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Unfounded optimism, the dynamics of contemporary British politics and the rise of the BLP. June 7, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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There is something particularly irritating about this column from Anne Perkins in the Guardian where she states the obvious as if it were anything but. I know no one on the left who thinks that Labour is going to win this election, or rather is just going to walk into power, just like that. Yet Perkins pretends that it is otherwise.

Nothing, at all, is following a script. Terrible events such as the London Bridge and Manchester Arena attacks bring campaigning to a halt. Pollsters are uncertain, anxiously explaining the variations in methodology that make their results so different from the others. YouGov has designed a model for predicting the state of the parties that shows the Tories losing 15 seats and their majority. A Survation poll has the Tories ahead by a single point. “Jez we can”, shout the posters. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, discusses the Labour manifesto with Whitehall officials. Not so fast – oh, not so fast.

Take the last couple of points. It is far from unusual for potential Chancellor’s to meet with civil servants – so what? What does she expect posters to say, “Jez we can’t”? And why are they ‘shouting’? The polls are slightly different, but only in so far as they are not of Labour as it were. So hard to blame the LP for that one would think.

Anyhow, rolling on Perkins argues that:

Remember where you were on 7 May 2015? Remember how the final polls had the two main parties neck and neck, and then came that 10pm exit poll predicting Labour’s Scottish wipeout and putting the Tories just a few seats short of an overall majority? You can bet Ed Balls does, and Douglas Alexander – two people whose lives and careers were woven into the fabric of successive Labour administrations who lost their seats and their political futures that night. So do many of the 229 Labour MPs who held their seats, but whose dreams of returning to power after a single term of opposition were dashed. It’s the hope that’s so cruel.

Ah yes, the poor sad deluded fools who hope. Except people aren’t hoping. Not for outright victory, or at least not in the way she portrays it. People are hoping that the Tories victory is weakened. Hoping for more than that is too much for many of us. But to blame the BLP for campaigning as if it were likely is absurd. No opposition party in a FPTP environment can do otherwise, bar the smallest ones.

And yet on Perkins goes:

The thing about a surge like the extraordinary wave that’s lifted Jeremy Corbyn off the floor is that merely being afloat can feel like flying. It’s not. The Labour leader has had a remarkable campaign. Even Tory voters think he’s done better than their team. He’s generated excitement and a sense of the possible that, if it lingers, could be transformative, at least for campaigning. It is always seductive to imagine that what is will somehow turn into what ought to be.

Again, where is the evidence of any great body of LP voters or activists who dare to hope or imagine – or rather are certain which is quite a different thing?

Again there is something absurdly glib about the way she concludes – having run through precisely the same polling data that any of us can access, and already have, that shows the Tories still likely to have a majority.

Sorry about the cold shower. Need something to keep your spirits up? Nate Silver advises that the most important thing to remember is this: never trust conventional wisdom.

Of course Perkins was one of those from the off who treated Corbyn as if he and his leadership were an absurdity, incapable of mounting any effective challenge at an election. None of which is to argue that Corbyn has been the best parliamentary performer, or the most high powered politician, though he’s an hardy campaigner and someone whose intrinsic decency is obvious to behold. But the sheer lack of fairness has been breath-taking to behold.

And here we are. Not merely is the Corbyn leadership mounting a challenge, but a challenge that is – at least if we are to believe pretty much all polls, whether good or bad for the LP, stronger than that mounted in 2015. That’s pretty remarkable. And in terms of electability? Well, again, and I’ve mentioned it before this week, one has to wonder at how electable he would appear had he not been attacked from the off by both some in the commentariat and others in his own party.

The most absurd aspect of the last week was to hear BLP opponents of his in the parliamentary party complaining that he was damaging them by being too successful – because this undercut their campaigns that they were safe MPs to return when compared with him. What a travesty. If he loses he is useless but if he wins he is equally useless.

Almost needless to say that’s not the only problem facing Corbyn. If there is electoral drag from the machinations of those opposed to him, one also has to point to Brexit which gifted the Tories a massive lead just a year ago. Prior to the Brexit referendum slow and steady Labour despite its internal woes was showing itself level pegging the Tory party. In the aftermath of the referendum suddenly it was on the floor and the Tories were reaching stratospheric polling numbers.

