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Labour’s progress, through the eyes of the right

Guardian commentators like Rafael Behr knew from the start that a radical left turn in Labour politics, such as that which propelled Jeremy Corbyn from the backbenches to Labour leader, could only end in tears. They confidently predicted Labour’s electoral collapse and did whatever they could to support the disgruntled majority of Labour MPs who, did everything they could to humiliate Corbyn. They celebrated every electoral setback in local elections as proof that Labour was heading towards disaster. They told us that Labour faced a wipe out in the 2017 election.

Thus, after the Copeland by-election of 2016 Progress, Labour’s refuge for New Labourites, under the heading Another wake-up call (3rd March 2017) told us:

The Copeland byelection was a rejection of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics The February byelection results are so bad it is taking some time for them to sink in. Jeremy Corbyn becomes the first Labour leader since Michael Foot to lose a seat in opposition to the government. Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian asks, ‘Was it the worst result for an opposition since 1945 – or since 1878?’ Either way this was the worst byelection result for Labour in living memory.

… it is time to respect the voters. They know what they are doing. … Copeland is a working-class seat that has returned Labour members of parliament for 82 years. They know the difference between Labour and Tory governments. It is one of the most unionised seats in the country with Prospect, the GMB and Unite having thousands of members each. It is also a highly informed electorate, with more PhDs per head than any other parliamentary constituency in the country. They were not duped by the mainstream media, nor Tory propaganda. They were convinced by it. It is different. How Labour talks about the choice the people of West Cumbria made will determine if they are prepared to look again at Labour when there is a general election or when the leadership changes. …

The wake-up call for Labour is clear. West Cumbrians sent the plainest of messages: they would rather send the Labour leadership packing for wishing their jobs away than punish the Tory government for actually closing the local maternity unit and urgent care centre. Until the Labour party understands this, this failed leadership project will continue to make its excuses and risk finishing off Labour for good.

The Fabian Society started 2017 with a report estimating that Labour would get 150 MPs after an election with Corbyn as leader. The Stoke Central result confirms that view, Copeland makes it look optimistic. Corbyn’s team could sort out their rank incompetence, outline some policies all Labour members could get behind and control Corbyn’s bad temper. But Copeland was not about any of these Westminster bubble considerations. It was about politics. The hard-left, Momentum-led political agenda of the Labour leadership was on trial for all to see. The Copeland voters delivered their damning verdict: they found Corbyn and McDonnell’s brand of politics more repugnant than May’s. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

They were so confident in the imminent demise of Corbyn that they shouted it from the rooftops: he is useless, he is incompetent and his brand of politics is more repugnant that Theresa May’s.

That was then. This is now. Now you would think that those inclined to think this way would at least be a little circumspect in their thoughts. Not so with Rafael Behr.

Now we know that all his predictions and those more generally of those opposed to Labour’s left turn, were wrong. A few critics have nibbled some humble pie but not, it is clear, Rafael Behr. His  Guardian article (Brexit Tories opened the door to revolution. Corbynites walked through, 27th September) is dripping with anti-left, anti-radical venom. The leitmotif is: ‘If only the world could stay the same so that I don’t have to come to terms with the difficulties always faced by proposals for radical change’. Instead of evaluating Labour’s new radicalism Rafael Behr attacks radicalism itself.

(1) We are invited to be shocked by McDonnell’s talk of renationalisation. We are warned that this is “full scale” renationalisation. It’s “not just of energy companies”. No, shock horror, it’s “Railways, Royal Mail, the waterworks” as well. To Rafael Behr this is clearly madness. The support shown by Conference delegates could therefore be nothing other than “delirious”.

(2) The problem is, according to Behr that Corbyn’s critics “… overestimate Britain’s cultural abhorrence of radical leftism as a potential conveyor towards economic ruin, possibly tyranny”. This transfers the problem to the general public which unlike Behr just doesn’t recognise a tyrant when it sees one. And here come the red-baiting bit

…. memory alone is not enough to guarantee suspicion of grey-haired politicians who once equivocated over preference for the western one. It is not enough even when those politicians, guided by some doctrinaire muscle memory, still tilt towards the Kremlin on foreign policy.

The problem, Behr would have us believe, is that the Tories have “normalised radicalism”. They have been guided by “revolutionary fantasy, urging sceptics to believe that anything is possible with an effort of will” and this, we are told, has given Labour leave to do the same. It does not occur to Behr for a moment to ask if the world dominated by global corporations, of public service stripping austerity, a world still reeling from the great crash of 2008 and poised in the view of many for another one, might be a world in need of radical change. It is not that the Tories have given us permission to think radically and it is not that we have forgotten the horrors of Soviet rule. It is rather that we understand that radical change is vital if we are to measure up to the scale of the problems that we face.

