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A good start, a long way to go but Labour is on the way

Jeremy Corbyn and Gill Furness the new MP for Sheffield Brightside

Jeremy Corbyn and Gill Furness the new MP for Sheffield Brightside

In his first national electoral test, Jeremy Corbyn has made a really good start and results are better than expected, with a strong swing in Labour’s favour since the general election. Last May, the Tories led by 7%. When Jeremy became leader last September that lead had swollen to 15% in some polls.

No voter hostility to Corbyn

There is no evidence of any voter hostility to his leadership – no swing against Labour in the south of England, for example, since the general election. No other leader could have done better than this, and these results weaken his internal opponents.
In recent weeks, alongside the hostile briefings and talk of coups, vocal opponents of Corbyn’s leadership have concentrated on encouraging unrealistic expectations.

Targets of council gains against the 2012 results which were a high point for Ed Miliband were utterly unachievable for a party that had just lost a general election badly and is repositioning its politics with a wholly new type of leader. The Corbyn Labour Party has four years to succeed in this repositioning and this is a strong beginning.

In England, the council elections show Labour losing control of Dudley but probably in a position to form an administration in Worcester, after taking a seat off the Tories. Labour held its own or advanced in a number of marginal councils in the South and Midlands: Crawley, Harlow, Exeter, Southampton, Derby, Cannock Chase, Worcester, Norwich, Redditch, Hastings. The best result is likely to be in London where Sadiq Khan is clearly in the lead on first preference votes and a poor showing from UKIP.

Scotland, Labour still to repair past damage

In Scotland the result is extremely bad, though a setback for the SNP too and a wipeout for the pro-independence independent Left. The Tories have recovered and the Labour right may claim that Jim Murphy or someone like him would have done better. But competing for Tory votes offers no hope of recovery for Scottish Labour. The Tories have simply recovered natural supporters who had voted tactically for Labour or the Lib Dems. The SNP and Tories have succeeded in dividing Scotland on constitutional rather than class lines. Although Kezia Dugdale has repositioned her party slightly to the left, it has failed to convince voters yet. Labour must repair its relationship with the Scottish working class, many of whom currently vote SNP. Only a genuine socialist alternative to the SNP, based on our values, not expediency, can do that.

Wales, better than expected

In Wales, results are also better than expected with Labour winning 29 out of the Assembly’s 60 seats. UKIP fought the election throughout Wales and won seats for the first time. Though we should not underestimate the erosion of Labour votes by UKIP, the greater threat is posed by Plaid Cymru whose left-wing leader, Leanne Wood, took the historic heartland seat of Rhondda off of Leighton Andrews, widely seen as the leading right-wing member of Labour’s Welsh administration.

The Welsh Labour leader, Carwyn Jones, has distanced himself from Jeremy Corbyn and repositioned the Welsh party rightwards. To avert the danger of Plaid Cymru repeating in Wales what the SNP has achieved in Scotland, we need “clear red water” between Welsh Labour and the Tories.

Coming back from 2015

Labour had a terrible election in 2015. With Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the party has taken a new path. We are making steady progress, despite near constant attacks. The party is in electorally better shape than a year ago and polling better than when Corbyn was elected. There is a long way to go to 2020 but these elections show that Labour is on its way.

13 Comments

  1. Paul Dias says:

    The media coverage of the election results in England and Wales has been shamefully biased, verging on the Orwellian.

    It is clear that the right wing opposition to Mr Corbyn within the Labour Party and beyond were hoping for a humiliation (remember Oldham West?). Instead, Labour seems poised to keep their 2012 gains.

    Well done Labour and well done Mr Corbyn. Steady on!

    1. David Pavett says:

      Yes, the media has kept up its barrage of anti-Corbyn bile throughout the campaign. That, plus the open and aggressive hostility of a section of the Labour right was a toxic electoral combination. Even so the results failed to produce the slump the right were hoping for and have made a coup against Corbyn impossible for the moment.

