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Young voters proved everyone wrong this election, and we’re not about to stop campaigning

Author:
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By Amy Callaghan

In the UK’s general election on the 8th of June, the exit polls predicted a shock result which was irreconcilable with the state of British politics when Theresa May called the election on the 18th of April. At that time, the Tories were expected to at the very least hold on to, and indeed likely substantially increase, their parliamentary majority, giving Theresa May a greater mandate and aiding her legitimacy in Brexit negotiations. The Labour Party awaited decimation. However, the exit polls predicted a hung Parliament, and as the night went on, it became increasingly clear that the Conservative party could not expect to form a majority government this time around. At the time of writing, the Conservatives hold 318 seats, losing 12, and Labour hold 261 seats, gaining 29. The reason for this transformation in the political landscape bringing about an unexpected victory for the political left? Young voter turnout.

72% is the estimated turnout figure for voters aged 18-24 (although the veracity of this figure and other turnout figures is unlikely to be confirmed for around a week), a massive increase on the estimated 43% turnout in the last general election, and higher even than their turnout at the EU referendum, which was around 64%. This huge upswing in engagement among young voters marks a significant shift in establishment politics, which relies more heavily than they will admit on apathetic young voters – in fact, the Sun ran a feature online on the day of the election this year on how to actively prevent young people from voting. While the piece is obviously writing in a joking tone, the message is nothing short of repellent – claiming that young people will ‘do the wrong thing’ at the polls as though their views on their future matter less than the accepted and established Conservative perspective more favoured by older voters.

The Conservative party themselves did not do much to engage young voters, particularly in comparison with the Labour party. While the Labour party encouraged young people to register to vote and then get out and vote consistently throughout their campaign, the Tories did not use social media to encourage voter registration at all during theirs. This is evidently a deliberate lack of engagement with young voters, as the Conservatives are aware that young voters tend to lean much more towards progressive parties and politics. Their high turnout marks an important shift in British politics which will hopefully persist in the future.

Another vital benefit of increasing young voter engagement and turnout is the balancing effect it has on the bias present in traditional media such as television and newspapers. Young people are significantly more likely to engage in politics on social media rather than in newspapers, allowing a counteraction of the bias present in overwhelmingly right-wing media sources, which often blatantly lie and misrepresent Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. Even in viewing television debates, young voters are more likely to read reactions and responses to the debates on social media rather than in newspapers. This helps to account for the success of Corbyn and the Labour party, surprising to many – the negative portrayal and scaremongering within traditional media led many (including more liberal publications such as the Guardian) to believe success was utterly unlikely, yet online engagement of young voters was evidently hugely effective in changing the result.

Hopefully this result will show young people the power they have to effect change in British politics. Many disillusioned by the Brexit result (which did not reflect their views or interests) channelled this frustration and fury into thoroughly knocking the wind out of the Tories’ sails, as demonstrated by the election results. This sends a message to the British establishment – do not underestimate or ignore young people – but it also sends a message to young people themselves. We can affect change – we can massively alter the results expected and established. The Tories are in a significantly weakened state rather than a position of enormous power – thanks to us. Maintaining this engagement and energy means opposition in months and years to follow can be effective and empowering. Young people have proven that we can change the face of British politics, and we certainly intend to continue.

The rape clause: thoughts on Tory women in politics

Author:
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By Isla Whateley

Content note: discussion of rape and the law around rape

As a woman in politics, you are a minority. In both Westminster (UK) and Holyrood (Scotland) parliaments, about a third of elected politicians are women. Both the UK Prime Minister and the Scottish First Minister are women, however, and some may say this is an ‘achievement’ for women and feminism. But this is not necessarily the case.

The Conservative government, led by Theresa May (the second ever woman Prime Minister), has just put forward changes to child tax credits. Child tax credits are part of the welfare system in the UK; a benefit that low-income working parents get. As a child in a low-income, lone parent family, I benefitted hugely from the tax credits that we received. They were introduced by the Labour government that were in power for 13 years, 1997 to 2010, for almost all of my childhood. Although I was an only child, there was no cap for the amount of tax credits you received based on the number of children you had. My mum and I have a lot to thank Labour for and we wouldn’t have been able to get by without it.

Fast forward to now. Theresa May and the Conservatives have put a cap on child tax credits to two children – the ‘family cap’. Sounds unfair, right? It gets worse. If you have more than two children, sorry, no welfare for you. Unless one of these children is a result of a rape. You are forced to disclose this if you want to receive this welfare.

