Ignore the naysayers in the media. I’m one of the student activists swinging the election for Labour.
I felt nervous when I joined KCL’s Labour society in Brent to canvass for Dawn Butler with London Labour Students. Despite following UK politics keenly back home in the United States having joined occasional protests, I’d never properly joined a general election campaign on the ground before. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. Would they accept a newcomer like me? Would I feel out of place? What struck me when I arrived was how welcoming the group was and how personal it seemed. When we arrived at Dawn’s office, her campaign staff greeted us immediately. Minutes later, Dawn – Labour’s Shadow Women & Equalities Secretary – arrived. She seemed genuinely thrilled that we’d joined her campaign.
Any nervousness I’d had quickly dissipated as I spoke with other students, members of the staff, and Dawn. Being around people who truly shared my excitement for Labour and had hope for the nation was invigorating. The negativity and bitterness that we tend to associate with politics just didn’t exist in Dawn’s office. As we distributed leaflets and maps amongst our group we talked about our excitement.
We split off into groups, pairing experienced canvassers with those, like me, who were beginners. I was in the last group to leave and, much to my joy, ended up with Dawn. We headed off into the rainy night, leaflets in hand, and began distributing them street by street.
The residents we ran into on our journey seemed genuinely happy to see us. They happily took leaflets and were excited to meet their MP in the flesh. It was inspiring to see the people of Brent engage with politics even in such a simple way. Doing politics face-to-face, rather than in polarising social media spaces, reaffirmed our mission.
Our youth-led movement is growing
After we’d reached every house we reconvened at Dawn’s office. That night, 6 November, Parliament was dissolved; Dawn was no longer officially an MP. She didn’t seem bothered. If anything, she was excited to fight to be elected again. The general feeling going around the room reflected her sentiment.
Being around so many hopeful young people gave me energy to contribute to our campaign. Our youth-led movement is growing. We’re constantly, welcoming newcomers like me and getting involved with real constituents to create a real difference.
Some of my friends tease me for moving to the UK in the midst of Brexit negotiations. Personally, I think I chose a thrilling moment to come here. Every day brings new twists and turns, and it can be exhausting if you let it be. But I choose to see the pessimism and gloom that the media industry touts out as an opportunity. We can take the anger we hold and turn it into change. We can harness the hope that no-one can take from the young people of this country.
Whether it’s going out and canvassing like I am now, organising a local campaign, or even just talking with peers about the election, we can all get involved. We can seize the disillusionment that so many feel and incorporate it into our movement. Remember that we’re fighting for real, tangible change; a Corbyn government will make our lives better. Most of us have never experienced such a momentous opportunity to create our own brighter future. Maybe we never will again; this could be our last chance. We can’t afford to pass it up.
Stella Winter studies History and International Relations at King’s College London. She tweets at @StellaWinter302.
Photo credit: Maliha Reza/King’s College Labour.
Want to write a reply? Email the opinion editor at david.dahlborn.13 [at] ucl.ac.uk.