Apologies, I’m a bit behind with these blog posts, but here’s a short blast on the results of the recent British General Election.
Goodness. What an upset. The predictions were that Corbyn and the Labour party would be slaughtered with Theresa May increasing her majority by at least 52 with some forecasting an overall Conservative majority near to 100. There was even a view that she might get a 150-seat majority, which would set her on course to do exactly as she pleased re: Brexit.
But the result was nothing like the predictions. In fact, the exit poll was a shock to the TV pundits waiting to do the all-nighter. Good heavens! A hung Parliament – no way!
Well, yes. After all the votes were in the shock result was that the Conservatives got 318 seats, losing 13, while Labour got 262 seats, gaining 30. Not what was expected and not enough for her to have a majority in the House of Commons. So should we have been more alert to the Corbyn phenomenon?
Let’s look at the voters. And yes, the age of the voter is key to understanding the swing to Corbyn. Yougov tell us that age is the new dividing line in British politics as amongst those aged 18-19 Labour was 47% points ahead, while amongst those over 70 the Conservatives had a lead of 50% points. Moreover, Labour is ahead amongst those in work and those who have degrees while Conservatives are 39% ahead amongst retirees.
Of course, older voters are always more likely to vote Conservative and the young for Labour, but what changed and led to the increase in the vote for Labour is that the young voters not only registered to vote, they actually came out on the day to vote. And, there was a late surge with one poll finding that Labour voters made up their minds to vote Labour much later on in the campaign than those who voted Tory. Indeed, more than half of those who voted Labour made their decision in the last month and 26% in the last few days.
There were polls that began to show this surge – but they went unheeded and, were seen as unreliable. Some of the polls were relying on probabilities – as in, it is far more likely that people who have voted Conservative before, and say they will in this poll, will vote for them again, while other polls were looking at voting intention. The key factor there is will people vote as they say they will on the day, in the booth, at the time they put the cross in the box. In this election, the polls that favoured intention won over probabilities with some pollsters getting it very wrong.
And what a disaster for Theresa May. Although can I say at this point – she did actually win! But what a bitter, bitter disappointment for her. She threw away a small but secure majority and is fumbling around looking for votes, and gaining an alliance from a truly ghastly party of reprobates (the DUP) to give her a tiny, weeny majority. Will she last the course – probably not.
What on earth happened and why did she kind of lose, although, again can I remind you, she technically won!
First and foremost, May’s popularity wasn’t as good as she thought. As I pointed out in my last post her popularity was already on the way down.
And then do not, I repeat, do not give Corbyn a campaign. Corbyn loves campaigns, he is in his element at big meetings rallying the troops, and the mainstream media (MSM) didn’t really let on how incredibly popular these meetings were, how well he spoke and how well his views were received, mainly, you have to understand, by the young. What the MSM did begin to focus on though, was the car-crash of Theresa May’s campaign, not entirely helped by her party’s manifesto. Actually, it’s all there in my last post, where I looked at both manifestos in detail. Apparently, this Tory manifesto was created by a committee behind doors, and not only does it look like a bodge from a committee, it is also very revealing of Tories in action. All so full of confidence that they would have a huge majority that they lost any element of empathy for their voters, and failed to recognise that their manifesto was, in effect, similar to the first budget of a new administration, rather than a vision of the future. I read one article where the writer said, the Tory manifesto just fell apart as soon it made contact with the voters. How true. Don’t alienate your core voters (the old) by suddenly stating that social care will be paid for by using the capital in your house – while you’re still living in it! While I totally agree that there needs to be an honest debate on how society pays for the social care needs for older people – don’t spring it upon your voters if you want to win an election.
Meanwhile Labour’s manifesto sold optimism and a vision for the future, and furthermore, costed it! It was an appealing manifesto for both the young and old – and whether or not you think the costing was right, it worked.
Then throughout the campaign the Tories fudged and jittered and changed their minds, which took the heat off Labour because if you look closely they also fudged the issue of Brexit, which was quite clever as Labour voters include both remainers and leavers.
The thing is do politicians understand the modern social media world? Once upon a time the only way you could ‘see’ a politician was at a public meeting (and ironically in this digital age the avuncular Corbyn has revived that medium), but now the relentless gaze of media other than the MSM press focuses in on every discrepancy. The populace did not like this change and change about of the Tories, they did not like Theresa’s unease in the spotlight, the ‘dementia tax’ became a meme. Ergo – the results and Corbyn formerly an uncharismatic British version of Bernie Saunders emerging as not only a charismatic Bernie but also distinctly electable.
Is this the time for a visionary? Parts of the Labour Party still hate Corbyn, because he undermines the narrative that we are on a single capitalistic, neo-liberal path. So, do not think he will have an easy time within his own party. But Corbyn has emerged from this election a stronger man. He does look different in my opinion. He’s always been a person who is confident in his own skin (unlike Theresa May) but he is better at Prime Minister’s Questions and much more confident in the House. Whether he can lead that assorted and varied bunch of Labour MPs is another matter – so watch that particular space. But maybe, just maybe, Corbyn is now an electable alternative to the usual, same old, same old neo-liberal austerity. And, note, the Tories are weak – only last week May asked for help across the parties with Brexit – fat chance. Because why, because she does not deserve help, that’s why.
In my next post, I will return to the abysmal calibre of the politicians that are taking us through Brexit, I will look closer at the ‘great repeal bill’ (yes, it is called that and, for those of you outside the bubble of this small island, this is the Act of Parliament that will repeal all EU laws changing them to British laws) and I will also muse on whether the whole issue of exiting the EU might collapse, and we do not leave the EU after all.
Penny Kocher, Friday 14th July 2017
If you want to read further, I recommend the following: