Politics is about power and interests so it's usually a good idea to look at how the land really lies, and that applies whether you're defending a position or mounting an insurgency. That means starting an analysis from what could as opposed to what should have happened. And here, Jeremy's critics are found wanting. Suggesting Labour needed to win over 400 seats was a ludicrously high bar based on electoral precedents that no longer apply. Not that Labour under Jeremy is sure to bulldoze all-comers, but because the party system now is much more fragmented: four party politics in England, five in Wales, six in Scotland. Under these circumstances, what went before might not happen again. Which leads to my second point. Breaking out the equipment for a thought experiment, on what grounds could Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, or Yvette Cooper have secured a better result on Thursday?
Any of these would have faced the same issues in Scotland. Perhaps Scottish Labour wouldn't have championed a penny on income tax and scrapping Trident. Maybe they wouldn't have let the Tories get away with their Resolute Defenders of the Union nonsense, but there is nothing, nothing that could have avoided the cataclysm that visited Labour, again. How about Wales? Labour here have, electorally speaking, all the disadvantages of an incumbent government because of, um, incumbency. Fought on its record, which is what it was always going to do, a hit was likely regardless. Nevertheless, as Wales adjusted to the post-2012 political realities of England and returned seven UKIP AMs, that didn't unduly damage Labour. The same point can be made about the English elections. Defending incumbency, this high point of Labour under the ancien regime was initially achieved without electoral competition from UKIP. It was to be expected this set of contests would adjust to UKIP's presence, giving them 25 more councillors and, you would think considering how much the purples hurt Labour last year, that lumps would be taken out of us. And yet, a net gain/loss of zero councils and a net drop of 18 councillors. No steps forward, but no stagger back either. This means the soft polarisation noted at the general election, where the two main parties started piling up votes in their "core areas", has carried on. Plenty of people have bemoaned the fetishisation of protest and opposition by overenthusiastic Jeremy supporters on Twitter, but one of the results of this perception - which has been transmitted far and wide - is that a thin layer of anti-politics voters may have switched from the kippers. This is an inference, but how to explain what was quite a poor showing for UKIP in areas, we're told, that are supposedly fertile for them. True, going by their by-election performances this last year there is some evidence of post-general election decline, but would they have done just as badly up against a Labour Party led by one of the others?
In sum, I don't believe an alternative leadership would have done any better assuming the political realities facing Labour now would have largely been the same - and there's no reason to think otherwise. That said, comrades believing Thursday's results mean all is hunky dory need to spend less time with dodgy social media memes and engage with the serious and pertinent questions the so-called Red Tories are raising. How can Labour be built into a vote-winning machine? How can it persuade non-Labour/Tory voters to give our party a punt? It appears some Jeremy supporters are coming round to the view that a core vote plus non-voters formula is a non-starter, and that this must be combined with building a coalition of voters, but without the principles-dumping triangulation of the past. I hope so, because that's the only conceivable route Labour can take to stand a chance in 2020. And if they're serious, it's time to start thinking about how this can be done because the inane rubbish doing the rounds is neither use nor ornament.