The United Kingdom is waking up this morning to a political landscape that was completely unthinkable even a month ago. The UK election result joins the country’s decision to leave the European Union, and the US election of Donald Trump, in being part of this insane period in history.
Theresa May, the Conservative Party leader who was in power before the election, will be given permission by the Queen to continue in that role. The shock, though, is how close a left-wing socialist got to beating her.
Not only did the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn come close to an unthinkable result – he was so successful in the election that Theresa May now has no majority rule in parliament, and barely has the power to get anything done (ironically, gaining more power was the reason she called the election in the first place).
Following her disastrous showing in the UK election’s campaigning period, she will now have to depend on an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to pass legislation.
Is “socialism” still a dirty word?
So why is it so shocking that Corbyn took most of her power and almost took her job? In an American context, this would be like Bernie Sanders being a handful of Electoral College votes away from being president.
Although the UK has more of a history of left-wing socialism than the US does, “socialism” is still seen as being a dirty word. Most of the mainstream have usually found it easy to paint a left-wing candidate as a lunatic who wants a communist system similar to that in Stalin’s Soviet Union.
In particular, the mainstream print media in the UK are always keen to paint left-wing politicians with such a brush.
Observers of UK news will know that The Guardian is the single prominent left-wing newspaper in the country. Among the tabloid papers with rousing, sensationalist headlines, the conservative voice has dominated political discourse for generations.
It has always been said that if The Sun supports you in an election, you are likely to win. The Sun will never, ever support somebody like Jeremy Corbyn.
In fact, Corbyn has faced either obscurity or direct attacks from the tabloids and most other newspapers. Despite this, he almost pulled off the most shocking UK election result in history.
New media for new generations
Even though online media and social media have had major input into elections for quite a long time now, new media can only be said to have been a force, rather than the driving force. This UK election result has shown that is no longer the case.
Corbyn mobilized young voters, who of course use social media on a vast basis (although that demographic is clearly not the only people doing so).
Young people and social media helped to raise Bernie Sanders’ profile, but not enough for him to get into a presidential race. Corbyn not only got into a leadership race, but almost won it.
Why this UK election result is different to any other
There’s nothing to say that new media is better than old media necessarily, of course. But the one major advantage that new media has is that it is far less limited in who it is controlled by. It is in theory controlled by all of us.
Old media, on the other hand, is often controlled by a worryingly limited number of powerful individuals. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns The Sun, and Murdoch was also the founder of Fox News across the Atlantic.
Murdoch is said to have “stormed out” of the room when he saw the UK election result coming in.
New media didn’t quite shape politics this time, but it has shown that old media is unlikely to do so in future.