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Corbyn at 68, a youth icon...

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Jun 12, 2017, 2:05 am IST
Updated : Jun 12, 2017, 2:05 am IST

A reason to cheer, however, is the fact that 200 women have been elected to Parliament, which is the highest ever.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: AP)
 British Prime Minister Theresa May (Photo: AP)

The price of overconfidence, that’s what Prime Minister Theresa May is paying these days, as her overwhelming support has dwindled sharply, and she is struggling for survival. The elections, which were meant to deal her a strong hand, have deprived her of authority, even within her own party.

Her majority of 20-plus seats has been swept away and now she is dependent on a coalition! There is an important lesson to be learnt: in this world of social media, the scenario can change rapidly. It depends on the popularity of the message, and the need of the hour.

People’s opinions can be transformed through a sustained social media campaign — and that is what the Labour Party undertook to achieve. Just in the few weeks following the announcement of the elections, the party began a social media campaign, including Facebook chats with young voters, introducing them to Jeremy Corbyn, an unlikely youth icon at 68. As the leader of the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn has been an object of ridicule — his left ideology making him a pariah even within his own party. Former popular leaders like Tony Blair have come out in the open to declare that they will do their utmost to ensure that he is ousted from his post as leader.

But his unlikely and unexpected boost at the hustings from the youth (over 70 per cent of the vote came from them) has changed all perceptions. The Labour Party had very strategically targeted the young voter by offering them better deals on tuition fees, and the manifesto maintained a redistributive slant. University towns, such as Canterbury, were specific targets — often wresting them from well-established Tory MPs.

The Tories on the other hand, were still following the policies of cutting public spending — and these led to a massive backlash when the attacks in Manchester and London Bridge took place. Instead of focussing on a “strong and stable” Theresa May — the discussion changed to whether the cuts by the government, specially under Ms May as home secretary, could have negatively affected policing on the streets.

This change in the argument led to another widening chasm in Ms May’s credibility. Even the older Tory vote bank had begun to desert her after her party’s manifesto focused on “dementia tax” in which health care would be provided against the value of the homes the elderly owned. This might be the sensible thing to do, but it is always a mistake to sound harsh in party manifestoes.

 As they say, turkeys are not going to vote for Christmas. And now a chaotic Parliamentary season lies ahead.

A reason to cheer, however, is the fact that 200 women have been elected to Parliament, which is the highest ever. Everyone is going “balle, balle” because the first woman Sikh MP, Preet Gill, has been elected. As the daughter of an immigrant bus driver, she is now part of a strong group of ethnic MPs who belong to the two major parties. Among the young Tory MPs who won included Rishi Sunak (the smart, Stanford-educated son-in-law of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy) and the ever-charming Priti Patel.

Normally I never read books on Diana, the Princess of Wales, because I feel that so much has already been out there in the open. However, the new book Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton might actually shed new light on a woman who refused to “go quietly”. This book is extracted from tapes she secretly recorded at her sitting room in Kensington Palace, and were sent to Andrew Morton through a proxy, Dr James Colthurst. The latter had known Diana since she was 17 years old. The tapes were recorded when she was 30, and had been married for 10 years, and was desperate to have her side of the story known, somehow. Yet, while she spilt her angst over the fact that Prince Charles had been reportedly in an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles even before they were married, she concealed her own dalliances with Major James Hewitt and James Gilbey. Perhaps, as with so many women trapped in loveless and insecure marriages she too had learnt to keep secrets.

The press had become her favourite weapon against the Royal household, where undoubtedly she felt she had been used, as she seemed to be the only one who did not know that her husband was already in love with another woman. The impression comes through in the tapes that she was married to Charles to produce the “heir and spare”, while he could carry on with his own life and with his life-long love. Her fear that she could be put away for mental illness is also shocking. It is the strange story of a ménage à trois which still continues after Princess Diana’s death, and this book will bring back memories of the unhappiness that she dealt with throughout her short life.

Tags: theresa may, labour party, tony blair