Friday, 24 February 2017

Labour and Insecurity

Two opposing stories have emerged about Labour's defeat in Copeland last night. The first is Jeremy Corbyn was a drag on the doors and cost us the seat. The second is Labour's vote saw long-term decline under Jamie Reed, because he was really a Tory. The former requires stuffing the latter down the memory hole. The latter demands ignoring the reception on the doors and the awful polling. For anyone trying to understand what's going on and to address the pickle our party is in, neither of these are particularly helpful.

Jolly old Lenin was fond of noting that one should try being as radical as reality itself, which means looking at things as they are. And, unfortunately, they do not present well. The Parliamentary Party had a good go at trashing Jeremy and making a train wreck out of Brexit, and we haven't recovered since. Pointing this out on social media, while true, isn't going to make it go away. The damage is done. There has been the populist turn in response, but there was little evidence of that on Copeland and Stoke by-election leaflets. In this relatively stable interregnum between the leadership contest and Brexit negotiations hitting the buffers, it's difficult to know what to do.

The key dynamic exploited by the Tories in Copeland was insecurity. Even now, after banging on about it for years, time and again we are ceding this ground to them and, unsurprisingly, we're losing. The three Albatross hanging around Jeremy's neck is his association - however unfair that might be - with terrorist groups, perceived weakness on national defence, and opposition to all things nuclear, which encompasses power stations. It's a truism of politics that people aren't going to follow a leader or a party that makes them feel unsafe. In Copeland, a constituency utterly dependent on Sellafield for its economic lifeblood, such a position was more toxic than spent uranium. Labour had big hopes that the NHS would pick up the slack, but it didn't and never could because, politically speaking, it is a weapon with limited range. Yes, everyone loves the NHS. Yes, people are worried about what's happening at the local hospital. And, yes, invariably thousands of voters in any given constituency will either have had recent dealings with hospital or know someone undergoing them. For most people at all other times, the NHS is a safety net. Few fret over A&E waiting times, lack of beds, and staff shortages until they have to use them themselves. It does not cut to the quick in the same way a potential threat to your livelihood will, and to be honest as the party of the labour movement it's a bad show that we're oblivious to this.

Ironically, pretty much the same reasons underpinning last night's defeat were behind the declining vote share under the dearly departed. Like most MPs, I'm sure Jamie Reed was fairly diligent when it came to representing constituents' interests and protecting local industry. Sellafield wouldn't have taken him on had this not been the case. But politically, throughout the Blair/Brown years, he was the local front man for a party that did little to stymie the complex of anxieties and insecurities their political economy gave succour to. People didn't stop voting Labour because it wasn't left enough. Like the centre left elsewhere more recently, they dropped off because the party didn't act in their interests and, in a number of cases, undermined them. As I'm fond of saying, the Tories don't ever make the mistake of attacking their base.

As leader, Jeremy ultimately has to take responsibility for the Copeland loss. But the underlying culprit is a congenital tin ear. Too many assume that a labourist party can get away with pushing policies inimical to the interests of the coalition of voters that back it up, and then, albeit from a different political standpoint, repeating the same feat and expecting a different result. Two cheeks of the same arse, one might say. Should Jeremy depart before the next general election, looking over the Chukas, the Jesses, the Dans, Yvettes, Lisas, and whoever else fancies a crack, there isn't a single one of them who recognises this is a problem, let alone have a solution. But there is someone who does talk quite a bit about it, despite their politics premised around perpetuating privilege and inequality. And she's riding miles high in the polls.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Corbyn is a professional campaigner. He is not a leader of a Parliamentary party aiming for power. People understand this on the doorsteps. Labour came from street politics but progressed and grew into a Parliamentary based party in the British tradition. Corbyn's politics are outside this tradition. He has to resign because it is clear he cannot lead the party to power and it is arrogant of him to believe the support of the membership gives him the right to stay on. Far more important than his personal legitimacy are the interests of the Labour movement as a whole!

pewartstoat said...

What do you suggest, then?

SpiritSkill said...

People voted for government money in Copeland. The Nuclear power industry and the defence industry (up the coat in Barrow) are clasped to the teat of government money.

In Stoke the local industry expects to be treated like cattle rather than a pet.

What people like Miliband and Freedland are bleating about this morning is not having a boss rather than a leader.

Boffy said...

I think you have to also bear in mind that Constituencies change in composition. Look at gentrification of formerly depressed areas of London.

When I first moved to my current abode, the person who lived next door but one sold their half million pound house to go to retire to the Lake District. They are not alone. Many people with money have retired to that areas, because of its scenic qualities - actually many of those probably find Sellafield a bit of a downer - along with all those that have bought second homes in the area.

I'm more concerned that Corbyn and his supporters in Momentum are not transforming the Labour Party itself, and clearing out all of the old right-wing and soft left MP's. They are inviting a new coup at some point, or at least sullen acceptance until the party fails at the next election and they can get rid of him.

Having more MP's elected who are anti-Corbyn and tweet about his links to "terrorist groups" etc. can hardly fill anyone on the left with confidence in that regard. The problem is as depasokification and the Clinton frustration of Sanders etc. shows, the option of simply going back to some essentially conservative Labourite position is not open.

The alternative to Corbyn is not another Blair, but a Boris Johnson or worse, just as the alternative to Sanders was not Clinton but Trump, and the alternative to Hamon will not be Macron, but Le Pen or Fillon, and the alternative to Syriza will be Golden Dawn, not a rehabilitation of Pasok.

Igor Belanov said...

"It's a truism of politics that people aren't going to follow a leader or a party that makes them feel unsafe. In Copeland, a constituency utterly dependent on Sellafield for its economic lifeblood, such a position was more toxic than spent uranium"

I assume you mean economic rather than existential safety, because in many ways the closure of Sellafield would make people in Copeland a lot more safe! The same goes for nuclear weapons or terrorism- a rational person could easily make the argument that getting rid of Trident and distancing Britain from the US in foreign policy will actually decrease the chances of these things impacting on Britons.

Even on these issues, a hardline in favour of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy might well adversely impact on Labour votes in many other constituencies, places like Brighton, Bristol and Norwich coming to mind straight away.

Ultimately the focus of Corbyn as an individual is misleading, because none of his opponents can really give a coherent answer as to how the party's fortunes can be immediately transformed in the current unusual situation. What I will say, though, is that the time might well be ripe for some of these issues to be thrown to the party as a whole to decide. Corbyn seemed to be promising this at one time, and it could be the best way of the party policy gaining greater clarity and legitimacy.

Chris Rivers said...

