Whilst I was away in France I began a post, but by the time I got back it was well out-of-date as political events in the UK continue to move both slowly (our actual exit from the EU) and fairly fast (what people say about our exit).
Before I get on to Corbyn and his Second Coming* can I say that a post on the Tory party and its shenanigans at its recent conference is pending, as they are not going to escape my scrutiny. And for those of you based overseas, in case you missed it, here’s a factoid. On 12th September our beloved ex-Prime Minister David Cameron resigned his seat, which will, as we say, trigger a by-election, which’ll be interesting. So, not only yesterday’s man but a man gone, not exactly without trace as he’s caused the most enormous damage to the UK (anyone noted the fall of the £ against the $? A 30-year low) but an insubstantial puff of wind now off to spend more time with his family until who knows what – does he sleep well I wonder? For me, but for the carnage he’s wreaked I could almost see him as a tragic figure and deserving of some pity but no, not after what he’s done to the UK. For an in-depth reflection on his premiership read Owen Jones’ article – a sobering piece. And while obviously a point of view from someone on the left, even so.
Yes, more about the Tory party and Brexit another time. OK, Corbyn. Wow, he got elected as the Labour party leader – again. Great.
There’s a lot out there in the media about this result. Corbyn got a larger share of the vote than last time (59.5% in 2015 with four candidates in all). This time against one candidate the vote was 61.8% to 38.2%. Just yesterday I read an article demanding that Corbyn be given more respect for both this win and the huge surge in membership to 600,000 plus. There are some reports saying that this makes Labour the largest political party in membership terms ever, both in the UK and Europe. Not entirely true if you recognise the United Party set up by Putin (over 2 million members, but not in Europe) and the Turkish party, Justice and Development (over 3 million members and sort of in Europe). Tbh, don’t know much about these parties, but not totally sure they’re a good advertisement for a large membership.
Yes, it has to be recognised that Corbyn is the reason for this large growth in membership, and the right of the party has failed, big time, to either dislodge Corbyn or change any of his anti-neo-liberal agenda that is bringing so many people into the bosom of the Labour party. And there’s no sign yet of a split.
But there is a huge task ahead for Corbyn to unite Labour and fill those seats at his Cabinet. (The day after I finished this post and was about to publish he is filling those Cabinet seats – with his people. As good as they are the right of the Labour party is already saying ‘what about us?’ Interesting times.)
Mind you, his speech at the Labour party conference was excellent – I watched a good part of it (in its entirety over an hour). He’s learnt to be a more confident speaker; all those hustings, all those speeches he’s made to his adoring membership, they’ve paid off. He wears a dark suit. He begins to look the part. But, is it enough to win over those who vote Tory, all those undecided, all those old Labour party members who’ve gone to UKip, all the ‘left-behinds’ of the industrial Midlands and north, and don’t forget the lost Labour voters of Scotland? Nor should we forget the boundary changes that favour the Tories. Corbyn told his audience that the Labour party will prepare for a 2017 snap election – it could happen.
But what are his chances of getting those people to vote for Labour in 2017 or even 2020? You’d think from the gains in the Labour party membership that there must be quite a number of left-leaning punters out there in the UK ready to tick the Labour box come election day. Not so, I’m afraid.
This is because Brits are a tribal people with many different views and political inclinations, and actually the number of left-leaning individuals in the UK is rather small – the majority are not even centre, but quite right-wing. And I say this because I found a poll (from Opinium) which, while sounding a bit of fun because it divides up the UK into political tribes with some funky names, also it could make depressing reading for Corbyn followers. The poll suggests that the UK can be divided up into eight political tribes, of which two add up to half the electorate. These two tribes are mainly right-wing Brexiters who want immigration reduced pronto. One of these tribes, dubbed by the polling company as the Common Sense tribe (26% of those polled) are predominantly older Conservative voters from the south of England. The other tribe, called Our Britain (24%) by Opinium, are mainly older working-class UKip and Tory voters from the Midlands and northern England.
A little closer to the centre are the Free Liberals (7%) and New Britain (6%) who agree with a small State, but are more pro-business and therefore more likely to be pro-immigration and Remainers. But these voters are also predominantly Conservative voters who are going to stay loyal to the Tories.
On the left are the Democratic Socialists (8%) who are fine with immigration and the single market. They also want higher taxes for the wealthy and live in urban areas. Is that my tribe? Or maybe I’m a Progressive (11%) who are mainly professionals living anywhere around the UK who believe in immigration, the single market and are also pro-business. And then there’s what the polling company dub the Community tribe (5%) who are mainly working-class voters based in the Midlands and northern England who want a socialist redistribution of income, but are strongly against immigration. And finally there’s a Swing Voter tribe (7%) who are could vote either way.
Now the thing is never, ever accept the results of just one poll, but, just crunch the numbers. Although, 6% of the poll could not be put into any of these tribes, the left is going to have a very difficult and challenging task to move the electorate away from the right and centre.
I would admire Corbyn more and give him the respect some people think he deserves if I heard anything about this challenge. But no, it’s all about, or certainly has been about, the internal battle for Labour’s soul. Important as that is, the electorate that we have needs, I think, a little more attention. Especially as Madame May has spoken and the Tory party is no longer the austerity party (that’s old hat, or Osborne’s old hat) and no longer the nasty party (that’s Cameron’s hat) because ‘we care about the working class now’. No, The Tory party’s the centre party. Or so she says.
But is there a centre in the UK? As I said, events move quickly here because apparently Blair hasn’t ruled out a return to British politics to capture the centre ground! (Takes a deep breath) Well, OK then, go find that centre Blair, because I’m not sure it’s there anymore. You see the consequences of Brexit is not only financial, there has been something of a huge political (for now bloodless) revolution in the UK with people being given permission to express their right-wing views. We are all right-wing now in the UK – apart from a few.
So, Corbyn, get on with it. Gather up your arguments and go prepare for the election by dealing with our divided left tribes and the electorate out there in the distant right. And you know what, you’ll have to deal with the question of immigration. Good luck with that.
But let me see you dealing with it, not going to endless meetings with adoring members – that won’t win you an election.
6th October 2016
P.S. More about Brexit and Theresa’s move towards the ‘centre’ next time
P.P.S *Not an original phrase
I acknowledge the debt this post has to Adam Drummond’s article “It is immigration above all else, that has united the right and divided the left.”