Little Twittering for Europe morphs into ‘let’s save Labour’

I don’t know about other progressives and Remain Alliance (Lib Dem, Green & PC) supporters but I’ve noticed that many of the Facebook Groups I subscribed to before the General Election who were backing Remain and also encouraging progressives to vote tactically are now little more than recruiting sergeants for trying to turn the Labour back into a Social Democrat Party.

My thoughts on this are:-

* Why did the centrists, moderates & social democrats leave Labour in the first place?
* Isn’t Labour now a Socialist Party which has thrown off its Blair era past to be a narrower church of the far left?
* Why do moderates, centrists and social democrats think they can return Labour to Blairism?
* Isn’t it better that Labour is a socialist party rather than a generation by generation see-saw party sometimes of the middle ground and sometimes of the far left?
* Haven’t we been here before when Kinnock ‘rescued’ Labour from the far left only for it to return there under Momentum/Corbynism?
* Why do moderates think they can get the left to relinquish power within Labour so it can become akin to Blairite again?
* If Labour is ‘rescued’ again how long will it stay moderate?
* How long will it take to ‘rescue’ Labour again?
* Is it even realistic to try to save Labour?

Being of the left and as someone who thinks of himself as a bit of a leftie I’ve often found that many Labour voters, supporters and indeed members are to the right of me as a Liberal and that’s both when Labour is moderate and when it’s left! My view has always been that Labour is too broad a church, ranging in support from working class ‘Tories’ to posh privately educated socialists and everything in between. I use the word ‘Tories’ quite deliberately but not in a derogatory way as many Labour factions talk about each other. What I mean is at heart they are actually quite right wing but they ally themselves to Labour because it’s their tribe; they’re no more progressive than I’m a Dutchman so to speak. Of course it was this section of the Labour family that the Labour leadership was pandering to prior to GE 2019. It led them to be all things and no things to most women and men on Brexit the biggest issue of the day; indeed their leader was neutral! That was never going to inspire anyone and of course it didn’t.

So Labour whilst being very much of the left under Momentum and Corbyn was actually singing the tune (well mumbling it quietly really) of its right wing supporters many of whom then promptly deserted Labour to vote for a far right alternative! You could not make this up but that’s what happened in GE 2019.

My point here is why are moderates, centrists and social democrats trying to save Labour? Is it because it’s a tribe they were born into and they feel they have to try to save it? If the motivation is tribalism then no good will come of it as tribalism is the fault-line in UK politics not its saviour. Labour’s ‘our way or no way’ approach to politics has bedeviled it and progressive politics over generations except for a brief period when Blair & Ashdown tried to promote inclusive center left politics. If Labour does swing back (and that presently is a very big if) towards social democracy it needs to want to work with other progressives in other political parties. If it pursues the mantra of everyone else on the left is a Tory then nothing will be achieved.

If you want to save Labour for it to become moderate, centrist and social democrat again then good luck to you but I fear you’ll have to keep doing it every 15 years or so, even if you do succeed, because fundamentally Labour is probably more comfortable as a socialist party. Remember in the Blair years when Labour activists often chimed in with the chorus of ‘we are old Labour’? Well they were and they’ve gained control of the party machine this time far more firmly than Michael Foot’s supporters or Militant ever did.

My advice is don’t waste your time if you think you can return Labour to centrist politics, that ship sailed a long time ago.

Why People’s Vote (and other tactical voting orgs/sites) got so much wrong

Tactical voting, so much talked up amongst progressives before and during the 2019 GE campaign, was in the main a failure as it did not deliver what those running the the sites expected/wanted and all but promised.

I think the first failure was a lack of understanding of the mind set of voters. Yes at face value if say Labour were the best/2nd placed in a particular constituency then the third place Lib Dem voters could be asked to support the Labour candidate. But being asked is one thing, what the voters actually do is another. Some would follow the advice, others would not and they’d either stay with the Lib Dems, not vote or even vote for the Tory if Labour being elected was their worst nightmare. Also, particularly in the case in the 2019 GE, where the Labour candidate was not an obvious and well known EU Remain campaigner there would be a big issue for Greens and Lib Dems. Of course the other issue not being picked up, although I fail to see why, was that Labour was itself leaking votes to the Tories mainly because of electors dislike of Jeremy Corbyn.

