“Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!” - that was the mantra. It defined last year’s general election for me, only a second time voter - a rookie cog in the political machine. Even before I could vote, I’d never heard a group of young people chant like that for a politician. It was so unheard of to see a politician stand in front of young people and actually acknowledge the reality of a rather raw deal over the past 10 years. And it worked. Labour gained 30 seats, while the Tories lost 13, with a 10% swing to boot. While this is old news, Brexit has thrust the significance of clarity in political discourse back into the limelight; and how British politicians seem to have forgotten about it, despite the shadow of the largest political decision of the decade sitting on their doorstep.
We live in uncertain times; the “Brexit deal” is still on the horizon. Trouble is, nobody in power seems willing to acknowledge the very public doubts surrounding this outstanding issue. These doubts are no longer emerging, they have fully blossomed. The fallout following the referendum has not settled. really great at sitting on the fence. The question is how long can they perch there, in a world where the truth is becoming harder and harder to run away from and opinions can be shaped off a retweet.
A video made the rounds last week on Twitter. Jeremy Corbyn was asked, teeth-clenchingly awkward as it was, the same question 6 times, on whether he believed Brexit was good for the UK. It was the opportunity to take a stance that 60% of Labour’s target voters claim is the answer they are looking for to make their minds’ up on voting for the party. Predictably; he flips and flops 6 times and regurgitates the same, bland answer. It’s a frustratingly common sight for many, particularly in the environment of social media and 24-hour news cycles, where even the most capable leaders seem resistant to the idea of decisiveness, not realising how damaging it is to an electorate which has demonstrably reacted so much better to recognition of the issues (see 2017 General election youth turnout, all politicians).
The less capable resort to lying. Dr Liam Fox, current Secretary of State for International trade, is particularly active on Twitter, where he spreads essentially open lies. The trade deals he claims are a result of British negotiations are all results of EU diplomacy, a fact not lost on anyone, judging by the comments on his tweets. But this is the reality. Theresa May, an expert survivalist, offers little explanation for any of what is going on, preferring to shelter the storm. Meanwhile, the only vocal MPs continue to be the Boris Johnson’s, serving tea to distract from his starring role in the propaganda campaign that catalysed the situation we have now.
It can be said to be symptomatic a job focused on winning one-time votes every five years. Promises can be a flexible and entity in that world. Ipsos MORI Veracity Index lists ministers and politicians as the least trusted occupations to be expected to tell the truth in the UK in 2017 (it was only a percent higher in 1983, so little has changed). They lost to estate agents and lawyers, by the way; and at least one of those two is paid to try and avoid the truth. It seems bizarre that politicians can’t see the forest for the trees on hot-button issues like Brexit. The electorate, those who are engaged, are screaming for clarity, but nobody seems to be able to hear them beyond those who engineered its existence.
As we cruise towards a potential “no deal” Brexit and both major parties play a waiting game, public opinion will only continue to stagnate. Would they call a second referendum? Will it be a hard or soft Brexit, what does that even mean anymore? From a young person’s perspective, it just doesn’t bode well for the existing parties’ future trajectory. Young, educated people certainly can’t be lied to or ignored as easily anymore. They have legitimate political strength and value; they almost single-handedly swung an election last year. Politics is hard. Abraham Lincoln said it best; you can’t please everyone all of the time. However, you can hack everyone off constantly and stalling or muddying the waters only gets you so far. Boris will have a lot more cups of tea to serve before anyone forgets his infamous contributions to the Leave campaign. It’s tough to see anyone beyond the “hard-liner Brexiteers” offering some genuine lucidity on the current state of affairs, however, until that happens those in power can expect nothing but dwindling faith in Brexit being remembered as anything beyond a unmitigated failure in political discourse between the elected and the electorate.