      Laura Kuenssberg, the political editor of the BBC, has been particularly appalling having dropped any pretence at neutrality and the usual, at least perfunctory, effort to present both sides of the case. She presents Corbyn only as a man in difficulty. Questions should be asked about her approach.

      An indicator of press attitudes was the brief scene on TV of Corbyn trying to get into his car while journalists pushed and jostled him and one even physically blocked his way in front if the open car door. They would not treat any other political leader that way but feel they have a licence to do so with Corbyn.

      The Scottish results are shocking for Labour but nothing to do with Corbyn. Labour’s share of the vote fell consistently and significantly throught the Blair-Brown years. Also, although reporters talk about the Tories as an endangered species in Scotland the historical voting figures do not bear this out. Labour took the Scots for granted for decades. Scottish Labour was run by a right-wing mafia who reduced it to an empty political shell. So empty that it chose aggressive right-winger Jim Murphy as its leader to take it out of its difficulties. He failed and now Scottish Labour is led by Kezia Dugdale who seems to be something of a political empty space. She even claimed that the anti-Semitism had damaged Scottish Labour without however defending the Party from the wild press reports.

      I hope Left Futures will publish some detailed analyses of the election results as soon as this can be done.

  2. jeffrey davies says:

    The Welsh Labour leader, Carwyn Jones, has distanced himself from Jeremy Corbyn and repositioned the Welsh party rightwards yes thats whots wrong in wales the greedie am in office jeff3

  3. Mike says:

    A really interesting assessment here, although I don’t agree with his points on Trident
    https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/elections-2016-the-scottish-earthquake-continues-f829864192b5#.izfz40sqo

  4. Paul Dias says:

    Ms Kuenssberg and the BBC as a whole seem to have turn into a publicly-funded propaganda machine for Mr Cameron & co.

    In the long run, however, I feel what the Blairites are doing has the potential to hurt Labour a lot more than anything the right-wing media might throw at Mr Corbyn. If and when they manage to oust Mr Corbyn, Labour will suffer electorally esp in England & Wales. Maybe that explains why they are/were so keen to get rid of him now, I suppose. The closer we get to 2020, the more likely it is that a Corbyn replacement would be branded (rightfully so) as a backstabbing usurper.

    Blairites beware.

    1. John P Reid says:

      John McDonnell

  5. Karl Stewart says:

    Marvin Rees wins for Labour in Bristol Mayor election.

    Another one Labour lost in 2012 under Miliband’s leadership, but Labour won in 2016 under Corbyn’s leadership.

    Same as London Mayor election, which Labour lost in 2012 under Miliband’s leadership, Labour lost in 2008 under Brown’s leadership, and Labour lost in 2000 under Blair’s leadership, but Labour won in 2016 under Corbyn’s leadership.

    Labour leads the Tories across England on actual councils won, actual councillors won, and relative losses/gains across England.

    Labour leads the Tories across England on actual vote share, and projected national vote share.

    The Tories slump to third place in Wales, and the SNP lose their majority in Scotland.

    And still the whiney Blairites are moaning…

  6. John Penney says:

    The almost completely synchronised anti-Corbyn narrative of the mass media and the Labour Right would be comical in its crude blatancy if it hadn’t proved time and again to have a very real impact of masses of people.

    Fortunately, as noted by others here, given this concerted mass media and Labour Right campaign the various election results (outside Scotland) have actually been a lot better than could have been expected.

    We need to be realistic though that , far from the current , not too bad, local government results being any sort of “judgement” on a newly radicalised, Left shifted “Corbynite” Labour Party as the Media love to claim , in fact at local government level the Party and Labour Councillors generally are still firmly in the grip of the “Collaborate with Austerity” Labour Right . And in Wales the Labour Party has, if anything, shifted Right under its reactionery Austerity implementing leadership.

    There is a long way to go before the electorate is actually offered a radical anti-austerity alternative , requiring a root and branch change in Labour’s still actually in place neoliberal “policy bundle” – through the new Left oriented membership really displacing the deeply ensconced Labour Right in the Party machine, the PLP, and local government.

    The worst problem we face in trying to really shift Labour Leftwards and win in 2020 on a radical Left programme is the total , fundamental, collapse of Labour in Scotland. This has been 30 years or more in the making, as a profoundly complacent and totally neoliberal ,elitist, Labour Party machine has steered resolutely Right, to drive its traditional working class support base into the arms of the cunning Left fakers and sowers of petty nationalist illusions, the SNP. This won’t be turned round in a hurry – particularly with Scottish Labour still solidly in the hands of the same self-serving coterie of politicians who drove Scottish Labour off the electoral cliff.

    Scottish Labour did this time round actually try to “steer Left” in its policies and attempted to divest the SNP of its entirely spurious “anti-austerity” pretensions . Unfortunately Scottish Labour is currently trapped in a credibility gap with two sets of potential voters . On the one side is the generally Left-leaning working class who have bought into the Left nationalist illusions cleverly spun by the SNP (and their pseudo radical Left Nationalist apologists) – and aren’t going to trust Labour under the same old faces any time soon. On the other side are a mixed bag of voters who are now deeply worried , as a key factor in their voting behaviours, that , despite saying No to Independence so recently, the SNP are still going to repeat the exercise until Independence is secured. For this very mixed “pro-Unionist” group (made up of people from Tory Unionists and the Orange Lodges, right across to class solidarity socialist internationalists) , it is the Scottish Tories who are seen as the most steadfast opponents of separation – hence the huge tactical vote which has, almost unbelievably made the Scottish Tories the second Party in the Scottish Parliament . This Scottish disaster has absolutely NOTHING to do with Jeremy Corbyn, despite the endless media, and Labour Right spin that is . And it will take a long, long time to sort out – not least because of the , 30 years in the making, dire state of the current , unreformed, corrupt, still root and branch Murphyite, cronyist, Scottish Labour Party.

  7. Karl Stewart says:

    I’m not that bothered about the result in Scotland to be honest. It always was a myth that Labour needed Scotland to win a general election.

    The Tories traditionally polled better than Labour in Scotland before Thatcherism and Labour won plenty of elections.

    Even after Labour overtook the Tories in Scotland, it never made a difference to the overall result. It’s less than 10 per cent of the seats after all.

    It’s in England that Labour needs to win – and Labour has topped the poll in England.

    1. John Penney says:

      That’s true, Karl, but a tad complacent (when I grew up in Scotland in the 1950’s it was indeed a Tory heartland). However, the collapse of Scottish Labour does still rob us of around 50 previously rock solid labour seats in the Westminster Parliament. Then add to that the 20 odd Labour seats likely to be lost through the imminent boundary redrawing, and its a significant extra challenge to Labour winning in 2020, just on English and Welsh seats.

      I don’t doubt for a moment that we can do, with a resolute left programme – even in the face of what by 2020 will be a hysterical mass media campaign the like of which we have never seen – with “Zinoviev Letter”-style dirty tricks aplenty to discredit us. IF we can get the utterly treacherous Labour Right sorted out before then ( In which vital task the boundary changes are a godsend, if the opportunity isn’t missed, in the name of pursuing a currently laughably unachievable “Party Unity”).

      Also with the Labour Right still calling the shots in Wales, Plaid could easily pull the SNP pseudo-Left outflanking manoeuver on Welsh Labour if we aren’t careful.

      Plenty to be pleased about, and all to play for – but serious dangers still lie ahead.

  8. Karl Stewart says:

    I’ve heard it said among the various political commentators speculating that Scottish politics has now become “Northern Irish” in that the fundamental divide is between unionists and non-unionists.