Behr thinks that the Corbynites have predilection for “unworldly utopianism” along with a strange belief in “the possibility of changing minds and reframing debates”. All of which poses he problem of “quite how radical Labour intends to be”. There is no doubt that Behr’s answer is  that it is frighteningly radical:

If Corbyn could not be satisfied with egalitarian social democratic policies practised for decades in Scandinavia, if he is shopping for a system beyond the leftmost frontier of EU rules, he must be looking at something altogether more drastic. Cuba, perhaps”.

This is not sober political comment, it is ideological vitriol.

A friend suggested to me that Behr’s article is so obviously nonsensical that it is hardly worth commenting on. I wonder, though, if Behr is perhaps saying, in his own brash way, what quite a few on the right of the party are thinking but are prevented from saying by the consolidation of support for a left turn as expressed by the election and by the Annual Conference.


  1. Danny Nicol says:

    Good point at the end. We cannot be sure that right-wing Labour MPs, if we win the next election, will vote for nationalisation of energy, railways, postal services in Parliament. They may vote against, with the Tories.

    The right wing Labour love the European single market because it protects privatisation in those sectors very explicitly through the open-markets requirements of the liberalisation directives. Public monopoly is totally prohibited. But even if we leave the ESM, as I hope and pray we will, these MPs may stab the party in the back when we get into government.

    That is a good argument for greater accountability, e.g. through the excessively modest means of re-introducing the mandatory reselection of Labour MPs.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      Danny: “The right wing Labour love the European single market because it protects privatisation in those sectors very explicitly through the open-markets requirements of the liberalisation directives. Public monopoly is totally prohibited”

      You know this is nonsense.

      Why do you keep perpetuating this Stalinist/reformist lie? It’s been exposed time and time again.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          Notice what it actually says. A state operator would be allowed to exist, but it would have to compete with the private sector for franchises. This is the equivalent of Ed Miliband’s proposed rail policy and is not the same as Corbyn’s. If you read the review by Nicole Badstuber at the end of the article, she says the Fourth Railway Package “rules out reinstating mainland Britain’s old state monopoly, British Rail.” She also says

          The EU package may not strictly require privatisation but it is definitely designed to create an environment conducive to this. Curiously, the EU holds up Britain as a role model, despite the fact that many in the UK take a more critical view of the privatisation in hindsight. I would therefore suggest there is a valid case for Mick Cash to say that the package promotes dismantling state rail services and paves the way for privatising operations.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            As the Bombardier crisis shows, such problems will exist in or out of the EU: those who fixate upon leaving the EU clearly have unspoken (usually Stalinist) irrational motives.

            This report:

            Blows Danny’s case out of the water.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            And this has to do with the railways how? The piece you had cited was dealing with liberalisation directives, not state aid. Hence, that’s what my response addressed. That was also the point Danny Nicol raised in this instance, so the Renewal piece you linked to can hardly refute his case.

            Yes, countries can introduce tariffs to counteract perceived state aid. As a Canadian citizen I am acutely aware of the Bombardier case. (Note, though, that all countries subsidise aerospace. Canada was perhaps too blatant about it, but even that is debatable. Really this is just the US exercising power against a smaller country to keep them from doing what it continues to do with Boeing. Boeing is afraid that Bombardier will take away market share, much as Airbus managed to do in the past.) It must be said that considerable state aid is provided by non-EU countries such as the US and Canada without problems. These sorts of disputes do not always arise. For example, the CANDU nuclear reactor was developed with extensive state aid by a Canadian state enterprise but that has not prevented its sale abroad. Other times tariffs arise over absurd issues such as the fact that Canada’s publicly owned forests produce cheaper lumber than their privately owned American counterparts. So, while leaving the EU won’t get rid of all obstacles to public investment and state aid, it will get rid of some. In any case, such tariffs would be irrelevant if the state aid is promoting an industry for domestic purposes, as could be done in the UK with, e.g., steel or rolling stock. A response to the Bombardier case, although not one the the Canadian or British government will take, could be to force national airlines—via imposing similar tariffs on state aid received by Boeing—to cancel all narrow-body Boeing orders and purchase the Bombardier CSeries instead (which, by all accounts, is a very good aircraft now that it’s finally in production). This would send a message to the US and help provide a market for the CSeries.