"People didn't stop voting Labour because it wasn't left enough. Like the centre left elsewhere more recently, they dropped off because the party didn't act in their interests and, in a number of cases, undermined them. As I'm fond of saying, the Tories don't ever make the mistake of attacking their base."
Precisely. And the key is that the majority of Labour voters backed Remain, especially younger supporters. Sadly many have now gone to the LibDems, some to the Greens, and in Scotland Labour will slip further behind. Labour's blatant support of May's Brexit no longer persuades its voters in England or Wales to back Labour. Once Labour attacked the interests of its pro-european base it lost ground. As a result it lost a seat it should have retained at a time of opposition.

It's farcical that this loss is being dismissed by Corbyn supporters, as if this was not a catastrophe. In addition, in every by-election Labour has lost vote share. That should not be happening. I was once a Corbyn supporter - and remain full of admiration for Corbyn's resilience under pressure - but it's patently clear that Labour cannot win in 2020 with its current leader and his peculiar pro-Brexit policy. Corbyn needs to be replaced within the next 3 years, maybe by Emily Thornberry. Otherwise disaster looms.

Anonymous said...

Corbyn is a disastrous leader. The voting public simply dont like or trust him. Thats not going to change no matter how many relaunches he undergoes. Its not just about his obvious lack of quality, which has become more apparent during and since the referendum, people arent going to place their trust in him. This is a severe handicap the party can ill afford to carry. Removing him would at least solve one of the issues confronting us.
And any leader worth their salt would surely reflect honestly on their part in our dire poll ratings and abysmal election results. A man of principle would at least consider their position, and wonder if their leadership was a help or hindrance in bringing Labour back to government. The response from the leadership over the last couple of days has been pathetic. I've been embarrassed to hear and see some of things that have been aired by senior figures. Some hard headed realism might do for a start. We're in a hole and urgently require clear thinking and some effective leadership, taking some responsibility for failure and setting out a clear strategy of how we move forward. We must do SOMETHING!!
A new younger leader would certainly help but we know that in itself isnt going to magically transform the party - though I reckon any one of a number of candidates would boost our profile and poll ratings by several points.
Whose in the frame? Well no one is going to raise their head too much at this stage, but I'm hopeful Lisa Nandy will stand if given an opportunity.

Steve

Metatone said...

Some random thoughts:

It's worth noting that in fact (largely because of a hostile media) Labour is held to an absurdly high standard. The Tories speak out of both sides of their mouth all the time. Trailing contradictory policies to different audiences. To some degree, as a matter of practical politics, Labour needs to get better at doing that again as in a big country different regions are always going to have different concerns.

Overall though, hard not to feel that the ship under Corbyn doesn't have a lot of forward momentum. There have been a lot of problems created by the PLP, but we're still lacking on policy and communication and you have to start wondering if it is actually going to get better.

On tactics, I'll note in passing that leaving Euratom could result in a situation that puts 20% of Sellafield workers out of a job. The failure of Labour and the unions to bring this to the fore as a way to critique the current stupid handling of Brexit by the government feels like a big fail. (I'm a Remoaner, but you can raise Euratom even from Labour's current Brexit stance.)

Finally, did you see the Andy Bounds(?) piece in the FT? That was pretty depressing, these people voting Tory b/c Labour didn't turn things around for the region in Blair's time. Yet not respecting Corbyn enough to vote for him. I hate to say it, but in line with what you are saying there's a growing body of evidence that Labour needs a more macho leader in these times. TMay codes as very macho and the times are very uncertain. I loathe the politics of personality, but they are real with real psychological effects. I have to suspect that you could have all the same policies, even the same muddy comms and lack of policy oomph and in the hands of a more aggressive personality be doing better at this particular historical moment.

All that said, I concur that the alternatives to Corbyn so far have shown nothing to suggest they can really turn things around.

Anonymous said...

Is that the Lisa Nandy who is now fully fledged Blue Labour?

Lots of ranting about terrible Corbyn is above - I don't even disagree. But zero appreciation of how a man in his mid-60s on the fringes of his party for decades and with no previous experience of leadership roles ever got to be leader in the first place. Because of the total moral, political and ideological collapse of Labour's "moderates", that's why.

Self awareness from these people in the last 18 months about their failings that caused this seismic outcome remains thin on the ground.
Instead the presumption remains that the last few years have been some sort of silly irrational spasm that happened for absolutely no reason - and soon the "sensible" people will be back in charge again. And we will be back to a wildly unrepresentative PLP calling the shots, back to chuntering on about "very real concerns" on immigration, back to abstaining on cruel Tory welfare bills, back to chuntering on emptily about "aspiration" and "wealth creators", back to being best buddies with an ignorant and malevolent media, back to supporting dubious foreign military adventures uncritically, back to a cosseted and bubble enclosed "SPADocracy" being in charge (mass membership? Unpredictable and dangerous - do away with it)

Do please wake up - your preferred politics is crashing and burning ACROSS THE WORLD. Corbyn is not the answer and never was - but the history books may still record his one great service was to save Labour (in England and Wales at least, the hallowed "moderates" have already pretty much destroyed the party in Scotland) from PASOKite oblivion.

Rant over ;)

SimonB said...

You're wrong about the Tories never attacking their base. Here in the south councils at every level are taking the flack for Osbourne's policies. I expect to see some consequences in the May elections,

As for Corbyn, would you consider the simple matter of his personality? Humourless, bloodless, self-righteous and unlikeable; a better personality could succeed with no policy changes.

David Timoney said...

There are three things to consider here:

1) Corbyn may well be a poor leader, but it is naive to believe that replacing him would magically change Labour's prospects, and not just because of the weak alternatives.

Having an unimpressive dullard in charge is not necessarily an impediment, as the Tories proved in 1992, and having a charismatic "hero" in charge doesn't necessarily overcome policy doubts, as Labour proved in ... 1992.

While the periodic sacrifice of a leader is a necessary catharsis, the logical time for this is after a general election defeat. Dropping the pilot after a bad by-election result is usually a sign of weakness, if not outright panic.

2) We are in an interregnum, between the Article 50 bill vote and the start of formal negotiations with the EU27. Excuse the cliché, but this is a time of morbid symptoms. This probably represents the peak of Conservative popularity - before the inevitable compromises and disappointments - and thus the low of Labour popularity.

Having secured its credentials with the A50 vote, Labour's priority must now be to critique the government and set out an alternative Brexit in opposition to Tory mis-steps (NB: Had it rejected the A50 bill, I suspect that it might have then lost Stoke, and probably to the Tories rather than UKIP).

3) We are facing the possibility of a generational shift in politics from the centre-left to the centre-right. Labour plus the Liberals (in various formations) got over half the vote since the 1960s. Since 2015, the Tories plus UKIP have over half.

This may be an aberration prompted by Brexit, but that simply emphasises the need for Labour to present a credible alternative to shift sentiment back. Strident rejection, a la Blair, won't work for swing voters who want a degree of disassociation from the EU.

Corbyn & co need to be given the opportunity to craft and popularise a least-worst Brexit. Harping on about the man's personal failings (which are many but irrelevant) simply increases the prospect of a truly shit Brexit and an entrenched right determined to put the blame on traitors and "others".

