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The Richmond by-election and what it means

zac_goldsmith_mp_at_a_new_conversation_with_the_centre-right_about_climate_change-2Last week’s by-election in Richmond was the second resounding success for the Lib-Dems, after Witney, in using a by-election to demonstrate the breadth of opposition to Brexit, and it places them in a strong position to lead and promote such a campaign, despite having few MPs, and limited resources, certainly compared to Labour.

I don’t particularly wish to discuss whether Labour should have stood or not. I was personally opposed, but there was an argument for doing so, and it fortunately did not prevent a Goldsmith defeat, which it might well have done. What is clear is that there was a large Labour tactical vote for the Lib-Dem candidate, including quite a few members.

But if Richmond consolidates the growth of voices for Remain (or even a Second referendum campaign) then that poses acute problems for Labour. In my view such a campaign is politically unprincipled anyway. It is not the same, as some have suggested, of losing an election and immediately campaigning to win the next one. It is effectively saying that although parliament voted to have a referendum, (and there is no point in having one if it is not binding), the wrong result was obtained because of some ignorant and racist people in the north and therefore we will have to re-run it to get the right result. Yes, I exaggerate, but there is a clear implication here of the metropolitan elite spurning the will of the people, and nothing could be better designed to drive Labour Brexit voters into the ranks of UKIP or the Tories.

Labour must stick to the line it has correctly taken, that the result of the referendum must be respected, that Brexit should therefore happen, that we should retain the employment rights that we had as an EU member and that we should avoid an economic downturn by remaining part of the single market. What that means, as I argued in the last article I wrote on this, is a Norwegian or Swiss solution, which surrenders any control over the determination of policy, extends autonomy in certain areas, but crucially not over free movement, in return for remaining part of the single market. This is the only possible solution that both respects the referendum result but avoids the likely economic downturn that a hard Brexit would mean, and about which there is little doubt among informed opinion.

The danger for Labour is that the Lib-Dems will now put themselves at the head of an anti-Brexit movement for which considerable support has already been demonstrated, and about which it is possible to become much more passionate than supporting Labour’s policy which although principled and unifying is hardly likely to fire the emotions. This could result in growing Lib-Dem support at Labour’s expense, although it also potentially threatens the Tories. They have to seek to maintain unity through ambiguity about their real intentions which they seek to justify on the grounds of not giving away their negotiating stance, probably hoping, at least from May and Hammond’s point of view, that the initial hard Brexit stance can be moderated over time as its consequences become apparent, and all can be blamed on the three stooges, particularly Johnson. Whether this works remains to be seen. There is unlikely to be a parliamentary challenge of any size next spring, which would require a significant Labour and Tory vote to succeed, and that would be the only reason to call an election which would only be likely to help the Lib-Dems. So there will be no second referendum, at least not next spring, but this could happen in two year’s time, when a poor deal or a hard Brexit were both seen by a majority as unattractive solutions, and there was an overwhelming vote to stay in! This assumes of course that the EU was still a viable entity, and not, as it may well be, in a state of disintegration which would render the notion of Brexit, hard or soft, as somewhat academic.

The debate will continue. My own view remains that it is only a reformed, social democratic,  EU that can challenge the domination of capital in Europe and enable movement towards socialismhere. The break up of the EU would mean a great advance for the nationalist/populist right behind which capital would continue to dominate, more easily than before by playing countries off against each other. This is why the  prospect of an independent left wing UK is a fantasy, and why Labour should continue to have a close, and hopefully closer, relationship with the parties of the left in the EU, including the PEL as well as the PES. The proposed conference of European left parties next year is very welcome in this regard.

The Starmer/McDonnell line is being refined, and is, I believe, right. It is, however, unfortunately at variance with the Corbyn/Abbott line on free movement. Can this please be sorted out. I’m sure we would all agree on the importance of all singing from the same hymn sheet.


  1. James Martin says:

    The Richmond election itself should not be taken as necessarily indicating a Lib-Dim revival, and in many respects given the average household income of the area amounts to ‘very rich people don’t vote Labour shocker!’.

    But Labour does have very big problems that are not being addressed. What is our Brexit policy? I know what mine is (which includes leaving the single market as part of a necessary ‘hard’ Brexit and opposition to the middle class la-di-da’s either in the Lib-Dims, Greens or our own party that sugarcoat what the EU bosses club really is and ignore the fact that free movement of labour is designed to drive down wages, nothing more nothing less), but what Corbyn believes I haven’t got a clue, which is more than worrying and indicates dangerous paralysis at the top.

