Friday 13 December 2019

The Working Class Politics of Brexit

Last night was a disaster. The exit poll was a pit that swallowed all our hopes, and it didn't get any better as the night wore on. Collectively, we're numb. And angry, very angry. It's tempting to point fingers at the media, at the scabs in our own party, the person of Jeremy Corbyn, and the character of the campaign itself. Each had their own part to play and will get the analytical treatment here, in due course. However, possessing more efficacy than everything else, it was Brexit that did the heavy lifting for the Tories. Despite our best efforts and, at times, its crowding from the airwaves by other issues this was the Brexit election - as anyone who did the most cursory door knocking will tell you - and Johnson used it as a wedge to bust open so-called heartland seats. Yet saying Brexit did for Labour and leaving it at that is just not good enough. There was no easy route for the party to take.

When Labour shifted its position from constructive ambiguity to having a second referendum with an option for remain, it was bound to cause the party pain. Circulating memes suggesting Labour was more successful in 2017 than yesterday because of its referendum positioning are just not credible. Quite apart from the thorough monstering Corbyn and the party got throughout 2018 and this year, readers might recall the summer's EU election results. You remember, the one where both parties of government were utterly routed because the Tories couldn't get their deal through, and the alleged "confusion" about Labour's position. The Brexit Party and the LibDems cleaned up because they offered coherence. Suppose then Labour spent the time since resisting calls for a second public vote. Johnson would have got his deal and contrasted his full fat Brexit with Labour's "remainer's Brexit" and bang, a very similar result with the added catastrophe of major inroads from the LibDems and Greens out and about on their People's Vote nonsense. As it stood, even with the the second referendum party policy Labour still lost four remain votes for every Labour leaver gone elsewhere. How do we begin to explain this?

There is a very complex dynamic of decomposition and recomposition in play here. Basically, what landed on Labour yesterday was the culmination of the disintegration of the labour movement's community base. The wiping out of Labour in Scotland (reconfirmed again at this election) was decades in the making, as was Johnson's successful offensive in England and Wales. You know the story off by heart by now. The Thatcher government accelerated deindustrialisation by loosening capital controls and letting businesses export jobs, itself enabled by her smashing of the labour movement. The consequences for many communities, especially in the Midlands, Northern England, parts of Wales and Scotland, was not just closures and economic depression as deep as the 1930s but the slow break up of these communities. The identity anchor of place is pretty empty if that's the single unifying characteristic of a particular locality. As families moved out and strangers moved in, as landlords bought up property and increased the turnover of residents, as people in any district were subdivided among hundreds of employers instead of two or three big local industries and their associated supply chains, as private life became, well, increasingly privatised community bonds frayed to the point of irrelevance. Most communities are communities in name only, a collection of houses clustered around an arrangement of roads. They are dormitories with inner city, suburban, and estate place names attached.

The Tories in the 1980s very deliberately cultivated the breaking up of working class communities to undermine the labour movement, but never did they dream the consequences of doing so would see the likes of Stoke, Wrexham, Bolsover, and Darlington fall to them in a general election. I plan on writing more on this very soon, but there are three key factors in play on top of community fragmentation: the specific issues with old people and their voting behaviour, the stoking of ontological anxiety, and the disproportionate exclusion/absence of younger workers from the political process. As such, the symbolism that is potent and does command collective fealty originates outside of them, such as sporting loyalties and, above all, the nation. It's why you can look at the same kinds of people living in the same kinds of places in England and Wales on the one hand, and Scotland on the other and find one set of seats voting Tory and the other SNP. One right, one left, both, for a lot of these voters, embodiments of a permanent and potent sense of belonging in the absence of other collective symbolic resources. And so comrades who are puzzled by people who cling to Brexit, despite the disruption and the damage that goes along with it, need to understand its deep emotional resonance with the everyday consciousness and unconsciousness of millions of people.

The insight of the Blue Labour people, that this is a problem, is true. Their prescription that we can win back these people by putting the Union Jack on our leaflets and being a little bit racist would be disastrous. But of course this section of the Labour right are going to think that: it's their fast diminishing base. In truth, this part of the working class itself is in decline. The retirees, who comprise the bulk of the new Tory support, did jobs in their working lives that either do not exist any more, are in sharp decline, or have been transformed utterly. You go after this declining demographic if you want. Many Labour MPs did on a ad hoc basis over the last few years, and now their political careers repose in freshly dug graves.

As I've argued before, Corbynism is the first mass expression in English and Welsh politics of a new working class. Its features are the immaterial character of its labour, that is it produces knowledge, services, care, relationships, and subjectivities/identities, and it depends on our social capacities and competencies as social beings - skills that can only be parasited off but not directly possessed by capital (more here and here). Acknowledging immaterial labour is not the same as the old embourgeoisement thesis, nor is it about glamourising this kind of work. The typical socialised worker is your care home worker or call centre employee, not relatively privileged programmers or university lecturers. In fact, you are very likely to find millions of the former distributed right across the working class constituencies the Tories won but, for a number of reasons, are not as politically engaged as the huge concentrations you can find in the big cities. By virtue of their work they are much more likely to be socially liberal than older workers, which lends itself to a spontaneous liberal internationalism (and therefore greater receptivity about the EU) and, thanks to how the Tories have barred millions from the housing ladder and frustrate attempts at building stable lives, are largely anti-Conservative. Yes, anti-Tory but not spontaneously pro-Labour. As a new working class in historical terms, their relationship to politics is different and their allegiance has to be earned. The younger you are, the greater the chances you are part of this growing if not already numerically dominant section of wage and salary earners.

At this election, because of the way Brexit had played out and the shifting class dynamics underpinning leave and remain Labour had to make a very painful choice. Labour could have gone down the second referendum route, which it did, and managed to shore up its support among the rising constituency of workers. Or contested the ownership of Brexit directly with the Tories and lose not only where it did lose, but also fail elsewhere with more votes going to the LibDems and Greens - benefiting the Tories in tight fights. The agony is real, the consequences are real, but as bizarre as it may seem fresh from defeat, Labour had no other choice. And it made the right decision.

Image Credit


Blissex said...

«even with the the second referendum party policy Labour still lost four remain votes for every Labour leaver gone elsewhere. How do we begin to explain this?»

That sems wishful thinking to me, as some commenters on that twitter feed point out, Labour held seats in most "Remain" areas and lost seats in many "Leave" areas. Is that telling¿

As to national averages Look at this interesting graph from the FT of average of polls jan 2019 to dev 2019:

There are damn obvious turning points in the appeals of all parties and they don't support an obvious "four remain votes for every Labour leaver" story.

Jenny said...

When scotland goes that’s an effective increase in the tory majority of 50 or so. Together with the delayed boundary changes they could certainly expect to win again in 2024. Not a happy prospect

Anonymous said...

I saw the new 'working class' protesting outside downing street. It was all identity politics.

I mean where is the homophobia of the Tories, they positively embrace identity politics. It will be their main weapon in the coming and continuing attack on the internet, and these useful idiots, this so called new working class will be their justification!

The Tories will say, look we censored the shit out of the internet, see how we care about you!

Blissex said...

«It was all identity politics.»

A lot of up-and-coming new-wave labour people made their careers on identity politics; in part rising through the councils, in part because labour laws are next to useless except for the protected categories, so anti-discrimination cases have effectively replaced trade unionism and strikes. The underlying Mandelsonian Tendency ideology is that the markets managed by big corporates are just and fair except when "backwards" and "bigoted" workers discriminate against other workers.

Blissex said...

«interesting graph from the FT of average of polls jan 2019 to dev 2019»

What this graph does show is the large swing of ex-UKIP voters from Labour to BXP after they had come back to Labour in 2017; what it does not show is that in many lost constituencies not only there was a BXP surge, but also a surge in non-voting,both typical consequences of ex-Labour voters disagreeing with New Labour style policies but not feeling like voting thatcherites like the LibDem or Conservative.

Naturally the Mandelsonian Tendency entrysts will state that many voters in the lost seats switched to BXP or abstention because of the "racissm" and "communism" of Corbyn, when they would have been enthusiastic for a leader like Jo Swinson and "centrist" policies like those of the LibDems, and it would be interesting to see how many lost seats were lost to the LibDems :-).

Unknown said...

Can you put the graphic on age and voting intention I here? It's a bit blurred on FB.

James said...

Presumably this is because many remain seats are much more solidly Labor, as opposed to to Midlands/northern leave seats where Labour's vote share has been declining for decades. In my constituency (Dulwich & West Norwood) Labour lost about 5000 votes, Greens had a massive surge, but it barely made a dent in Labour's majority.

Gary Elsby said...

Not looking good Phil.
Hindsight is good but my thoughts were and remain that Jeremy should not have given Tories what they wanted, a GE.
Labour should have pushed a 2nd referendum win or bust.
This manifesto would then have gone out in 2021.
As for Labour in Stoke, well I still blame daft interference from WM office.
Disbanding the City Party was as suicidal as the now outcome.
You write of communities, yet the City Party was our community, the training ground for up coming candidates schooled in open conflict for the greater good.
The City Party vs Labour Group often made headlines but voters could see two sides of Labour and very often, the Group backed down.
The Governance Commission sold their answers to the NEC and to repair our 'broken City', the City party was to go.
The NEC came to Stoke to speak to me and a few others because they heard we were unhappy about it.
I said you'll do what you want anyway but Labour will get done over.
No voice from the streets inside Labour any more demanding a say on cuts, just Coincillors issuing cuts.
I can just imagine the open bloodbath that 100% would have taken place as the Group drew up it's list of closures.
As one City part/ Group would have gone up against coalition cuts.
Goes both ways.
For the Party to rise back from this, radical solutions must take place and bringing back the City Party is a must.
The 2016 referendum was based on lies and it's reasonable to see why much protesting went on.
This General Election is alleged to see 88% Tory lies against 0% Labour lies.
This is dammning all round for the future of politics.
Will we leave on 31st or is it just BINO?

theOnlyGoodToryIsADeadTory said...

We need to keep calm, take stock and compromise with our Tory brother and sisters, as they have done so many times in the past.

It is the Tories beautiful spirit of compromise that has brought them so much continued success.

Thanks to speedy for reminding us all of this essential point!

Michael Kelly said...

I think that's an excellent analysis.

Anonymous said...

Silver lining. These horrors all got the bum's rush:

Emma Reynolds
Mary Creagh
Ruth Smeeth
Anna Turley
Caroline Flint
Melanie Onn
Jenny Chapman
John Woodcock

Coyle and Streeting are the only noisy Blairites left.

Boffy said...

Simple facts. Despite Labour's disastrous strategy over the last 3 years of "respecting" the vote for Brexit, and so failing to tackle the reactinary nationalist ideology that underpins it, despite its nonsensical fantasy brexit position and call for another referendum on it, despite the Remain vote thereby being hopelessly divided, 54% of votes went to parties that back Remain/Second Referendum/Revoke, as against only 46% backing Brexit.

That is also despite the Stalinist proponents of Socialism In Once country of the Morning Star/CPB calling on voters to vote for Johnson and his reactionary Brexit policy, as well as the SWP/Counterfire cabal calling for a vote for Brexit.