There were clearly some seats, particularly where the Lib Dems had either come close or won them in the past where the 3rd place Libs were probably the best punt to topple the sitting Tory. I say this as some ‘soft’ Tories may well be persuaded to vote Lib Dem whereas they could not pushed to vote Labour.

Secondly, what was going on where the tactical voting recommendation was to support a known Labour, sometimes very well known, Brexiteer candidate. Progressives be they Green or Lib Dem were never going to back them. Those constituencies where at face value Labour were the best placed to take the seat from the Tories but the Labour candidate was a Brexiteer needed far more careful thought.

Thirdly, Labour’s intransigent and stubborn refusal to engage with the Remain Alliance parties, Lib Dem, Green and PC should have triggered alarm bells. Yes, Labour were shouting from the roof tops that other candidates should stand down to give them the best run at various seats but their response to Labour being asked to do the same thing to assist Lib Dem, Green or PC candidates was ‘NO’ every time.

My feeling some time before the election was announced was that People’s Vote were too concerned with pandering to a Labour Party who would not cooperate with anyone else instead of challenging their ‘our way or no way’ dogma.

My final thought is this, it’s all well and good crunching all kinds of polling data but without sensible feet on the ground the individual factors that affect how real people will actually vote in a constituency can’t be understood and indeed it was not understood. This to me was so obvious from those seats where those recommending tactical voting changed their minds about who to back part way through the GE campaign. When I first heard they may do this more alarm bells rang with me as to my mind if they did it those seats would all but be handed to the Tories on a plate because of the confusion it would cause. Of course they did it and my present understanding is that the effect was just as I had thought it would be i.e. the seats were all but handed straight to the Tories!

PS. In some seats where the Lib Dems were within touching distance of beating the Tories Labour canvassers were quite obviously and deliberately being sent out to tell voters that Labour was in fact the real challenger in that seat. The ploy was to get them to vote Labour so the seat could not be taken off the Tories by the Lib Dems!!!

Thoughts on a depressing General Election

It had become apparent to those of us involved in politics that what came to pass was coming so in many ways the result was no surprise.

Contributory factors?

Corbyn – Yes I know and understand that his devotees couldn’t and still can’t see any faults in him but those outside of that bubble always could. The 2017 GE should have been a wake up call as a credible opposition would have won that election. But the cracks were papered over on the back of Labour winning some seats back from the Tories when that was in fact an indication of failure not success. The following two years only emphasised to the electorate that he was not a good political leader so when the electorate delivered Labour’s worst GE result in generations it was really no surprise.

Swinson – Too keen to focus on Brexit rather than wider political issues, too inexperienced as a political leader, not able to engage with ordinary voters who stopped listening to her.

Johnson – Reasonably well managed by a ruthless Tory high command who kept him almost on their message most of the time. And where they felt he would perform badly they kept him securely locked away, such as at the Ch4 climate change debate. Untrustworthy, someone who follows the political wind, terrible when questioned under pressure and a significant tendency to say things not borne out by the facts. At face value not a political leader whom the electorate would normally get behind, but they did. Why? Because the other options were worse in their eyes.

Brexit – Of course it has poisoned our political debate with all the lies, misrepresentations and bizarre made up stories. However, it has been brewing for at least 2 generations via quite ridiculous press stories which senior politicians have not had the courage to address. They knew the stories were lies and at best misrepresentations but it was always handy for the EU to get the blame for the UK’s political and financial ills. What they allowed to fester came to bite us all hard on the backside.

Apart from a very few I suspect that the vast majority of voters:-

* voted the way they always have but with little if any enthusiasm
* voted for their least worst option
* did not vote tactically because it’s an alien concept in our first past the post electoral system

Where did it all start to go wrong? I guess we can all point to significant political events but for me it started when Labour elected the wrong Miliband as their leader, as they became step by step more unelectable.

Where are we going? Very difficult to say. Fundamentally it probably depends how much power the Tory ERG has within their new Parliamentary Party. The more power they have the bigger the risks to the UK. Johnson will hate being unpopular and he will want to stay as PM as long as he can, remember from his perspective it is all about him. Will he address the desperate situation of our NHS and our connected social care system or will he let them continue to decline so his ERG-types can have the US style health system which only works for the wealthy? The answer to this question will probably define his premiership.

Has Johnson got Brexit done? No of course not, only a fool would think that. It will be 10 to 15 or even more years before Brexit is actually done or that we realise that we have all been done.