    But two quick responses to Peter. First, our current (very poor) employment legislation would not by default end with leaving the EU as even the parts that came from an EU directive has been passed by an act of parliament and so like much else it becomes a battle fight to improve what we have post-Brexit in terms of UK legislation and government policy. Far too many in the leadership of unions have forgotten how to fight and have instead seen their role as begging for some crumbs from the EU bosses top table.

    Second, the right and near open fascist parties (Hungary etc.) has grown because of the EU not despite it. It is the failures of the EU, or rather its successes of driving down living standards and wages, that have led to what we are now seeing, just as it has been the failures of the big money capitalist Democrats represented in all their horrors by Hillary Clinton that has led to Trump. And just as we don’t fight Trump by supporting the rotten Democrat big business politics that have created that monster we don’t fight the right wing and fascists in Europe by supporting the organisation that has led to their growth, although of course we should be working closely with the European left parties.

    1. John Penney says:

      You are quite right, James Martin, the attempts by the mass media to extrapolate outwards to UK wide voting intentions from this by-election in such a singularly well-off , always Tory or Lib Dem, constituency , is little short of risible . Particularly the all-too-predictable attempts to project Labour’s future electoral success or failure.

      Peter, you state that :

      “My own view remains that it is only a reformed, social democratic, EU that can challenge the domination of capital in Europe and enable movement towards socialism here.”

      The problem with this position, now, today, after the EU Referendum vote, is that the UK is either leaving , and that includes leaving the “Single Market and Customs Union” , OR the UK doesn’t leave the Single Market, but gets the worst of all worlds, including the requirement to allow continued unfettered free movement of labour within the EU area. In other words, the UK won’t actually have left the EU, but remains within its wide-ranging structures, but on much less favourable terms.

      The consequence for Labour will be dire if Parliament keeps the UK in the Single Market, by a strange alliance between Tory “remainers”, the Lib Dems, SNP, the “Corbynite” Left (with its idealist liberal unconditional commitment to complete “free movement of people” ) and the neoliberal Labour Right (who , regardless of their totally cynical mouthings about “immigration controls” , just want to stay in the neoliberal enforcement machine of the EU because it is an important part of the gravy train they feed off, and their billionaire backers require). If this happens Labour will be simply wiped out electorally in great swathes of the Midlands – with UKIP and North, with UKIP the likely party to benefit , not because UKIP is anything other than a shambles, but simply as a mass protest vote response to what will be seen by normally Labour voting Brexit voters as a great betrayal.

      That disaster appears, to me , to be now quite possible. The only hope for Labour would have been for the Corbyn Leadership group in the PLP , and Momentum , to have embraced the traditional socialist approach to the unfettered neoliberal capitalism that unlimited labour supply is a vital component, a return to the strategy of comprehensive radical Left Economic planning. This approach alone, having a commitment to FULL EMPLOYMENT for the indigenous UK citizen/voter population, as a priority , would have any chance of defusing the deep social unrest now evident in UK working class communities in the face of the apparent future of an unlimited competitive labour supply forever.

      Well, “Corbynism” isn’t ,by the evidence of a year of non policy development, since the 2015 “Corbyn Insurgency”, going to deliver that return to the once core socialist principle of comprehensive planning, but will apparently stick to a liberal moralism which demands complete freedom of movement/unlimited labour supply, not only on a European scale, but a global scale. And Momentum , now captured by the numerically tiny Far Left, who have taken advantage of Jon Lansman’s deliberate refusal for over a year to build a real democratic branch-based organisation, to exploit their organisational cohesion in this unorganised structure to seize the NC for themselves, will support this disastrous policy to the rafters .

      As James Martin says in his post, we wont redirect Labour from the looming cliff edge of electoral wipeout by embracing the fantasy of a “reformed, social democratic EU”. That hope is now toast. In fact the EU is probably toast, for good or ill. The Left needs to forge a distinctly alternative socialism-based path, oriented to the UK working class , uncluttered by all the liberal “feel good” rhetoric that a Left lost for 30 years in the neoliberal wilderness has accumulated.