What a shower. They supported the reactionary nationalist calls for Brexit, and then complained about the reactionary consequences of doing so with the increase in racist attacks it brought, the increase in support for the Tory xenophobes, and then when Johnson gets a thumping majority on the back of it, they engage in a pathetic placard waving protest outside Downing Street. You broke it, you bought it, and workers who suffer from Brexit in coming years should place the blame squarely with all those that promoted this reactionary nationalist nonsense, as well as with those like Corbyn who failed to oppose it head on.

The lesson is clear. The SNP whose economic and social offering was not that different to Corbyn's more or less wept the board, as I predicted they would. That is because from Day 1, unlike Labour with its ridiculous "respect" the vote message, the SNP set out that Brexit was reactionary and should be overturned. In fact, in the rest of Britain, the Liberals and Greens also increased their vote.

The rise in the vote share for the BP is a sham, because in 2017 they didn't stand so whatever vote they got this time appears as an increase. deduct the previous vote of UKIP, and it more or less disappears.

But, there is a message here. Some old "workers", mostly retired or unemployed, isolated from the labour movement, did switch to the Tories, as they did in the 1980's when they voted for Council house sales, attacks on the Miners and other organised workers, and so on. The question is should Labour as a "Workers' Party" follow them into this swamp, as people like Alan Johnson advise, or should Labour be confronting those reactionary ideas, and orienting to the young progressive workers who still voted Labour and oppose Brexit.

Its only necessary to ask the question to know the answer. But, then it would have been better if Labour had not been trying to accommodate the reactionary nationalist ideas of those older workers over the last four years to begin with!

Anonymous said...

Labour did have other choices, and it certainly did not make the right decision if it wanted to fight an election that was not about its contorted position on Brexit. It was committed to respecting the referendum result , which it is easy to argue a second referendum doesn't. After the Commission first declared there was no altering May's agreement Labour should have backed May's deal. Even on here you were declaring it was a miserable deal but there cannot have been any good faith believers that Corbyn would get a better one. The WA in any case is not about the future relationship where the 'jobs first Brexit' could have been negotiated, it contained nothing that was not Labour policy apart from an end to free movement and that is a massive vote loser. Some principles need to bend.
It would have allowed - a Labour delivers on Brexit message (2017 manifesto pledge) kept the Tory split with ERG going, and kept Brexit party alive in Tory seats. Also would have kept the campaigning skills of May in play. This might have offset the Corbyn personal negative effect and allowed the then next election to be fought on Labour's grounds.

wayne asher said...

This is the most important thing Ive read on the result, from Anna Turley who was beaten in Redcar

“Bring it on!” When I heard these words from the Labour leader at the prospect of this election, my heart sank. The sense of hubris coming from the shadow cabinet was excruciating when I knew from my weekly door-knocking just how frustrated and angry the public were at the paralysis in politics, and how low Labour had sunk in their estimation.

Earlier this year, Labour lost control of all five councils it controlled in the Tees Valley: Redcar, Hartlepool, Stockton, Darlington and Middlesbrough. It was an historic wipe-out, and a warning.

We ignored that warning in the unquestioning belief that everyone hates the Tories as much as we do, and went boldly out to the public for a general election. To do so just after the October Brexit deadline had been missed, when public frustration and confusion was at its peak, was naive and self-destructive. It was also symptomatic of a Labour Party nonserious about getting into government, basking in the self-righteous fury of a protest movement.

The message on the doorstep in this election was clear: the party was out of touch, the leader was weak, and we weren’t a credible party of government. Our manifesto was not affordable, our party had become nasty.

Yet the narrative rehashed ferociously by the social media cheerleaders and dozy frontbenchers is that it was Brexit wot won it. But for every time Brexit was raised on the doorsteps, the leadership was raised four more – even by those sticking with us. There was visceral anger from lifelong Labour voters who felt they couldn’t vote for the party they had supported all their lives because of “that man at the top”. They had sent us this message loud and clear in 2017; I was told frequently by my constituents to “go back down to London and get rid of him”.
Big beasts lose their seats: Prominent MPs gone in election
Show all 10
Jo Swinson - Liberal Democrat
Dennis Skinner - Labour
Anna Soubry - The Independent Group for Change
Dominic Grieve - Independent

None of this will come out in the forthcoming analysis of why Labour lost. If it does, it will be Corbyn – destroyed by the evil mainstream media and stabbed in the back by treacherous Blairites – not Corbynism that takes the blame.

To blame Brexit is to miss the point. There would be no Brexit if Labour had had credible leadership in the 2016 referendum, standing up for our party’s values of cooperation, internationalism and partnership. Instead, we had a guy who dressed up in a fur coat to go on The Last Leg and give the EU “seven and a half out of ten”. No one put forward an argument to working-class Labour communities about why the EU mattered to them, because the leader didn’t believe that it did. Ever since, instead of strong leadership and a clear position, then we have had three years of U-turns, triangulation and dancing on pinheads. I have never been able to tell my constituents what Labour’s Brexit position truly was – only my own.
Watch more

More voters defected from Labour ‘over leadership than Brexit’
Corbyn will quit ‘early next year’ but declines to take election blame
Labour has lost this election – but their mass movement is unstoppable

And so to this disgrace. Despite 10 years of Tory austerity that has led to Dickensian levels of poverty, and the end of 175 years of steel-making in my constituency, people didn’t believe Labour would be any better. This is a failure on an epic scale, and a betrayal of those communities that need Labour most. They looked at us and saw a leader they did not think put the country first; a manifesto that they thought too good to be true; a party too self involved to listen to their concerns, let alone address them. Now is no time for “one more heave” or “Corbynism without Corbyn”. Only wholesale transformation will be enough to get the party to fulfil its historic purpose, and get our communities to believe in it once again.

Anna Turley was Labour MP for Redcar from 2015 until the election on 12 December 2019

Boffy said...

As a note of reality and optimism I have just been looking at the data.

Despite all the claims about "the worst" - the sensationalist media always have to frame things as "the worst" the best" and other superlatives, even though they have only a slightly longer attention span, and view of history than Trump - and Corbyn being, therefore, the worst leader, the facts don't support it.

Labour got 33% of the vote. In 1983, Foot got only 27%. In 1987, Kinnock got only 30%, and in 1992, only marginally better with 34%. In 1987, Kinnock's 229 seats looks better than Corbyn's 202, but, in 1987, the SNP won only 3 seats, compared to the 48 they have won today. The rise in the SNP in Scotland at Labour's expense long predates Corbyn, and is indeed a consequence of the right-wing Blair-right policies pursued after 1997 along with the the bureaucratic, right-wing machine politics of Scottish Labour over a long period.

Adjusting for those SNP seats, Labour's performance under Corbyn was much better than Kinnock's 1987 performance both in terms of vote share and seats. It was more or less equal to Kinnock's 1992 performance when everyone though Labour would win.

In may this year, the Tories were in last place in many areas in the local and EU elections. In the EU elections they got just over 9% of the vote. Its ridiculous therefore to say that a rebuilt, progressive Labour Party, utilising its half million members cannot overturn Johnson's majority at the next election, or even before. But, it requires clearing out the right and Blair-rights, and it requires ditching the Stalinist cabal that was behind Corbyn. It requires militant internationalist programme focused on rejoining the EU, or better still preventing Brexit actually happening, as the negotiations get dragged out beyond the end of 2020.

In 1992, after the Tories won a fourth election. it was less than a year before they were in turmoil, as the economy entered a crisis, the Pound was hammered, and so on. The contradictions in Johnson's position are apparent and irreconcilable. A battle royal is now likely to break out inside the Tory Party, and Labour should be ready to exploit it.

Any hope of Brexit being done, or peace and harmony breaking out are also vain hopes. the actual contradictions in Brexit will now become ever more manifest, and they will cause major social eruptions.

Boffy said...

Here's an interesting question. I've watched a lot of TV coverage of people in these "traditional Labour" areas, who say that they have always been Labour, but could never vote Labour under Corbyn.

So, who was it then that in those same areas in 2017, voted Labour in huge numbers, and gave Labour its biggest advance since 1945? Have they forgotten that Corbyn was labour Leader in 2017, and that presumably, millions of them did do what they now say they could never do, and voted Labour under Corbyn.

Is this people lying to themselves about their own behaviour, simple self-delusion, or just an indication of the extent to which the Tory media do actually play a big role in shaping a narrative that everyone, as Milgram demonstrated, has to feed into as part of a herd instinct towards compliance?

According to Milgram its what explained people's preparedness to go along with the Holocaust under the Nazis. If you can self delude to that extent, then its not surprising that people can self delude to vote for the same Tories that have destroyed their communities and living standards both in the 1980's and today, in some weird act of political masochism, in which they think that they might find redemption.

asquith said...

Yes, it's important to recognise this because class is social and economic rather than cultural in nature.

I know this because I am myself working-class by virtue of how little I earn, the position I'm in at work (non-union, and I'd be stunned if one were ever formed here), and where I live. A self-employed builder from Cellarhead may be culturally different to me, but I would say he is middle-class and I am working-class because the facts of life are such.

The new working class include many graduates like myself in low & middle-income jobs. And those young professionals living in cities are earning more, but are themselves paying astronomical rents for not especially good housing, and are worse off than their boomer parents even if not exactly working-class.

The definition the media use is much more cultural than economic. But the fact that I subscribe to the London Review of Books doesn't make my manager respect me any more, or put any more money into my bank account, so identity politics (which I think is now more common on the right than the left) should be done away with, for the sake of what Guy Standing has christened the precariat.

(I was also interested in the group he identifies as the 'proficians', who are highly skilled and may earn a lot but whose work is insecure. Two of them worked for the company I worked for and were unceremoniously fired/laid off with even less compunction than they'd have in making me redundant).

I have bought his new book but not read it yet.

TLDR, you certainly don't have to be an older male northern manual worker to be working-class, and many people who are culturally different to the traditional working class have interests synonymous with theirs. And in some cases are even worse off materially, a process I expect Brexit to make even worse than it is.

PS- Sorry if my filter came off when drunk last night :)

Anonymous said...

«To blame Brexit is to miss the point. There would be no Brexit if Labour had had credible leadership in the 2016 referendum, standing up for our party’s values of cooperation, internationalism and partnership. Instead, we had a guy who dressed up in a fur coat to go on The Last Leg and give the EU “seven and a half out of ten”.»

Ah these seem to me the usual out-and-out fantasies peddled by people who tend to be profoundly deluded fools falling for the lies of rabid tories, because blaming Corbyn or Labour for brexit instead of Boris Johnson, Alan Johnson, Gove, Farron, Cameron is outrageous, and in particular claiming that someone who spent the whole campaign going around the country advocating for "Remain", who claimed he had voted "Remain", and would vote "Remain" again in the same circumstances, is beyond shameful, it is just tory propaganda, recycled eagerly by tory fellow travellers:

« No one put forward an argument to working-class Labour communities about why the EU mattered to them, because the leader didn’t believe that it did.»

