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What will the local elections mean for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn?

Corbyn on redIs it too early to write about this? Seeing as everyone is talking about how this year’s contest is a test for Jeremy, I’d like to briefly visit three push-me-pull-you factors that could have an impact.

Local elections, local politics
In the equivalent elections in 2012, we were just coming off the back of Osborne’s celebrated omnishambles budget. Try as the Tories might, even they couldn’t talk down the huge gains Labour made that year. However, that was something of an abnormality. Local council contests usually turn out the hardest of hardcore voters, and in the main they vote on the basis of local issues. The other parties will try their damnedest to make this set of elections a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn, but it’s quite possible the Oldham effect could kick in. Voters zoned out the anti-Jeremy bile and gave Labour a thumping result. The lesson drawn by many a Local Campaign Forum might be, with Corbers plumbing the polls, that hiding him under a bushel and going all out on pot holes and unfair council cuts might capture a higher than projected vote share. It could work.

Local politics, local records
There is a big but of Sir Mix-A-Lot proportions that could blunt this strategy. Labour isn’t entering this round of contests “fresh”. We’re defending from a position of town hall strength whose defence involves records of four years in local government. On the whole, I think Labour councils have done a good job playing their hand when the Tories always has the best cards. Others might not think that way and punish our local government people at the polls for misdemeanors, perceived money wasting, and not having the bins emptied on time. It’s a dilemma. Hide Jeremy and one’s record comes into sharp focus. Don’t hide Jeremy, and we’ll be gambling on what the polls are telling us.

Think global, act local
Well, not quite global. Our opponents and enemies are going to put the boot in to Jeremy anyway. Whether he goes on the literature or not, he’s a factor. But as these are second order elections, another bloc of voters might come into play. Recall 2013 and 2014, UKIP did very well in local contests. Now, many of those administrations aren’t up on this occasion but there is an uneven spread of anti-politics voters. As the press ramp up their attacks, no doubt aided by the likes of “friends” who’ll say anything to get in the papers, there is a possibility they could be drawn to vote Labour as the anti-Westminster choice. Or, rather, voting Labour as a means of keeping Jeremy in situ to annoy the political establishment. So talking Jeremy up might not have the deleterious effects some folks are worried about.

Whatever happens in May, there will be folks from all wings of politics scrabbling around for easy answers to understand what happens. I’m afraid there won’t be any. Complexity is the order of the day.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid


  1. Jim Moores says:

    My experience of the Oldham West and Royton by-election was not quite what is said here.

    There was lots of support for the local candidate but there was also lots of talk about what a decent man and leader Jeremy Corbyn is.

    I walked around several areas where the ethnic mix was very wide and found a tiny handful of quite bitter UKIP supporters. Given the right wing press’s vehement assertions that it would be a victory for UKIP even I was drawn in to that nonsense narrative and I live next door in Heywood and Middleton so know the area.

    I fear that you too are listening far too much to the polls and to the Tory press.

    The feeling I am getting is that, certainly in the North, the Tories are despised and people are finally seeing through their Victorian agenda. UKIP are a busted flush and even their own supporters are a bit embarrassed to openly support them.

    And finally, the feeling that I am getting the most is that Jeremy Corbyn is a very decent man and will be a positive in the local elections. The Labour movement – across the spectrum should be promoting Jeremy instead of harping on about his unelectability.

    There is nothing complex here. The right wing press – which is all of them – have control of the message. The message is Labour is soft on immigration, will make the Country unsafe by getting rid of Trident and cannot manage the economy. Cameron openly lies at PMQs, about all three of these, and the press says absolutely nothing about it. We must simply refute those lies and promote the honesty of Corbyn and McDonnell.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      I fully agree there was never the remotest chance of a UKIP victory in Oldham; which is why I was quite sanguine about voting for them at last election, (i dislike not voting at all,) in preference to our local labor party candidates and everything they stand for, (Jim McMahon supported Liz Kendell and Debbie Abrahams Supported Any Burnham; both right wing,) the only one who actually supported Jeremy Corbyn was the late and much missed Micheal Meacher.

      But our 60 local counselors have been so completely neutered anyway, under, “cabinet,” governance arrangements and even further under McMahon’s compulsory councilor accreditation scheme that I completely fail to grasp what the point of them now is.

      So a vote for any of these people is absolutely not a vote for Jeremy Corbyn, (for whom I actually did vote,) so I probably I won’t even be walking across the road to vote for any of them.

      What would be the point ?

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        The real point incidentally isn’t that, “Jeremy is a very decent man,” (I’m not sure that his first wife would altogether agree with that anyway; but to me he seems just as human and perhaps sometimes just as fallible as all the rest of us and I find that far more attractive than, “Saint Jeremy of Islington North,” the real point is that Jeremy is a Socialist; and that’s what I’d vote for and have done.

