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Diary of a Corbyn foot soldier (No 12) June 6, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this on behalf of Michael Murray. A fascinating insight into the UK General Election as it is fought on the ground. Much appreciated – wbs. And of course, any with other on-the-ground insights, please do not hesitate to contribute to the site. Very welcome at this pivotal time.


By Michael Murray
Dictionary definition of “foot soldier” “…a dedicated low level follower.”

In this entry:

(1) A month is a long time in politics
(2) Up the polls
(3) The Young Vote

(1) A month is a long time in politics

A month ago, Theresa May called for a ‘snap’ general election, immediately welcomed enthusiastically by Jeremy Corbyn in full “bring it on” mode.

The diary entry read: “ (Jeremy)Please tell me why you are smiling at the prospect of a General Election which is going to be dominated by Brexit – a major fault-line right through the Labour Party, criss-crossing the other fault-line of a totally divided Parliamentary Party?”

A month later? Newspaper headlines saying: “Poll firm predicts shock losses for Theresa May’s Tories at General Election,” by the Political Editor of The Times, no less. The Tory lead in the polls cut day by day almost until YouGov came up with their most recent findings: the Tory lead could be down to as low as 3 points. From a 24 point gap to 3 – within in a month? To top it all, Jeremy Corbyn’s preference for Prime Minister polled higher than Theresa May’s for the first time in London with a 37 to 34 margin for Corbyn compared to 38 to 32 margin favouring Theresa May last month. A second YouGov survey (2nd June: Evening Standard) gives Labour a 17point lead over Tories in the capital. So, in a month, we’ve moved from an impossibly high Tory lead in the polls to predictions that the Tories will fall short of what seemed to be a cast iron guaranteed overall majority.

Now, the real possibility of a “hung parliament” looms and the threat of the emergence of what May called a “coalition of chaos” to represent the UK in the Brexit negotiations, the preliminaries of which are scheduled for a fortnight after the election. Whatever the outcome, Theresa May is in deep trouble. She has gone “..from being the Tories greatest asset to being its greatest liability” Nigel Farage said today (2nd June). Ergo: the Tories are no longer the “Strong and Stable” party but on the verge of another heave.

(2) Up the polls

Do I believe the polls? How do they tally with my electioneering experience in the last month?
On the polls: taken together there is a wide range of results being reported. And then there are the arguments amongst the pollsters on methodology, which raise doubts about the accuracy of the predictions. One aspect of this I find particularly intriguing, and that is: there is a consensus that a line drawn through 45 year old voters gives a majority to Labour below the line and to the Tories above it. Associated with this, older voters polled are more likely to actually vote on election day than the youngest cohort (18-25 years old) or the next cohort (25-35 years old). Factoring, or not factoring in that weighting makes all the difference in predicting Labour’s chances, it seems.

At the beginning of this election campaign the few of us, who were out, focused on our own ward.
I was struck by the number of under 35s, on our sheets based, as they are, on the electoral register, and on previous elections identifying themselves as Labour Party supporters, who said they were voting for the Lib Dems this time. The reason? The Lib Dem position on Brexit, compared to Labour’s. I ask them how the felt about the Lib Dem’s role in the Tory coalition government. Some half-hearted arguments would be offered, such as: the Tory cuts would have been much worse without the Lib Dems in the coalition. And the tuition fees issue? Shoe shuffling and averted glances. Okay. “Well, thanks for your time.” As for the wider constituency of voters: either you met the core Labour supporters, or people with blank stares.

That was then. Less than a month ago. Now the Lib Dems are not in the reckoning. Labour’s policy on Brexit is the only game in town: accept the referendum result and fight the threatened Hard Brexit. And, anyway, much to my surprise, I readily admit, immediate social policy issues, not Brexit, but the state of the NHS, nationalisation of the railways, pensions, education have dominated the conversations on the doorsteps and in the media. Even the most aggressive questions to Corbyn in the televised debates have been about the IRA, Hamas, The Nuclear “Button” rather than Brexit.
The Labour Manifesto has been powerful ammunition for canvassers: hegemonic, John McDonnell, the chief mover of this comprehensive political and economic programme, would say. I have no doubt that many of those wavering Labour supporters will do the right thing come polling day. And the recent polls support that gut feeling. Beyond that, the election took what seemed like an interminable time to ignite, but in real time that was only a couple of weeks. And the Manchester terrorist attack, of course, halfway through the month, slowed Labour’s gathering momentum to a virtual halt as electioneering was suspended for a number of days.

