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The ‘Super Thursday’ elections and their significance for Labour

VotingLabourIt would be foolhardy to suggest that Sadiq Khan’s enormous victory in the London mayoral elections meant that Labour would win in 2020, and no sensible commentator has done so, but Corbyn’s detractors have used selected information in a similar way to prove the opposite. They know they are being dishonest, but they don’t care as their real aim is to bring down Corbyn, not to have an objective discussion about the results. So very predictably arch backstabber Caroline Flint pops up on the Sunday Politics on May 8th to explain why the results were not good enough and that by implication Corbyn has to go.

The mood has shifted

I have news for Flint and her venomous ilk. The mood has shifted. It was most clearly summed up for me by a  member of my branch who was not a Corbyn supporter but thought that the election results represented some progress which could be built on, but only if infighting and criticism of the leadership ceased. I think that this will be the feeling within the party in the coming period, with the emphasis on unity, and my advice to the backstabbers would be to sheath their knives.

But before we consider the election results let us place them in context, in terms of previous results. Corbyn’s detractors speak as though there were no particular problem until he appeared on the scene. This is just not true. Both major parties have been in crisis for a long time. The Tories have not achieved over 40% of the vote in a general election since 1992, and currently (mis)rule on the basis of 37%. Labour have not got over 40% since 2001. In 2010 Labour got 29% of the vote, increasing marginally to 30.5% in 2015. This is why Corbyn was chosen as leader. If ’centre’ politics, albeit slightly to the left under Miliband, could not deliver, there was every case for a move to the left.

The truth about the results

So what is the truth about the election results.  The only significant indicator of the overall state of the parties is the BBC’s Projected National Vote exercise, which number crunches disparate results to give a figure of Labour 31%, Tory 30%, Lib-Dem 15%, UKIP 12% and others 12%. On this basis neither we nor the Tories stand a chance of forming a majority government at the next election, but the very significant thing is that we have moved ahead of the Tories, albeit marginally, and that constitutes enormous progress after a long period , under Miliband and then at first under Corbyn, when we were steadily about six points behind.

The small (18)  loss of council seats compares well with experts Rallings and Thrasher’s estimate of 150 losses, while the attempt to link failure to gain council seats in opposition to future general election performance was dismissed by expert Steve Fisher who said ’There is absolutely no discernible, sensible correlation there’. 2012 was the high point under Miliband, with Labour six points ahead, significant capture of Lib-Dem seats and UKIP not yet a serious player. In 2016, with Lib-Dems resurgent and UKIP taking a big share of the vote there was no way in which Labour could have done much better.

The election for London Mayor was the single most important event, and was a resounding triumph for Labour. It was not won in spite of Corbyn. It was a vote for a Corbyn led party, and it was won on the basis of good organisation and serious policy proposals.

It is a indication of Labour’s potential and must give us all heart, particularly in overcoming a poisonous, racist campaign against Khan which is an indication of the depths to which the Tories are prepared to sink.

Elsewhere results varied. We won the election for Bristol mayor and council convincingly, saw a large swing to Labour in the Sheffield by-election, and held our own in all vulnerable seats in Wales, despite a shock victory for the Plaid Cymru leader and a loss of votes to UKIP. We even won two extra Police and Crime Commissioner votes.

The big disaster was Scotland, where it is now difficult to see, at least in the short term, a return to Labour dominance, and this is an additional problem in terms of winning a majority in 2020. However, none of this can be attributed to Corbyn, as it had already happened before he became leader.

So are these results a clear indication that Labour can win a majority in 2020? No, of course they’re not. Is there any indication that these results would have been better under a Burnham or Cooper leadership? No there isn’t. Is there a basis in these results, that were better than expected, to build for a potentially successful challenge in 2020?   The answer, given a much greater degree of party unity and devotion to serious policy development, should be a cautious yes.

19 Comments

  1. Tony says:

    “Even Under Michael Foot in 1981 Labour made significant gains.”

    We have heard this factual statement a few times. However, those elections were for seats previously fought in 1977 when the Labour government was deeply unpopular and Labour lost heavily.