            I have read the Renewal article you cite, as well as the longer report it is based on. First of all, we should note the profoundly anti-socialist views of the authors. They say that “While public monopolies could be preferable to private monopolies (depending on the availability of other regulatory tools), few would argue that they were an appropriate tool for the ubiquitous pursuit of social and economic equality on all markets and this has generally been the dividing line in political economy between communists and social democrats since the late nineteenth century”. They also summarise their view as “The market where possible; the state where necessary”.

            More importantly, we need to dig into the content of their piece. What they are saying is that state aid can be permitted for certain purposes if all firms can apply for it on a level playing field. This would seem to prevent the sort of democratic economic planning which socialists would desire. It would appear that the state is only allowed to operate unprofitable public enterprises where there is not an adequate market. Otherwise “Where there isafunctioning [sic] market the state’s investment must be a rational economic investment of the type a private investor would also make”. This restriction would rather defeat the purpose of nationalisation.

            Now, you can agree with all of this and still believe that remaining in the EU is the best course for the Left. You can argue that it would be better to fight to reform the EU than to leave. I disagree, but there is a debate to be had. What you can not do is insist that EU membership would in no way hinder the implementation of a radical Left program.

    2. Karl Stewart says:

      Good point about the dangers of remaining in the ESM Danny.

      But the harsh fact is we haven’t yet won that argument within the party.

      We’ve got a lot of political work to do to make that case to as many people as possible and to wage and win that argument.

      For me, the most significant part of John McDonnell speech was when he told conference that the party leadership is already preparing for the likelihood of an economic attack on an incoming Corbyn-led Labour’s government.

      It’s important that, well before that happens, that we have made sure our people are aware that the ESM will not be neutral in such a struggle – it will be squarely on the side of the capitalists.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Not interested in debating Blairites or their “useful-idiots”

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            I see the “wonderful progressive EU” on the streets of Barcelona and Girona today smashing the heads of peaceful people who are just trying to vote.

            Solidarity to Catalonia!!!

  2. What Corbyn has done is to offer the electorate something rather close to a binary choice on the future of the country. I don’t say this as a believer in a personality cult of Jeremy Corbyn. Apart from anything else he really isn’t the sort to be the ego-laden powerful leader like Blair attempted to be. Others could have offered that choice. Up until 2014 it looked like Ed Miliband could have. That he didn’t I think we could blame on the likes of Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls as well as on Miliband himself. With Ed Balls we should never allow him back into any position of power inside the party. Win or lose the choice is now there and the political Thatcherite consensus between the Tories and Labour has been broken. Let’s rejoice in that whatever the Guardian says.

  3. Imran Khan says:

    I think the important point to realise is that after two election seven years of austerity and a woefully inadequate Tory campaign Labour went down to its third defeat in a row. I never went along with the melt down and a collapse of the Labour brigade vote and wouldn’t have been surprised at a Labour victory with a majority of twenty or so.

    There is no way that the Tories will call an election any time soon because they don’t need to and will soldier on for as long as they like. The likelihood is that things will improve for them as they can’t really get any worse and the longer this parliament goes on the more the gloss will fade from Corbyn.

    1. James Martin says:

      Yes, it was a defeat, but it is all about swing given the way the UK FPTP system works, and that swing was unexpectedly very large indeed (biggest since 1945 etc.). It is worth pointing out that even before Corbyn was elected leader that those on the centre and right of the Labour Party assumed that it would take two elections to get power again after Miliband’s defeat given the seat 2015 numbers and subsequent swing calculations involved. In that context it is not wrong to see the fact that Labour has now created a weak and unstable minority Tory administration a victory in its own right, but not one that replaces the need for a Labour government.

      1. Johnpreid says:

        it wasnt a big swing,a swing is how much the Tories go down compared to how much labour goes up,as the Tory Percentage went up by 5.3% and labour went up by 9.7%
        You add them together then half it, so it was a 1.7% swing
        Although credit where due it was a 9.7% increase

    2. Stewart says:

      ‘….and wouldn’t have been surprised at a Labour victory with a majority of twenty or so.’

      And I will add “…or even a higher majority were it not for unprecedented negative establishment media propaganda against a current Labour leader (, unprecedented open and brazen undermining of current Labour leader bordering on indiscipline by a right-wing faction of the party (, unprecedented purge of honest decent candidates and ordinary members of the party who were considered sympathetic to the founding core values of Labour Party, which – coincidentally – are in sync the Leader’s, the purge which started during the last leadership contest and continued in the last general elections ( I mean, I too, wouldn’t have been surprised.