In those moments of low intensity campaigning you get irritated with the frustrations of actually making contact with your constituents, in every sense. Not least, the multi-occupancy houses with a dozen bells mostly not working. No intercom, or a non-functioning intercom with spiders’ webs all over it. Large blocks of gated flats with neither intercoms nor outside letter boxes. And the “churn” – the big turnover of private flat dwellers typical of our constituency of Hackney North. You rang the bell, or walked up the stairs to canvass the occupants of a flat who had moved out months before. The present occupants didn’t know how long they might be staying there. Then on to the next house. A fellow canvasser, with whom I often had a drink after a bout of canvassing, decided in the first week she was, in future, going to spend her weekends canvassing in Birmingham, where her parents lived, rather than endure the central London scene. She yearned for streets with single family occupancy of terraced houses. In that first week, I met another canvasser, a tall, handsome polite and friendly young man who introduced himself as Jermain Jackman. Son of Nigerian parents, about 22 years of age. I was told after the canvass this was the 2014 winner of the Voice UK. Now at University and living up the country, he’d joined our local branch at 16. At the time of meeting him I was disappointed he’d not experienced canvassing at its liveliest and most engaged. I needn’t have worried. Today I see him on YouTube, plugging Labour and Corbyn. Committed.

And then. Soon we, the now swelled ranks of volunteers, were drafted to help out in marginals in the greater London area, looking after our own safe seat a lower priority. We were working with other comrades from other constituencies, in my case, in Croydon at one geographical extreme and Kilburn at the other, plus yet still unfamiliar parts of Hackney. The pace had picked up. The tide began to turn. I rang the bell of a multi-occupancy flat in my own ward. It turned out that the person on my electoral list had moved. No surprise there. Before I could get a word out he said: “How do I join the Labour Party? How can I help out?” This wasn’t unusual. Lots of people in the streets were asking how they might help, or verbalizing or signaling, with a thumbs up and a smile, their support. Suddenly, it was great to feel part of a movement that was making an effort to make a difference.

It’s not all about winning, I think, not this time around. Too much self damage has been done to the Labour Party. They haven’t gone away, the Blairites, their followers, and the doubting Thomases.
A study just a few months ago, when the Tory lead in the polls was still way up there, estimated that at least 5% of the Tory-Labour gap in the polls was accounted for by people’s perception of the internal going’s on in the Labour Party. That surely is an underestimate? No. It’s about working around perceived divisions in the party. I know I, and many others of the Corbynist persuasion, are campaigning for a cross section of candidates with diverse political opinions, some anti-Corbynist. But pegging back the arrogance and the rapacity of the Tories as far as we can, that’s the job that has to be done: in the process, bringing about durable, meaningful change in the political culture. “Just bate before you,” an old Irish proverb says, “The future will take care of itself.”

(3) The young vote

If a higher number of 18-24s vote than has been the case historically then there is the possibility of a close run election. Most seem agreed on that. And that’s what gives me great hope. Young people who support Labour like to communicate this almost compulsively, when approached. As a canvasser and leaflet distributor I’ve experienced that. Then look at YouTube over in the last few weeks. Let’s start with the music group Captain SKA’s protest video “Liar, Liar.” At 18.19 this evening (the Labour Affairs editor’s deadline is 18.00!) views on one site alone exceeded one and three quarter million. Have a listen, it’s quality – as music and “agitprop.” Though produced by an unlisted band, it has hit Number One spot on a whole number of charts, including iTunes. I’m reminded of a line from a Dylan song (1965) “Something’s happening and you don’t know what it is, Do you Mr Jones?”: “Ballad of a Thin man.” Imagine the multiplier effect of social media “sharing”? Something’s happening alright.