    1. John P Reid says:

      This is true but labour got more votes and assembly members in the 2008 Mayor elections,than the 2004 one,yet we were ahead in the polls in 2004′ far behind in 2008

  2. jeffrey davies says:

    The big disaster was Scotland why you all know why blair babies who are not true labour but tory in red ties yet untill the party rids itself of these greedie mps then uphill strugle

  3. Richard Tiffin says:

    I think you are correct, the membership are sick of the Blairites/moderates/progressives/right wings backstabbing (delete according to perspective). However, given that the difference is ideology, but is being fought on the grounds of the alleged electability (or not) of Corbyn, what makes you think for one second they are going to shut up?

    I too wish they would, for every time they stir up trouble there is the potential for the Party to lose support, but I don’t expect them to. In fact I expect them to redouble their efforts as we move toward 2020, for this is a life or death struggle for the Party. If Corbyn wins on a radical left platform (two big ifs there) then the right have something of a problem ever getting control of the workers party again. There are many powerful groups and classes out there who don’t want to see that, so they will keep giving support to the backstabbers.

    Take the fight to them I say, but I know I am whistling in the wind, it’s the right who are prepared to be ruthless, the natural inclination of the left is unity, other than Bolshevics of course, but that’s a whole different story.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Were the party member sick of the far left of the party,when they were opposing labour policies supporting the Anglo Irish agree,not,voting to outlaw AlQueda in the summer of 2001

      1. Richard Tiffin says:

        Depends how you view it, the right would obviously argue that.

        However, I think the membership has always been to the left of the leadership, it was why Blair reduced democracy and the influence of conference, he didn’t trust us as he did what he did with his neo liberal policies. Never was this more apparent than when he took us to war.

        I think the left of the party is the heart and conscience of Labour. It is the left who have kept layers of the working class believing, often with scepticism (or not as in Scotland) while the right used that support in the interests of capital.

        That’s not to say the membership haven’t been pissed at us on occasion, but I think, in the main, it is the left they have preferred.

        This is why the right say constantly that Labour must reach beyond its core support now that Corbyn is the leader. They know full well what the core support desires, they just never wanted to give it to us. Until, that is, Corbyn, when they let power slip through their hands.

        Now, I would say that anyway, as I’m a dyed in the wool leftie, a trade unionist and socialist. But I believe I have the evidence to support my position of the perennial battle of a right leadership and left membership. Nice to be in the driving seat though, after so many years.

        1. John P Reid says:

          The membership has been to the left of the leadership possibly except when the party was full of Giatskellites in 1963 and Wilson won and the two right candidates stood split the vote’ possibly with Lansbury too

  4. David Pavett says:

    I appreciate Peter’s last paragraph. There are no guarantees and if the left does not turn its attention to serious policy development then all the running will be made by Progress, Labour First, Labour List, and the Policy Network are all working hard. Meanwhile while the left will argue enthusiastically about ‘celebrity’ politicians and a few iconic issues there is little energy left for developing detailed policy proposals for ‘bread and butter’ issues such as education, housing, transport, local authorities … If this does not changed we will hand the prizes to the right through our own inactivity.

  5. Bazza says:

    Yes we did well considering Right Wing Labour MPs have been whining for 8 months in the media against Jeremy.
    And of course the Right Wing ‘Great men and women of history’ in Labour will not go down without a fight.
    To them we are the children and they are the all knowing adults; Labour members are to be seen but seldom heard.
    But the Right have a problem – from the evidence I would argue they don’t seem to have an original idea in their heads; I await these eagerly, ready to attempt to crush them in debate, but nothing!
    Are they are where they are by bourgois wheeling and dealing, the numbers game, all the vote for me on this and I will vote for you on that crap?
    Do they perhaps say what the public wants to hear and calculate what they think is popular rather than saying what they honestly believe?
    Whilst we as left wing democratic socialists say what we honestly believe.
    We are thus the free human beings and they are perhaps the self-made restricted prisoners of their own making.
    But with all the recent distractions – we need now to focus on organisation – getting Jeremy supporting delegates to Conference, rule changes at Conference to empower the grassroots, getting left wing democratic socialist policies at Conference and also working to support our 6 for the NEC.
    And as David argues develop policy.
    Whilst I burst with ideas I have always argued the greatest victory of Neo-Liberalism was to stop the Left from dreaming.
    So brothers and sisters as well as ORGANISATION why don’t we think about why don’t we do this? What about that? Have you ever though of? What about this? This seems to work for some. Have you ever considered? That was succesful for? That didn’t really work.
    Grassroots empowerment, ideas, and organisation.
    Tony Benn once said he felt we needed a teacher but he was only perhaps partially right; I would argue what we really need is a leader who is also a facilitator of grassroots power, Jeremy I believe is in tune with this.
    Solidarity, onwards and upwards!