  4. James Martin says:

    I tend not to pay too much attention to the Guardian, it has long been a reactionary anti-socialist and anti-labour movement paper, stuffed full of self-satisfied liberals preaching about how bad unions are or why we should support whatever NATO is bombing at the time. Owen Jones is seen as the exception by many, but not to me. He sat on his hands for over a week during the summer coup agsint Corbyn last year (while indicating that we should support coup plotters like Lisa Nandy) and despite his affiliation to Momentum plc (only after the undemocratic Lansman stitch up of course) he reminds me a lot of those non-socialist 19th century ‘radicals’ that had some saw after the defeat of the Chartists and who were eventually swept aside by the rise of the labour movement and genuine socialists.

    As to the artcle, yes of course the right in the Party are largely keeping their powder dry, but they have not gone away, and the latest disgraceful manufactured antisemitism smears (aimed at anti-Zionist Jewish socialist activists of course) that were taken up by Watson (of course) shows that we have a lot more to do when it comes to nullifying the reactionaries (including the racist JLM).

    1. David Pavett says:

      The general stance of the Guardian is one which is typical of the liberalism of received opinion. In other words it is mostly based on uncritical thinking which tries to develop a humanist and caring perspective without going so far as to question the fundamental nature of the society that produces the problems which concern the liberal commentator.

      That said, I find the railing against “Guardian liberals”, “Guardianistas” etc in these columns to be no more than a form of left-wing virtue signalling. It has no genuine critical substance because that would require some discernment and it is not possible to be discerning about what one refuses to read.

      The fact is that the Guardian carries materials from a wide range of material journalists and commentators. Some of it is very good. Over the last six months there have been excellent pieces by Gary Young and Aditya Chakrabortty. Occasionally Zoe Williams comes up with an interesting argument. Larry Elliot’s view on the economy are worthy of attention. Then there are the articles by people that one may or may not agree with such as Paul Mason and Owen Jones who, right or wrong, represent currents of thought in and around the Labour Party. Finally there is the generally reactionary views of people like Jonathan Freedland, Martin Kettle and Rafael Behr but even they represent clear trends of thought within Labour and can state those views generally rather more clearly than is done within the Labour Party. Simply to refuse to read any of that on the grounds that the Guardian is not a socialist newspaper seems to me be a failure to engage with an important strand of opinion on the centre/left of current politics.

      If we had a good quality left-wing daily newspaper things might be different but we don’t. Therefore it makes sense to engage with a source which reflects a spectrum of opinion on the centre and the left of politics. That is why I wrote the above response to Rafael Behr. He is not a fool. He can even produce worthwhile articles. But he represents a strain of thought that is representative of the right to the centre of the Labour Party. It is important to know about that if one is interested in debating beyond a circle of people who already agree with what one has to say.

      So, for all those reasons I would prefer that the sweeping condemnations of the Guardian were replaced by considered critiques of its content.

      1. Patrick Spence says:

        “If we had a good quality left-wing daily newspaper things might be different but we don’t.”

        David- you are forgetting the Morning Star which given its limited resources produces much worth reading.

        1. JohnP says:

          The Morning Star is a superb newspaper , for domestic news and analysis – and I personally totally agree with its “line” on both Freedom of Movement in particular, and the EU and Single Market more generally. BUT , move into the international arena and the Morning Star’s ambition to become, and its pretensions to already be, “the paper of The Left” , collapses all too often. The international political orientation of the Morning Star is pure unreconstructed old style Communist Party ex-soviet foreign ministry stuff – seguing constantly to the foreign policy “take” of the now entirely capitalist oligarchy running the Russian bit of the old stalinist Soviet Empire.

          Sometimes this is OK, (eg, Venezuela, Greece, ) but get to issues like Syria and Iran, or Libya, and the myth of the “anti imperialist axis of resistance” is alive and well – and the most viciously oppressive regimes get a free pass – completely in line with the current foreign policy interests of the Mafioso bourgeois class running Russia.

          Until the Morning Star (and its still influential CPB background puppet master) transcends its Soviet Era analysis of “imperialism” (along with the supposedly non-Stalinist Far Left) it will always remain a paper to read avidly for domestic analysis, but one to treat with as much suspicion as the Guardian (on most things) on international issues.

          1. David Pavett says:

            John, I wonder what you mean by the Morning Star line on free movement. I have read a series of its articles on the subject and all of them push the idea that any immigration controls are to be resisted. The article by Zoe Gardner on 14th February 2017 (Love Knows No Borders) is rather typical.