      Yes, indeed, let’s have lots of closer links with European Left parties and trades unions – but the political “platform of struggle” today is still the individual nation state. The UK Left, and Labour as its potential political “vehicle”, is well on the way to throwing away its potential leadership of all those UK citizens now totally pissed off with the consequences of 30 years of unfettered neoliberal capitalism, and leaving this role to be picked up by the very dangerous forces of Radical Right Populism.

  2. Stephen Bellamy says:

    Newmark’s made a pet of him.

    1. John Penney says:

      This article has nothing to do with Israel or “Zionism”, Bellamy. Your obsession with this sole issue is now beyond risible .

      1. Stephen Bellamy says:

        If you say it John it must be so. But anyway it is in this area that Jon represents a serious threat to my hard won civil liberties.

        I wouldn’t expect a McCarthyite like to understand that.

        I will obsess about anything I freaking well want to obsess bout.

        1. John Penney says:

          ” … Jon represents a serious threat to your hard won civil liberties ” ? Errrrr, …… Continue “obsessing” and indeed, freaking, as you will, Stephen . It is indeed your basic human right – but surely there are more “specialised” discussion forums for your sole area of interest ?

        2. Stephen Bellamy says:

          John the Tsunami of Zionist McCarthyism has to be confronted everywhere, especially here since Jon is an extremely active ingredient in it.

    2. Rob Green says:

      Momentum is a disruptive outfit that needs disbanding. Anybody who wastes more than three seconds of their life in that Zionist shit pit is a sorry individual indeed. Leave it to the Zionist AWL and the Zionist Lansman to fight over ownership of its corpse.

      1. Stephen Bellamy says:

        Yeah stuck between a rock ( John Lansman ) and a hard place ( AWL ) is not a promising future. Probably best to put it out of its misery.

      2. Stephen Bellamy says:

        But however it turns out to be Jon has the notorious perjurer and would be union buster Newmark to keep him warm

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    A decent article Pete, thanks.

    Personally, I’m not convinced that remaining in the single market is the right way forward, but as you rightly state, arguing to stay in the single market after we exit the EU is a perfectly honourable and constitutional position to take.

    So I applaud your demarcation of that position from that of the unprincipled and undemocratic LibDems and Blairites, who want to disregard the democratic process and impose continuing EU membership on the people who have clearly rejected it.

    As to the significance of last week’s by-election, I think you’re quite right to downplay it. The LibDems won back the poshest seat in England, which they had previously held for decades.

    Just a brief comment on Labour’s standing there. Yes, there were arguments for and against, but once it was decided to stand, surely the very, very minimum requirement of a party members is to vote for their party. To have more party members than votes is a disgrace frankly.

  4. Rob Green says:

    It was clear the Corbyn insurgency was over not long after it had begun when he ditched forty years of Left Labour opposition to the EU and its predecessors in order to campaign for Remain just when the time had come for a Leave policy. Since then he has majored not on socialism but continuous bleating about access to the European Single Market and so-called Free Movement. Corbyn’s Labour looks more like Blair’s Labour everyday not to mention John Major’s Tories and the Lib Dems. That’s a popular front that not only Trump could beat but Vlad the Impaler and Adolph Hitler on a joint ticket. Oddly enough many of those Labour Rebels who insisted Corbyn campaign for Remain are now worried about UKIP taking Northern constituencies because Labour campaigned Remain.

    No, I’m afraid the Corbyn insurgency is well and truly over and Momentum is split between the two wings of Zionist imperialism, those of Lansman and the AWL. Labour’s Pasokification has already recommenced and in any upcoming general election the party, if it carries on on this trajectory will be all but eradicated in England and Wales as it has been in Scotland.

    What can save it? It must wholeheartedly grasp the Brexit nettle. Britain voted Brexit because British capitalism can no longer compete in the ESM and so realistically Brexit can mean only one thing and that is socialism. Labour needs to put forward its radical socialist vision and programme for a post-Brexit Britain and a New European Settlement that rejects the neo-liberalism of the wretched EU. The Unpopular Front of corporate capitalism headed by Farron, Blair, Clegg, Major, Branson, Geldof and other gargoyles is the short route to electoral wipe out for Labour.

