithering on important issues, whether it be Brexit or a second Scottish referendum on independence, the reluctance to create a coherent and positive vision for the UK is taking its toll.
But this isn’t all Corbyn’s fault. The state of the Labour Party is merely part of uninspiring left-wing politics. Where once being on the left was about harnessing the power of the working class, today’s lefties simply view them with a shrug.
Unless they are on a film, of course. Labour has become so starved of ideas that its most effective form of attack on the Conservatives takes the form of Ken Loach’s – albeit fantastic – I, Daniel Blake. Rather than criticise the Conservative government’s treatment of the welfare system in PMQs, Corbyn simply recommended Theresa May take the evening off and have a movie night. Following suit, Momentum – Labour’s activist movement – has started screening the film up and down the country. Apparently indie film is the key to unlocking the fury of the masses.
But young people need real politics. While 46 per cent of 25 year olds owned their own home 20 years ago, that figure currently lies stagnant at 25 per cent. And why risk having that number plunge even further by supporting a political party that can’t even tie its own shoelaces? Most young people realise that if they want society to develop, a genuine political vision inspired by serious ideas is needed. That doesn’t mean the Tories provide one. But it’s become clear that Labour does not.