June 16, 2017 37th and O

#HoyasInUK: Looking Back and Looking Forward

by Will Linde

Thinking back to my high school graduation one year ago, I never imagined I would be on the ground in the UK for a General Election with a group from Georgetown. Now, I sit here typing having traversed the streets of London, talked with top political operatives, and witnessed a history-shaping election for a country. The week I spent in London learning about British politics, government, and history was all I hoped for when I committed to Georgetown not that long ago.

As the 12 of us #HoyasInUK sat in a pub in Notting Hill to watch the exit polls roll in, we naively expected the results to mirror what a variety of experts had predicted in our meetings. Then, promptly at 10 PM, BBC told us Theresa May’s Conservative Party had lost its majority but remained the largest party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) had suffered tremendous losses, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party had surged but not taken a majority. The UK Independence Party had finally met its demise. A hung parliament. We never expected it.

Leading up to election day, we met with Lords, members of Parliament, embassy officials, political strategists, campaign consultants, and journalists who almost unanimously told us the Tories would see a 40 to 80 seat majority come June 8th. As a Democrat in the US, even I was nearly convinced Theresa May was the individual to lead the UK forward. Only YouGov’s polling and fellow Hoya Sean Paul prepared the group for the possibility of a hung parliament with a nonexistent mandate for the looming Brexit negotiations. Just like November’s presidential election back home, we were blindsided.

After several man-on-the-street interviews and a few hours of reflection, we were left to think, ‘what happened?’ The way I see it, the Brexit decision last June was a rejection of British politics as usual. The Tories, many of whom had voted Remain, rolled with the punches and campaigned on the platform of a hard Brexit with a stark separation from the European Union. The 2017 General Election was a rejection of last year’s rejection. Though no clear vision has emerged for the future of the UK, the British people seem to not want a hard Brexit.

I wonder, amid this world in flux, if we as a people are beginning to round the corner of this political identity crisis. With a soft Brexit demanded and Emmanuel Macron’s remarkable success in France, voters appear to be coalescing around the center. As the German federal election and the 2018 midterms linger on the horizon, the future of politics as we know it is uncertain. With my knowledge from Georgetown and my experience from #HoyasInUK, I am eager to play my own part in what happens next.

On a sappier and less serious note, my week in London was truly the trip of a lifetime. The blend of politics, history, and culture could not have been more perfectly tailored to my interests. From Big Ben to the London Eye, and from Westminster Abbey to Tower Bridge, I wouldn’t have changed a moment. Thank you to the SFS and GU Politics for this extraordinary opportunity that will inform and inspire the rest of my time on the Hilltop!

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