  5. Rob Green says:

    The True political contest in Britain today is between Far Right Brexit and Radical Socialist Brexit. If you think it is between Far Right Brexit and some corporate capitalist Remain front then you have already handed victory to the far right just as putting up Hillary against Trump guaranteed a Trump victory. He was the pay off for the Democrats betrayal of the Sanders movement.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Clinton won nearly three million more votes than Trump won, and Clinton won 2 per cent more of the nationwide vote share than Trump.

      Trump didn’t win the election, he’s being awarded the presidency on the basis of the slave-era ‘electoral college’.

      So the only political conclusions to draw fro the US election are that there are still a large number of white supremacists in the USA – but there are three million more non-racists.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        …and also that the USA continues to use a presidential ‘electoral college’ system that is a legacy of slavery

  6. Karl Stewart says:

    While I’m not personally convinced that remaining in the single market after we exit the EU is the right way forward, it could be argued that that position best reflects the narrowness of the vote to leave?

    1. Rob Green says:

      Markets are just places where capitalists go to exchange the billions of hours of labour time they have stolen off the workers for money and profit. The longer Corbyn bangs on about corporate capitalism’s access to the ESM instead of socialism the quicker Labour is dead in the water.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        I’m not a fan of the single market either. But my point was that a reasonable argument can be made that remaining in the single market after we exit the EU could be considered to be the fairest outcome that comes closest to meeting the views of the largest number of people.

        1. Rob Green says:

          It’s the worst Brexit of all. Continued membership of the ESM means continued so-called Free Movement, continued paying in but zero representation on any of the EU’s leading institutions. Britain voted out because British capitalism can no longer compete in the British markets let alone European ones or the fantasy world markets of hyper neo-liberals like Boris Johnson so there is absolutely no point saying we must remain in the ESM because that will only mean the continuation of the increasingly speedy decline of the UK economy. Only a socialist policy makes sense but the left reformists are as grafted to the neo-liberal and capitalist narrative as the right reformists.

    2. chris owen says:

      An excellent point and should be the main rational for labour’s difficult decision to accept Brexit yet retain access to the significant rights and benefits of the community. Having a rational position like this would be a prerequisite to avoiding disagreements in the party while the Tory party would be as divided as it has always been on Europe.

  7. Mike says:

    If Richmond Park is typical of the rest of the country, Labour could be in trouble. What if – and it’s a big if – the EU referendum really has transformed the political landscape and elections now are going to be decided less on class and other traditional identifiers and much more on where people stand on the issue of Europe? With Theresa May’s government under internal and external pressure to proceed quickly to a hard Brexit, and the Lib Dems committed to Remain, there is a real danger of Labour being squeezed out, given its more subtle embrace of withdrawal while preserving the most economically useful features of the EU. After all, isn’t a soft Brexiteer really just someone who would prefer to Remain? And if you really want a soft Brexit, wouldn’t you be more likely to vote for a party committed to Remain, on the grounds that this will put more pressure on a Conservative government leaning towards a hard Brexit? And while Labour as a party seeking to win a governmental majority can’t be seen to frontally oppose the majority of the electorate on Brexit, this is not something that affects the positions taken by ordinary voters.

    Fortunately, these hypotheses may be premature. Firstly, Richmond Park is not a typical constituency, if such a thing exists. It’s wealthy, privileged suburban and southern – economically rightwing, if more socially liberal – classic Remain territory. Secondly, it would be simplistic to generalise from one result that all electoral politics in the UK must now be viewed through the prism of the EU referendum result. Thirdly, the willingness of the broader electorate to forget the Lib Dems’ support for Tory policies through five years of coalition government should not be assumed as a given. Compass and others may be rushing to include the Lib Dems in a “progressive alliance” but voters may be a bit more circumspect about this sudden reinvention.

    Labour will have to hold its nerve. In one council by-election on Thursday, Labour convincingly beat UKIP and the Tories in Crewe in a three-way battle.
    If the Party is to see off the rightwing threat in traditional Labour heartlands, it must continue the patient work of reframing the conversation in terms of what kind of Brexit best meets the interests of working class people.

    This is not such a complex message as some might think. John Prescott, writing in the Mirror after the result, said: “What Labour must do is own Brexit and spell out a vision that’s not only about getting the best deal from Europe – it’s about how we REALLY let the people take control.” He went on to explain how the opportunity of Brexit could be used to recast society in a fairer way: “Our net contribution to Europe is about £12 billion a year. People shouldn’t stop with taking back control from Brussels bureaucrats. They should demand the reclaimed money and powers aren’t left with Westminster’s faceless mandarins and out-of-touch southern ­politicians. They should be pushed back to the people so they can spend the money and use the powers closer to home. And I’d replace the House of Lords with a Senate for the Nations and Regions that better reflects the makeup of the UK.”