Or, look at New Musical Express JME interview with Jeremy Corbyn the other week, also available on YouTube and NME’s own site. Over a quarter of a million views on the I-D site alone. Now apply the “share” multiplier again to get a fuller sense of Jeremy’s impact on young people. Or, the YouTube video of Jeremy speaking to 20,000 young people at a music concert in the Tranmere Rovers’ ground in Liverpool about music and creating greater access to it within the educational system. And about taxing Premiership teams’ media income to fund youth participation in football countrywide. What other party has these issues on its agenda?

The Guardian told us (May 31st) that Labour dominates the political discourse on Twitter. According to a recent survey a whopping 84% of the 18-24 age group get their news online, not from the mainly biased main stream media. And, it’s good to hear, according to the Oxford Internet Institute, that the majority (53%) of the content is sourced from quality professional news sources from a politically radical perspective.

The youth of the country has the opportunity, and the means (social media), to make a difference. If that happens, I’m prepared to revise my usual curmudgeonly response to seeing a bunch of young people in a pub or restaurant grinning into their smart phones rather than talk to each other.

I can begin to believe they might actually be phone-banking for some just cause.

Facebook: Michael Murray London – a commentary/digest of political news for busy people.


1. Dermot O Connor - June 6, 2017

I see Stephen Hawking has come out as a Corbynite!

There’s also this depressing account from a Lab canvasser (sounds like animus toward the NuLab form of Labour though). Depressing if accurate:


QUOTE I agree with all those who are saying that this election is turning into a much more interesting and exciting one than any of us ever imagined it would, even only a couple of weeks ago. The May coronation and walkover has been derailed and she’s in a scrap that is drawing out all her vulnerabilities and manifest flaws as a politician. That is an immensely healthy development for democracy too. She and her government need harrying all the way to the line and, assuming they win, for years thereafter.

That said, a little dose of unwelcome cold water for us Labour sympathisers. I admit I haven’t done much campaigning this election, although I’m going to do a bit on polling day, but I did do some leafletting for a local Labour candidate I knew well in the May local elections and, I have to say, it was utterly brutal on the doorsteps in areas that Blair carried as recently as 2005. I was sworn at on a number of occasions for the temerity of offering somebody a Labour leaflet. Not encouraging and we went down to a bit of an inevitable thrashing.

I’m haunted too by my memories of door-knocking in the evening in May 2015, Buoyed by an eve of poll opinion poll showing the Tories and Labour neck and neck, I ventured out in a fairly upbeat mood but, within hours, I knew it was gone. Mixture of Miliband and Labour’s alleged culpability for the financial crash in 2008. You could palpably smell and feel that Labour were losing. Back in my house for the exit poll, I was not at all surprised by it’s downcast prognostication.
So, my hunch is that the Labour activists out in the marginals reporting back fairly gloomy news might just be more accurate than the polls. I hope I’m wrong about that and there is no doubt that Corbyn has closed the gap, but I think it’s gone for Labour, I really do.
Tories to win by about 8% with a 60-70 majority.


GW - June 6, 2017

Really? – my gut feeling is a little less – 40 to 60.

Based on damn all apart from talking to a few people entitled to vote – you are closer to the action so you’d be better able to judge.

Let’s hope we both prove to be gloomy old bollixes 🙂

The majority and the number of UKIP-wing Tory MPs matters and will constrain the Brexit process.

Either way – will the Tories seek to ditch May? The Brexit clock is ticking but I guess since the Tories perception of the whole thing is so far from the legal and political realities, another month is neither here nor there to them.

Great post BTW WBS – on the ground experiences worth a number of journalists’ guesses.


Dermot O Connor - June 6, 2017

It’s a quote, not mine, (follow the link). I hope he’s wrong, of course.


2. Joe - June 6, 2017

Yes, great post.

And I agree – you are both gloomy old bollixes :).
My prediction from my Dublin couch is a hung parliament and a tory crisis.


sonofstan - June 6, 2017

In a sort of reverse Pascal’s Wager type reasoning, I’m refusing to hope since then I can’t be disappointed.


crocodileshoes - June 6, 2017

I’m taking the same approach to the public service pay talks – though in this case the Pascal in question is Donohue. Not a betting man, I’d say.


