Monday, 9 May 2016

Labour's election performance: a positive spin

The norm after elections in  the UK is for the big beasts of the various parties to tour the newsrooms and point out that, given this, and considering that, and taking into account the other, their party has done quite well and is on track for even greater things.  As in Alice in Wonderland, "all have won and all shall receive prizes."

Last week's election was unique in that almost all Labour's big beasts seemed to be hoping for an electoral disaster so as to give them an excuse for trying to topple their leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And now this hasn't happened they go out of their way to play down his success and call for new directions if the party is to remain viable.

So here is the positive spin which the Labour performance deserves.

Last week's council seats were last contested in 2012, which was a bumper year for Labour, when they gained a total of  823 seats.  Pundits commentating before this year's election predicted that it would take a miracle for Labour to hold on to them, and there was speculation that losses could be in the region of 400.

In fact, Labour lost just 17,  less than 2% of the total.  By contrast the Tories lost 23, over 4% of their total.  (And joy of joys, the Liberal Democrat haemorrhage ended and we actually gained 32 seats.)

So in actual fact Labour's "holding on" under Corbyn was a triumph which defied the predictions.

In addition Labour's share of the vote was 31% , slightly up on the general election, and a point ahead of  the Tories, who were  down 7% (and, more joy, the Liberal Democrat share, at 15%,  was nearly double our general election performance -  we're on our way!).

And Labour's Sadiq Kahn has won a convincing victory as London's new Mayor, despite a scurrilous campaign against him

All this, plus two parliamentary by-election victories, has been achieved  against a background of continuous sniping from fellow labour MPs, some of them even in Corbyn's  cabinet, and a vicious attack of anti-Semitism,  curiously timed just a week or so before the election (see earlier post).

There is no evidence whatsoever that  any of the other candidates for the Labour leadership could have led the party to any greater performance.  If they would unite behind Corbyn then the result could have been even better and put the Tories more obviously  on the back foot.

You may ask why, as a dedicated Liberal, I am urging a better performance from Labour.  The answer is that Labour replaced the Liberals as the dominant  progressive force in British politics after the First World War and so they are, for the moment, the major vehicle around which a progressive majority can coalesce.  We, along with the Greens, need them to do well.

Most of us on the left in 2015 had our fingers crossed  for a balanced parliament in which Labour with the Liberal Democrats, Greens and possibly the SNP ,could have formed a progressive coalition.  Surely by now such a government would have made some mistakes but I think we can say with confidence that under such a government:

  • we should not be wasting time squabbling over our membership of the EU;
  •  there would have been no tax credit reduction fiasco;
  • no forced acclimatisation of schools fiasco - perhaps even an attempt to restore local authorities to the proper and historic role in eduction;
  • no further emasculation of  the trade unions;
  • no forced sale of social housing or a counter-productive housing bill;
  • prompt action to safeguard our  steel industry (perhaps even pat-nationalisation of Tata - what  a meal a Tory opposition have made of that);
  • a secure future for the jewel in our national crown - the BBC;
  • the Human Rights Act would be secure;
  • with a  welcome to refugees, particularly unaccompanied children.
Labour's malcontents (which alas seem to include my own MP, the newly elected Jo Cox ) must realise that if this rainbow future is to be realised within the foreseeable future they must unite with enthusiasm behind the the man their membership has elected.

 And another thing.   Today is Europe Day .  I am reminded by this Email from a professor at the University of Bradford, which gives an interesting "other national" perspective.

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