    The idea of using Brexit to reconfigure our constitution is a radical one that Labour should seize with both hands. After all, many Brexiteers keep repeating that the referendum was all about sovereignty, that is, where power lies. So let’s join that conversation.

    I develop these ideas here:

  8. Bazza says:

    I think socialists have forgotten that socialism was always about good planning and management.
    And the World is crying out for good management.
    Labour should control capital, control labour and if you get these two then do a good economic deal with the EC – within the framework of a left wing democratic socialist society (with more democratic public ownership and real taxes on the rich and corporations) I think the suggested £5b Pay To Stay in the single market could be a good deal.
    Plus a deal for current EC migrants in the UK and ours in Europe (Spain etc) to stay could help.
    Perhaps we need a Best Brexit for working people.

  9. Giles Wynne says:

    The Single Market replaced the named “Common Market” which is not Common and has lead to “dumping” of goods here.
    Leaving it will give the UK back it’s marketing independence instead of the “Club”all producing and selling similar goods to each other.
    For a market to exist there must be buyers as well as sellers. The Global imperialists have us by the throat. They control the markets. Supporting a hard Brexit will not produce a socialist society but it may well see the back of a capitalist one, leaving a void. What is important is for Labour and the Left to make sure it fills the gap not the extreme right. A man buys six eggs at 50p and sells them at 75p. What does he get ? 6 months.

    1. Rob Green says:

      Markets are where the capitalists take the billions of hours of labour time they have stolen off the workers and exchange them for money. It is where they sell the used up bodies of wage slaves in the form of trinkets and trash for a profit. The only difference between ancient slavery and capitalist slavery is that in ancient slavery the slaves got bought and sold now it’s just the remnants of their tattered lives and used up bodies. Fuck markets. Corbyn keeps banging on about the fucking European Single Market and it makes me puke. Why is he not talking about socialism? Besides Britain voted to leave the EU not because it saw it as an obstacle to Britain’s domination of global markets like fantasists like Boris Johnson and Gove tried to sell it but because British capitalism can no longer compete in the ESM or even in Britain come to that. That means that the only possible meaning of Brexit is socialism. If Remain is not an option and it isn’t then isolated British capitalism that once ruled the world isn’t either. Time for Labour to put forward its radical socialist vision for a post-Brexit Britain and a New European Settlement that does away with the wretched EU. If it does not and if Corbyn continues with this ESM shit then Eddie Hitler and UKIP will be the winners.

  10. Peter Rowlands says:

    A response to various comments.
    I agree with John Penney (and thanks to him for questioning the relevance of Stephen Bellamy’s comments [now removed as irrelevant and inappropriate – Ed]) on free movement and on an economic plan, but the latter is I believe only viable on an EU basis, capital would otherwise walk all over an independent UK, the passage to which would probably represent a triumph for the forces of nationalist populist xenophobia, not the left.The EU is down but not out. Even le Pen doesn’t want out of the EU , only the Euro.There is no possibility now anyway of Labour’s line being fundamentally changed without damaging division, and I believe it will gather support as the likely consequences of a hard Brexit become apparent. These would be dire, with much greater unemployment further waekening the labour and trade union movement.WE must remain in the single market.
    Mike Phipps plays down the possible Lib-Dem bounce, but I think they will probably benefit, although largely at the expense of the Tories. But yes, let’s try and develop a more populist line on this as Prescott has indicated we should.
    Rob Green ( Ennis without the bad language?) always writes as though a socialist party was on the verge of taking power.Would that it was the case!

    1. Rob Green says:

      `Rob Green ( Ennis without the bad language?) always writes as though a socialist party was on the verge of taking power.Would that it was the case!’

      And that my friend is how all manner of opportunism is justified even support for the wretched EU imperialist alliance predicated on the joint exploitation of Africa and the Middle East, mutual strangulation and constant war on the working class and socialism. That is why there isn’t a socialist party on the brink of taking power. Zero principles.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Maybe one of the reasons why there isn’t a socialist party on the brink of taking power could be down to the way some on the left use such archaic language and seem so furious and bitter all the time towards people who disagree with them.