          2. JohnP says:

            It is quite true, David, that the Morning Star has given space for many articles supporting Freedom of Movement. And some drippily liberal indeed. But I think I’m right that both on the Single Market overall and ALL the “Four Freedoms” the EDITORIAL line of the Morning Star is for controlled labour supply within a Left economic strategy. That’s what I have picked up anyway – but could be a case of ignoring articles promoting a “line” one doesn’t agree with ! The Morning Star editorially seems pretty solid on the neoliberal nature of the current EU from what I’ve read.

          3. David Pavett says:

            I can find no evidence of the editorial line you mention w.r.t. to immigration but I did find lots or articles from the free movement point of view, including one by Don Flynn. Given the prominence this issue has had in Labour discussions of the last six months this is a rather striking omission.

        2. David Pavett says:

          No, I haven’t forgotten the Morning Star which is not what I would call a quality left-wing newspaper. For example when it comes to the sort of detailed discussion of policy issues that has been attempted on Left Futures in connection with Labour policy the Morning Star is nowhere. It deals with left wing generalities and even today speaks very guardedly about the disaster that was the Soviet Union for which its writers clearly have a tender regard. I think we need genuinely informed and open debate about a range of difficult issues and I don’t think the Morning Star comes near to providing that.

          1. Imran Khan says:

            That means your left with the Guardian which, judging by most commentators here, is not left wing.

          2. David Pavett says:

            @Imran Khan, Sept 28, at 7:58 pm.

            And your point is?

          3. JohnP says:

            To prove you utterly wrong, I’ve just done a quick skim through the Morning Star’s considerable coverage of the EU and Single Market over many years, and …………… are actually quite right on the Morning Star and the Freedom of Movement issue , David.

            The Morning Star has been, I think, very good on every negative aspect of three of the Single Market “freedoms” , but, with the exception of a very few good articles taking on Freedom of Movement specifically (one, by Colin Burgon I reprinted in your Freedom of Movement article comments) , it has been remarkably careful NOT to dwell on analyzing this key “freedom” . Presumably because the weight of opinion on the Left is so pro Free Movement, the Star has ,to keep in with this Left liberal consensus, not only largely ignored the issue, but, as you say, given space for the most liberal advocacy of unlimited free movement – completely at odds with the overall critique the paper has of the neoliberal Single Market as a whole.

            OK, strike that comment, that I agree with the Morning Star’s “line” on Freedom of Movement. It has actually opportunistically carefully avoided taking sides on that hyper sensitive Left Liberal kneejerk issue – whilst having, I still think , an overall very clear and correct line on the generality of the neoliberal straightjacket of the Single Market, over a zillion articles.

        3. Imran Khan says:

          I think Ken Livingstone still contributes. Nuf said.

  5. Peter Rowlands says:

    The Behr thesis is nonsense, but coming from someone I had not thought of as particularly reactionary it is perhaps an indication of the extent to which large numbers of people are prepared to dismiss the Corbyn advance as a form of dangerous left wing extremism that presages some form of repressive Stalinism. The reality is that against a background of increasingly severe problems concerning living standards, housing, job insecurity, welfare and more Labour has received much support in proposing a few rather moderate social democratic measures to seek to address these problems.If Behr’s reaction is at all representative, which I think we must accept it is, the advent of a Labour government would be met with a huge backlash.
    What the article also raises is the huge change occasioned in Labour support in the course of the election campaign, which neither mistaken assumptions about the youth vote or the brilliance of Labour’s campaign cannot completely explain.What is clear is that there was an enormous and unprecedented shift of support towards Labour.We must understand it better to ensure that the reverse does not happen.

  6. Tony says:

    In the Guardian the other day, Polly Toynbee was saying that the result of the general election was a real surprise to everybody in Corbyn’s camp who were expecting a disaster.

    But people in the Labour Party did not expect a disaster towards the end of the campaign. A Guardian report a few days before polling day said several candidates were pessimistic at first but were now cautiously optimistic.

    The exit poll did surprise me but I thought, at the end of the campaign, that it would not be a disaster. I put the Conservative lead at around 7% with a majority as little as 30.

    1. JohnP says:

      Utter nonsense, Tony, you must be the ONLY person in the UK, particularly on the Left , who thought , up until the 10pm Exit Poll announcement, that Labour was going to do so astonishingly well !

      Three weeks before the 8th June Labour was 23 points behind, and even YouGov lost its bottle in its last poll and predicted Labour as still 7 points behind. The entire Labour machine expected the Tories to have at least a 50 seat majority. This is well documented.