Just two examples with the simplest google search:
“The Labour Party is overwhelmingly for staying in because we believe the European Union has brought: investment, jobs and protection for workers,”
“EU membership has guaranteed working people vital employment rights, including four weeks’ paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, protections for agency workers and health and safety in the workplace.“
“Working together in Europe has led to significant gains for workers here in Britain and Labour is determined to deliver further progressive reform in 2020 the democratic Europe of social justice and workers’ rights that people throughout our continent want to see.”
“The insecurity of work the lack of good well-paid jobs, the high cost of housing, whether to rent or to buy, how we adjust to, and pay for, an ageing society, the failure to ensure decent economic growth in all parts of the country and in which we all share. That is the failure of politicians, not of the EU or of EU migrants for that matter.”
“Labour is calling for a vote to remain in Europe at next week’s referendum because we believe staying in the European Union offers our people a better future in terms of jobs, investment, rights at work and environmental protection.”
“I mentioned the scandal of zero hours contracts earlier too. As well as outlawing these exploitative contracts in Britain, we should go further and work with our allies to establish a European minimum standard of rights at work to stop undercutting and give people the job security they need. And now that Germany has introduced a minimum wage there is an opportunity to move towards a European-wide minimum wage – linked to average pay and the cost of living in each country to halt the race to the bottom in pay and conditions, and increase wages across Europe.”

Blissex said...

«from Anna Turley who was beaten in Redcar»

There seem to be quite a few despicable spivs who claim that when they get a seat their mandate is personally won, not related to the party symbol that endorses them, and they themselves represent their constituents, not the party, and then when they are ejected from that seat they blame the party for having lost their mandate, and any talk of their having earned their constituents personal mandate somehow disappears. We have recently seen how personal was the trust of constituents in C Umunna or C Leslie or F Field, all of which actually run the campaigns against Corbyn, the same campaign A Turley seems to me to be now running after her personal defeat.

David Parry said...

Wayne Asher

Anna Turley is part of the Blairite wing of the party and a long-standing recalcitrant within the party. She's one of those MPs who's never come terms with the Corbyn leadership and the change of direction of the party. Forgive me if I take what she has to say with more than a grain of salt (no pun intended!) as there's an element of MRDA here.

Blissex said...

«There would be no Brexit if Labour had had credible leadership in the 2016 referendum»

Amazing that A Turley she seems to ignore that J Corbyn's constituency voted 75.2% for "Remain" while in Redcar A Turley lost the referendum by 66.2%, and in 2019 the Labour vote in J Corbyn's constituency has been 65.3%, while she has been the first Labour MP to lose that seat to a Conservative,

With achievements like that I guess she should consider becoming the leader for Change UK or the LibDems. :-)

Blissex said...

Ah the "moderates" are amazing, here is Jess Phillips arguing that the northern working class trusted Johnson to be more on their side than Corbyn, but that was not about brexit:

«Everywhere I campaigned, I heard the same thing. It was less about Brexit and more about belief. In these places of generations of Labour voting, they did not believe a Labour government would or could deliver for them. They didn’t trust us. [...] I spoke to people in my constituency and others who were distressed that they couldn’t vote Labour, visibly angry because they felt we, our leader and what we were presenting to them had put them in this position. The more working-class a constituency was, the worse the result was for Labour. [...] The problem isn’t just that working-class people will be hurt by the Tories – it’s that too many don’t believe we’re better than the Tories.»

Amazingly many of the working class who did not care about brexit but cared about trust switched from Labour to the Brexit Party (the total Conservative vote increased very little), and even more amazingly some of the best Brexit Party votes happened in working class northern constituencies in parallel with falls in Labour votes, but this was not about brexit, it was about trusting Johnson to be more of a one-nation tory than Corbyn. It is as if nobody had told the northern working classes that Corbyn is a "far leftist" and a "marxist redistributionist".

Jimbo said...

Small consolation, Frank Field lost.

Speedy said...

There's a lot of noise here, and pointless partisanism, which illustrates the problem. So, some anonymous commenter knows more than a beaten door-knocking Labour MP? Naturally.

From the moment Corbyn was elected it was clear that Labour was consigned to electoral failure because he represented a faction of the Left in the Labour movement that traditionally occupied a handful of the 250-plus seats, a fair reflection of their support in the country. The difference between 2017 and 19 was his relative obscurity to most voters - once the media had woken up to his 'danger' they had two years to bury him.

The contempt with which Blairism is spoken is revealing. Blairism was the most successful Labour election-winning machine, and the very policies that made it successful are loathed. Again this represents the backward thinking of commenters here - it is all about them, not the voter. Both with Brexit and this election Cummings, who understood the voter, wiped the floor with the opposition. The Left wants to remake the voter in their image, the voter has other ideas.

It is frankly difficult to see how Labour can come back from this within the next decade. Admittedly it received a much higher share of the young vote but as Phil says this no longer automatically identifies itself as Labour, and I suspect much was motivated by Remain as much as nationalising the utilities. Corbynism with a youthful, female face will not work either - the legacy of Corbynism and its trashing as 1970s socialism will run like cracks from an earthquake through future offers, and it will take a huge amount of time to restore public 'trust'. Add to that that Scotland is likely to have left and the risk is Tory hegemony for upwards to 20 years. Public services once taken for granted will melt away, much the same way as today's students can barely imagine a world with full grants. The Milneite aristo-Left with Corbyn's face has done Capital's work for it, and the fact that few of the commentators can recognise this is telling.

SpiritSkill said...

I'm always sceptical about comments from people in the party who rush to say that their well known positions are vindicated by the evidence. I would assign that description to Turley. On only one point would I take any notice: that a GE before leaving the EU would be serious for Labour.

On the matter of the unaffordability of the manifesto commitments, well there are economists who disagree. Let's not stop listening to experts.

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

Boffy has been calling the SNP the Tartan Tories for years and now decides they are socialists like Corbyn! You have to laugh.

Boffy also spouting his usual Bosses of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose but unfair markets bollocks.

Boffy lambasts the ‘economic nationalism’ of the middle and plebeian classes but positively lauds and supports the economic uber nationalism of the Ruling class. In fact I would argue that the vote for Boris Johnson was not about economic nationalism but was more an individualism/family economism. After all the Tories have gone to war with large elements of the British population, murdering at least 130,000, sending countless others into mental illness and god knows what. The last thing the Tories represent is some kind of nationalist unity! No they represent people who are doing alright thanks very much and don’t want anything to threaten their current cushy lifestyles.

When these fanatical individualists were given the choice between the status quo and Corbyn’s bold vision of a brighter and more humanised future the fanatics cried with one voice, the status quo thanks.
Moreover the real economic nationalism is imperialism, something which Boffy embraces like a comfy blanket. Imperialism is what keeps the working class dog loyal to its bourgeois master. This is something Marx warned us about in relation to Ireland. If you want to blame anyone on the left for Brexit blame the pro war, pro imperialist left to which Boffy is a high priest and bagman.

In many ways the result should not surprise us in any way. The mistake would be to overreact to this vote and move toward the Tory centre. We should stick to Corbynism and celebrate the fact that a socialist has just got 33% of the national vote, where I believed socialism was popular among maybe 5% of the population. Now that is what i call progress!

And BTW just because the corporate media manages to find a few people on camera who will say they didn’t like Corbyn doesn’t actually make it an objective fact. Maybe they selected the most unpleasant twats they could find and make them a star for a day! And who but a fool would want to be star for a day!

CCAAC said...

We believe George Galloway, even though we profoundly disagree with him on brexit, has made the correct first move in this new *political* landscape and that is to stop moaning about reality and start living in it.

He has launched the workers party. Now this may seem laughable and maybe it is but at least it recognises we are now in a whole new world and things are up for grabs. We are in a war, a real war. This is going to be about setting the political and economic agenda for the next few decades.

It is time to start dusting down those old Christopher Hill books and understand that in times of civil war, and make no mistake we are in one; the space for new ideas grows massively. The coming years will be years of new ideas, we will see the emergence of groups akin to the diggers and levellers. We will see fascists of all stripes; we have a government of fascists.

In many ways this coming period is an exciting time, movements will be born.

And here is the problem with Galloway’s workers party, a party is not a movement. Electoral politics is utterly superficial, one wrong leaflet can mean defeat, a good PR campaign can make all the difference. A real movement is not superficial; therefore the real movement will grow outside the superficial arena that is electoral politics.

Chairman for the Campaign Against American Culture

Boffy said...

The argument is also being presented that the fall in Labour’s vote is because of Brexit, as shown by the rise in the vote for Farage’s Brexit Party. The figures are frequently presented showing the decline in Labour’s share of the vote being more or less equal to the rise in the share of the BP. It is not true. This election the Brexit Party (plus UKIP) secured around 665,000 votes. All of the Brexit Party vote share appears as a gain, because it did not stand in 2017. However, the BP is really just a continuation UKIP under Farage’s domination, as CEO. In 2017, UKIP secured 594,000 votes, so the actual increase in their vote amounts to only around 70,000. Put another way, in 2017, UKIP’s share of the vote was 1.8% compared to the BP’s 2.0% in this election.

In 2017, the Tories secured 13.6 million votes. In 2019, they secured 13.9 million votes, an increase of just 300,000 votes. In 2017, they secured 42.4% of the vote, whereas in 2019 this increased to just 43.6%. Labour clearly did not lose in 2019 because a large part of its vote went to either the Brexit Party or to the Tories. By contrast, in 2017, the Liberals polled 2.3 million votes, whereas in 2019, they polled 3.7 million votes, an increase of around 50%. Labour also lost votes to the SNP in Scotland, where the Tories also lost more than 50% of their seats. In 2019, the Greens secured 835,000 votes, compared to 525,000 in 2017. In other words, and increase of more than 60%. Labour lost, because the millions of Remain voters it won in 2017, deserted it in 2019. And that is a direct result of the pro-Brexit stance that Corbyn and those around him adopted.

Ian said...

Two facts from the election and polls:
First, Labour had a higher percentage vote this time than in 2015 and 2010; Conservative vote percent only slightly more in 2019 than 2017.
Second, Labour+LibDem vote totals are approx constant in polls from early March to December.
Thus the huge drop in Labour's vote through the summer (10 pp)was likely to be almost entirely Remain voters leaving; voters left Labour steadily from 2017 to Feb 2019, amounting to only abour 4 percentage points.
Consequently the decision to belatedly shift to supporting a referendum was the least bad option and saved a lot of votes/

George Carty said...

Boffy has overlooked that the Tory vote in 2019 was not the same as the Tory vote in 2017: while it is roughly the same size it is far more monolithically Leave today.

Labour lost so badly this time because it lost its Leave voters to the Tories (while the Tories in turn lost almost as many Remain voters to the Lib Dems and Greens). My own consituency (Sedgefield) was one of those that fell last week, and since Farage's Brexit company got considerably more votes than the Lib Dems and Greens combined it is clear that this loss wasn't down to a split Remain vote!

Boris's genius was to realize that the even though Leavers are probably no longer a majority of the electorate, a General Election in which the votes were cast on Leave/Remain lines would still be an easy win for Leave because Remainers were concentrated in cities. To this end he purged his own party's Remain MPs in order to boost the credibility of his "Get Brexit Done" campaign pitch.

While about a dozen seats (mostly in London) may have been lost due to a split Remain vote, these seats were far fewer in number than the northern and midland Leave seats lost due to Leaver defections to the Tories. But that doesn't imply the Lexiters were correct, as these Leave voters were largely radicalized to the right by the UK's failure to leave the EU in March 2019, before Labour formally shifted to a second referendum stance.

Deviation From The Mean said...

Britain has consistently over many years rejected any form of socialism, so it was always going to be a monumental task for Corbyn. So forget about Brexit etc this is the ultimate reason Corbyn could not win a majority in the UK.