        Rob, the overwhelming majority of people don’t agree with your analysis/philosophy/worldview at this time.

        So you can either continue just being really, really angry with them, or you can have a think about maybe finding a more effective way to try to being them round to your viewpoint, or at least closer to it.

        …just saying…

    2. John Penney says:

      But what is the “Labour Line”, Peter ? I can see a quite wide range of both underlying motivations, and nuances in expressed priorities, coming from “labour spokespersons ” (official or via briefings) across Labour’s fractured political divisions.

      We have for instance Diane Abbotts latest , slogan-rich, extraordinarily vague and rather shifty, interview on Sunday Politics, and her article here, which repeatedly seems to deliberately confuse being a “member” of the Single Market, as contrasted with having “access” to this huge market, after “leaving” the EU. Diane’s core motive for insisting that the UK had to be a full member of the Single Market, (or apparently we can’t trade with the EU at all !) rather than having negotiated access to it (as hundreds of non EU countries do of course), appears to be to safeguard completely free movement of labour, that , liberal moralist shibboleth that so many on the radical/Far Left nowadays confuse with “anti racism”.

      On the other wing of the Labour party we have the EU neoliberalists, who will verbally posture about the need for “immigration controls” (of some utterly unspecified kind), but are quite clearly also “bigging up” the overwhelming need to stay within the Single Market, simply because they understand full well that as long as the UK stays within the Single Market it stays firmly within the neoliberalism enforcement machine that is the modern EU, providing a significant road block to any Left Wing economic policies by a possible future Left government.

      It is ironic that Prescott, in his Daily Mirror article seems to be the only mainstream Labour figure who actually DOES grasp , at least in vague outline, the necessary radical orientation Labour needs to Brexit . Prescott does not appear to be hypnotised by the Liberal shibboleth of “freedom of Movement.

      I agree with you, Peter, that the , very unclear, very confused” “line” , such as it is, coming from the various factions within Labour, will “stick” around at least one shared objective, ie, the primacy of NOT leaving the Single Market. I seriously fear that this will turn out to be the biggest political mistake Labour has made electorally for generations, with the interconnected requirement for the UK not to break completely with Freedom of Movement (whatever short term “limits” are agreed ), proving the final straw for masses of already deeply disenchanted core working class voters in the Labour Heartlands of the Midlands and North East in particular. Hence , ironically, the one thing (for differing underlying reasons) the “Corbynite” Left and the neoliberal Labour Right can agree on , the need to remain in the Single Market, will prove to be Labour’s “PASOK Moment” , come the next election.

      1. John Penney says:

        Having just re-read John Prescott’s Daily Mirror article, in fact while he broaches the issue of unlimited immigration , and its massive impact on some communities, – he then completely dodges the issue of what to actually do about this , absolutely key issue ! So in fact , despite some undoubtedly useful comments, Prescott isn’t really any better at charting a political path for Labour than the PLP.

      2. Peter Rowlands says:

        In my article I did point out that the Corbyn/Abbott line on free movement was at variance to the main Labour Starmer/McDonnell line, and this needs to be sorted out.
        I believe that leaving the single market would be economically damaging, would weaken the labour movement and empower the right. It should be avoided.That does not mean that the neo liberal EU does not need reform – indeed that is the only way forward.
        You think the Labour line will lead to electoral wipeout. A Brexit line would have been far more divisive.Ithink opinion will shift as the consequences of a hard brexit become apparent,and the Tories continue to divide on the issue.

        1. John Penney says:

          I don’t think vague , contentless, references to the “need to look again at unlimited freedom of movement” , which is all that anyone in the PLP , or McDonnell, has actually broached, is going to do the job for Labour in the Key Midlands and North East Labour heartlands.

          Even though I believe the UK will have to leave the EU because of the Referendum vote, and it is in the long term a potentially positive development , because of its toxic neoliberal purpose, I do not deny for a moment that the major economic dislocation Hard Brexit would cause , in the medium term, will be damaging.

          However, I’m not convinced that major UK economic shifts , particularly the “hard Brexit” negative consequences you predict, would happen in a short enough timescale to shift the balance of the still pro-Brexit mood significantly before a General Election. . More likely the increases in the net immigration figures year on year will be so dramatic that this issue on its own will actually boost pro-Brexit sentiment. I also think it is much more likely that major crises in states in the rest of the EU in the next year will make increasing numbers of people very glad we are leaving !