      You may have seen the surprise outcome, but NONE of Corbyn’s inner circle did until that exit poll, as they have repeatedly admitted ! It was an astonishing turnaround of an utterly unprecedented kind – in the face of the most hostile press (and Labour Right assisted ) campaign in generations.

      You should obviously be a pundit, Tony – the only person in the UK who saw the unprecedented Labour last minute surge ! Or you are a victim of “false memory syndrome”.

      1. James Martin says:

        Not quite John, I had twenty quid on Corbyn being PM that I put on at the start of the campaign as I had a glass half full hope that a Labour/SNP/odds & sods coalition was a real possibility, and I wasn’t actually too far out in terms of the seats needed to form a government as it turned out. Obviously I lost my bet, although as I made £500 on betting on Brexit last year it’s not all bad in terms of my rocky relationship with Willie Hills…

        1. JohnP says:

          Desperate hope, and a heroic £20 bet, isn’t quite the same thing as Tony’s claim that “people in the Labour Party” (presumably meant to be a significantly large grouping) weren’t still expecting a VERY bad result, right up to the exit poll shock.

          Not true, despite the heroic optimists like yourself . MOST Leftie people were still expecting it to be pretty bad by election day(Corbyn’s team for sure) , just not as bad as the 100 to 150 Tory majority the Tories still expected that night, because the gap had closed so fast the previous week. But then YouGov retreated to a 7 point Tory lead just the day before , after polling Labour and Tories as level pegging for numerous previous polls.

          I know NOONE on the Left who wasn’t euphorically gobsmacked by our success at that historic 10pm exit poll result.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            John, what you say is just not true, and Tony is broadly right.
            There were basically two types of election predictor. The first, sub-divided into right and left, was convinced on the basis of their strong faith that either Corbyn’s Labour would be bound to do badly, or well, and didn’t bother with any evidence that might have challenged that. Then there were those like myself who sought to establish what was likely to happen based on evidence, in my case polls, a range of relevant analysis, comment and description and my own experience of canvassing. This evidence was not consistent, but its general message could not be in doubt, namely that there was a sustained rise in support for Labour from early May onwards which meant that the eve of poll averages in the polls were about 36%, much better than 2015 or 2010 and probably consolidating Corbyn’s position. The result was significantly better than thispartly because of time lags and partly because most pollsters had based their predictions on younger people not turning out, whereas the two that did think they would got the result dead right.
            Yes, it is never possible to be certain about these things, and pollsters have been poor predictors in 2015 and 2016, but they have not been wildly out, and all the available evidence on the recent eve of poll was that Labour would get a reasonable vote that would enable the Corbyn leadership to continue. I have indicated why the result was so much better, but having read the arguments for predicting a bigger youth turnout put forward by Survation and one of the You Gov polls, in the excellent UK Polling Report, the exit poll was not a surprise to me and I fancy most of the leadership, but of course they weren’t going to say so.

          2. JohnP says:

            This is a very strange set of claims from you and Tony, Peter. There have been plenty of interviews since with the Corbyn circle, including John McDonnell, that clearly state they were as gobsmacked by the 10pm exit poll, and our eventual extraordinary result as the Tories , media pundits ,and Labour Party machine bureaucrats and PLP Right. But you , apparently, expected this all along ? Well done Peter.

            Is this the new re-write of history, that Lefties everywhere, armed with their deep political understanding, expected this result ? Why is this fantasy even required ? After the event we can all see why the result was so much better than (OK, almost) everyone (but you pundits extraordinaire) expected, but very few predicted this beforehand.

          3. David Pavett says:

            John, I think that what Peter says is right. Not only that but this was reflected in the polls in the last few weeks. Labour was clearly closing the gap and some polls were even predicting a possible Labour victory. No deep future insight was required. Even some of the better Guardian journalists were warning against the false basis of the predictions of a Labour disaster. For example there is this piece by Gary Young.

            My local Momentum website had a couple of pieces reflecting the changing polls and the possibilities that were emerging. You can read the Hounslow Momentum posts here and here.

          4. James Martin says:

            It may be to do where people are based perhaps John? Certainly in my part of the NW the spectacular fall of the ukips, disenchantment with the Tories and a new positive view of Corbyn were becoming pretty obvious over the spring. I did remember reading with amusement the ‘sages’ (aka fat eejits) at the Weekly Worker confidently predicting a seriously bad Labour defeat and laughing my head off at their London-based silliness (in fairness Bighton-based Tony Greenstein was spot on in countering their appallingly poor analysis in in the same paper). My view therefore was that the far left sects and the anti-cCorbyn liberals (Guardianland) were all predicting/hoping for a poor Labour result, but most longer term Labour members and activists were quite optimistic based on canvass returns and actually talking to people. The unknown was whether all he young voters that promosed to vote Labour would actually do so, given in the past they didn’t bother often on the day, but even there the spike in voter registrations in the 18-25 age group (which was massive) indicated that this time things were very different.