But it should be pointed out that the British people’s constant and consistent rejection of socialism has been a disaster for the British! Just look at what a catastrophe it has been for Scotland. Scotland should have the same economic wellbeing statistics as its sister Nordic nations but when you look at the figures Scotland lags way behind the Nordic nations in economic outcomes and the only thing Scotland tops is the heart disease or alcoholism charts. Being part of the UK has been an utter calamity for the Scottish people but this is only a reflection of the calamity of rejecting socialist policies time and again.

Britain really is a nation of turkeys voting for Christmas.

The last thing the Labour party should do is give in to what the ruling class desire the most, i.e. get their cherished New Labour back. Labour stick still stubbornly to a solid socialist platform because that is urgently what is required.

John Mann has been appointed Palestinian Baiter General because the ruling class, now having secured the government they want, now wish to secure the opposition they want. We should do all we can to ensure this does not happen.

John Smithee said...

For workers' MPs on a worker's wage:

Brexit ‘fatigue’, just like the ‘Falklands factor’ in the 1983 general election, has given the Tories a substantial working majority in the 2019 general election.

Now Prime Minister Boris Johnson must deliver on ‘getting Brexit done.’

He must also keep his pledge that the NHS is not up for sale to giant American health insurance corporations.

There is also the approaching world recession which most economists expect in the second half of 2020.

Then there is Scotland. The victorious Scottish National Party, like the nationalists in Catalonia in Spain, are likely to organise a new independence referendum

Mr Johnson will also have to deal with the 5-week wait for Universal Credit; the 1.2 million people visiting foodbanks each year; and the 85,000 households in temporary housing (including 125,000 children); not to mention the thousands sleeping rough.

Jeremy Corbyn was also a factor in Labour’s defeat. Mr Corbyn’s job in moving Labour to the left is done. A new leader, preferably a woman, is needed.

My money is on Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles. A new leader must purge the Parliamentary Labour Party of all remaining Blairite MPs.

In North East Cambridgeshire, Tory MP and Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, was again re-elected, now with a 29,993 majority.

The only way for Labour to defeat career politicians such as Mr Barclay is for all Labour candidates to stand on the slogan: ‘for a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage.’

This will mean the Labour candidate pledging, if elected, to live on the average wage of a Fenland worker (currently around £500 a week) with the surplus being donated to labour movement campaigns.

The results of the 2019 general election are only a snapshot in time. A lot can happen in the next 5 years. We must prepare for sharp turns and sudden changes.

John Smithee,

Boffy said...

More like Chairman of The World Association of Trolls (TWAT), having moved from the Confederation of Uneducated National Trolls (CUNT). The only difference being that TWAT is bigger than CUNT but less useful.

Boffy said...


"Labour lost so badly this time because it lost its Leave voters to the Tories (while the Tories in turn lost almost as many Remain voters to the Lib Dems and Greens). My own consituency (Sedgefield) was one of those that fell last week, and since Farage's Brexit company got considerably more votes than the Lib Dems and Greens combined it is clear that this loss wasn't down to a split Remain vote!"

There is no evidence to support that thesis. Its not that either the Tory or BP vote significantly rose, but that Labour's fell. In Sedgefield the Tory vote rose by 3,000, Labour's fell by 7,000. The BP vote rose by 1800 compared to UKIP, but the Liberal vote rose by 1200, and the Greens by 300. In other words, the increase in the Liberal/Green vote was about the same as the increase in the BP vote.

The Tories did increase their vote by 3,000 and some of that will be backward Labour voters, but they are the same ones who've voted for reactionary parties in the past. Its what happens if you do not consistently argue against those reactionary ideas, and present a credible alternative narrative. Labour encouraged the continuance of reactionary ideas by its pursuance of the reaction naionalist agenda of a "Labour Brexit" whose basis was the Stalinoid policies of Corbyn and his advisors based upon the theory of building Socialism in One Country. It has failed again.

"Boris's genius was to realize that the even though Leavers are probably no longer a majority of the electorate, a General Election in which the votes were cast on Leave/Remain lines would still be an easy win for Leave because Remainers were concentrated in cities. To this end he purged his own party's Remain MPs in order to boost the credibility of his "Get Brexit Done" campaign pitch."

Its not genius its basic politics. Last January I predicted its what May would do in February. She didn't, but Boris then replaced her, and did exactly what I said he would.

The second referendum stance was never a goer, because it implies you have to have a Leave option, which means someone has to decide what it is, negotiate it etc., which was precisely the basis of the absurdity that arose in Labour's position.

George Carty said...

Boffy: "In Sedgefield the Tory vote rose by 3,000, Labour's fell by 7,000. The BP vote rose by 1800 compared to UKIP, but the Liberal vote rose by 1200, and the Greens by 300."

So Labour lost roughly 4800 votes to "Leave" parties (Tories and BXP) but only 1500 to "Remain" parties (Liberals and Greens): looks I was right about Leavers being the problem then. Perhaps the Leavers only stayed with Labour in 2017 because Theresa May's snap election didn't give the Tory propaganda machine enough time to do its work?

"Its not genius its basic politics. Last January I predicted its what May would do in February. She didn't, but Boris then replaced her, and did exactly what I said he would."

Perhaps the word "genius" was over-egging the pudding, but my point stands that the geographical distribution of Leavers and Remainers meant that the Leavers would inevitably win provided they were united.

"The second referendum stance was never a goer, because it implies you have to have a Leave option, which means someone has to decide what it is, negotiate it etc., which was precisely the basis of the absurdity that arose in Labour's position."

Are you arguing that some Labour defectors to Tories were people who didn't care whether Britain left or remained as long as the issue was put to bed one way or another? If not, then I suspect Labour was in a lose-lose position where Brexit was concerned.

theOnlySanePersonOnPlanetEarth said...