Roger McCarthy said...

But Tories do attack their base - or significant segments thereof.

The difference is that:

a) They have a massive media propaganda machine to tell those voters that it is either their own fault or the fault of some immigrant or foreigner and not of the government they voted for.

b) Almost nobody votes Tory as a result of doing a rational cost benefit analysis of policies - they do so for a whole mess of vague inchoate cultural reasons that hardly deserve to be called reasons at all.

With such voters and such a media and such a world nothing can ultimately be done.

Ludus57 said...

I agree.

Speedy said...

"Corbyn needs to be replaced within the next 3 years, maybe by Emily Thornberry."

Good God no.

"But zero appreciation of how a man in his mid-60s on the fringes of his party for decades and with no previous experience of leadership roles ever got to be leader in the first place. Because of the total moral, political and ideological collapse of Labour's "moderates", that's why."

Crap. Its because Ed M was a complacent twat, that's why, and ushered in a flawed election model, and the unions before him, who placed Ed as leader over the membership vote. There would be probably be a Labour government, and no Brexit, today, otherwise.


Ed said...

Chris -

"In addition, in every by-election Labour has lost vote share."

But this simply isn't true - in Oldham West for example, Labour's vote share increased by 8 per cent.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldham_West_and_Royton_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2010s

I looked back yesterday at an article I remember reading in the Irish TImes after last year's local and regional elections; it was by Denis Staunton, who's not a leftist or a Corbyn admirer by any means, but because he writes for an Irish paper he's not quite part of the Westminster press pack with its herd mentality. This was his judgement from the period just before the Brexit vote and the leadership heave:

"The elections suggest that, contrary to what his detractors say, Corbyn is not an apparent drag on the Labour vote and his leadership does not deter the party’s supporters from turning out. On the other hand, he has not given his party an electoral boost after last year’s general election defeat. If Thursday’s votes were replicated in a general election, Labour would lose again, with the Conservatives emerging as the largest party in a hung parliament."

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/analysis-uk-election-results-marked-by-a-deceptive-stability-1.2638523

That was a fair verdict at the time, and worth remembering for those who claim that the Brexit vote and the leadership heave made no real difference. Now Phil is right, of course, to say that there's no point wishing the events of the last few months away; they happened, they did lasting damage, and you can't turn the clock back; you have to deal with the situation as it now is.

And we've been here before with this talk of Corbyn's 'peculiar pro-Brexit policy'. He accepts the result of the referendum, which is the only realistic course of action. It doesn't mean being enthusiastic about Brexit, it certainly doesn't mean supporting Theresa May's plan for Brexit (and I would like to see the Labour leadership getting stuck in now, making clear their opposition to May's plans, and showing Remain voters that they won't be giving the Tories any support over the next couple of years in their approach to Brexit). If that policy was so peculiar, why do you think Labour's successful candidate in Stoke would have endorsed it, despite campaigning for Remain (and thinking Brexit was 'a load of shit', as the papers were keen to remind us)? And why do you think the likes of Caroline Flint, who are hardly co-thinkers of Corbyn, are saying the same things? Even Blairite MPs said that Tony Blair's intervention last week was daft (I don't think that caused the loss in Copeland BTW, but it certainly did Labour no favours in terms of the bigger picture).

Robert said...

The Labour Party has been in this position before and regrouped to find a leadership and policies to regain political power.
Granted with the loss of Scotland and still FPTP as a voting system, it is not going to be easy that's for sure.
There is not as yet a Harold Wilson figure to be seen within Labour's echelons, and that I believe is what is required.
Also the electorate especially in England still need to realise that Theresa May and the Tories will not deliver policies to address the myriad of problems in society.
It is true that Jeremy Corbyn believes that socialism can be won at the ballot box, unfortunately it cannot be under his leadership.
If Theresa May calls for a snap general election, which many Tories will urge, Labour faces a catastrophic defeat.
This is the reality that Jeremy Corbyn needs to address, and it is actually the allies on the Left that need to tell him.
Jeremy Corbyn is a very decent man and a great campaigner, and has brought back democracy into the Labour Party.
He cannot however go any further on the leadership road, Labour needs to reflect this and start a transition of new leadership to a candidate that can lead and more importantly win.

Anonymous said...

Corbyn seems an ineffective figurehead, but a return to a "moderate" LP will be a disaster; fighting fire with fire in politics just benefits the incumbent.

I feel that Jez is just in the unfortunate position of being in charge during one of the biggest nationalist shifts in mainstream popular opinion since before the second world war.

I also think the Tories are going to win in 2020 regardless of the Labour leadership. The right can benefit from this surge of nationalism in the way the LP can't, and as such the Tories seem to be fixed to vacuum up a majority of the UKIP votes.

There are other factors, such as the subtle but pervasive manipulations of opinion in social media. What Cambridge Analytica did in the US election needs to be addressed - The Tories will be using this extensively by 2020.

This situation requires completely fresh thinking, and there are no overnight solutions.

asquith said...

Did Mayhem lean on Jezza Hunt to do a deal on the hospital?

Like the deal with Surrey Council?

So as to make sure people get rewarded for voting Tory.

Phil said...

By 'base' I mean the well-heeled business interests that bankroll them. I'm adopting a George W. Bush definition!

MikeB said...

The profound contradictions in the British Labour movement are seen most clearly when its leadership moves to the Left. This is when we see both the fundamental hostility to revolutionary change of its Right, and the desperate compromises its Left must be willing to make in order to hold onto even the smallest gains within the Party. One of the compromises that comes most readily is a willingness to abandon alliance with progressive forces outside the Party. Its one of the reasons it continues to struggle to find a consistent principled policy positions on nuclear power, defence, immigration and the rest. It's one of the reasons why the LP has collapsed in Scotland.

Just to emphasise this, Sadiq Khan, writing in today's Daily Record proclaims that, "There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion."

How on earth can that kind of analysis belong in a progressive, socialist party?

Anonymous said...

Well, what *is* the difference really?

(and I am no massive Khan fan tbh)

Many "progressives" in England have a ludicrously starry-eyed view of Scottish/Welsh nationalism in general and SNP/Plaid in particular. Part of that peculiar self-hate E A Blair identified several decades ago.

Adam said...