  6. Sue says:

    I agree. The bitching of those in the party who do not support Corbyn is now wearing pretty thin. Most members just want to get on and win in 2020 and not listen to a constant stream of criticism from our own party of Corbyn. To be honest I think Manns latest “trick” sickened almost all members.

    1. Rob Bab says:

      @Sue
      “To be honest I think Manns latest “trick” sickened almost all members.”
      Too right, Mann doesn’t belong in any Party with that carry on. What an embarrassment. You don’t scream and shout in an old man’s face for Christ’s sake.
      John Mann you’ve brought shame upon yourself with that spotlight seeking, Ugly Sister, fake hurt feelings, pantomime performance, now be gone!
      You’re a bully John Mann and everyone knows it. Livingstone came out of that Zionist hijacking the superior man.

  7. Tim Barlow says:

    Mann’s stunt, all bluster and vaingloriousness, epitomised the depths to which the Blairites are only too prepared to stoop. They would denounce their own grandmothers if they saw a row of TV cameras there to capture it and they thought it would boost their careers. They only love the party in terms of the power they think it will bring them. Guiding party values are anathema to them. They must be removed at the earliest opportunity or Jeremy will be done for. The BBC and the Tory press will see to it.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Whatever one thinks of mandatory re-selection of MPs (I think the LP rules are already adequate) it would clearly be helpful if members in the constituencies of the vocal right_wing disrupters like Michael Mann and Uan Austin were to decide that they woud prefer some who would act to unify the party rather than to to disrupt it with loud denunciations of the party leader.

      Such people want to impose there views on the member. We need MPs who will develop policy with members on a well-prepared and informed basis. It’s a tough call I know, Labour has no tradition of informed debate and very inadequate arrangements for conducting it. We could change that if enough of us became active on this issue.

      1. Richard Tiffin says:

        The question is, what do we do if they continue to be “unhelpful” and the continue to erode the Labour Party’s electoral chances?

        I am convinced there isn’t a cat in hells chance they will show loyalty pipe down and their friends in the media, the Israel lobby, the ruling classes and the Tories will keep on stoking and fanning the flames of division, it’s in their interests to do so. Is there ever a time where you would say enough is enough? What would you do if that time came?

      2. Danny Nicol says:

        It should not be a matter for individual CLPs to decide whether or not to discard disruptive right wing MPs. Indeed deselection would not change their status as Labour MPs in the run-up to 2020 and would therefore not diminish their ability to continue to harm the Party.

        It should be a matter for Labour nationally.

        Expulsion from the Party is the only answer for those right-wing MPs who get up every morning to see what more they can do to discredit the Corbyn-led Labour Party and harm its electoral chances.

  8. Ted Clement-Evans says:

    Those Blairite MPs who attacked Jeremy Corbyn are unfit to be Labour MPS on 2 grounds. The first being that he is their democratically elected leader and it is an ugly sight to see them doing so. The second being that they did so on a trumped-up charge of anti-Semitism. They deliberately conflated anti-Semitism with expressed support for the long-suffering Palestinians and opposition to Israel’s crimes against humanity and to much else. To deny these crimes, as they do, is against every tenet and foundation of Labour politics. It is they whose suspension and even de-selection we must demand if Labour is to win the next election – showing Labour to be a party of compassion and justice for the under-dog.

  9. Bazza says:

    Perhaps we should not talk of potential negatives like de-selection and give the media ammunition but perhaps of positives like next time electing the best left wing democratic socialist candidates.
    No-one has a God given right to be a Labour MP – is has to be earned amongst the membership.
    When selections come up in a few years time I will be voting for the best left wing democratic socialist in my area.
    I think we all should too.

  10. Peter Rowlands says:

    If I am right, a mood which is less tolerant of open criticism of the leadership will cause it to decline, and those that persist in it will find that they have less and less support.
    Having said that I think that Corbyn was right to oppose the reintroduction of mandatory reselection last autumn, as it could have appeared provocative,but existing procedures can be used against those who choose to continue in their attacks on the leadership.
    That is not to say that there should be no debate about the way forward.Of course there should, but that is very different from the unfounded vitriol levelled against the leadership by some.

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