Labour’s brilliant summer

By Mark Newman

If you think that the Labour leadership must be feeling bruised and downhearted about the events of the last three months then you’ve missed the point of this summer.

Maybe you’re wondering why Labour are still unable to pull away in the polls despite facing the worst government in living memory, or you’ve watched bewildered as the only initiative to have surfaced all summer appears to have been a poorly thought out plan to curb press freedom, in which case you haven’t grasped why the leadership will be looking back on the last three or four months as the most successful yet in Corbyn’s bid to become Prime Minister.

Whether you’re angry at how the anti-Semitism issue has been weaponised by the right in order to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, or despairing at the inability of the leadership to empathise with the unease felt by Jewish members of Labour – don’t worry, this summer hasn’t been about you and your feelings about voting for the party.

The only voters that matter, the really important ones, are the four million who chose Ukip in 2015. In 2017 most of them went to the Tories by default, but since Theresa May’s Chequers disaster they have been searching for a new home. And Labour, it seems, have been reaching out.

If you think that’s ludicrous, look at what the party have been doing since February, when Jeremy Corbyn announced he would back a customs union – which of course the EU will only accept if Labour also come round to keeping the single market and freedom of movement. Since that moment, the leadership have barely spoken about Brexit, leaving Keir Starmer a lone voice to hint that they might soften their stance, when the leadership are clearly planning no such thing.

For a long while this was clever positioning by Labour. Allowing the Tories to own Brexit means Labour will not be blamed when it all goes horribly wrong next year. But for many traditional Labour supporters the refusal to back freedom of movement or wholeheartedly endorse the campaign to protect the three million EU citizens living here is seen as going against everything they believe in.

Those people may have also felt unease about the continuing anti-Semitism row, but the truth is there aren’t enough of you who will stop voting Labour because of it. If there were, Corbyn and his team would have apologised and shut down the debate long ago.

Looking at the people Labour have been alienating over the summer, it’s almost entirely the big city left – left-leaning journalists, Labour-voting Jews, and remain voters, all of whom are accused of being Tory enablers whenever they say anything that might be seen as criticism, constructive or otherwise, of the leadership.

These are mainly people in inner-city constituencies like Corbyn’s own, with massive five-figure majorities. In terms of winning or losing seats, they don’t matter. Corbyn himself could lose 20,000 of these people in Islington North alone and still be returned as the MP. Labour may be squandering metropolitan votes by the thousand, but it won’t lose them a single Parliamentary seat and they’re picking up new fans along the way.

Labour’s pro-Corbyn membership are being urged to be gentle towards the fascists and far right who are calling for the same hard Brexit that Theresa May is instigating, and Labour are refusing to condemn. The activist Owen Jones, employed as a bellwether on every newly floated leadership idea on an almost daily basis, warns his followers and detractors of the dangers of upsetting the forces of the far right.

While Momentum have been expending huge amounts of energy criticising anyone on the left expressing even the smallest misgivings about Labour’s anti-Semitism stance, right wing bully boys like Steven Yaxley-Lennon and Jacob Rees Mogg have barely raised a sneer. Truly shocking Brexit papers have been released in recent days, but apart from Starmer there’s been hardly a word from the most senior figures in Corbyn’s team on these titanic No Deal scenarios.

Four years ago the far left were furious when Ed Miliband introduced the now infamous Caps On Immigration mugs. Now the people who shouted loudest against those mugs are refusing to engage in the one activity that used to be their usp – fighting fascists on the ground.

While some may have been horrified to see former BNP leader Nick Griffin backing Corbyn’s stance on anti-Semitism, this won’t have bothered the leadership. It will have given Ukip voters, already told by their own leaders that they have been betrayed by the Tories, one more reason to switch their allegiance to Labour.

Those Ukip votes matter because so many of them are in Tory-held marginals like Pudsey (majority 331) and Southampton Itchen (31). Labour only need a handful of these to rid the Tories of their majority. No wonder Momentum activists are spending so much time in Chingford, Ian Duncan Smith is in real danger of losing his seat.

It’s one thing to allow the Tories to implode over Brexit – it was Miliband’s tactic in 2014 but it’s more likely to work now – quite another to refuse to articulate a single idea of what kind of country we want to become after next March.

But if you’re a typical Labour activist from the pre-Corbyn era, what are you supposed to do?

Keeping anti-Semitism as the story of the summer has allowed the leadership to avoid discussing Brexit or climate change, another subject where Corbyn appears to be ambivalent. More important, it has made it harder for Corbyn’s critics within the party to stay loyal to him, while showing them they have nowhere else to go – especially the MPs.