Many of us feared that this would damage the LP for years to come, that a period of Tory dominance many years long might be at hand and that the LP itself would be horribly weakened, possibly with a flow to the LDs. It is a testament to the leadership and activists that this has not been the case, that they have clawed back to 2015 and now ahead of it, and potentially well ahead of it. They’re not out of the woods. The Tories most likely will win on Thursday/Friday. May, or a successor, will be PM for four or five years. They will control both the political landscape and/or/also the Brexit process. None of which bodes well for workers. And this is what is so hugely frustrating reading Perkins. This is what hurts the most. For it is not hope that is so cruel, it’s a missed opportunity. An obvious missed opportunity.

Because all the above being the case consider what the LP might be on facing a damaged Cameron and a Tory party that had never been given that post-Brexit bump? And consider the near criminal self-indulgence of those who pre-Brexit played with the fortunes and fate of the BLP and with a degree of certainty that sought to overturn a democratically mandated leadership time and again.

So, somehow Corbyn is not merely electable, but also able to push back against two of the most destructive dynamics extant in contemporary British politics. Yet Perkins continues with the censorious line – a sort of damning with faint praise approach, all the while almost refusing to accept the evidence of what is taking place around her. It is near risible.

Polly Toynbee was worse in some ways on the Guardian election podcast (available online) talking about how we would see on Thursday/Friday if he was electable but she had felt originally he wasn’t. Again not a word about how her writings had undermined him – not a word about how they had fed into the notion of his being unelectable (and how far that trope went and how wide before this campaign pushed it, at least somewhat, back).

Corbyn is neither messiah nor anti-Christ. He is a reasonably congenial, cautious politician of a type we all recognise. Probably a left of left social democrat but leading a party which is a much broader church (even with the added ingredient of new activists) than that. And a party that he and his know always will be a broader church. As a former member of the BLP and someone who (somehow) still retains huge sympathy for it is heartening to see it shifting leftwards. But not that far leftwards.

His platform is – from my perspective, almost painfully moderate. No serious talk of retaking the commanding heights, indeed so parlous is the state of social democracy (and let’s not talk about socialism let alone Marxism) that a couple of renationalisations will have to do. Well, they will have to do (it’s odd people point, incorrectly, to the EU as preventing same when social municipal and national ownership is prevalent across continental Europe – as I know having travelled across Spain only a few months ago on the very very publicly owned state rail system, when thirty years of Thatcherism and after in the UK has had a vastly more pernicious influence in constraining the very idea of nationalising economic areas). At least Corbyn offers a small chink of light that there’s better ways of doing things. And he’s managed to bring people with him.

Speaking of which. A useful exercise is to consider past elections performances. In 2015 Miliband won 30.4%. In 2010 Gordon Browne won 29% with Scotland still in play. In 2005 Blair won 35.2% of the poll, likewise with Scotland. In 2001 it was 40.7%, in 1997 it was 43.2%. In 1992 Kinnock won 34.4% and in 1987 he won just over 30%.

Where are the Perkins of the world if Corbyn wins, without Scotland, anything above 30.4% of the poll. And higher? What then? What then of the utter catastrophic foolishness of that commentariat and MP inspired animosity towards Corbyn?

And let’s consider one final question. Brexit. What if Corbyn had been supported from the off. How then would Brexit have played out in a context where Labour voters saw a more united party rather than one which seemed to be disintegrating?

The question answers itself. A stronger BLP led by Corbyn articulating a critical but essentially pro-Remain position would, one suspects, easily have added a percentage point to the overall vote.

