Look at any period of civil unhappiness, and you’ll see the masses tend to flock to those who offer pragmatic solutions. Germany in the 1920s and 30s is a prime example of this. The country was in economic ruin during this period, and the leaders of the Weimar Republic had “given in” to its rivals – meaning civilians saw the government as weak, and look for better solutions. This explained the rise of fascism and communism.
While Britain has not sunk to the depths that Weimar Germany was in (thankfully), it appears the public seem to have much to worry about. Many communities are worrying about austerity measures implemented by the government. According to a YouGov poll, 40% of those who took part in the poll feel that cuts are becoming too deep. Funding towards public services is being slashed, and families are being nailed by welfare cuts. The Tories pledged to make £12 billion worth of cuts towards welfare by 2020.
This has likely, explained the rise in support for Labour’s own Jeremy Corbyn; the leader elected in September, who has cut all ties from Blairism and has reformed the party – making the party’s main aim to challenge austery. People who are terrified and concerned of the impact that austerity will have on their lives will see this as a beam of hope, and jump onto the band-wagon of “Corbynmania” (unless they are also staunch environmentalists, and choose to stick with the Green Party!) Many students and traditional socialists seem to be following suite, too.
Could we be witnessing the rise of a sweeping new wave of politics in Britain then?
As established at the beginning of this article, the masses offer support to those offering solid change when in dire circumstances. So if the Conservatives become complacent in their present position, and carry on delivering devastating cuts and turning more people against them, then they risk losing much of their support base – which helped them clinch a solid victory in the General Election, last May
However, Britain is more divided on politics and social issues than ever. 71% of Briton’s consider themselves middle-class, to a fair extent; it seems that Margaret Thatcher has left behind a legacy, and her aim to encourage people to become home-owners has isolated the masses even further than perhaps it already was – making people look out for their own needs. Even the working class tend to be less left-wing and “progressive” than the middle-class, on issues like immigration and welfare. This is ironic, considering the working class are the people who would benefit the most from Corbyn’s policies.
This calls for another vital point to be made. While austerity still concerns much of the public, and people seem to be scathing at the Conservatives, numerous polls show that immigration is currently the number one concern among the British public. This explained the escalation of support to Nigel Farage’s UKIP and, to a lesser scale, the British National Party prior to 2010.
With much of the media still tearing into the public’s thought process about how mass immigration is a danger to society (whether or not you think it is, is a different issue), and Jeremy Corbyn calling for less regulation and limits on migration into the United Kingdom, this could potentially shut out Labour’s bid to win over the masses. Sure, he could change some minds, but in his bid to do so he would be up against the dominion of newspapers like the Sun, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Express – which arguably have more of an influence over the general public.
A poll by TNS global shows that 86% of the public currently believe that the economy in Britain is improving or has simply stayed roughly the same. While many are unhappy, the circumstances don’t seem excessively dire for many to call for drastic change. Many people are likely content with the government. “Corybnmania” may be surging, with tens of thousands of new members claimed to have joined Labour since his victory, but unless there is a great collapse or alteration in the system, it seems that the 2020 election could be too soon for a turnaround. Too many people, while they might be sceptical and have disdain for the current government, do seem satisfied with their lives already.
This being the case, and while the narrative that Labour wrecked the economy is still ingrained into people’s minds, and the media keeps reinforcing this (which is silly, considering that Labour has an entirely new cabinet), then change is unlikely to come about if things stay as they are. The Conservatives will have to alienate vast chunks of the electorate with incessant austerity measures for people to turn away from the current system.
Of course, political systems have gone through drastic change throughout the centuries (back to Germany earlier in the last century); Britain will not necessarily remain the same forever. Corbyn getting a platform in politics could open the floodgates for more debate and acceptance of left-wing ideas – this is what his supporters have to hope for. But for real change to come about, people have got to want change.