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Enter Corbyn, Stage Left

PhD student David Evans Bailey shares his thoughts on the latest political debacle in his home country.

The United Kingdom’s political arena has always been something of a circus show, but there’s a serious side to it.

Its political behaviour over the past 10 years is certainly something I hope won’t be emulated in New Zealand; The Tory and Lib Dem coalition did not live up to expectations, and once the Conservatives were unleashed, they rained down financial misery (among other things) upon anyone who didn’t fit the middle-class slipper. A standard three-year degree will now cost you a cool $120k worth of debt to obtain, and the number of people living with disabilities who have had their benefits cut is quite frankly appalling. All thanks to the last two governments.

Having taken a deep interest in politics since the 70s, these issues, albeit 18,000km away, are still close to my heart. I recently returned to the UK for a visit and discovered that the cuts had even extended to the fabled recycling centres, which are now closed more than they are open in some cases. To a die-hard liberal like me, it’s a disaster.

Enter Corbyn, stage left. From the moment he was elected leader of the Labour party, you would have thought Satan himself had arrived within our midst. The press, members of his own party and other parties vilified him at every turn. Everything he said was distorted or twisted to make it sound as though Stalin was his mentor. Scurrilous headlines such as ‘Corbyn rides a Chairman Mao style bicycle’ were splashed across the front pages of rags like The Sun and The Daily Mail.

"Corbyn is no fool, he has an eye for the next election, and I think he can win that when the time comes."

Corbyn survived two leadership challenges and emerged stronger and wiser, and what I have seen of the man is good. He wants to bring back free or fair university fees, and preserve the NHS, and he proposes companies and high earners pay more tax to cover it. But those used to the government handing out tax cuts left right and centre are up in arms.

Corbyn is visibly a man of the people. During the election campaign he appeared everywhere, from well-attended rallies, to comforting the victims of the Grenfell fire while his counterpart Theresa May chose only to speak to the firemen. When it came time for the election, Labour’s share of votes increased dramatically, but alas, it was not enough. Some say this is due to the Tory gerrymandering of boundaries, while others point to voter stupidity, the same stupidity that allowed Brexit to happen and Trump to take office.

Whatever the truth, Teresa May was down but not out. She stands accused of pinching a mere 1.5 billion pounds of taxpayer’s money to seal a ‘grubby deal’ with Northern Irish unionists, the Democratic Unionist Party, to push her over the line. The DUP denies climate change, is anti-gay, anti-abortion and backed by terrorist group Ulster Defence Association (UDA). How she managed to get away with this is still a mystery, but she has – so far. The irony of May having criticised Corbyn for allegedly being a terrorist sympathiser was not lost on many.

What the future holds for May and the Tories is anybody’s guess. Hopefully, it will be short-lived. So far, she has done little with a hamstrung administration and a small majority bolstered by the DUP. Corbyn is no fool, he has an eye for the next election, and I think he can win that when the time comes. These are interesting times, best viewed from the comfort of New Zealand where I happily reside in the hope that it won’t happen here, the last bastion, it seems, of some kind of common sense politics. But maybe I shouldn’t speak to soon…

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