            I haven’t got the energy to go back over the old threads on here due to how slow the pages take to load (for me at least), but I suspect that on here it was also the ultra-lefts (often non-Labour) contributers who were preduicting a big disaster (as were the resident Tories), wheras most of us were in a very different place indeed.

          5. JohnP says:

            I really don’t understand why David and Peter and James are maintaining this rewrite of history , ie, that sundry Lefties were well on track to expect a Hung Parliament as we approached June 8th.

            There was certainly quite a bit of “whistling in the Dark” optimistic “things might turn out OK , despite the polls” projections going around in the last week of campaigning – when all of us out canvassing got wind of “something remarkably positive” emerging on the doorstep. But the reversal of the Poll result previously showing pretty much level pegging from consistent “outlier poll” YouGov on the eve of voting was a blow to everyone on the Left – making the Exit Poll result even more astonishing and wonderful. (for the Corbyn Team included)

            Our own James Elliot was certainly talking up the optimism in his eve of voting article in Left Futures :

            “The Polls are inconclusive – But they do show the possibility of a Big Upset tomorrow

            Jun 7th, 2017
            by James Elliott
            ”The story of the General Election for the past few weeks has been twofold: the formerly insurmountable image of “Team May” with the Iron Lady 2.0 gradually stumbling from blunder to blunder, while an insurgent Corbyn slowly becoming that ‘people-powered movement’ we have been building for the past two years. That story has been reflected in a series of opinion polls that show, wherever the starting point, whatever the methodology, the Tories lead has been squeezed.
            The unfortunate flip side and stark reality to that story, is that Labour began from an impossibly poor starting point, ……

            Note that this “Big upset” wasn’t seen as a Hung Parliament , but instead the hope that we could do somewhat better than :

            “taking an average of the latest polls from 25 May 2017 to 06 Jun 2017, is predicting a Tory majority of 72, but with Labour losing just fifteen seats and finishing with 216. Labour’s average sits on 35%, with the Tories on almost 45%.”

            Yep, a Tory majority anywhere significantly less than about 50 was really the “Upset” hoped for by the Corbyn Circle, and most of us on the Left . The Tories(and Labour Right) and ALL media pundits , still expected a Tory majority WELL ABOVE 75 even at 9.59pm on Election night.

            Phil BC on June 14th is quite quite clear that the result was a total surprise to him :

            Jun 14th, 2017
            by Phil Burton-Cartledge
            It’s taken me almost a week to write about Labour’s result, that’s how shocked I was. Just as that exit poll plunged millions of Labour supporters into gloomy depression in 2015, the one from last Thursday was an occasion of such jubilation that it will live on in the party’s collective memory forever. I know it’s been said, but it should always be said: we have not seen such an upset since 1945, we have never seen a turnaround of its like in such a short period of time,

            But if some Lefties wish to claim that “we saw it coming”, then you are welcome to whatever comfort that brings you. No-one I know on the wide circle of the Left I know, or any articles I saw in the Left press, from Blairites to ex Trots, to ex CP old stagers , ever really expected there to be a degree of Labour turnaround success , from a 23 point Tory lead three weeks previously , leading to a Hung Parliament, even at 9.59pm on June 8th.

            We , who were extaticly pleasantly surprised, in common with all the TV pundits present, at 10pm on June 8th, obviously lack the punditry skills of the savants here who predicted it all (and hopefully bet heavily on this knowledge) .

        2. David Pavett says:

          All I did John was to refer to three items written before the election suggesting that Labour may do well even if it did not win a majority. That is how it turned out. Why is there a problem with that?

      2. Tony says:

        You seem to be commenting on something different to what I actually wrote!

        As I made clear, on the eve of the election, I thought the Conservative lead could be around 7% and the majority could be as low as 30.

        I was not, therefore, predicting a disaster. The exit poll was, of course, significantly better than that.

        Incidentally, one member of Corbyn’s inner circle predicted a hung parliament when they met at Corbyn’s house on election night. So reported Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer a while ago.