Perkins and others do not share all the blame for what has happened. It’s never that simple. But nor can they evade responsibility for some share of what has happened. Making bad and difficult situations worse. Unable to contemplate anything other than a terribly rigid and constrained view of what is possible in politics. And as bad an appallingly personalised hostility to Corbyn out of all proportion to the programme he was actually promoting. And all the while unconsciously paving the way to the rupture of Brexit, one that in and of itself demonstrates that all those rigidities and constraints are as nothing given the forces that now inflect contemporary and near future politics. And now, because fighting the last war is all the vogue, we are treated to tut-tutting about how people shouldn’t be wildly optimistic, when truth is there is no wild optimism. Just a sense that things are better than expected, and much less bad than feared.

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Comments»

1. EWI - June 7, 2017

One thing’s for certain – come victory, defeat or draw tomorrow, the liberal skunks in the BLP will attempt to vomit out another challenge to Corbyn.

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carouselclub2017 - June 7, 2017

The eventual outcome will as always be an internal battle within the BLP. Any big tent party is a rainbow coalition that always seems to be pulled to the centre. The Lib Dem showing & the fate of the Conservative Remainers will decide the future. Then the looming demise of UKIP shows the one issue party has a short span – the Greens could be a surprise. Modern politics is akin to a supermarket & prevailing trends dictate the outcome. The end of ideology is sad to witness & the overall standard of political discourse is very poor. Too many have sold out to the academics who aim is to create misanthropes & haters of ordinary people.

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2. GW - June 7, 2017

Good post WBS. With passion.

A stronger BLP led by Corbyn articulating a critical but essentially pro-Remain position would, one suspects, easily have added a percentage point to the overall vote.

Absolutely. And Britain would have had the numerical and financial clout to make changes in the EU, instead of being number-one supporter of every neo-liberalising move proposed by the EC, hiding behind the EU to enact its own austerity programmes, and being first in the queue with every mad US-led military intervention.

But that was then.

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3. Dermot O Connor - June 8, 2017

Final polls, have to say it’s not looking good, as most seem to show a tory lead (in the 7 to 13% window). Hope there are shy Labourites out there to favour the Survation/Surveymonkey polls. Given the demonization of Corbyn, might make one wonder.

UKPR flags Surveymonkey as the most accurate last time out (and they’re showing a 4% lead).

I’ve arranged them from top to bottom based on strength of tory lead.

http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/9909

BMG (tory lead 13) !!!
CON 46 LAB 33 LDEM 8 UKIP 5

ICM (tory lead 12)
CON 46(+1) LAB 34(nc) LDEM 7(-1) UKIP 5(nc)

ComRes (tory lead 10)
CON 44(-3) LAB 34(-1) LDEM 9(+1) UKIP 5(+1)

Panelbase (tory lead 8)
CON 44(nc) LAB 36(nc) LDEM 7(nc) UKIP 5(nc) GRN 2(-1)

Opinium (tory lead 7)
CON 43(nc) LAB 36(-1) LDEM 8(+2) UKIP 5(nc)

YouGov (tory lead 7)
CON 42 LAB 35 LDEM 10 UKIP 5 GRN 2

Kantar (tory lead 5)
CON 43(nc) LAB 38(+5) LDEM 7(-4) UKIP 4(nc)

Surveymonkey (tory lead 4)
CON 42(-2) LAB 38(nc) LDEM 6(nc) UKIP 4(nc)

Survation (tory lead 1) !!!
CON 41 LAB 40 LDEM 8 UKIP 2 GRN 2

*

spread on these is ABSURD, surely?

CON anywhere from 41-46, but LAB 33-40

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4. Roger Cole - June 8, 2017

I don’t know who Perkins is, but WBS, it was a great post. I don’t know what the result will be, but as most of the polls are showing a Tory victory, it would seem the most likely result. Corbyn however had a great campaign and I would find it very difficult to believe that he and his supporters will be easily removed from the leadership of the BLP, especially in the light of more war and more austerity that will now fall upon the British people, including very many of those that voted for the Tories and imperial values. It is always possible however that the Tory victory could be the last dying kick of a venal imperial state which is covered in the blood of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children that it has killed
over the generations.

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WorldbyStorm - June 8, 2017

+1 re Corbyn’s campaign. A testament to him and to his team. I hope you are right re his not being removed from the leadership. Certainly he more than deserves all our support.

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