How a new intersectional movement can win hearts and minds.
During parliament’s sessions, every Wednesday, the leader of the most prominent right wing party and the leader of the most popular left wing party take their place at the despatch boxes. It’s a chance to hear thorough debate. It’s an opportunity for the public to tune in and see the government scrutinised and the Opposition challenged for their ideas – or at least it’s supposed to be.
What we really get to see are MP’s, with their arms crossed like sulky school children, giving sniggers and jeers at each other. Neither leader ever answers the questions they’re asked in between the shouts from both sides of the House.
Parliament is groaning under the weight of its own banality but it is not the only problem. Anyone who has ever been to an activist or local party meeting will likely comment that they’re outdated and inaccessible. The meetings are long, dreary and often feature 35 points drawn up by the white straight middle-class cis men chairing the meeting. There are few (if any breaks) for people with disabilities or those who aren’t neurotypical. Women who offer a comment are often talked over, and hard left spaces aren’t anything close to being queer friendly. Many of these meetings exist to pay service to egos and the party hierarchy. That’s not to say nothing gets done, but it serves a system that isn’t interested in representing those who are under-served the most.
Left and right politics have failed. Not only are people forced out from partaking in political debate but our governing ideologies are overly simplistic and often so contradictory, they are redundant. The right want a free market, that only serves the rich and yet also want isolationist policies. They argue for Britain to trade around the world but only for Britain to benefit from trade deals. On domestic policy, they want government out of lives just enough so that they can tell us not to watch porn. They aren’t a modern revolution.
“Left and right politics have failed”
The left isn’t much better. The left has been entrenched with accusations of anti-Semitism to sexual assault. The spaces aren’t safe. The politics are also failures. We’re approaching a climate crisis and quoting Marx or Attlee isn’t going to do anywhere near enough to address that. It doesn’t feel like either side particularly cares about anyone caught up in their dogfights either. The left and right are only concerned with beating the right and left.
Politicians chase likely voters. They never try to inspire to change someone’s mind and make them go to a voting booth for the first time. We’re in a flux with the country going Conservative-Labour-Conservative-Labour. The only variation is the stint time. We had a Coalition, but the Liberal Democrats reversed on their core policy and the Conservatives led the show from start to finish. If we’re supposed to be a democracy then we can do better than just listening to the two best funded parties. We want to hear from those who don’t have money behind them, who got out of school with no qualifications or those who are facing being deported.
People have been left behind, the very people politicians are supposed to serve. They’ve ran from identity politics, scared of standing up for marginalised people. Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems brought us this mess by pandering to “legitimate concerns” around immigration for years. Corbyn initially cited Trump’s victory as a declaration against the establishment. Shock horror to absolutely no marginalised person ever – it wasn’t. It was about racism.
Even the very best of socialism has failed us. The left wing agenda of Corbyn and Sanders believes that an economic revolution will save everyone, but it’s clear their main focus are white straight cis men. It fails to acknowledge the distinct and pernicious nature of bigotry. Racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, ableism, misogyny, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism will all exist no matter how rich we become. If economic opportunity automatically defeated these things then Trump would be the leader of the Puppy Party.
The endless swings in ideology do not have to be our only political story. We need a new movement that stops the ego plays and puts people before parliamentary procedure. Intersectionality can deliver that. A movement of social justice can provide a sustainable future.
“A movement of social justice can provide a sustainable future”
We need policies that are green but also fair. In every corner of the United Kingdom there are young people who can deliver real change. Mhairi Black showed what a young person can achieve in Parliament given half the chance and more deserve the same. A young Muslim from Derry, a non-binary person from Glasgow, a young single mother from Sunderland could be the ones to tell politicians just what life is like. There are questions whether young people can run for political office with so little life experience. Someone who has cared for their mother with MS since age 11 has life experience. Someone with 20 grand of debt just for aspiring to obtain a degree has financial understanding. Someone who was kicked out of their family home for being transgender has real world experience. Those who don’t understand Britain’s complex society are those who were born into wealth, ushered through Eton and then delivered at the doors of Westminster.
Young people don’t vote not because they don’t care – it’s because politicians are useless. They introduced university fees despite benefitting from free university themselves. They then increased university fees. We’re paying some of the highest fees in the world and yet almost half of all graduates can’t get graduate-jobs. What have they done about affordable housing? How long did it take them to decide to finally give same gender couples the chance to marry? What are they doing about rising hate since Brexit?
We can demand change. Intersectionality isn’t academic or overly complex. It recognises that people can experience oppression or discrimination on multiple levels, and it supports everyone in their struggle against that. It is the ultimate movement of solidarity. It is the only vision that will support aspiration.
We can start right now. It only takes one person to begin to bring change. Tweet and inform people, support inclusive media, donate via Patreon or Indiegogo to your favourite activists, writers and artists. Promote the voices of marginalised people. Create your own zine. Make marches and protests inclusive by having breaks and spaces where people can go if they need time out. Stand in any election. Make posters or campaign slogans for an election. Make memes to spread your message if you must. Upload a podcast of your biggest priorities when it comes to politics. Share a YouTube video of a political spoken word performance.
Every action can help change the culture we’ve got that consistently devalues the lives of young people – and especially young marginalised people. If the anger of white America brought about the horror of Trump then marginalised people across the UK can come together to stop our own form of populism rising. They call marginalised people the minority, but add us all up and we will tower over those bullies that only support an ideology that empowers them by making someone else worse off.
Forget changing minds of the right. They made their choice about migrants. Why pander to xenophobia? We set the tone by leading. Politicians all shirked their responsibility. They’re not going to get the job done for young people, so we’ll do it ourselves.
If anyone has a right to say they’ve lost their country it’s young people who have been denied the vote, whose choice to remain was ignored and who have been given the responsibility of the debt left from the banking crisis. It is the EU nationals who have lived here for years, and now are being told they may need to leave. It is Muslims who have been repeatedly demonised for acts of terror which were not their responsibility.
We can take control of the narrative today. The election was a surprise for many but let it in history be remembered as a shock for an established order that finally realised that they cannot continue to ignore young people.