Not sure from any of the above what specifically it was JC neglected to do.This is a common theme beyond here.He speaks well,is likeable,is more steely than credited and believes in social justice,all useful attributes for a political leader.All policies announced play well with the public but reaching them is a serious issue,as we all knew it would be.
Most of the press+tv(unhelpfully BBC often the worst) are attacking JC vigorously and they obviously take his leadership more seriously than some of the above.The hostility to popular egalitarean policy is also vigorous from the 150 Labour MPs who stopped parliamentary action against Tony Blair.They do show just how compromised the cuurent PLP is,with no quick solutions.
Whether local CLPs can emerge from their often laggardly state and whether social media might yet circumvent a pretty knackered media and get us to a public is debatable but possible.The demographic segments to aim at can only get bigger as the state shrinks.
Delusions about finding winners/great men however dodgy they might become might be best popped by spending a few hours with Chris Mullin's diaries,and his Tony B dilemas.A genuinely deluded war ended the fairytale. At least Chris Mullin always knew Murdoch was a key force to be dealt with.Rupert's assault on JC suggests he knows there's a lot at stake too.

Unknown said...

Just one point "I'm sure Jamie Reed was fairly diligent when it came to representing constituents' interests and protecting local industry. Sellafield wouldn't have taken him on had this not been the case. But politically, throughout the Blair/Brown years, he was the local front man for a party" - er, no he wasn't, Jack Cunningham was until 2005.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you talking crap as usual, Speedy ;)

Speedy said...

I don t understand what is wrong with what Khan says. And he will inevitably be the next election winning Labour leader, about ten years hence.

davidjc said...

A Brexit vote was always going to do huge damage to Labour, while a narrow Remain one would have hit the Tories with splits for years.

We just don't know if another leader or tactics would have helped much in the polls and the next period is also more uncertain than most. The basic CorbynLabour approach of more investment and fewer wars is correct and might look spot on at some point, say a Trump/May suez moment, or house price collapse. The other side of Labour likes cuts and wars and people are as sick of its slick dissembling as they are wary of an old Islington lefty.

Given the international turn to the populist right, Brexit and Scotland, losing an election by 100 seats in these circumstances wouldn't be too shabby and it could at least clear out some terrible MPs. I don't see the main immediate task as winning the next election, but saving Labour as a labour party. The counter reaction should Corbyn be pushed out would be vicious.

Andrew S Hatton said...

The priority for any Political Party is developing and advancing the policies its members decide and educating the wider public why those policies are right for a nation and campaigning for them. Serving the nation as Official Opposition may not be entirely in concert with the primary priority. Right now UK needs better policies than we have had for at least fifty years, maybe like it was in 1945.

MikeB said...

Seriously?

Khan is quite deliberately conflating nationalists with racists, ignoring the concrete reality in favour of a kind of rhetorical sectarianism.

The reality is that many now supporting the nationalist parties do so because they see nationalism as the best way of detaching some of the most vulnerable and damaged parts of the population (i.e. the working class, refugees, the chronically sick...etc etc) from the toxic compromises with neoliberalism and reaction that Labour is unable or unwilling to renounce.

Plaid opposed the Iraq war, oppose Trident renewal, oppose points based immigration (remember it was Leanne Wood who called out Farage on his disgusting claims about HIV 'health tourism', not Milliband), opposes academies, foundation and "free" schools, supports continued membership of the EU, increased regulation of private landlords.....in short, it is hard to find a policy position on which it isn't more progressive than Labour.

One might reasonably argue that a nationalist orientation is mistaken. However, with the working class - and Black/BME and other marginalised groups among them - under threat as they currently are, this is the time for all socialists to make common cause to defend them and advance an alternative politics. The Labour Party should be joining with the nationalists around progressive policies - debates around the constitutional relationship between the countries of the UK is secondary.

Instead, Khan is deliberately throwing all nationalists into his "basket of deplorables" because for him, the priority is narrow electoralism. "To hell with anyone who doesn't vote Labour" is his slogan.It's a disastrous position.

Igor Belanov said...

The disappointing thing about Corbyn's leadership has been the lack of a 'project', or at least any real purpose to change the party.

When he was elected in 2015 I expected that he would make an immediate and determined attempt to take the party back to the membership with a series of reforms, making conferences a major part of the party's policymaking and giving a great degree of initiative to the new members that his campaign had attracted.

It wouldn't have been easy, but I thought it was easily the best option, not just from a democratic, activist point of view, but because I thought he was aware of his own failings and the need to put forward a different party model that was much less dependent on the ridiculous cult of leadership.

Since then we have seen most efforts to change the processes of party democracy shelved in the interests of compromise, Corbyn seems to have been encouraged to try a range of leadership 'styles' by his advisors in the hope that one will 'work', and Momentum, which had the potential to be a means of helping left-wing members transform the party, has been neutered and guided into a personal support group for Corbyn.

Thus we are in this current situation where everyone is obsessing about Corbyn himself rather than the party as a whole, and where his status as leader has assumed an out-of-proportion significance for both his supporters and opponents. Unfortunately much of this is due to Corbyn's own reluctance to be genuinely radical and to recognise his own limitations.

Chris Rivers said...

Ed said...

Chris - "In addition, in every by-election Labour has lost vote share."

But this simply isn't true - in Oldham West for example, Labour's vote share increased by 8 per cent.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldham_West_and_Royton_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2010s

Sorry Ed, you are right. Although in the Labour-held seats of Copeland and Stoke Labour lost vote share, it has not lost vote share in each by-election since the 2015 general election. Until now Labour has lost vote share in each non-Labour held seat by-election. Now it has lost one of its own.

Jim McMahon got 62% in Oldham in Dec 2015, an increased vote share.
Gill Furness got 62% in Sheffield Brightside in May 2016, an increased vote share.
Chris Elmore in Ogmore in May 2016 got the same vote share as in the general election, 53%
Rosena Allin-Khan got 56% in Tooting in June 2016, an increased vote share.
In the Tory seat of Witney in Oct 2016 Labour did lose vote share.
In the Tory seat of Richmond in Dec 2016 Labour lost both vote share and its deposit.
In the Tory seat of Sleaford in Dec 2016 Labour lost both vote share and its deposit.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Kingdom_by-elections_(2010%E2%80%93present)

Looking at byelection disasters, the June 1982 one of Mitcham and Morden is cited as the previous example of a governing party gaining a seat from the Labour opposition. But that one is instructive. Labour MP Bruce Douglas-Mann had defected to the recently formed SDP. He decided to resign his seat and stand again so as to gain a mandate. With the Falklands War in progress, Tory Angela Rumbold was elected instead. However this was a seat that had usually generally returned Tory MPs anyway, unlike Copeland. Additionally, the 1979 Labour vote was split fairly evenly in this seat in 1982 and without the split vote either Labour could have won. This is the difference with Copeland in 2017.

Boffy said...

@ David Timmoney.

David,

You say,

"We are facing the possibility of a generational shift in politics from the centre-left to the centre-right. Labour plus the Liberals (in various formations) got over half the vote since the 1960s. Since 2015, the Tories plus UKIP have over half.

This may be an aberration prompted by Brexit, but that simply emphasises the need for Labour to present a credible alternative to shift sentiment back. Strident rejection, a la Blair, won't work for swing voters who want a degree of disassociation from the EU."