“Its what happens if you do not consistently argue against those reactionary ideas”

So says the servile lackey that has been promoting imperialism for the past 20 years, telling us that this uber economic nationalism is civilising! Boffy has done everything in his power to keep the working class obedient to its masters.

The individualist economism of the workers and the middle classes is but a subset of the true economic nationalism, i.e. imperialism. While the individualist economism is all about I am alright jack and sod the rest, economic nationalism is about controlling shipping lanes, access to key resources and military dominance. The masters can rely on the support of the masses while ever this sweet arrangement is in place.

Boffy's analysis is so poverty stricken that he doesn't even recognise that the economic nationalism which he continually decries is precisely the thing that he supports the most. It is precisely Boffy's servile support of imperialism that marks him out as the scumbag that he is and marks him out as not only a racist but an enemy of socialism.

Boffy said...


Labour's vote fell by 7,000. The Tory vote rose by 3,000. Some of that undoubtedly came from backward labour voters, but some also probably came from UKIP/BP voters. Some will also undoubtedly have come from usual non-voters. The same with BP. Its unlikely that all of the 4800 came from Labour.

What we can say is that besides the 1800 much of which went to Liberals and Greens, there is around 1500-2000 more that simply didn't vote. Paul Mason has given a table showing the overall picture, in which its clear that Labour lost more votes to Remain parties than to the Tories/BP. As Paul says, we clawed back some of the millions of votes lost to the Liberals over the last three years, but only by adopting a more clear Second referendum stance, and that was too little too late. Look at the Scottish results or the results from earlier in the year and that is obvious.

The Leavers were not inevitably going to win. They are a minority, and their numbers are declining. They are decimated in Scotland, because the SNP has been able to clothe itself in the garb of radical social democracy, and has presented a militant anti-Brexit stance. Labour should have been in a better position, because Corbyn's social democratic agenda was real, whilst the SNP's is fake. They remain in practice the same Tartan Tories they have always been. The trouble is that Labour has failed to argue consistently either a militant anti-Brexit position, or for its social democratic agenda, instead dumping it on the electorate at the last minute like someone seeking to garner affection by handing out goodies. If Labour in 2016 had a) actually organised an effective anti-Brexit campaigm, instead of making Alan Johnson its coordinator who then disappeared from sight, and b) continued to argue that Brexit was reactionary, and Labour would seek to overturn it, whilst continuing to actively explain in working-class districts why it had to be reversed, then it would been possible as Paul Mason also says, to have prevented the resurgence of the Liberals and Blair-rights, and to have given Labour hegemony over the anti-Brexit vote, thereby defeating the Tories.

I'm arguing that a referendum requires at least two options, and it was no business of Labour to be putting forward any kind of Leave option. I'm arguing that labour should have opposed a referendum, and said that if elected it would revoke Article 50. That position was supported by 70% of Labour's Remain voters, who, in turn constituted 70% of Labour's 2017 voters. 25% of labour's 2017 Leave voters also said that it would be "an acceptable outcome", which means that a clear majority of Labour's voters overall would have backed it, despite the fact it was the Liberals proposing it, and Labour opposing it!

Anonymous said...

If you actually look at the vote breakdown in the so called Labour heartlands then the Brexit party actually prevented the Tories winning a majority in a number of seats. Assuming you accept that both the Tories and Brexit party reflected the leave vote.

I don’t know why the talk is of vote share, it is actually seats that matter.

If Labour had taken the Liberal democrat position of ignoring the Brexit vote they would have lost at least as many seats, especially in the Midlands and the North.

I agree that Liberal democrat voters would never has swung behind Corbyn, as they clearly want anything but Corbyn and for this reason the Tory remainers stayed loyal to the Tories.

It does not matter how you want to dress this up Labour lost because its policies were genuinely social democratic. A Blairite may well have won but if they had we would all have lost anyway.

If Labour do manage to stay on a social democratic course then all in all its been a very positive 5 years, if they bring back the Blairites then we may as well all slit our wrists.

George Carty said...

"If you actually look at the vote breakdown in the so called Labour heartlands then the Brexit party actually prevented the Tories winning a majority in a number of seats."

Hartlepool was one such seat: I think the Brexit Party screwed up there big-time by pitching themselves as the way to "stop Corbyn", which of course meant that they took more votes from the Tories than they did from Labour.

As for the non-Brexit reasons why Corbyn lost so badly, I'd suggest that:

1) Corbyn's Stop the War past (and alleged IRA connections) made him toxic to patriots: especially important in the North East with its high number of military families, and

2) Labour in 2017 managed to get a strong youth vote, but in 2019 the youth vote only came out strongly in Remain areas, not in Leave areas where it was most badly needed.

Boffy said...

"Labour in 2017 managed to get a strong youth vote, but in 2019 the youth vote only came out strongly in Remain areas, not in Leave areas where it was most badly needed."

But, one reason for that was Labour's own pro-Brexit stance. In Leave voting areas, like Stoke, the Labour MP's voted with the Tories and adopted a thoroughly reactionary pro-Brexit stance. In neighbouring Newctaslye, pro EU MP Paul Farrelly stood down, and Labour's replacement maintained a virtual stoney silence on the issue, other than a line saying that Labour would negotiate a Labour Brexit.

In other areas in the North-east and Yorkshire, Labour MP's like Caroline Flint and Ronnie Campbell had also continually put out a reactionary nationalist pro-Brexit line for years. Is it any wonder that young progressive working-class voters saw no point in voting for a nunch of reactionaries, in those seats?

Anonymous said...

It is one thing to say to the Brexiteers, you were wrong, you were stupid, you were misled (and by all means keep ramming that down their stupid throats) but it is one giant leap to then say, therefore because I think you are wrong, stupid and gullible we will make your vote null and void!

This is the platform which Boffy's thinks would have been a success.
They might be as thick as pig shit but they do like their dignity!