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After the by-elections 2: Chaos is overstated… February 28, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

John Harris makes a point that I think is well worth exploring in recent column in the Guardian. Not so much the complaints over Corbyn, though he has to admit that the problems facing the BLP are such that they long predated his arrival in the leadership. Whether his leadership has ‘immeasurably deepened’ the crisis in the BLP I do not know, but I’m somewhat dubious. It is more his misfortune to arrive at a time when Brexit et al, and the key loss of Scotland to the BLP has left that party uniquely ill-positioned to face the future. Again, I’ve been astounded by how complacent some of those arguing for a Lexit were given those realities. I think this is telling in terms of demonstrating just how bad things are for the BLP:

…the shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith reportedly reckoned that “to be 15-18 points behind the polls and to push the Tories within 2,000 votes is an incredible achievement.” I am not sure how you would describe that kind of thinking: it sounds distinctly like someone taking comfort from the fact that a complete disaster could conceivably have been even worse.

Harris mocks that line, but I don’t. The problem is that it sums up perfectly just how bad things are. And they are. Desperately bad for the BLP. They’re kind of worse too, as was mentioned elsewhere, there’s now a radical populist right party gaining 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 votes at these elections. Sometimes that will work to the advantage of the LP, but sometimes, perhaps often it won’t.

Little or none of these, it is essential to note, is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. It is difficult to see how he could have done anything different in the last twelve months. Indeed far too little is made of the reality of his MPs, or rather a tranche of them, splitting away from him. And while the rebellion over Article 50 in the last month was problematic what more could he have done when even those closest to him took a differing view of matters?

That said I will agree with Harris on one thing.

Amid Trump, and Brexit, and the political hurly-burly that now regularly grips mainland Europe, it is easy to get the impression that politics no longer follows hard-and-fast rules, and amounts instead to a series of unforeseen events and complete accidents.

The reality is that politics is, if not quite predictable, still open to analysis. It is possible to determine broad dynamics, to see trends, to appreciate what is more rather than less likely to happen. Brexit itself, was simply more finely balanced as an issue than expected. But polls were consistent that that fine balance existed. It could have gone one way, it went another. Trump likewise. Other issues will rise and fall. But many many political dynamics – the continuing and long term problems facing the BLP are of a different order. In a way what is the puzzle? The retreat of self-avowed social democracy, and its replacement not with left but right and populist forces, is something we’ve seen time and again. Why would Britain be any different?
Phil at Workers Playtime has an important post here which further underlines this is not a problem due to the Corbyn leadership alone, or even in full.
And for a sense of what it was like on the by-election trail here’s his post on same from Stoke-on-Trent.

And here is the other Phil from All That is Solid and his take on it.


1. FergusD - February 28, 2017

Anotherangryvoice blog has some useful analysis of the byelection results:


Third item down (as of posting this message). In Stoke, although UKIP failed they split the right-wing vote, coming in second. Tories plus UKIP outnumber Labour. The number of votes cast fell by 10,000 compared to the general election! Astonishing in a high profile byelection I would have thought?

In Copeland the UKIP vote was much lower, in fact it fell and votes went from UKIP to the Tories.

At the same time the blog points out there had been a steady decline in the Copeland Labour vote over decades, it didn’t just happen with Corbyn and it was the switch from UKIP to the Tories that did for Labour.

This is of course very worrying. There is a Brexit/anti-immigration populist vote which is, at least in part, leaving Labour for UKIP or the Tories. The complete nonsense is that this would be reversed with a Blairite Labour leader and political direction. That would kill Labour stone dead.

There could be better, more combatitive leftish Labour Leaders than Corbyn though, but I don’t know who that is. John McDonnell writes in Labour Briefing that the Blairites are now working on a “soft coup” as their direct challenges failed so badly.



GW - February 28, 2017

That’s a massive fall in turnout.

And the fascist-spectrum standard practice is to motivate those who have not previously voted to vote for them, while discouraging those who do.

The shenanigans of the right is partly aimed at ensuring that significant numbers of people just give up on the possibility of democratic politics.


2. An Sionnach Fionn - February 28, 2017

“…a radical populist right party gaining 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 votes at these elections.”

Albeit with no actual electoral benefits. This carries its own dangers. The FPTP system may be good for duopolies but not so much for democracy. The more UKIP voters see themselves denied representation the more inward-looking they become, going down the Tea Party/Trump path of persecution complexes and paranoia.

Would Brexit have happened if the British (English) had PRSTV to blow off steam with at elections? UKIP may have had a dozen MPs or whatever but that may have mitigated against the crazy, not encouraging it to fester away in dark political and societal corners.


sonofstan - February 28, 2017

“UKIP may have had a dozen MPs or whatever but that may have mitigated against the crazy, not encouraging it to fester away in dark political and societal corners.”

Conversely, a few years in parliament and they might professionalise and become a real threat – although all that experience in Strasbourg doesn’t appear to have taught them much…


An Sionnach Fionn - February 28, 2017

Given Britain’s political culture I suspect a somewhat more chastened UKIP might have emerged from a “proper” electoral system. Yeah, still migration-sceptic, but realpolitik has put manners on quite a few past radicals. Just ask some of our own homegrown militants on the Left.

Whatever the case, as a matter of democracy, better to have a system representing the people, warts an’ all, than one representing a careerist political class.


sonofstan - February 28, 2017

Yes, agree.
The warped system propels Labour towards trying to represent an unrepresentative sample of their potential electorate because they live in winnable seats and ignore the millions of Labour voters in the south who never get near having an MP of their own.

Liked by 1 person

3. oconnorlysaght - February 28, 2017

All true, and it applies, too, to the electoral system in USA. A move to change to a form of PR was mooted a few years ago in, I think, Colorado but was lost in a referendum. Nonetheless, the transferable vote in Congressional/Electoral College polls would mean a different and better electoral map of the country. The Dems should adopt it. Will they? Like hell, they will.


CL - February 28, 2017

PR in NYC:

“This golden age existed between 1937 and 1945, when council members were selected not from individual districts, but through a system of proportional representation in which political parties and nonaligned candidates won election in proportion to their total boroughwide votes.

The system produced such formidable council members as Stanley Isaacs, the Republican who had served with distinction as Manhattan Borough President, Michael Quill, the future head of the local Transport Workers Union, and Benjamin Davis, the Communist Councilman from Harlem.”


CL - February 28, 2017

And don’t forget Lani Guinier.

-“Pressed for details on how he made his decision, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Guinier’s analysis of the Voting Rights Act in a University of Michigan law review article seemed to advocate proportional representation, a position that he called “anti-democratic and very difficult to defend.”-


oconnorlysaght - March 1, 2017

Despite his ability to manipulate it, Mr Clinton seems to understand the principle of democracy about as well as he understands that of celibacy.


4. bjg - February 28, 2017
5. NollaigO - March 1, 2017

After organising a referendum and recommending “Vote remain” the Tory government in the UK have decided that they will never be out UKIPed again. They’re now the real UKIP.

In spite of Jeremy agreeing not to campaign against nuclear power in Copeland the Tories managed to remind many voters of his traditional views.
I’m against nuclear power and the British monarchy but that is not the same as believing that they are vote winning issues in a typical British constituency.

Liked by 1 person

6. Gerryboy - March 2, 2017

God forbid that any candidate in a British constituency would campaign against the beloved monarchy. Lèse majesté and kicking a pet dog only lead to social ostracism in a conventional orderly society.


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