          By the way , Peter, I did submit an article to Left Futures, via the online form, on the need for a Comprehensive Left Economic Plan, it was probably far too long – but I got no feedback at all.

          1. Danny Nicol says:

            Why not try sending it to other sites too John, as such an article is sorely needed.

            I find this Left Futures blog too frustrating to visit often; it seems excessively slow and reluctant to publish pieces which advocate going beyond the capitalist framework.

  11. Peter Rowlands says:

    It is fairly clear that the Sleaford by-election bears out my analysis rather than that of John Penney, that is of an increased Lib-Dem vote with Labour remainers switching to them as at Richmond, but otherwise no sign of a mass pro hard brexit vote, with the Tories and UKIP both losing vote share.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      A very, very poor result for Labour last night. Over 7,000 votes down from the general election, and 7 per cent down on vote share.

      Extremely poor. Labour haven’t won this seat in the past, but they’ve more often than not been a strong second – without coming close.

      So, on the one hand, not a seat that would be a target as such, but the very poor vote share is quite alarming in terms of what this could mean elsewhere.

      Being down on vote share from a very, very poor 2015 performance is a big, big worry.

      Much, much more significant than the Richmond by-election.

      Labour urgently needs a distinctive set of robust policies.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        Please explain, you say on a previous thread, “Why talk about Richmond? That’s old news and who cares?”. Now regarding Sleaford, “A very, very poor result for Labour last night………quite alarming in terms of what this could mean elsewhere.”
        So, whats the difference between Richmond and Sleaford?

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Richmond is the quintessential ‘no-hope’ seat for Labour. Probably the poshest place in England and not even one elected Labour councillor.

          And the residual Labour vote there was under an extra ‘squeeze’ due to the mistaken call by some in Labour to stand down.

          So Labour’s poor performance there was of no significance at all.

          But as I indicated previously, Labour have traditionally polled strongly in Sleaford. They have several councillors and a working-class base.

          Although it would be unlikely to be among the party’s general election ‘targets’ as such, one would have hope for a strong showing in seats like this one – (perhaps even the type of place for an ocaisional ‘shock by-election win’.)

          Also, Sleaford does have a number of similarities with quite a lot of other seats which are targets, plus there was no call from anyone in Labour for any ‘tactical voting’.

          And also it seemed to me that Labour had chosen a strong candidate.

          So all of my explanations as to why we can comfortably write-off the Richmond result, none of that applies to Sleaford.

          A deeply disappointing and very worrying result in my opinion.

          1. Richard MacKinnon says:

            Thanks for that Karl.. So what went wrong if the candidate was strong?

    2. John Penney says:

      We’ll see how vindicated you feel when the key Labour heartlands start voting, Peter. Labour Tactical voting in a Tory stronghold , in a by-election with a very low turnout , is no basis for making projections for the UK.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        With respect JohnP, I don’t think there was any ‘tactical voting’ in Sleaford.

        Surely if there had been, it would have gone to Labour as the traditional second party there?

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          Karl S. Of course there was tactical voting, by Labour remainers for the Lib-Dems.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            No, there were quite probably some Labour voters who moved over to LibDem because they agree more with the LibDem position than Labour’s. That isn’t ‘tactical voting’ that’s changing one’s party allegiance.

      2. Peter Rowlands says:

        John P. Not so,if you were right there would have been an increased UKIP vote, but there wasn’t.

        1. John Penney says:

          Au contraire, folks, I have assumed, and I think quite logically, that quite a number of Labour voters switched to the Lib Dems, simply and solely, as the most likely best hope against the Tory candidate. I don’t think being pro or anti Brexit is by any means the sole or overriding determinant of how Labour voters allocate their tactical anti Tory vote. I think many Sleaford Labour voters have been influenced by the current dire Labour polling figures, and the confused Labour policy “offer” , to see the Lib Dems as the best anti Tory option there. whereas UKIP didn’t look like a likely winner – whether one was a anti or pro Brexit Labour voter.

          So , sorry, I maintain that Labour tactical voting was an important factor in Sleaford, alongside simple Labour voter abstention , and the overall 37% low turnout. And think that not that much can be generalised out from the two recent Tory stronghold by-elections, despite the press and Labour right determination to build a mountain of convenient conjecture on them.

