In the British elections, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win a majority due to the surprising strength of Jeremy Corbyn and a reinvigorated Labour Party. Paul Mason is an award-winning journalist and a columnist for The Guardian. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Jon Wiener: Just before the British elections, you told us that Jeremy Corbyn was “one of the best leaders we’ve ever had.” Apparently, a lot of voters felt the same way.
Paul Mason: What happened has no parallel in modern British politics since 1945. Labour didn’t win a majority, but they won a moral victory because the government had called the election to get a bigger majority of its own. It was predicted on the night before that it would get a majority of 100 seats. In the end it got no majority. There is now what we call in Britain a hung Parliament, which would be as if Congress was controlled by nobody. Theresa May, the Conservative prime minister, is clinging on, but what happened was that really massive numbers of young people voted for Labour—not just under-24-year-olds, but under-35-year-olds. Something like half of all under-35-year-olds voted for a party that was vilified by the media as a kind of terrorist-supporting threat to national security.
JW: What kind of campaign did Corbyn run?
PM: He ran a two-phased campaign. He started out far behind, polling 25 percent. The first thing he did was claw back to about 35 percent by publishing the most left-wing manifesto of any Social Democratic Party in the world. It called for renationalization of the railroads, the postal service, and some energy firms. It called for what we call “Robin Hood taxes,” taxing not just the incomes of companies and rich people, but also taxing the wealth of rich people. Taxing the unearned wealth, the property speculation, the stock-market speculation. This would bring in billions, which he said we would spend on free college education for everybody who wants it. That is revolutionary—and it’s not surprising so many students came out to campaign for the Labour Party in the last few nights of the election. On some urban streets, people were opening their windows and saying, What’s going on? Is there some kind of disturbance? Why are 100 young people coming down my street and knocking on my door? It felt like a sort of velvet revolution in parts of Britain.