Photography: John Johnson / johnjohnson-photography.com

“The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”

These were the words delivered by Theresa May on 18th April 2017 when she called a snap General Election, a move that she vehemently ruled out just months before. It was a spectacular U-turn from Prime Minister May’s previous position, and all the worse for the transparency of the reasoning behind it. Ahead in the polls and with cracks beginning to show in her Brexit plans (and for ‘cracks’, read ‘lack of plan’), it was a cynical bid to grab a majority, manipulating our shoddy electoral laws for her own gain. As the media wags pointed out the day after this shock announcement, this Lady is for turning.

 

What's On In Liverpool

 

Of course, Westminster is divided, that’s the point. Even if you question the efficacy of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in providing a robust opposition (which does have some merit), the whole point of Westminster is to hold the government to account. Is Theresa May really saying that she’d prefer it if the nasty Reds, Greens and Yellows would stop saying horrid things about her plans to ruin the country? The opposition has to oppose. And if May thinks the country is coming together, she’s either deluded or outright lying: at best, she’s lying to herself. There’s never been a starker divide in our country than on Brexit, and the narrative has been so hardline and narrow-minded that it has alienated swathes of the country. Those people who voted Remain – the 48%, some 16 million people – have had their wishes cast out with the Article 50 bathwater. That we’ve been led down a hard Brexit path by the sneering likes of David Davis, Iain Duncan-Smith and Liam Fox is bad enough – but being told that we’re ‘unpatriotic’ for having our concerns ignored is downright insulting.

I’m fed up, too, of being pushed into one of two camps on pretty much every issue: In or Out, Labour or Conservative, public ownership or private ownership. There’s no room for nuance in our political system, and even less appetite to change it. A two-party structure isn’t flexible enough to reflect the state of the UK in 2017, and we drastically need an overhaul of our voting system. For true representation and less tribal party politics, we need to get people like Caroline Lucas, Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn working together on the many issues that they agree on and feel passionately about. But this isn’t what the ‘establishment’ want, as it threatens their comfortable power base – and you only have to look at the Daily Mail’s ‘Crush The Saboteurs’ headline on 19th April to see an example of this.

WE ARE THE OPPOSITION REPRISE Image 2

In our March 2017 issue, we used Stephen Bannon’s statement that the mainstream media is “the opposition party” as the jump-off point to talk about fake news and alternative facts. I see echoes of that in the Daily Mail headline – but in the UK the mainstream media is the power. The right-wing press is currently propping up Brand May as she makes a bid for the centre ground with ‘cuddly’ social policies, which are either half-baked or stolen from Labour; all the while, Jeremy Corbyn is reaching out to young and marginalised people and those with hope for a better society. Regardless of party leaders, I always want to see a Labour government in power. In 2017, I am desperate to see Corbyn’s Labour party overturn the pernicious Tory hoard, whether by a stealth sneak in the front door of Number 10, or in coalition with the progressive groups of the left. It can be done.

No matter who wins the General Election on 8th June, opposing the establishment and making sure our voices are heard is vital. It’s not always easy, but it is effective. Turning up on doorsteps and engaging people in conversation – that’s opposition. Marching against illegal wars and NHS cutbacks – that’s opposition. Boycotting newspapers that spread hate and lies – that’s opposition. Addressing crowds of thousands of energised supporters – that’s opposition. Writing pithy opinion pieces in regional magazines – that’s opposition. The gloves are off: the best way to oppose is to do it ourselves – loudly.

Here, we look at some interesting ways in which we can keep the opposition flames burning away from our social media echo chambers, and how effective the message can become when spread across multiple platforms.

ART

In the lead-up to the UK’s general election, graphic designer Rob Lowe, aka Supermundane, has released a series of posters that are free to download, which he is encouraging us to print out and “put where people can see them”. Here, he talks about why he thinks art and guerilla uses of it might have the power to break us out of our bubbles.

“I wanted to design posters for the last General Election but the mood was very different back then – it was only a couple of years ago that nobody really spoke about politics – and I felt that printed posters were maybe a nostalgic indulgence in the age of social media. These are not aimed at older Tory voters but younger people, something to get people thinking and talking. If anyone doesn’t like them or thinks they are ineffective then that’s fine; to that I would say, ‘make your own and get your own message out there’. Talking about these posters isn’t the point – getting the Tories out is.” Rob Lowe

ACTIVISM

Compass is a home for those who want to build and be a part of a fairer, more representative society; one where equality, sustainability and democracy are not mere aspirations, but a living reality. Founded on the belief that no single issue, organisation or political party can make a ‘good society’ a reality by themselves, they promote the idea of a Progressive Alliance of people on the left of politics. Their aim is to work outside of conventional party politics, and with young people, to bring about the change we wish to see in the world, with a transformation of the UK’s electoral system high on the agenda.

“Compass is not just about political parties: people are fed up with political parties. It’s open to all progressives, and I suppose it really took off when [David] Cameron got back in power in 2015. I’ve always been a Labour party member, but increasingly I found that it seemed to be closed to lots of ideas. Our politics, our voting system, are like two big old boxers slugging it out until one knocks the other out: that’s no longer going to get us anywhere. The Progressive Alliance isn’t going to change anything drastically this time around; but letting people know that there is another way is important.” Paul Edwards, Compass Liverpool

MUSIC

Music has always been a powerful tool in carrying a protest message – but there was a time in the not so distant past when certain musicians wouldn’t raise their heads above the parapet to engage with politics, feared as they were of alienating potential fans. Times have changed, and we’re now seeing many more musicians nail their colours to the mast, with a host of UK grime artists recently throwing their weight into the General Election. Rocksalts Events, run by Lois Wilson and Paul Phillips, have put their convictions for saving the NHS behind a series of concerts underneath the People Powered #OurNHS banner – and they see music as the perfect vehicle for that conversation.

“I think we are in an incredibly dangerous time when the main channels of information have become mediums for the right wing to get their message across unchallenged. Music and the arts are a way of telling people, ‘Don't be afraid if you have an alternative narrative to the mainstream, think for yourself, make your own decisions and question what you are being told’. One of my hopes with People Powered is that others will think, ‘Oh, that's good, I'm going to do something like that in my area’, because most places have a music community who are switched on to change and just need someone to bring them together. It’s about raising awareness: if just one person goes away thinking, ‘Oh, maybe everything I read in the papers or see on TV isn’t true, I’d like to find out more for myself’, then that's a success.” Lois Wilson

You can find Rob Lowe’s free poster artwork at supermundane.com.

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