It can be argued that last week’s General Election marks a turning point: a shift away from neoliberalism and towards – or rather back to – social democracy. There is talk that the age of austerity is over. The initial focus on Brexit was replaced by a genuine policy debate, based around the Labour and Conservative manifestos and revealing voters’ anxieties about the state of public services. Young people were energised into voting in greater numbers, which could lead to changing political priorities as parties take them more seriously in future.
The power of the mainstream media has been dented, as the public took little notice of their sneers and voted Labour anyway. The scale of Labour gains prompted discussion about the mechanics of campaigning, including the use of social media, the impact of positive messages versus smearing your opponents, and the importance of the ‘ground campaign’ through canvassing and rallies.
On the other hand let’s not lose the run of ourselves. Despite unexpected Labour gains, the Conservatives are still likely to be in government, kept in power by the DUP: arguably a regressive partnership, rather than the progressive alliance we at The Combination had hoped for. And a partnership that regards the Good Friday Agreement as collateral damage.
So are we in for more austerity, or will there be a sudden interest in putting extra funds into Northern Ireland? Are we to be faced with reinvigorated opposition to progress on women’s rights and LGBTQ equality, or will the additional scrutiny on the DUP’s positions force them to soften their stance? What are the implications for issues such as climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy? Can the UK Government continue as an ‘honest broker’ in Stormont talks when that Government depends on the confidence and supply of one of the parties to the talks? For the same reason, should the talks fail, how can direct rule from London be perceived as impartial? How are voters in the border counties to be represented when they have no active representatives above local Council level?
And speaking of the border, there’s also the small matter of imminent Brexit negotiations…
What are we to make of it all?
Well, the Combination has organised a public meeting to address these and related issues, and to consider the implications of the General Election for progressive politics in Northern Ireland and farther afield. We’ve invited five speakers from a range of perspectives: Brian Campfield (NIPSA), Geraint Ellis (QUB), Ellen Murray (GenderJam NI and Green Party NI), Liz Nelson (Belfast Feminist Network and Belfast Trades Council) and Robin Wilson (independent researcher and journalist).
Join us on Tuesday 20 June, 7.30pm at the Crescent Arts Centre, Workshop Room 4.
And follow us at: https://www.facebook.com/combinationNI/ and @CombinationNI
14 June 2017