All this talk of a new party has also helped, because it has spelled out the options to the electorate.

Forming a centre party will split the left vote and continue the life of the worst government in living memory. You may not like Corbyn, his followers and his leadership team, you may not have any idea what he intends to do about Brexit, or climate change, or how to save the NHS or our bankrupt councils or our crumbling education system or our cruel and broken welfare state. You know Brexit will kill off any financial plans John McDonnell may have for rebuilding our decimated country. But you also understand that the alternative – a hollowed-out, torn apart, angry right-wing Tory non-government with an even worse leader than they already have – cannot be countenanced.

In these volatile times there is only one danger Corbyn’s party faces, and that is the rising tide of anger on the left about Brexit. Some advocates of a second vote have learned from decades of Daily Mail hectoring that the only way to get what you want is to shout louder than the other side, and if they can persuade Labour conference to discuss the issue then the leadership will be forced to make a stand that will potentially lose them those marginal voters. Which is why I expect them to make sure the issue is side-lined.

For the vast majority who voted Remain, but were prepared to accept the result, or Leave, in the expectation that its political leaders had a plan, the only hope appears to be if the Lib Dems can reverse their fortunes and articulate the views of that silenced majority. A new leader would need to navigate an incredibly difficult path, managing the expectations of the noisy religious anti-Brexiters and offering a People’s Vote that would be acceptable to almost everyone – apart from Jacob Rees-Mogg and Jeremy Corbyn.

Good luck with that.


6 thoughts on “Labour’s brilliant summer

  1. Had last May’s local authority elections in London been a General Election then Labour would have lost Kensington to the Conservatives and they Richmond Park to the Liberal Democrats.

    Those were, according to some Corbyn apologists, the best local authority election results ever, but only in London, for nearly fifty years.

    Labour had a lead over the Conservatives amongst working class voters at the 2015 General Election, narrowly lost it to the Conservatives at 2017 General Election and now the Conservatives have consolidated their lead.

    Labour’s qualified success in May’s local authority elections saw it do badly outside of London in places where it should be doing well, if Labour really were, as Jeremy Corbyn claims, the party of the working class.

    Labour did better at the 2017 General Election, because it conned a sizeable number of voters, who would normally vote for other parties, some 1.1 million traditional Conservative voters amongst them, to back its position on Brexit and because it pledged to increase the middle class welfare state by 10s of billions of pounds at little or no cost to the beneficiaries of such largesse.

    Labour did not win Kensington, 20 vote majority, or Canterbury, 197 vote majority, in 2017 with working class votes. Those are two seats Labour is on track to lose at the next General Election.

    It does not help Labour’s case in those seats that the MP for Kensington is a racist snob and the Member for Canterbury, a lying hypocrite. Both were paper candidates unexpected to win either seat.

    ukip has shown that paper candidates have a tendency to be one win wonders.

    Had it not already hacked off the Jewish community as much as it had by June 2017 then Labour would have won enough seats to deny Theresa May a working majority, even with the support of the DUP.

    Labour has managed to hack the Jewish community off even more since June 2017.

    Every time Jeremy Corbyn visits the colonies, sorry, Scotland he further degrades Labour’s chances of even holding on to seats it won at the 2017 General Election.

    Labour’s 2017 General Election Manifesto offered next to nothing to voters with incomes of less than £27,000 per year; 60% of the total.

    Labour lost Walsall North by 2,601 votes at the 2017 General Election.

    Over the summer, Jeremy Corbyn’s credibility as a potential Prime Minister has taken a savage beating. He has been revealed as a man with, at the very least, a poor memory and a decades old penchant for sharing platforms with and drinking tea with terrorists.

    The last time I looked working class voters were not attracted to terrorist sympathisers.

    And suggesting that all ukip supporters are relaxed about anti-Semitism and racism is insulting to many of them and dovetails with the views some Corbyn supporters have about the proles and plebs.

    Self appointed People’s Momentum with their 4,500 members may share the primary aim of the SS, to protect the leader, but they are not shock troops out on the Labour door step, unless it is in a leafy suburb where the biggest issue facing young people is the cost of student tuition.

    We are currently on course for yet another hung Parliament.

    Corbyn’s leadership ratings are a good guide to Labour’s chances at a General Election.

    He is now the albatross around the party’s neck.

    Ed Miliband might give him some advice on the subject, but I am confident Seumas Milne would prevent such a message getting through.

    The idea that Jeremy Corbyn leading a divided Labour party (and divided parties rarely win General Elections) would be capable of forming a shaky coalition with the SNP and Plaid Cymru is frankly risible.