But, the generational shift is not centre-left to centre right. It is the collapse of both centre-left and centre right, as it has existed for the last 30 years. Greece has pointed the way. The collapse of Pasok led to Syriza, just as the collapse of the PSOE has led to Podemos, and in Portugal it has led to the rise of the Left Bloc.

The options are no longer a return to some kind of Blairite/Cameronite centre, but of the adoption of some kind of traditional left social-democratic position (Syriza/Podemos/Corbyn/Sanders/Hamon etc. or a sharp move to the authoritarian right a la Trump, Le Pen. Golden Dawn/Wilders etc.

As I've argued throughout Labour voters in the North as much as in London oppose Brexit, and the latest research by John Curtice proves it. 65% of Labour voters support Remain. The % of Labour voters in places like Stoke who back Remain may be less than that 65%, but it is still the dominant position.

Actual Labour voters, as opposed to those social elements the pundits always think should constitute the core Labour vote, because they are poor, have often held bigoted views for as long as I can remember. It never stopped them voting Labour, because they are more concerned with other issues.

So, in Stoke, despite draping itself in nationalism and the flag of St George, in Stoke central, Labour still saw its vote share decline, whilst UKIP and the Tories rose, suggesting it took no votes from them, whilst the Liberals rose significantly, suggesting labour lost votes accordingly as a result of its nationalist turn.

Boffy said...

According to John Curtice basing himself on a 30,000 survey undertaken by the British Election Survey in Labour held seats in the North and Midlands, 58% of Labour voters in those seats voted Remain.

That is only a bit below the 65% of Labour voters nationally who voted Remain.

It indicates that not only was labour's decision to collapse into a nationalist Brexit position deeply unprincipled and against workers interests, but even in terms of opportunist electoralist politics it was seriously misguided, because Labour has thereby potentially alienated around 60% of its vote in Labour seats like Stoke in the North and Midlands.

No wonder it has failed to enthuse its voters to turn out to vote, and no wonder it has bled votes to the Liberals. What is worse, as Dianne Abbot hinted at the other week, some of the motivation for this collapse into nationalism seems to have been driven by the influence of those Stalinist national socialists around the Morning Star, and the various nationalists and idiot anti-imperialists from organisations such as StWC etc. in the coterie around Corbyn's inner circle.

Speedy said...

"The reality is that many now supporting the nationalist parties do so because they see nationalism as the best way of detaching some of the most vulnerable and damaged parts of the population (i.e. the working class, refugees, the chronically sick...etc etc) from the toxic compromises with neoliberalism and reaction that Labour is unable or unwilling to renounce."

Is that why people voted UKIP? I think Im coming over all Jeremy Corbyn....

The Scot and Welsh nat policies reflect the fact that they are not paying for them.

Chris Rivers said...

Boffy said:
"According to John Curtice basing himself on a 30,000 survey undertaken by the British Election Survey in Labour held seats in the North and Midlands, 58% of Labour voters in those seats voted Remain. That is only a bit below the 65% of Labour voters nationally who voted Remain."

Precisely. Labour's leadership shot the party in the foot by pressing May's hard Brexit. I'm surprised Starmer went along with the three-line whip. Why would Remain Labour voters back Labour's current policy? I know several Corbyn fanatics who claim - 'wait two years and then we will see!' That will not bring back the Labour Remain voters, they will not hang around to wait and see.

David Timoney said...

Boffy,

I agree that that the political centre is in a state of collapse, but this is a failure of parties and thus ideological disarray. It does not reflect a fundamental shift in the electorate itself towards more partisan positions. If Labour is to win office again, it primarily needs to detach voters from the Tories, not from UKIP.

The UK broad right (i.e. from the centre to the far right) has been able to coalesce around Brexit. Much of this is insincere - Ken Clarke is clearly not the only remainer in the Tory party - but it is a viable election-winning strategy. Without Brexit the Tories are vulnerable, given the clear failure of austerity and growing economic insecurity.

The broad left has two strategic options. It can either adopt a full-on remain position, which means hoping for a calamitous Brexit to decisively shift popular sentiment, or it can try and craft a "people's Brexit" (as opposed to one preferential to the City and big capital) that works as a lesser evil for remainers and can attract soft leavers.

The former strategy would marginalise Labour politically and allow Theresa May the latitude to craft whatever form of Brexit she wishes. Pragmatically, the latter has to be the better course (less risk, more autonomy), hence the necessity of voting through the Article 50 bill.

What I'm arguing for is precisely that Labour presents a "traditional left social-democratic position" as a programme that encompasses the broad left - i.e. extending it to the electoral centre. In other words, the centre has to be redefined as on the left, thus consigning the Blair/Cameron pseudo-centre clearly to the where it always sat: the right.

Chris Rivers said...

David Timoney said..."The broad left has two strategic options. It can either adopt a full-on remain position, which means hoping for a calamitous Brexit to decisively shift popular sentiment, or it can try and craft a "people's Brexit" (as opposed to one preferential to the City and big capital) that works as a lesser evil for remainers and can attract soft leavers.

The former strategy would marginalise Labour politically and allow Theresa May the latitude to craft whatever form of Brexit she wishes. Pragmatically, the latter has to be the better course ..."

A 'full-on remain' position would neither mean hoping for a calamitous Brexit, nor marginalise Labour politically. In what way would that be the case? Labour needs to stand for honest politics, telling the truth to Britain, unvarnished, again and again. And showing up the deceit of the former remainers like May, that became overnight political opportunists.

The British Electoral Study evidence post-referendum is that 71% of Labour voters do not back Leave. Even if we exclude Labour voters in London and in Scotland the proportion of 2015 Labour voters who voted for Remain still stands, in the large BES panel, at 69%.

Overall Britain remains split according to the BES, with 45% Remain, 45% Leave and 10% undecided. As Labour can no longer say (as it should have done) that the referendum was purely consultative, then at the very least a rerun is indicated, in two years time.

As more than two-thirds of our voters back Remain, a strategy that spends two years showing why Leave is both a non-starter and a nonsense seems the obvious strategy to adopt.

David Timoney said...

@Chris Rivers,

Telling the unvarnished truth to Britain would entail admitting the flaws of the EU. To pretend it is perfect, and that all we need to do is simply cancel the Article 50 notification, would be an insult to the intelligence of the many who voted remain as the least worst option.

An honest position would be to accept that the status quo cannot continue (that much at least was clear from the referendum result) and that the UK's relationship with the EU needs to be reset. Rather than leave this job to the Tories by taking a fundamentalist position, Labour needs to craft an alternative Brexit and thereby seize control of the political agenda.

If it merely folds its arms and shouts "no", then it will be marginalising itself because it has no effective veto over the process. It has to appeal to public opinion and that means offering a better vision of a future relationship with the EU than the Tories can. And better than simply status quo ante.

