Brexit and Labour’s Disaster

by Henry on January 5, 2017

A piece I wrote on Brexit and the UK party system has just come out in Democracy. More than anything else, I wrote the article to get people to read Peter Mair. I didn’t know Mair at all well – he was another Irish political scientist, but was based in various European universities and in a different set of academic networks than my own. I met him once and liked him, and chatted briefly a couple of times after that about email. I wish I’d known him better – his posthumously edited and published book, Ruling the Void is the single most compelling account I’ve read of what has gone wrong in European politics, and in particular what’s gone wrong for the left. It’s still enormously relevant years after his death. The ever ramifying disaster that is the British Labour party is in large part the working out of the story that Mair laid out – how party elites became disconnected from their base, how the EU became a way to kick issues out of politics into technocracy, and how it all went horribly wrong.

The modern Labour Party is caught in an especially unpleasant version of Mair’s dilemma. Labour’s leaders tried over decades to improve the party’s electoral prospects in a country where its traditional class base was disappearing. They sought very deliberately and with some success to weaken its party organization in order to achieve this aim. However, their success created a new governing class within Labour, one largely disconnected from the party grassroots that it is supposed to represent. Ed Miliband recognized this problem as party leader and tried to rebuild the party’s connection to its grassroots. … However, as Mair might have predicted, there weren’t any traditional grassroots out there to cultivate. … Mair argued that the leadership and the base were becoming disengaged from each other, so that traditional parties were withering away. Labour has actually taken this one stage further, creating a party in which the leadership and membership are at daggers drawn, each able to stymie the other, but neither able to prevail or willing to surrender.

{ 183 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Placeholder 01.05.17 at 6:28 pm

Corbyn’s Labour is now the largest political party in Europe. He was soundly re-elected by the 600,000 members and by crushing margins by the new members and old members who left because of Blair alike. An asymmetric void perhaps.

2

Hidari 01.05.17 at 6:39 pm

Excellent essay. My only ‘complaint’ (and obviously it’s not a real complaint, merely a question about emphasis) is that it doesn’t make the links to the general crisis of the centre left in all ‘Western’ countries from the United States to Israel to Germany. Certainly the situation seems completely hopeless in almost all of the ‘developed’ countries as far as the Left* is concerned, but maybe this is just ‘the darkness before dawn’. Maybe.

*The article only deals with the ‘soft’ left but the ‘hard left’ has been in long term decline since the 1960s and, despite ‘dead cat bounces’ like the Syriza win, seems to be unable to formulate any coherent political response to our current situation, or at least not one that people will vote for.

3

Maria 01.05.17 at 6:51 pm

Seconding this. Into the Void was the most illuminating and also depressing book I read last year. Political parties in Europe may have a future of sorts, but the UK Labour party currently doesn’t.

4

gastro george 01.05.17 at 8:22 pm

A couple of quibbles:

“Conservative backbenchers—sometimes egged on by local Conservative activists—wanted to exhume and reanimate the corpse.”

Isn’t that evidence of an active connection between Tory MPs and the party activists?

“After this victory, Corbyn reached an armed detente with senior Labour MPs, under which each was prepared to tolerate the other until circumstances provided one side or the other with a decisive advantage.”

That’s extremely charitable to the PLP, who were at Corbyn’s throat as soon as he was elected. Detente has only really been in place since the second election victory.

5

MPAVictoria 01.05.17 at 8:58 pm

Speaking as a Canadian who is a member of the New Democratic Party I would crawl on glass to get a leader as principled and popular as Corbyn.

6

Layman 01.05.17 at 9:24 pm

“Detente has only really been in place since the second election victory.”

Indeed, in this case ‘detente’ looks rather more like defeat. The PLP didn’t opt to get along, they opted to fight, and got mauled.

7

Manta 01.05.17 at 9:55 pm

Wasn’t the MPs rebellion due mainly (at least in their telling) due to “electability” reasons? I.e., that under Corbyn leadership Labour could not win elections?

8

J-D 01.05.17 at 11:53 pm

This has all changed. Class and ethnic and religious identities no longer provide secure foundations for European parties, which have more and more tried to become “catchalls,” appealing to wide and diffuse groups of voters. People are not attached to parties for life anymore, often waiting until just before Election Day to decide whom to vote for. Party membership figures across Western Europe have shrunk by more than half in a generation.

Do you evaluate this change (on balance) positively or negatively? and why?

