Around three weeks before the 2015 election, headlines stated that the democratic system was 'close to crisis' as a result of a significant 1.8% drop in registered voters over the preceding two years. Fast forward to 2017, and suddenly, for many individuals this apathy towards politics has transformed into a fervent excitement. As of last week, 930,000 people had already registered to vote since the snap election was called, a significant proportion being under 25 year olds. Undoubtedly, part of the reason for this sudden enthusiasm has been the principles and policies of Jeremy Corbyn, whose core ideologies have significantly changed the national political landscape. Though his rise to Labour leadership has been met with outrage by some, many others, particularly the young, have viewed this rise through the lens of optimism. From the perspective of these voters, a candle of light has been lit amidst a mountain of political darkness, and through this election an unexpected opportunity has arisen to enable the light from this candle to spread.
For many young people, Corbyn epitomises a brand of politics which they haven't seen before - one that promotes compassion, fairness and genuine equality, rather than the same old politics of fear and consumerism, devoid from the real life problems people face. While other parties talk about fox hunting, Corbyn talks about corporate tax evasion. While other parties feel a lust for bombing other nations, Corbyn recognises the futility of such bombing campaigns, the danger that they pose in further fuelling the flames of extremism, and the pressing need for peace and diplomacy amidst a growing threat of nuclear war. While other parties talk about there being 'complex reasons' for national crises, Corbyn consistently addresses them head-on, and provides a lifeline to those engulfed by economic and social deprivation.
Individuals both young and old are growing to realise that if fear is promoted, then that unhealthy mentality of self-protectionism, suspicion, and panic will echo, but if good values are promoted then it is they that will reverberate. Corbyn is different to most other politicians since he represents not just an alternative set of ideas, but an alternative way of thinking. "If you do what you believe in you're strong. It's when you don't do what you believe in that you're weak." Defining true strength not by the number of immigrants that are kept out of your country, or the number of bombs you drop on others, but by how firmly you stick by your values and principles, is something which has largely been lost in today's world. It stands to reason therefore that if voter turnout is large enough, especially amongst the young, which it could be, then change can still be achieved.
Even amongst older voters, Labour policies are still overwhelmingly popular, though Corbyn is apparently overwhelmingly not. Perhaps this paradox can partly be explained by the fact that around three-quarters of press coverage misrepresents him. Sometimes it is his policies that are attacked, or just ignored, and sometimes it becomes personal. Jeremy Corbyn himself did not run over a BBC reporter's foot, nor did he 'angrily confront' a reporter, nor should the focus of this election be how much Labour infighting the leaked manifesto created, or whether Corbyn will quit after it is all over.
Of course, all of this is inevitable. When an individual with influence seeks not just to shuffle the existing pack of cards, rigged in favour of the rich, but to throw them away and produce a new pack which gives everyone in society a fair chance, then opposition and slander is bound to follow. However, in the age of the internet, Corbyn's true values and messages still have the potential to spread unhindered by corporate agendas.
Nowhere was this tried and tested more than by the Bernie Sanders movement in 2016. Rising from almost complete obscurity, Sanders earned 46% of mandated delegates in the Democratic National Convention through a powerful and passionate grassroots movement. Whilst other candidates use corporate money, thus beholden to special interests, Sanders raised staggering amounts of money - including $8 million in a single day - simply through the passion and excitement that he was able to generate. His campaign was far more disadvantaged than the Labour movement is today, both financially and through negative press, and yet he showed that the principled stance has the potential to be the winning formula. Sanders came within a whisker, and his story provides a legitimate motivation for Corbyn supporters to continue to hope.
It is not only a case of dreaming, however. When a political figure of leading party dares to tell his nation that life does not have to be so cut-throat, that the only way of attaining happiness is not by sacrificing the lives of the poor or the downtrodden, and that a more just and equal system is achievable, those that subscribe to these values must take this lifeline and spread the message. It can be spread by speaking out about misreporting in the media and setting the record straight. It can be spread by producing videos or articles or social media posts about this fairer vision, and promoting it across one's local spheres and beyond. Corbyn's movement, like Sanders', is driven and sustained by extraordinary grassroots support, especially from the young. If that support continues and increases over the next three weeks, then perhaps more people, both young and old, can grow to like both the policies and the politician. A third of the population did not vote in the last election, but if they can become energised and feel as though real change can genuinely be achieved this time around, then who knows what the election result could be.
A candle has been lit in the darkness but it may soon burn out. To all sections of our society must the light from this candle be taken and spread.