We all know that current opinion is fairly evenly divided (and that's despite the subsequent exposure of the leave campaign's lies), but to imagine that a second referendum would produce a different result is to reduce politics to the throw of a dice - and a loaded dice given the influence of newspapers eager to target "traitors".

A hard Brexit will no doubt prove to be a nonsense, but to suggest that the only alternative is an unconditional remain is not a clever strategy but the equivalent of daring the electorate to indulge in self-harm.

Boffy said...

David,

I think you have it the wrong way around. The political centre has collapsed because the material conditions that supported its economic model over the last thirty years have collapsed, and that economic model pursued over the last thirty years - blowing up asset price bubbles, and then living off debt and a consumption of paper capital gains, whilst undermining real capital accumulation - is what led to the Financial Crash of 2008, is leading to an even bigger one in the immediate future, and so can no longer provide the basis for a solution to the problems that arose out of he crash.

Its not at the level of the political superstructure that the political centre has collapsed, but at its base. The politicians Tory/Labour, Republican/Democrat, Republican/Socialist in the various countries would love to be able to continue in the old way. Its why the Tories and Blair-rights would love to be able to return Labour to the clutches of a Blair Mark II, and why the liberal media continually bleat about establishing some new centre party, why they are bigging up Macron in France, why they backed Clinton in the US.

The point is that it is the lectors who recognise that those old politicians no longer can provide the solution, because the old solutions created the problem! The soundbites no longer register, the bullshit simply stinks.

It isn't UKIP voters that Labour needs to win. They are disgruntled Tories and non-voters. A look at Curtice's analysis shows that we are being driven into a catastrophe by a very narrow and unimportant section of the population, people separated from economic and social life, mostly very old.

The data shows even in Stoke around 60% of Labour voters support Remain. Richmond shows the more affluent middle class support remain by an even larger proportion. The big capitalists certainly do not want Brexit. So, Brexit is opposed by capital, it is opposed by the middle class, it is opposed by the Labour supporting sections of the working-class. Yet we are being driven blindly into it!

If Labour wants to win, it is not UKIP or Tory voters it needs to win. It needs to win workers votes, and to do that it needs a clear, principled programme, that workers believe can begin to solve their problems now.

Boffy said...

David,

"The broad left has two strategic options. It can either adopt a full-on remain position, which means hoping for a calamitous Brexit to decisively shift popular sentiment, or it can try and craft a "people's Brexit" (as opposed to one preferential to the City and big capital) that works as a lesser evil for remainers and can attract soft leavers.

The former strategy would marginalise Labour politically and allow Theresa May the latitude to craft whatever form of Brexit she wishes."

Why would Labour be left just "hoping" that Brexit would change voters minds? The point of a party, and of a programme, and of political campaigning is not to be carried along by events, but to shape those events. Of course, Brexit will be disastrous, and those who have failed to point that out and warn workers of it, will reap the whirlwind. Remember, that nobody wanted to hear about the dangers of the bubble brewing prior to 2008, and then everyone said "why didn't anyone warn me about that?"

The idea that Labour can craft a "People's Brexit" under May's government is as far removed from reality as was the idea of Lexit put forward by Stalinists and the left sects. No such possibility exists, and suggesting it is to delude workers, and thereby demobilise them.

May does not have latitude in negotiating the Brexit she wants. That is the same delusion that the Tories and Brexiteers themselves have. Th terms of Brexit will be determined by the EU not May, and those terms will be onerous for Britain. Britain is a supplicant, and will increasingly become one to whoever it hopes to gain some succour, as May's cringeing and crawling to Trump, Erdogan etc. in the hope of some economic crumbs indicate.

Boffy said...

David,

"Telling the unvarnished truth to Britain would entail admitting the flaws of the EU. To pretend it is perfect, and that all we need to do is simply cancel the Article 50 notification, would be an insult to the intelligence of the many who voted remain as the least worst option."

That's a false choice. Its not the choice that I advocated long before the referendum, nor is it the choice that Corbyn proposed during the referendum, nor is it the choice that many socialists across Europe propose, e.g. Varoufakis proposal for a different kind of Europe.

The choice can and was posed simply as the EU is not perfect, but Britain inside the EU provides the best framework for British workers to act in solidarity with EU workers, and thereby create a different kind of Europe. The idea that Britain can somehow be transformed/reformed whilst the EU cannot is itself nonsensical and at heart xenophobic, because it implies that British workers can achieve such a transformation within the framework of a British state, but we cannot trust those johnny foreigners.

Labour should oppose Brexit, and argue in the next two years that workers interests are best served by their unity, and that through that unity we can create a different kind of Europe, a Workers Europe that will meet workers interests in the way that being confined within a small nation stat nowadays simply cannot do. If you want even a social-democratic solution it is only possible inside the EU. If you want a socialist solution, it certainly is not possible on the reactionary basis of the theory of Socialism in One Country.

Boffy said...

David,

"It has to appeal to public opinion and that means offering a better vision of a future relationship with the EU than the Tories can. And better than simply status quo ante."

That is the same nonsense that the Brexiteers promote. The shape of Brexit will be determined in the next two years. It is the EU that will determine it, not May, and certainly not Labour. Even if May could determine it, Labour is in no position in the next two years to influence that, and by the time a Labour government might exist to influence it, the deal would be signed. The only rational position for Labour to take here is all out opposition to Brexit, including street mobilisations and so on.

The idea that there can be a deal arrived at that is "better than simply status quo ante" is dangerous nonsense. Why would the EU give Britain a better deal outside the EU than inside?!!! That would be like UNISON spending loads of money on advertising trying to win new members, whilst handing out leaflets to its actual members offering them better terms and conditions if they left the union than union members!

You are perpetuating the nonsensical British colonialist idea that lies behind the Brexiters that Britain is still some important global economic power that the rest of the world pays obeisance to, and that it will run to to give it a good deal. Dream on. Britain outside the EU will be not just a competitor to the EU, but a potential enemy in any future conflicts. The EU will try to undermine Britain at every stage economically, strategically, politically, diplomatically, and militarily. Just watch how things develop over the Irish border, over Gibraltar etc.

Boffy said...

"A hard Brexit will no doubt prove to be a nonsense, but to suggest that the only alternative is an unconditional remain is not a clever strategy but the equivalent of daring the electorate to indulge in self-harm."

The problem is that with Labour collapsing into the nationalism of Brexit, there are already many of those young enthusiastic Corbyn supporters who are being turned away, and if all the Labour Left can offer is Brexit-lite (which no one believes is possible anyway) rather than hard Brexit, it will have the same effect as Labour offering austerity-lite rather than hard Tory austerity, i.e. people will see no real difference.

I have already heard a lot of young people who were attracted to Corbyn because of his principles, who were committed to a modern forward, internationalist looking approach, who faced with only the choice you are presenting of Brexit-lite, or hard Brexit are saying, if it means "No Brexit", then bring back Blair.