    Are we really saying a man unable to create a coalition within his own Parliamentary Labour Party will be able to reach out and head up a credible administration with other parties?

    And what price would PC and SNP demand for support in the House of Commons?

    They would, quite understandably, come along with DUP style shipping lists. What is the likelihood that Corbyn by conceding just some of their demands would not damage the standing of Welsh Labour and further cripple Scottish Labour?

    I was born into the aspirational white working class. We have been Labour voters, party members, donors and activists for decades. We know you campaign all year round to win elections and that you need to make sure the bins are emptied on time, if you want potential voters to take you seriously.

    My family now regard Labour under Corbyn as being as bad as the Conservatives under May, but in a different way. We are no longer Labour voters, part members, activists or donors. We are urging people to think seriously before voting for a party whose leader would damage this country and weaken its defences, look at how he stood up for Russia over the attacks in Salisbury, even more than the Conservatives.

    The first duty of a Government is to protect its citizens from enemies both foreign and domestic and not come up with excuses for the behaviour of such enemies.

    Moreover, we will never back a Labour Party pledging to spend £10 billion plus on its first day in office on universal ‘free’ university tuition for mostly white, mostly middle and upper class youth when it says that at the same time it will not be able to afford to end the key Conservative austerity measures of the benefits freeze and the benefit cap at the same time, if ever.

    We burst out laughing when we heard Jeremy Corbyn say that he would make Universal Credit work. Corbyn and IDS on the same page on both UC and Brexit.

    General Elections turn on around 200,000 votes.

    My dad, a former Labour Councillor and trades union shop steward, voted Labour in Lichfield at the 2015 General Election and then Labour in Hastings and Rye at the 2017 General Election.

    He does not see himself voting Labour again in a seat Labour needs to win to form a Government. He might even vote Conservative to stop the Momentum candidate winning the seat. He will certainly tell people why he is not supporting the Labour Party for which he has voted for fifty years.

    We have heard a lot from Corbyn supporters over the last three years about how they and Corbyn were the principled ones.

    Corbyn’s informal leadership campaign in 2015 started with him having a hissy fit over how Labour opposed a Tory Social Security Bill, but two years later, now under his leadership, Labour appropriated Conservative austerity measures without a word of protest from his principled, mostly middle or upper class supporters.

    Jeremy Corbyn took Labour Social Security policy well to the right of Blair and Brown and, in the case of the benefits freeze, even IDS, at the 2017 General Election.

    Corbyn’s supporters may feel that is a price well worth paying for victory, but my family does not. We know what the freeze means for working class people.

    My family now see two parties vying for the middle class vote.

    Between 1906 and 2006, the middle class did not do as well under Labour or Liberal Governments as under Conservative administrations.

    Had Labour won under Jeremy Corbyn, the rule breaker, at the 2017 General Election then the middle class would have done better under Labour than under the Conservatives.

    My family were Lloyd George Liberals before the Labour Party got into its stride and we plan to lend the Liberal Democrats our votes for the foreseeable future.

    However, if voting Conservative would stop a Labour Parliamentary candidate being elected whilst Jeremy Corbyn or a clone is leading Labour then we would, reluctantly, vote Conservative.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with a lot of what you say – interesting that people like yourselves are considering voting Conservative. Next election could come down to which hostility is the most powerful – traditional Labour voters to Corbyn or traditional Tory voters to May? And while it’s wrong to paint all ukip as racists, I get the sense that Labour are scared to talk about being anti racist (or in favour of freedom of movement) because they think that will lose them the votes of ukippers.


  3. The Tory Brexiter Stuart Andrew has a majority of just 331 in Pudsey in West Yorkshire. However, 6,903 Tory voters in 2017 were backers of Remain.

    The former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith also has more Tory Remainers in his Chingford and Woodford Green seat than his 2,438 majority.


  4. Fascinating isn’t it. Mary Creagh voted against article 50, but increased her majority in leave-voting Wakefield in 2017. I wonder how relevant Remain/Leave will be to the next election, if it doesn’t come for a while.


    • I gather it may be fifty years, according to some Brexiters, before we see any clear benefits ..

      Appeasement was overwhelmingly popular amongst voters in the 1930s, way, way more popular than Leave, but when have you ever heard anyone reminiscing from that time about their support for appeasement?

      Brexit is not an event, but a series of events and March 29th 2019 will, at most, only be the end of the beginning.

      Those waffling on about a return to normal politics on 30th May 2019 are deluding themselves and I suspect, in some cases, not even convincing themselves of their own delusion.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s