    It’d be interesting to hear the views of some Scots on this?

    Anyway, like you say there are plenty of positives for Labour, landsliding London, landsliding all the English and Welsh cities, making solid gains across provincial (or “middle”) England, winning across England as a whole, and comfortably winning across Wales.

    The Tories haven’t won anywhere – smashed in London, a very poor third in Wales, and celebrating a very, very distant second place in Scotland.

  9. Bazza says:

    Yes results fine for Labour which is remarkable considering 8 months of non-stop whining PUBLICLY IN THE FULL GLARE OF THE MEDIA from Right Wing Labour MPs who will just not accept the members decision.
    In the previous leadership election (with no real choice) I voted for Ed Miliband as probably the least worst option.
    It only took 2 weeks to realise my mistake but the alternatives including his Blairite brother were even worse but I bit my tongue for 4 years not publicly criticising him before the election which doesn’t help the party (it’s called discipline) and I focused on trying to improve policy which they just ignored!
    We won 2 By-Elections well.
    Labour did well in London (but I think the selection process needs democratising more next time) and of course Scotland saw no real improvement for Labour.
    The SNP lost their outright majority but there they seem to have a hybrid system – first past the post (Dugdale lost and the Tory leader won by 610 votes) and a top up regional list (which benefitted the Tories and helped Labour and the Greens) but if it was just first past the post the SNP would have had a landslide.
    As an article by a Scottish academic in the New Statesman argued the working class in Scotland liked the social democratic model and when the Right controlled Labour ran from this to Blairism it was the beginning of their end, and the arch opportunists and fake social democrats the SNP quickly stole Old Labour’s clothes and what we need in Scotland is a Labour Party which may echo Sanders by saying in Scotland “We need a political revolution!” where left wing democratic socialist ideas take on the fake social democrats.
    We should perhaps give the individual nation states in the UK as much power as possible (we don’t want to tell others how to organise their lives) but perhaps the leaders of each nation could meet to agree common things for the UK which could be Defence and a common living wage and capital gains tax so big business and TNCs can’t set each nation state against each other with a race to the bottom.
    Of course my hope is that an enthused Annual Conference will elect a left wing NEC and clear and anti-austerity left wing democratic socialist policies.
    We also need to reform Conference to get power back to the grassroots rather then some Right Wing MPs treating members as children and themselves as all knowing adults.
    But apart from a couple of mediocre attempts where has the Rights ideas been for the last 8 months?
    Whilst the Left has been bursting with ideas in the end policy disagreements can be resolved by democratic debates and votes.
    Are the Right so devoid of original thinking that all they can focusc on is planning manoeuvres?
    And perhaps I have a solution for probably the most contentious issue: Trident.
    Whilst we could frame our policy by saying any savings would go on x,y & z (and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if it was decided to scrap Trident I think a massive cut in our nuclear provision could be better politics – some people are frighted) we could possibly be offered perhaps 5 options at Conference and you number your options on the ballot paper 1-5 until one option becomes the highest choice so:
    Option 1- Scrap Trident.
    Option 2 – 95% Reduction.
    Option 3 – 66% Reduction.
    Option 4 – 33% Reduction.
    Option 5 – Keep Trident.
    The problem with multilateralism at present is there is no global movement on the 7,500 nuclear missiles in the 9 countries of the World out of 187 which have them.
    Option 5 would be my last choice.
    Option 2 may be my first then perhaps 3,4,1.
    Just a thought and may need simplfying but I am trying to think but I am not certain.
    We seem to be doing well with the progressive middle class, sections of the working class, BME groups, women disabled & LGBT but perhaps need to try to politicise the general middle class more in our direction who are often socialised to vote Tory (and status is often important to this group) as well as trying to reach out to the millions of non-voters and some older voters who are being hoodwinked by the Tories.
    Solidarity!

  10. Bazza says:

    Ooops! About 15,500 nuclear weapons in World!

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