First of all, this completely undermines and ignores the extreme trauma rape causes. Rape is a violent crime, and many survivors suffer from mental illnesses such PTSD, depression and anxiety as a result. The legal system is rigged against women and survivors – hence, rape is ridiculously under-reported and under-convicted. Imagine undergoing all of that, and then being forced to disclose this highly sensitive, traumatic information in order to put food on the table for your children. It is clear that no survivors, sexual assault charities or women’s organisations were consulted in the formulation of this clause. At best, it is anti-feminist and undermines survivor’s autonomy . At worst, it will result in death.

On April 25th, in the Scottish Parliament, there was a debate on this issue. Kezia Dugdale, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, read out a letter from a rape victim and attacked Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, for being the only Scottish party leader to not have condemned the clause. Davidson, like May, is a prominent Tory and a woman. Neither of them seem to care about this.

So how did a government led by a woman let this go through? Sadly, being a woman does not equal being a feminist. This goes for politicians too. The Tories have actively pursued an austerity agenda since being in government, in order to combat the deficit, and there is extensive evidence that austerity disproportionately affects marginalised groups. This most definitely includes women – who are most likely to be affected by the rape clause.

For me, feminism is intersectional and must represent all women – especially if they are single parents, rape survivors, or low-income. It is one thing having Conservative men promote the rape clause, but a completely different issue when Ruth Davidson refuses to comment. Her silence and inaction says so much more than words could – that she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care enough to fight against this horrific injustice. In Scotland, we can’t do anything to stop it apart from lobby the Westminster government. Ruth Davidson is my local MSP, and I can say for sure that she represents survivors of sexual assault in this constituency. Her silence is abhorrent and very telling of the nature of many women Conservatives in the public eye.

Thankfully, many other Scottish politicians and activists are taking a stand. Two protests have taken place already – one in Glasgow, on Thursday 13th April, and one in Edinburgh on Thursday 20th April. At both, prominent campaigners and politicians spoke against the clauses, and hundreds of people turned up to show their support. There is a petition that can be signed here to bring further awareness to the issue, if you are a UK citizen. It is also important to vote against the Tories in the upcoming snap General Election – they are actively damaging to women and our rights. Register to vote here by 22nd May 2017!

The poison of neoliberalism

Author:
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By Kaylen Forsyth

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of modern politics is its anonymity. It is through this anonymity that those with power are able to manipulate and exploit those without. If people are generally unaware of the poison dominating society, how can they then overcome it?

I’m talking predominantly about neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is everywhere and has been for at least the last thirty years, prominent since the governments of Thatcher and Reagan.

For those who’ve never come across the term Neoliberalism before, it is a political theory running on the idea that governments should not interfere with free markets.
It is beyond destructive. The basic principle behind it is the dehumanisation of individuals. Society is seen as a breeding ground for competition: we are all nothing more than competitors inside a political system.

Essentially, Neoliberalism pushes the idea that wealth will trickle down from the rich to the poor, generating a false belief that “everybody gets what they deserve”. This drivel is fed to us constantly. However, it can be easily disproved.

The amount of money people make is strongly determined by what their parents earn. In the U.S., children tend to earn an extra $0.33 for each dollar that their parents earn. Yet Neoliberalism still results in the rich convincing themselves they earned their wealth fairly without stopping to check their privilege. Meanwhile, the lesser privileged classes find ways to blame themselves for their poverty. Neoliberalism has given birth to an age of competition and blame that seems inescapable.

The effect this ideology has on women, especially, is overlooked- though it definitely shouldn’t be.

The policies involved in Neoliberalism have transferred the wealth of poorer nations to Western nations. Former colonies were made to rely on loans from ex-colonial powers. These loans included harmful conditions, one of the most harmful being cuts to public services.

Export Processing Zones (EPZs) are free trade zones set up by governments to encourage export. These led to multinational companies using cheap labour, mainly women, to produce tax-free goods. What followed was a large increase in poverty, inequality and disability. With women pressured into low-wage jobs and limited public services to help them afterward, these kinds of negative results are inevitable. Women become nothing more than cheap employment for corporations who exploit them guiltlessly.

As well as creating clear gendered labour inequalities, Neoliberalism spreads dangerous values. These ideas often lead to people viewing each other as simple chances to profit. The human aspect that should be the basis of society is lost. Relationships wither soon after opportunities are drained.