The Left seems to be cutting its own throat in once again pursuing a reactionary nationalist agenda, just as it did in the early 1980's.

David Timoney said...

Boffy,

"Its not at the level of the political superstructure that the political centre has collapsed, but at its base". But the political centre is an artefact of the superstructure, not the base. My point is that Labour's electoral prospects depend on shifting the political centre leftwards and they cannot do that simply by advocating "no Brexit", which has already become the rallying cry of the old centrist formations like Blair and the LibDems.

"If Labour wants to win, it is not UKIP or Tory voters it needs to win. It needs to win workers votes". Quite, but how will a platform of "no Brexit" do that? It didn't work last June. The EU referendum was notable for an increased turnout - essentially voters who has deserted elections since the 90s - but that increase was heavily biased towards leavers. Workers weren't motivated to vote remain then, so it isn't at all clear why they would be motivated to vote for a pro-remain Labour party in the next general election.

"May does not have latitude in negotiating the Brexit she wants". In respect of the EU27 this is obviously true, but my point was about her political latitude in the UK. If Labour simply advocates "no Brexit" then it leaves the domestic field to the government. It has to critically engage and that means defining what would be in the best interests of the UK. Realistically, that isn't going to be either hard Brexit or status quo ante. I was never a Lexiteer (I voted remain), but given where we are now, an alternative Brexit is what Labour must provide.

NB: This is not about Labour securing the promise of a better deal from the EU27, let alone a "reactionary nationalist agenda". It's about Labour convincing the electorate to put it into office in 2020 (or possibly earlier). What it can then achieve will be down to prevailing circumstances.

If it finds itself in 2020 standing on a platform of "reverse Brexit", it will be handing victory to the Tories, even if sentiment on EU membership has shifted (that might just boost the LibDems or a new centrist formation). To exclusively identify Labour with remain would be a fatal error.

Chris Rivers said...

David responded: "Telling the unvarnished truth to Britain would entail admitting the flaws of the EU. To pretend it is perfect, and that all we need to do is simply cancel the Article 50 notification, would be an insult to the intelligence of the many who voted remain as the least worst option."

I have to say I agree with all Boffy's contributions and cannot improve on them.

'Admitting the flaws of the EU' is an essential. No-one expects us to be part of a 'perfect' or ideal type association. Yes, it's hard to change the EU when there are so many within it but that's only ever going to be achievable from within. Labour is now too late to cancel A50, even if it had the numbers. But it now needs to campaign against Brexit, on behalf of all its supporters. And the many who voted Remain did not do so 'as a least worst option'. They voted to stay as we are, whilst hardly 'at the heart of Europe' yet with a seat at the table and as the third largest country whilst 'in' we are able to exert influence.

"Labour needs to craft an alternative Brexit and thereby seize control of the political agenda."
The assumption you make is that Labour voters want any sort of Brexit. 71% want no Brexit at all.

"Labour has to appeal to public opinion and that means offering a better vision of a future relationship with the EU than the Tories can. And better than simply status quo ante."
Labour does need to appeal to public opinion, clearly. But it also needs to lead it rather than give ground to the LibDems. I think that the EU leaders, especially Germany and France, would be delighted if Labour was offering a positive alternative vision that did not involve Brexit.

"To imagine that a second referendum would produce a different result is to reduce politics to the throw of a [loaded] dice."
True, there are no guarantees. And in principle I'm hostile to referenda, as anti-democratic instruments. But I think Labour has no choice but to align with a 'think again' prospectus and that means another referendum.

"To suggest that the only alternative is an unconditional remain is ... the equivalent of daring the electorate to indulge in self-harm."
It's daily becoming abundantly clear, and not just from the 'experts' that Gove sneered at, that the June 2016 referendum was a profound act of self-harm. People and institutions are accustomed to 'thinking again'. The idea that because just over half the population reached a ludicrous decision on one day so they cannot be permitted a chance to reconsider it in the cold light of day is alarming.

Boffy said...

@David,

The political centre is based on the ability to mobilise an electoral coalition around a set of ideas, but those ideas are themselves derivative of material conditions, which condition the way voters see the world, at that particular time. For thirty years, it appeared all too obvious for large numbers of people that you could get rich simply as a result of the price of your house doubling every few years, that you could borrow more money against it, and that for a section of the population, their pensions appeared to be growing like topsy as stock markets rose, and governments appeared to be able to paper over the cracks by handing out increasing amounts of welfare, as the modern opium of the people.

That was the material conditions that framed the ideas of the political centre, and it is also what led to the financial crash and to governments becoming trapped into the current debt/asset price spiral, which is creating the current problems, which they cannot get out of with those old ideas, and which a large number of voters now recognise, particularly those facing house prices that are now unaffordable due to those policies, pension black holes, because pension liabilities were funded by consuming capital rather than growing revenue, private debt at levels that leaves borrowers dependent on pay day lenders, low value/low productivity employment that is globally uncompetitive (so a huge trade deficit) a sinking pound causing inflation to start to rocket, whilst in place of the opium of welfare, the government is inflicting cold turkey on those in which it created a habit.

The idea that Labour cannot stand on the correct principles and ideas because someone else has already staked out that ground is the same nonsensical approach that the left has adopted on occasion in the past,a nd which caused Trotsky to write to them "Learn To Think". As he pointed out, if socialists determine their politics by simply putting a plus where our opponents place a minus, we will automatically boycott our own programme, and all ow our enemies to determine the ground on which we fight!

Labour cannot shift the centre ground leftwards by adopting the reactionary nationalist agenda of Brexit, but only by setting out the progressive, internationalist arguments against Brexit, and warning workers of the reactionary consequences that Brexit will have in the short, medium and longer terms. It can only do that in the terms it should have done vociferously over the last thirty years, and more specifically over the last year, of the need to build EU workers unity to drive forward a different kind of Europe.

As Chris Rivers has pointed out, you keep saying that opposition to Brexit did not work in the referendum, but that is not true. 65% of Labour voters supported remain, and even in Labour held seats in the North and Midlands that was still around 57%. Brexit is being pushed through on a gerrymandered vote that excluded the young people most affected, and on the basis of a very concentrated vote, by a small and economically and socially irrelevant section of the population.

Your statement that standing on a programme of Bre-Entry in 2020 would hand victory to the Tories implies that its possible for Labour to force some progressive or favourable Brexit on the Tories and that in 2020, the majority of voters will not see Brexit as a disaster against which they should have been warned. There is no better Brexit only no Brexit. Workers who support Labour already clearly understand that, which is why such a large majority support Remain. Those who mislead workers that some favourable Brexit is possible, and fail to warn them of the dangers will reap the consequence, and they deserve to do so.

Anonymous said...

Chris

The point is that people are not willing to reconsider that decision RIGHT NOW - and the fact so many of the doom-laden predictions of the "official" remain campaign have not come to pass does not help them.

