Opinion | Left wing students have a lot to learn from the election result

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By, Elliott Callender, Treasurer, Bristol Labour Students and Chloe Baldwin, Social Sec, Bristol Labour Students

After the General Election, my first thoughts are that campaigners need to rest for both themselves and for the public, whose fatigue with the current state of politics is evident. Then it's time to reflect upon the General Election, but this must be done without becoming even more entrenched within ever smaller ideological bubbles.

Bristol Labour students at the freshers fair this year | Courtesy of Bristol Labour students 

We must accept that whilst Brexit is now a certainty, our country’s discourse is still as divided as ever. It’s clear that the dividing lines in our society continue to promote an unwillingness to understand the other side’s grievances and their reasoning for their supported solutions.

Unlike my Conservative counterpart, who in a recent Epigram article on this same subject denounced students as unintelligent for their voting preferences, I won’t continue that type of discourse. There is no doubt that this general election campaign has inspired anger amongst the public, but that does not give anyone the right to abuse someone as a result. Now is not the time for gloating either: it’s time to bring this country back together again and if the aforementioned article is an indicator of what is to come, the Conservatives have no intention of getting rid of today’s prevalent dividing lines.

Students who are frustrated, angry, and disappointed in the General Election result should get involved in a political party as soon as possible.

So what about Labour? The party was obliterated at the polls, only increasing the number of votes it had in a small handful of seats. A cross-factional review into the reasons why the party lost, and what it must improve upon to win its lost voters back, has been launched. Top of the list of improvements for Labour should be to combat the institutional antisemitism which currently exists within the Labour Party It must be an ally:  supporting Jewish voices; not speaking over them. If your democratic socialism doesn’t include Jewish people, then you have no place in the Labour Party.

Labour have significant demographic problems that they need to fix in order to win a Labour Government in 2024. Most notably, this problem manifests itself within age, where older voters are significantly more likely to back the Tories over Labour. If we want to win back power, our message to older voters must be better. Labour also disproportionately struggles with young men in the 18-24 age demographic who were almost twice as likely to vote for the Tories as a woman in the same age bracket. We need to counteract the rise of anti-politics within our country, and start convincing people of the power that politics has to transform society in our favour.

Students who are frustrated, angry, and disappointed in the General Election result should get involved in a political party as soon as possible. You’ll have an almost immediate chance to make your voice heard in upcoming leadership elections for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats. For students, membership is cheaper than expected - it’s only £3 a year to join Labour, and it gives you the power to contribute to the discussions and campaign to create a better society. It’s time to be constructive: young people are underrepresented in politics and by joining political parties we can force our leaders to listen to what we want just that little bit more.

Council elections are in May 2020 so make sure you’re registered to vote (ideally for a postal vote) both at home and at your term time address. If you have council elections in both your hometown and at university, you are able to vote in both at the same time so use that power next May because electing Labour councillors makes a difference to our communities more than we believe.

Party politics isn’t just some game, despite what media narratives frame it as. For many, it’s a struggle to save and improve people’s lives, ensuring that we can reach our potential in a society where anyones aspirations can be achieved. My honest belief is that five more years of Tory government will be disastrous for the most vulnerable in society. So it is imperative that if you are fortunate enough to have spare time, you help charities and projects that will mitigate the negative impact Boris Johnson will have on our communities. Bristol has an abundance of these organisations that would welcome students with open arms, so please help them.

This election has shown that Labour are the best chance we have of getting the Tories out and therefore are the logical party for progressives to join. I hope that over the coming few months and years that Labour can rebuild your trust with a message of social justice and equality on the doorstep, in our communities and in holding the Conservatives to account. That we learn from our failures and create a pragmatic, progressive agenda that seeks to unite our country not tear it apart.


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