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We Stand Together But Who Stands For Us?

07/06/2017 09:05
IakovKalinin via Getty Images

This election will be book-ended by two defiant moments of national unity. With the first, who can have failed to have been inspired by the response to barbaric terror of young joyous girls belting out Don't Look Back in Anger in Manchester, and the impassioned demand in London that we keep flirting and drinking gin? Then, little over a week after the election result, we'll have the beautiful Great Get Together celebrations to mark the anniversary of the loss of Jo Cox by reaffirming her belief that 'we have far more in common with each other than things that divide us'.

Both moments speak to our unity and defiance, and our desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. These events draw from and give to the national story of who we are and who we wish to be. They show us at our very best.

How stark it is then that the election barges its way in-between both moments carrying little of that unity. Elections demand choices so it would be naïve to expect harmony, but it's worrying how little we see ourselves reflected in the options. A survey by NatCen released today shows that over half of us (56%) don't feel represented by the parties in this election.

On the near-horizon Brexit stands as one of the most challenging issues a government has had to navigate since WW2. It coincides with a heightened terrorist threat and a continued squeeze on living standards for many. Together they demand a clear and settled national conversation about our future, yet Thursday's result cannot deliver that when so many of us don't feel in the race.

Don't confuse this for apathy; the vast majority (84%) of us care who wins. If the balance of polls is correct, that winner will be Theresa May. If the recent Labour poll surge turns out to be illusionary and the results conform to longer-term trends, that win will be significant.

The Conservatives' lead over Labour is perhaps explained by it being the working class, council and housing association tenants and those on the centre-left in our survey who are most likely to feel politically homeless. Our survey suggests that working class people are now almost as likely vote Tory as for Labour.

It also provides a further caution for those inclined to argue that we need a new party of liberal centrists, despite the dismissive treatment our voting system hands out to third parties. Those feeling unrepresented also tend to lean to the right of our liberty-authority scale.

Thursday's result could give the impression that the country has made a clear decision about its future, but our work suggests otherwise. If Theresa May does win significantly, her challenge will be to represent the majority of the country who do not see themselves in her government. If Labour lose, the party's leadership team will need to account for why they have increasingly become an irrelevance to the working class Corbyn isn't of, but is so keen to represent.

For the rest of us, regardless of the result, I hope we continue to feel inspired and represented by the singers and the flirts.

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