There is no such thing as "the 48%" - never was, never will be.

Fanatical remainiacs like you are, in reality, a small (if noisy) minority.

Sorry, but those are the facts.

In the real world, the Labour leadership has to deal with them.

David Timoney said...

Boffy,

The hegemonic ideas of society are the product of material conditions, but the "political centre" is a much narrower construct, reflecting the organisation and practice of political parties (i.e. an artefact of the superstructure). This is why many on both the left and right, who would consider themselves outside the centre, are subject to those hegemonic ideas. I'm not disputing your analysis of the material base, merely pointing out that this isn't automatically going to produce a Labour victory in the 2020 general election.

Two-thirds of Labour supporters may have voted remain, but the total electorate broke for leave. That might shift were there to be another referendum, as the consequences of Brexit become clear, but the most likely outcome is that the next national vote will be the general election in 2020. A Labour victory offers the only realistic route to either a reversal or mitigation of Brexit (and which of those two transpires would depend on the attitude of the EU27).

If the Brexit negotiations prove catastrophic, and popular support plummets, then there is a good chance the government will execute a volte-face before March 2019 and revoke the Article 50 invocation. This would probably split the Tory party and might therefore appear propitious to Labour, so I suspect we'd see calls for a national government (a certain T Blair to the fore) and the desertion of rightwing Labour MPs to reform the "vital centre".

Short of this, the Tories will probably be able to secure a majority in 2020 even if Brexit is looking problematic, given that many of the worst consequences will take years to feed through and the rightwing press will be ecstatic. Assuming the deed has been done and Brexit formally occurred in 2019 (regardless of transitional arrangements), many voters will probably decide to just get on with it, which will favour keeping May in power.

Advocating unconditional re-entry does not currently look like it will be a winning hand in 2020. It is unlikely to sway enough of the voters who made up last June's 52% to either switch from the Tories or to give up their habitual abstention and turn out for Labour, while even some of the 48% will now be more concerned with the post-Brexit agenda. Labour needs pragmatism rather than just principle. In other words (and noting the irony of roles reversed between Corbyn and Blair), more head and not just heart.

Boffy said...

David,

Your argument doesn't follow. You admit that things could have turned to cack by 2020, and the Tories would then revoke Article 50. But, for that reason alone, it makes sense for Labour to have been arguing a clear line of opposition to Brexit in the intervening period.

If we want a Labour victory in 2020 it doesn't come from just hoping things fall into our lap. Continuing to support Brexit means that large numbers of progressive Labour voters and potential Labour voters amongst non-voters, Liberals, Green, SNP, Plaid will either simply stay away or drift to these alternatives. But a clear opposition to Brexit will NOt lose us votes from those actual Labour voters in places like Stoke who backed Brexit, because other issues are more important to them, and especially if we were to present them with a real radical programme to address their problems, and not a fake nationalist solution.

Why are you bothered that a tiny majority of the total electorate (itself rigged) voted leave. We are not going to win large numbers of Kippers or Tory right-wing Brexiters, and large numbers of the old folks that voted 80% for Leave will be dead by 2020, whilst a large number of the 16-17 year olds denied a vote, but who show support of around 75% for remain, will be entitled to vote!

If labour were to propose a progressive Brexit what would it look like? First it must start from the right of free movement of labour. Building international socialism is impossible without such free movement of labour. Millions of workers including those from Britain, also depend on being able to go to where they can sell their labour-power at the highest price - Auf Wiedersehen Pet will be a common refrain as the UK economy tanks after Brexit! But, besides that, the right of free movement was one of those basic freedoms that workers fought for and won as part of the bourgeois democratic revolution against all those feudal monopolies and restrictions on liberty. Its unthinkable that a progressive Labour party would fail to resist a return to those feudal restrictions on workers liberty.

In order for workers to be able to enjoy lower costs of goods and services, necessary for maximising their standard of living, that requires free movement of goods and services.

In order for workers not to suffer as a result of such free trade, by attempts to lower wages and conditions to the lowest common denominator, it is necessary that British workers join with other EU workers to demand a common set of trades union rates, for common pensions and benefits, common taxes, common hours of work, and retirement ages.

It would, even just to achieve the aforementioned, require the building of a single EU TU and Labour Movement. So, how is that achievable outside the EU, and even if it were possible, why would socialists propose such a solution?

David Timoney said...

Boffy,

You are presenting a false dichotomy: that opposing Brexit as envisaged/delivered by the Tories over the next 2 years can only be done by insisting on a rejection of the referendum result and a return to status quo ante.

I am suggesting that such a stark choice is unrealistic, both because it will alienate voters ambivalent about the EU and because it isn't likely to be put to a vote until 2020, after Brexit has already passed the point of no return.

It is precisely because a Labour victory won't "come from just hoping things fall into our lap" that the party must critically engage with the Brexit process rather than just rejecting it tout court and assuming that the public will come round.

Boffy said...

David,

I think the exact opposite is the case. The best hope for Labour of building a movement against the Tories is to build a vigorous social movement against Brexit, pointing out that it is against workers interests, and that suggestions that there could be some kind of "People's Brexit", Brexit-Lite, or soft Brexit are a cruel delusion.

Labour should point out that Brexit is just a means of the Tories diverting attention for the problems of British capitalism on to foreigners, and that those problems will get much, much worse following Brexit, not better. Labour should propose not on total opposition to Brexit, but a series of actual policies designed to address those problems, not just in Britain, but alongside other EU Left social-democrats to address those problems at the only level they can be addressed, i.e. at an EU level.

Presenting such a truth is not only what Labour should do because it is the principled position whatever might be electorally advantageous in the short term, but it is also clear that it is also tactically the right thing to do even in the short term. There is only a small minority of Labour voters, even in Stoke committed to Brexit. Those voters have not been converted to Brexit, or adopted bigoted views in relation to immigrants and so on overnight. They held those views for decades,a nd yet still voted labour.

Snell's views did not stop Labour voters voting for him, and defeating UKIP and Tories. But Labour's nationalistic position did see it lose votes to the Liberals whose vote share doubled. It does have a problem getting Labour voters enthused to vote, which is why turnout fell from 50% to 39%. That's not due to opposing Brexit, but its failure to put forward a radical programme that does address workers immediate problems.

The example of Sanders supporters in the US is instructive, who have continued their organisation and mobilisation to fight an active ground war against Republican politicians and conservative Democrats. That is the campaign against Brexit, with regular street mobilisations etc. that labour should be waging.

No one believes that Brexit will be past the point of no return in two years, and an active campaign by Labour against it now could ensure that. The only good thing that might come about as a result of Brexit, is that soon after, Britain would find itself having to apply for re-entry, and would then have to do so on the same terms as all other members, without the rebate, and with a requirement to join the Euro etc.