Now the entire nation will have to brace for another five years of the Tories’ ruthless neoliberalism and bigotry, writes Dineskumar Ragu.
For many in the left and centre-left who had hoped for a Labour Party win in the UK general election, the results were emotionally devastating. They never expected such a loss: it was Labour’s worst electoral performance since the 1935 polls.
Many had thought this election was the right opportunity for the party, led by the visionary democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn, to rise again to reverse the damage that the Tory government had inflicted on British society for nearly a decade. The progressives in the party hoped to end the Tories’ austerity in social programmes, reverse the gradual privatisation of the National Health Service (NHS), curb the rising poverty rate and narrow the wide income inequality through the campaign promises outlined in the Labour manifesto.
But their hopes were dashed. The majority of UK voters apparently have their priorities set on something else. They want to get Brexit done. They are more interested in feeding their nationalistic ego by bringing the country back to the era when immigration was never an issue for the country. This is ironic considering that the country colonised a huge number of countries around the globe.
Both the left and the right have their respective cases for leaving the EU. But it is undisputable that a right-wing anti-EU narrative – fuelled by right-wing nationalism heavily laden with anti-immigration rhetoric – has hijacked the Brexit discourse in the UK. This has sidelined concerns over the neoliberal cross-border economic system that the EU has been pushing which has put working-class Britons at a disadvantage.
Voters, especially those from the working class who have been long-time Labour voters, were angry that that their party was pushing for a second referendum, which they saw as disrespecting their decision back in 2016. And they punished Labour for that by voting for the Conservatives, the same party that has no remorse for eroding the people’s quality of life for nearly a decade.
Many sceptics of democracy will deduce that this election result is a clear example of the failure of the govenment system, where people make ill-informed political choices on a democratic platform en masse.
However, as someone who still believes in democracy, I disagree. Democracy does not have to deliver devastating outcomes like this election result. It can deliver amazing outcomes for society when voters make educated choices by prioritising socioeconomic issues that matter to them most. Many Malaysians would agree, as we did set a good example by toppling the corrupt Barisan Nasional regime in the 2018 general election.
Unfortunately, the majority of UK voters felt otherwise. By opting for the Tories on the basis of getting Brexit done, voters have enabled them to continue implementing their austerity policies targeting social programmes that have benefited lower and lower-middle income Britons for decades. Meanwhile, wealthy Britons will continue to stash their funds in tax havens overseas, with zero scrutiny from the government.
The National Health Service (NHS), the pride of Labour and Britons in general, will now face more privatisation pressure: Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that Boris Johnson intends to open the public healthcare system to insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies from the US in a post-Brexit trade deal arranged between his government and US President Donald Trump.
Should US pharmaceutical and insurance companies, known for their predatory business practices, get a chokehold on the NHS, more Britons would be denied access to quality affordable healthcare. They would have to pay hefty sums for premiums and life-saving drugs.
Racial and religious minorities and immigrants could now end up experiencing worse racism and xenophobia than during the post-2016 referendum climate. Imagine letting these minorities endure this misery for the sake of restoring the identity of the old UK, which has long since gone.
This election result shows that the majority of voters have their priorities misplaced, and now the entire nation will have to brace for another five years of the Tories’ ruthless neoliberalism and bigotry. Working-class voters who voted for the Tories – despite witnessing the horrors of government policies in recent years – were like turkeys who voted for Christmas.
Folks in the global left movement can only hope that Labour-voting Britons, who are emotionally and spiritually wounded by the election results, can endure the looming hardships and organise themselves to resist Tory policies while paving the way for progressives in Labour to win future general elections.
Dineskumar Ragu is an Aliran executive committee member.