Neoliberalist attitudes have led to this twisted consensus that people are to be valued on what they can give. Nothing else seems to matter. Thus, an enormous gender bias arises. Because of age-old stereotypes, women are reduced to what they can domestically provide. Their burden increases evermore. All the while Neoliberalism doesn’t provide any assistance because it believes that individuals should look after themselves – and if they aren’t coping it’s their own fault.

More than just the effects of its policies though, the very language of its philosophy oppresses women. The “market” does not support us. Instead, it perpetuates pre-existing inequalities such as race and gender imbalances. Those with higher income play more influential roles in this “market”. Due to the fact that women and people of colour are already at a disadvantage in terms of unequal pay, the “market” is intrinsically biased.

It’s almost as if Neoliberalism works to discourage those who are already discouraged by society.

This toxic system is maintaining an unhealthy status quo. The gap between different classes of women is widening at a terrifying speed; living standards between women in developing countries and those in developed are starkly different. All of this has come about because of the predominance of Neoliberalism and it is incredibly important people can identify and understand exactly what this system enables. It is the only way to begin overcoming it.

The Diplomatic Disaster of Trump’s Relations with China

Author:
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By Amy Callaghan

The relationship between the US and China is one of the most significant relationships of the 21st century. China’s role as an international power and its place as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council means that it is a vital and powerful ally to the US internationally.

US concerns about the rising power of China in East Asia, and Chinese concerns about the tendency of the US to interfere and impede on affairs which China considered purely domestic, have been the main reason for tensions between the two countries in the past.

Since the end of the Cold War, a delicate diplomacy has emerged between China and the US, hinging on a core set of values and established rules of interaction between the two. Both countries are incredibly reliant on each other both from an international diplomacy point of view as well as in terms of economics and trade, and this is why the election of Donald Trump as president of the US has caused such concerns over the future of the US-Chinese relationship.

One of the most crucial aspects of the relationship is adherence to the ‘One China’ policy. Put into simple terms, the ‘One China’ policy means that the US only recognises the People’s Republic of China, governed in Beijing, rather than the Republic of China, governed from Taipei in Taiwan.

In the past, issues between the US and China which have nearly led to open conflict have centred on perceived breaking of this principle – for example, the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis nearly resulted in use of military force by the US and China against each other. This crisis was caused by a state visit from the newly elected president of Taiwan to the US, which appeared to China to be a direct threat to the One-China principle. From this perspective, then, it is clear why then president-elect Trump’s phone call to the president of Taiwan in December 2016 caused tensions between the US and China, with experts from the White House rushing to assure the Chinese government in Beijing that the US intended to adhere to the One-China policy.

Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times: “The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action of historic proportions. Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

Diplomatic blunders such as these are why the presidency of Donald Trump could throw established international relationships into chaos.

Domestically, of course, Trump’s presidency has been anything but peaceful and stable – he has demonstrated a distinct lack of understanding of the judicial system among other things, as well as enacting essentially unconstitutional policies such as the Muslim ban. However, it will be these international diplomatic blunders which cause Trump – and the US as a whole – the greatest issues in maintaining their status as a power with unrivalled global influence. In recent days, Trump has committed to maintaining the One-China policy in a phone call to Xi Jinping, the president of China, yet the fear and uncertainty about Trump’s intentions caused by his initial blunder and stance on the issue is now a part of the Chinese perspective on the US for the foreseeable future.

It is unclear, as with so many issues arising from Trump’s presidency, how this situation will play out over the next four years. Maintaining a stable and cooperative relationship with China was one of the priorities of the Obama administration, as its importance as an ally of the US was given the value and significance it deserved.

However, with his customary tough talk and his ambitions to ‘Make America Great Again’, Trump could completely throw off the balance of the international stage, and nothing is a clearer indicator of this than his interactions with China up to this point. Threatening the stability of America’s relationship with China would have disastrous repercussions globally, from an economic perspective as well as a threat to keeping the peace between the two countries.

Young, not clueless

Author:
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By Bex Dudley

I need to preface this with a disclaimer. I am a white Brit and, for those reasons, this is not my story to tell. However, I am telling this because I am also a queer young person. My queerness means I feel at least a little of the pain the world is experiencing; my status as a young person, as I’ll explain later, is the reason I am writing this at all.

I want to tell you about the US Election Night as experienced at my uni.

