May 29, 2015


Labour Doesn't Get Why The Tories Won (NICK COHEN, June 2015, Standpoint)

Labour saw the Tories win 99 more seats and two million more votes. It lost everywhere except in London. It lost Southampton Itchen, Ed Balls's Morley and Outwood, Bolton West, Telford and Derby North: seats that even Gordon Brown had held in 2010, when an exhausted party staggered to the polls after presiding over the worst financial crisis of our lifetime. In what were once the Labour heartlands of Scotland, only one Labour MP survived. In virtually every one of the 40 seats the SNP took from Labour, the nationalists now have a five-figure majority. My friends in the Scottish Labour party say Scotland has been caught in a nationalist spasm, and Labour will come back when the mania passes. Perhaps they are right, but I suspect they are comforting themselves: you don't push a landslide back up the hill just like that.

In the north of England and on the east coast the myth that UKIP would split the Right, while allowing a united Left to triumph, took the hammering it deserved. UKIP came second in 44 Labour and 76 Tory seats. It is not just that UKIP stopped Labour taking seats it should have won. It replaced Labour as the opposition in seats where it ought to be in contention. In working-class constituencies in Essex and Kent, where the Left ought to offer hope to struggling voters, Labour is not even in the game. The new battles are between Conservatives and UKIP. As for Wales, the lazy assumption is that it is a Labour fortress. But as Luke Akehurst -- a hardheaded activist in a Labour movement filled with wishful thinkers -- pointed out, the Tories held all their Welsh marginal seats and took two from Labour. Natalie Bennett, meanwhile, was one of the most useless party leaders Britain has ever seen -- a mumbling ill-informed embarrassment. Nevertheless, the Greens took one million votes that in other circumstances Labour might have collected. 

In short, despite being led by a mediocre Conservative prime minister, who has no answer to and often exacerbates the great problems Britain faces, despite the worst fall in real incomes since the 1920s, Britain has shifted to the Right.

The comforting notion that it has a "progressive majority," which one way or another will keep the Conservatives in their box, died on May 7. In 2015, the combined vote share of all right-wing political parties (Conservatives, UKIP and the Ulster Unionists) rose to 50.5 per cent of all votes cast. The left-leaning political parties (Labour, SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and SDLP) gained just 39.8 per cent. My colleague Michael Harris of the Little Atoms website says that if you include Liberal Democrats on the right-hand side of the ledger -- and as they were happy to vote for a party that had been in alliance with the Tories, you probably should -- you get an even worse result for the Left. In all, 58.4 per cent of the public voted for parties on the Right.

I cannot tell you how influential and damaging the consoling belief that Britain is a "progressive" country has been. It stopped the Left being frightened of the Right. It stopped it taking the fight against it seriously. In his bedtime story for lefties, The Conservative Dilemma, Jon Trickett, an ally of Miliband, argued that the Tories could not cope with the 21st century. They couldn't appeal to their base without appalling the "progressive majority", or vice versa. Miliband's Labour, he wrote in 2012, was now free to renounce the compromises of the hated Blair era. It could let rip, march leftwards, and "put an end to triangulation on to Tory territory". Every assumption he and thousands like him made has now turned to dust.

,,,for another, the results demonstrate that real incomes have risen, not fallen.
Posted by at May 29, 2015 4:02 PM

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