        I thought that young people would vote in greater numbers than expected because:

        1. The low turnout amongst this group is fairly recent. This suggested that it could be reversed.

        2. Many people had gone online to register. This suggests a willingness to vote (it is clearly not the same as being registered by the head of the household as has been the case in the past).

        In future, please do not attribute to me views which I do not hold.

  7. Bazza says:

    I don’t think Behr “knew from the start” but he believed from the start and acted accordingly due I would argue to his likes restricted thinking and assumptions that being left could never be popular.
    But many of us let us say who have had hard times in the past felt that Labour’s excellent manifesto actually talked to working people’s lives and experiences and perhaps it demonstrates that Behr and other commentators (and some comfortable Right Wing Labour MPs) have never struggled; and I can’t remember the author but some Leftie years ago (I think it was a rare working class communist) once said: “to struggle is to live!”
    In a brutal Neo-Liberal capitalist system I think there is no time to be timid, we should be bold and let future generations know that we existed, our forefathers and mothers certainly made their presence felt in history by fighting for the NHS etc!
    We should simply fight for what we belive in but communicate it as simply and clearly as possible to communicate with millions.

  8. Bazza says:

    Footnote – did a bit of research.
    It was Ernie Benson and the book was ‘To Struggle is to Live.’
    He was a working class Communist organiser in the Northern Region (1930-50) and when I joined Labour in the late 70’s I was so lucky that I met some old lefties and one I think gave me this book.

  9. Karl Stewart says:

    A bit of a pointless argument really, but I do have to agree with John here.

    I was with a group knocking up on election day evening and we all tried to make a prediction – out of about seven of us, only one person predicted a hung Parliament, the rest of us predicted a Tory majority of 30-50.

    The one guy who got it right was an old Irish guy and longstanding councillor – the only person I know who called it right.

    I didn’t even believe the exit poll – and the first two results in Newcastle and Sunderland seemed to disprove it.

    And don’t forget, the exit poll in 1992 wrongly predicted a hung Parliament, so they’re not infallible.

    So let’s not fib guys – it was brilliant and astonishing, but completely unexpected.

  10. C MacMackin says:

    I agree with Karl that this is a bit of a pointless argument. Nonetheless, I’ll pitch in.

    On the eve of election day there was a big spread in polls. They all had similar raw data, but used different methods to weight it, trying to predict who was likely to actually vote. Those which used stated intention to vote predicted high turnout of groups who would often stay home (e.g. the young) and that these groups would vote Labour. They were placing Labour just behind the Tories and would likely mean a hung parliament. However, other polls used historical turnouts to weight their data, which meant they thought demographics likely to support Labour would tend to stay home. These polls were predicting a 5-10 point gap between Labour and the Conservatives.

    So the question, is which polls did Labour activists believe? Personally, I didn’t know what to thing because it wasn’t clear which statistical method was better. I hoped that we might get sufficient turnout to produce a hung parliament, but being the pessimist that I am I tried not to set my expectations that high. I was prepared to be satisfied with beating the 2005 vote share. The exit poll didn’t take me completely by surprise, but it was better than I’d dared hope.

    1. Peter Rowlands says:

      Quite so, Chris. I was impressed with the bigger youth turnout argument, which proved right, but that was not the point, which was that with the polls averaging 36% it was reasonable to assume that this would happen and would consolidate Corbyn’s position as the result would have been significantly better than 2010 or 2015. The much better result was a bonus. I thought we would get about 35%, and so undoubtedly did the leadership, but they obviously weren’t going to say so.The result in terms of seats reflects our electoral system.the Tories gaining votes and losing seats.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        Yes, FPTP always produces strange and results. Interestingly, Labour got about the same seat share as vote share this time around.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Good point CMack,

          In fact, Labour’s vote share of 40 per cent was exactly the same as Labour’s 40 per cent seat share.

          But contrast, the Tories got 49 per cent of seats with just a 42 per cent vote share.

          I’ve previously been an FPTP supporter, but no2 I’ve swung over to a “pure PR” position. For general elections.

          Although I think we should keep FPTP for council elections.

  11. David Pavett says:

    A bit of argument developed above about who predicted what before the 2017 election. None of that has much to do with what I wrote. My main point was to put on display a line of argument which I believe shows the extreme poverty of right-wing Labour thinking both before and after the 2017 election. I thought that Behr’s thesis that Tory radicalism had sanctioned left Labour radicalism was particularly telling (as well as being absurd) and I explained why. Behr’s thesis was taken up a few later by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian. I think we can expect more like this.

  12. Ray Davison says:

    abolis bibelots d’inanite sonore.Thanks for the mogodonic discourses.

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