          Let’s see what happens with the core Labour vote in South Yorkshire, the Midlands, Wales and the North East, vis a vis UKIP, before we “declare a crystal ball prognosis winner” on this issue . I sincerely hope I prove to be utterly WRONG !

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            This is a strange discussion, in which changing one’s party allegiance – as some former Labour voters seem to have done in Sleaford – is considered by JohnP and PeteR to be ‘tactical voting.’

            Guys, Labour was the second-placed party in Sleaford, so any ‘tactical voting’ considerations would, logically, have swung to Labour.

          2. John Penney says:

            I think I covered that point already, Karl. I think that the unrelenting press, and Labour Right , rubbishing of Corbyn’s Labour, combined with Labour’s undoubtedly ambiguous “positioning” on Brexit , and the latest dire poll results, convinced many, many, normally Labour voters to , either stay at home, or vote Lib Dem as the best gambit to unseat the Tory.

            What do you find difficult to accept about “tactical voting” ? It is a very common feature of contemporary elections, and usually doesn’t reflect a long term change in the tactical voters’ normal voting behaviour – especially in by elections.

            I’ve voted both Lib Dem and Green in the past in my rural hopelessly safe Tory squirearchy constituency, as a vain attempt to rid us of the ghastly Owen Pattison. It doesn’t mean I’ve changed my party allegiance from Labour. It’s tactical voting, Karl.

  12. Karl Stewart says:

    Reply to JohnP at 7.32pm:

    I really think we’re at cross-purposes here John. My understanding of ‘tactical voting’ is when people don’t vote for their preferred party, but vote instead for the party they think has the best chance of beating the party they dislike the most.

    In Richmond, I think quite a few people who would have normally voted Labour decided to vote LibDem on that basis. And if one’s primary aim in that by-election was to defeat the Tory, then a ‘tactical vote’ for the LibDem had some logic. There was clear evidence based on previous elections that in Richmond the LibDems were more likely than Labour to beat the Tory.

    So I do get the logic of that position, albeit I don’t agree with it politically, because in my opinion, a LibDem is just another type of Tory.

    But in Sleaford, there was no such evidence suggesting that the LibDem had a better chance than Labour of defeating the Tory. At the previous election, Labour had polled 10,000 votes and the LibDem had polled 3,000 votes. No-one would have thought that the LibDem had abetter chance than the Labour candidate of defeating the Tory.

    Therefore, if Labour voters switched from Labour to LibDem in Sleaford, my suggestion is that this would have been because those people genuinely changed their minds from a preference for Labour to an actual preference for the LibDems.

    That’s what I’ve been trying to get over JohnP.

    1. Peter Rowlands says:

      To Karl S. OK, you are I now think right in saying that there wasn’t tactical voting at Sleaford in the way in which the term is usually understood, in that the Lib-Dem stood a good chance of winning at Richmond, and did, but stood no chance at Sleaford.But it was a tactical switch in another sense, to get behind the Lib-Dems as the only party who are in favour of a second referendum now.That does not mean to say that they have completely shifted their political allegiance to the Lib-Dems.

  13. John P Reid says:

    A few ablairites may vote Libdem next time, having left the party when Jeremy won, now due to the libdems wanting to reverse the referndum ,they feel closer at Home. With rhea libdems,even if the libdems say they’re quite happy for another Tory/LD coalition
    Of course it was an honorable thing for many ex lsbour members/voters to vote Libdem in 2005 due to their opposition to Iraq, and many of them joined the labour party at the end of 2010′ ironically many of those ex libdems(who due to their age may have not voted labour in the 90’s, having always been Libdem voters, and saw the libdems as the left wing party of the last 20 years), who have joined lsbour are, supportive of the labour parties. Current position on a Brexit (we’re leaving,let’s make the best of it)

    And the stance labour has took on accepting Brexit is a start to get back, those ex labour members who went to Ukip

    Not saying either of these things, of wanting to appeal to former libdems who, are mainly pro the EU, but go along with labour accepting the public voted Brexit, or lsbour getting back socially conservative Ukip voters, who were nice labour supporters, fit in with the Left futures/Jeremy view of politics,

    Just saying that, to win the two types of voters, we are most Likely to lose ‘white middle class liberals’ and need to get back ‘blue collar working class’ would support a labour party, that concedes and moves on when it comes to Brexit,

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