Joe - June 6, 2017

Actually that Pascal’s Wager in reverse is a good approach. With six games left in Leeds United’s season, I allowed myself to hope…


3. carouselclub2017 - June 6, 2017

Top class post & from the more rural front a handful of leaflets & only Lib Dem posters. No sign of any other parties & apart from talking to my wife not one word about the election. On the end result the SNP may lose a few seats/ Labour’s infighting will commence again if the Tory win margin is 50 or 60 seats. The internal Tory battle will also start with a real blamegame. No UKIP MP possible/ Greens to go to two or three seats/ PC to hold their seats in Wales. By September a new Tory leader race very possible. In relation to our own island Foster to move the DUP away from the UDI loyalism of Paisley & Robinson. SF to hold their own & a possible Alliance gain. The sad fact that Labour is not likely to ever govern alone again under any brand is a huge shift. The neo Socialist/Liberal era has come & gone in my lifetime & I never saw June last year as anymore than a protest vote.


4. Dermot O Connor - June 6, 2017

Last polls are coming in. The ones that show a large tory lead continue to do so, and those that show a narrow lead, continue to do so.

Someone’s getting egg-on-face on Thursday.


ICM (11 point tory lead, uggggh)
CON 45%(nc), LAB 34%(nc), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 5%(nc).

OPINIUM (7 point tory lead, or same as 2 years ago)
CON 43%(nc), LAB 36%(-1), LDEM 8%(+2), UKIP 5%(nc)


SURVATION, (2% tory lead):
CON 42%, LAB 40%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 3%

Looking forward to the next yougov.

Liked by 1 person

GW - June 7, 2017

That will be fascinating to see.

So far pollsters are loosing 2:1 in terms of the last US presidentials, Borxit and the French presidentials.

I guess that, as the political situation becomes more volatile as a consequence of four decades of neoliberalism, it gets harder to construct a model based on previous behaviour.

Where they are reasonably accurate is in still stable systems like the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Don’t get me started on the coming election there 😦


Joe - June 7, 2017

Please at least let the Tory lead be less than two years ago. Please.


Joe - June 7, 2017

Good simple article in the Indo’s online edition today on the polls and possible scenarios.
Ends with this q and a:
“Q:And what about Labour winning an overall majority?
A:To be sure of that happening, Labour would need to finish at least 12 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives.”

Is that a bit mad or what?


GW - June 7, 2017

It can’t be that gerrymandered, can it? But perhaps if you factor in Scotland…


5. Dermot O Connor - June 7, 2017

Another Labour foot-soldier. The right will get out and vote (well why not? they know that the tories will stuff it to the proles, and give them rewards). After 20 years of NuLab, the wc are disillusioned and can’t be bothered. Unless the young get off their arses for ONE FUCKING DAY.

He’s describing canvassing in a tory area, fwiw.


QUOTE: We did find some Labour voters on the round, including two switches from 2015, but definitely not the most fertile patches in the city for us.

The second problem, and a salutary lesson for any Labour supporter tempted to sack the polling station off for Jeremy Kyle, the pub, or whatevs, is this. Every Tory voter, every one who clearly weren’t voting for us, every won’t say had either posted their vote or were definitely turning out on Thursday. I have never done a round before where we didn’t encounter a single non-voter. What does that tell you? It indicates that the better off, those who feel they have a wee bit to lose (despite the dementia tax and other idiocies) will turn out to cast their ballots for the party they feel best defends their interests. Meanwhile, and every comrade who came to the Stoke Central by-election knows this, those people who need a Labour government to take the pressure off their lives, who would materially benefit from a changing of the guard are those least likely to vote to further their interests.

As we know, the wildly variant figures reported by the pollsters hinge on turnout. We’re playing a mobilisation game, and here the Tories have an advantage as their core support – the better off, a majority of older voters – are much more likely to vote. Luckily, because the party is a ridiculous size, a veritable mobilising machine, and there has been a shifting politicisation of the young in Labour’s direction, there is a possibility that the nice Conservative voters of Darley Abbey will be matched vote for vote for a change, and then some.


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