I want to tell you about the weeks preceding. The Student Union at my university- a prestigious social and political sciences institute – decided to hold an event. Though we are, technically, an English university, holding this event was never questioned; partly because we have a high number of US students, partly because we are, by nature, all interested in politics and society; partly because why wouldn’t we hold an event? Of course we would.

Tickets to the event sold like wildfire. Often, the SU events are able to sell tickets on the door- but the Facebook page for this event informed us that this wouldn’t be an option, as capacity had already been reached. In the days before the event, that same page was filled with people trying to get tickets; they were selling for double the price on the day of the event. People were desperate to go to this – because we had all followed the build up, we all wanted to watch, to the second, what happened.

I want to tell you about the gathering we had- the ‘party’, as we called it – up until about halfway through the night. I wasn’t able to get a ticket for the SU event but, due to high interest, my accommodation- like many of the other accommodations at the university- held their own event.

We turned up for 9pm GMT, around 20 of us, probably more, with food and drink and blankets, ready and eager to watch. The atmosphere was good; we were happy, full of laughter and jokes. We cycled through the different news stations, banning Fox outright and eventually settling (somewhat dubiously) on CNN. At the SU, they had official political analysers; in halls, we picked each other’s brains, asking questions and debating answers.

We’d all done our research: we knew which states were important, and we knew how it was going to go. Ohio and Florida were key, we kept saying; and Hillary would get both of them. Of course she would. We had no doubt.

I don’t want to say what happened next.

I don’t want to tell you how the atmosphere slowly changed, as we realised that Trump was beginning to take Florida. We stopped asking questions, we stopped talking about much at all. Everyone had their phones out, looking for the latest statistics and percentages, trying to get up-to-the-second news, messaging people who might know a little more. I myself messaged people I knew at the SU. They said that the atmosphere there was similar- tense, sad, worried.

I don’t want to tell you what it felt to be like in a room full of a plethora of people, all of whom had their own reasons for dreading what was beginning to feel inevitable. The room was both still and restless; some people went to bed, or said they did- maybe it was just to get out of that room. People came back from their various nights out. One friend came back from a club, slightly tipsy- suddenly sober and full of disbelief when he looked at the screen. To one side of the room, a man in a smart suit rested his head in his hands, whilst the woman next to him paced up and down, swearing. That’s an image that will never leave me.

I don’t want to tell you how it felt to message my sleeping girlfriend, to try and break the news in a way that might not hurt too much. I found myself fixatedly scrolling through Twitter, watching as all the sadness and hurt and anger came spilling out. Having been up the whole night, the world seemed unreal- I chose to go to bed, feeling that conversation in lectures would revolve around one thing only, and that I couldn’t face that yet. I woke up at 2 in the afternoon, and that’s when it began to hit me – a heaviness, an emptiness.

I do not want to tell you how the next few days were: how it felt to watch the people I love and admire cry and hurt and rage. The people I consider strong, my rocks- they were all hurting too. There was no one to stand up and say this is what we do because there was too much emotion to do that, and, at that time, any suggestion of what to do seemed either impossible or pointless. The world, as we knew it, had collapsed: because, within that one night, everything we have been fighting became legitimised.

Back to the things I want to tell you. I want to take a step back. I want you to know three things.

Firstly, everyone in my account of the US Election- the people at the SU, the people in my halls, the countless stories I encountered on Twitter- were people incredibly invested in this election. Many people were incredibly academically clued up- Americans interested in their political system, politics students, economics students, social sciences students. Many more were socially clued up, painfully aware of the effects a Trump win would have for them- people of colour, migrant people, queer people, disabled people, every intersection of these.

Secondly, though I know that there would most likely have been Trump supporters, neither myself nor anyone I know came into contact with them. The change in the atmosphere both in my halls and in the SU strongly show that these were people who did not support Trump. The stories I saw on Twitter were anti-Trump.

Lastly, I want you to know that the majority- or, more likely, all- of those people could be classified as ‘young people’.

These three facts are important because, a few days after the election I saw a comment on Facebook, from someone claiming that ‘young people don’t have a clue’, the context of which implied that young people who didn’t want Trump to win didn’t have a clue. I am pretty thick-skinned. I can deal with a lot of things on social media- but this comment made me angry, because my experiences were so strongly the opposite.

I want to tell you that that comment is wrong. I want to tell you that I was surrounded by incredibly clued up young people, young people who academically or socially- or, most often, both– were incredibly aware of what was going on. I want you to know that these people were faced with the facts, and that, though I cannot speak for them all, overall, they strongly didn’t want Trump.

I need you to know that.

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