        After all decent seeming chaps are ten a penny and seldom turn out be everything they seemed at first sight.

  2. john P reid says:

    Nothing and the 2018 ones won’t either
    The Tories weren’t that popular on Europe at the EU election the same day, so the 2014 council elections saw Labour do pretty good, considering Labour did, pretty bad in the 2010 Council elections as they were on the same day as the 2010 general election

    If labour don’t do great in 2018 or in 2016,it can’t be blamed on Jeremy as to do as well as last time would be impossible

    even in the mayoral election considering that Labour did very well on the Assembly in 2008 and 2012, so if labour don’t win as many assembly members in 2016, it will be due to Labour not getting the local government message across ,like in 2004.

  3. David Ellis says:

    These elections cannot be a referendum on Corbyn in the way that the Blair Cubs and Brownies would like simply because New Labour is now as politically irrelevant as it is possible to be. There is no more Third Way. That ship has sailed and if a Blairite or Brownite by some miracle did recapture the leadership that would simply mark the end of Labour as an electoral force. If Labour does bad in these elections it will be because Corbyn is failing to get the anti-austerity message across not because he is anti-austerity and it will mean not that we need a more `electable’ pro-austerity Tory-lite right winger but that we need a more radical anti-austerity leader. Corbyn has already failed to make much of a dent in Scotland because he continued with the New Labour policy of supporting the Westminster Club against independence. It is lack of radicalism not radicalism that will harm Labour from now on.

    1. John P Reid says:

      exactly would anyone say Livungatone winning in 2004 be an example of Blair being a winner.

  4. Bazza says:

    There was a pretty good piece on-line on the New Statesman website today and it makes a good point that all the new members and ‘Corbynistas’ should get involved in Labour & go to meetings and go out canvassing, and as someone else said, “Come out from behind your computer screen!”
    Perhaps Momentum could encourage this.
    I voted for Jeremy and have been out with my branch canvassing for the local elections since just before Xmas and since.
    The area I live in has a more working class inner core and large suburban outer areas and is mainly a natural Tory ward although it has a Lib Dem MP.
    The Tory Councillors claim to be ‘Putting the Community Ahead of Politics!’ but funny when they ran the Council in a coalition with the Lib Dems a few years ago they cut services before austerity; they also closed a specially adapted holiday hotel for older people and disabled people; they caused a massive bin strike; and they sold off the family silver – our Council’s share in a local airport (which would have brought in badly needed millions today) so they certainly believe in politics in the Conservative Group (and Lib Dem Group)!
    As for the Lib Dems they are the original anti-politics party as they bombard local people with non-political leaflets (claiming credit for everything under the sun) and they usually include a nasty little attack or exaggeration on Labour.
    People actually think that they are hard working and care but it is fake community politics.
    The Lib Dems it could be argued add to political unawareness and de-politicise but hide the fact that they are economic liberals and believe in the rule of markets and marketisation including of the NHS.
    So in local elections we beat the fake community politics of the Lib Dems (and Tories) by genuine grassroots community politics which is what we are trying to do in our area – asking people if they have any issues we can take up- so we do things with them and last year we had an excellent community campaign to save a local GP Surgery.
    But you also expose the Tories and Lib Dems as I have mentioned above on their political records.
    Labour activists are not passive market researchers we should also be engaging in political education; Labour should be a cause or it is nothing!
    And the Tory Party is ageing and both they and the Lib Dems perhaps don’t have the foot soldiers on the ground when we could have.
    Neo-Liberalism in Labour is hopefully on its way out yet its acolytes cling on to its faint memory; the Right in Labour desperately want May to be a referendum on Jeremy but it is ridiculous to make such an early judgment when there are so many variables are at play.
    It would probably help if the Right Wing ‘Rent-a-Gob’ Labour MPs actually attacked the Tories instead of its own Leader (arrogantly disrespecting 60% of the membership).
    Interestingly there is now a reason too for some who voted Green to come back to us and equally for those including the working class and progessives in Scotland who voted SNP (would they consider this with a Blairite Leader?)
    So come on out and join us co-Corbynistas- electioneering can be quite interesting and rewarding once you get into it and you are always learning new things and there usually is a good spirit between you & your co-canvassers.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      A good post; but see my own comment, (on which I have enlarged previously,) above about the complete, “disconnect,” between our own local constituency party and JC.

      The fact is that Jim McMahon, (who to be fair to him and much as I dislike him, seems to have been the best, (or perhaps the only,) man that our CLP could muster as a candidate following the death of Micheal Meacher, (of itself a pretty damning indictment of the current enervated state of British politics) got out of the 40% of the people who actually bothered to turn out vote, 60% of that vote, but that still means that the overwhelming majority of voters in the borough either don’t support him or don’t care.

      Too, far too often, often it’s the latter.

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