Pundits often attribute the Islington MP's success to the fall of New Labour. But many of Corbyn's young fans grew up under the coalition governmentby Julia Blunck / July 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
It hasn’t been a good year for Nick Clegg. In an interview recently, he confessed that even his own nephews and nieces did not vote for his party, instead preferring Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for the country. Clegg claimed that they either didn’t know about Corbyn’s position on Brexit, or they simply shrugged it off, with the assumption that things would work themselves out. Even the young people in his own family, it seems, had been tricked by Corbyn’s siren song.
Kicking a man while he’s down is uncharitable and cheap—but it’s not hard to see how Clegg’s comments reveal his ignorance of the impact he himself had on politics. When Clegg first appeared on TV, dazzling the nation during the 2010 election debates, he was easy to love and easier to vote for. His voters were not expecting an overhaul of capitalism: after a historically damaging recession and the instigation of wars that they saw as unnecessary, they simply wanted a kinder system that worked for them.
Were they hardline socialists with a long list of literature and ideals? Obviously not. Many of them probably saw themselves as being in the center of politics. They were, mostly, not very radical and not very angry; just frustrated that they had been given nothing when every other generation had something: home ownership, better income, a free education.
A lot has been said about the failures of Blairism paving the way for Corbyn. The majority of young people in 2010, though, had grown up thinking of Blair and Brown as establishment figures, not voices of hope. For them, it was Nick Clegg’s disappointing liberalism that was the let-down, and therefore the force that radicalized them. Clegg had framed himself as an outsider—an alternative to both Brown’s decaying figure and Cameron’s pre-packaged, glistening inauthenticity. Young people trusted him, not least on tuition fees.
Instead, after the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Tories, they got harsh austerity, and no assurance that they would have better lives than their parents.
If you watched this unfold in 2010, why wouldn’t you consider centrism rotten, and capitalism a fundamentally bereft system? If you spent your adolescence under the coalition, watching beloved Nick Clegg spout apologies for why he turned his back on…