Also, since I’m commenting anyway, one minor query:

(Some European countries had different parties for Catholics and Protestants.)

Which countries did you have in mind? There are few European countries that have (or had) both enough Catholics for a significant Catholic party and enough Protestants for a significant Protestant party. I know about the Netherlands, which had separate Catholic and Protestant parties until the 1970s, when the Catholic party merged with the main Protestant parties (although there’s still a small Protestant party on the margins), but that’s just one country. Germany had a distinct Catholic party (but no specifically Protestant party) under the Wilhelmine Reich and the Weimar Republic, but not the Federal Republic; Switzerland has a Catholic-based party but no specifically Protestant-based party; where else? (There’s Northern Ireland, of course, but that’s a bit different.) What am I missing?

9

John Quiggin 01.06.17 at 1:47 am

The Labour Party is so weak that the Conservatives do not need to worry about Labour defeating them in the next election, or perhaps in the election after that.

I don’t think this is obvious, precisely because of the volatility of the situation. I remember people saying this about the Cameron government in 2015 and I objected at the time that no-one knew how the Brexit referendum will turn out. Now Cameron is gone and just about forgotten. It’s true that the Conservatives are still in, but it’s a very different crew.

More importantly, we haven’t yet seen what Brexit means, in any sense. May has been coasting on the referendum result, and Labour has been wedged, unable to oppose the referendum outcome and also unable to criticise May’s Brexit policy because she either doesn’t have one or isn’t telling. This can’t continue forever (presumably not beyond March), and when the situation changes, anything can happen.

Some scenarios where the Conservatives could come badly unstuck

(a) they put up a “have cake and eat it” proposal that is rejected so humilatingly that they look like fools, then cave in and accept minor concessions on migration in return for a face-saving soft Brexit
(b) hard Brexit becomes inevitable and the financial sector flees en masse
(c) train-crash Brexit with no agreement and a massive depression

The only scenarios I can see that would cement the current position are
(a) a capitulation by the EU on migration etc, with continued single market access
(b) an economically successful hard Brexit/non-fatal train crash

It seems to me that (a) is politically infeasible and (b) is economically unlikely

That’s not to gloss over Labour’s problems or your diagnosis, with which I generally agree.

10

mclaren 01.06.17 at 4:11 am

“…how party elites became disconnected from their base, how the EU became a way to kick issues out of politics into technocracy, and how it all went horribly wrong.”
This sounds exactly like what has happened to the Democratic party in America. Which suggests that there’s something transnational going on, much larger than the specific political situation in any given country…

11

kidneystones 01.06.17 at 4:21 am

The essay is excellent as we might expect, Henry. I’m not convinced that Labour had any other choice but to elect Corbyn. Single data points are always suspect, but the decision by the Labor bigwig (have succeeded in forgetting which) to mock ‘white van-man’ clearly suggests she was playing to a constituency within Labour primed to share in a flash-sneer at the prols. I’d have expected as much from any Tory. I have other quibbles, the decision by Labour to take a position on the referendum and on Remain always seemed critical to forcing Labour to adopt anti-immigrant Tory-light postures in order to have it both ways with working-class voters hostile to London and Brussels.

More problematic is this paragraph: “Research by Tim Bale, Monica Poletti, and Paul Webb shows that these new members tend to be well-educated and heavily left-wing. They wanted to join the Labour Party to remake it into an unapologetically left-leaning party. However, the research suggests that they aren’t prepared to put in the hard grind. While most of them have posted about Labour on social media or signed a petition, more than half have never attended a constituency meeting, and only a small minority have gone door to door or delivered leaflets. They are at best a shaky foundation for remaking the Labour Party.” Your questionable decision to deploy ‘they’ and ‘them’ muddies the reality a bit, as does your decision to rely on metrics from the past to predict future behavior.

I take your point that failing to attend a political rally, or go door-to-door, means something in a time when populist parties are in the ‘ascent.’ But as you point out this rise can only occur because the ‘old parties’ have failed so badly to connect activists and members. Again, that said, I’m still not convinced all is doom and gloom. Labour activists opposed to EU membership were effectively gagged/shamed by the elite right up to the present. It is only now this week, that Labour has elected to make English compulsory for new immigrants: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chuka-umunna-immigrants-should-be-made-to-learn-english-on-arrival-in-uk-classes-esol-social-a7509666.html

Labour wasn’t anything but Tory-lite until Jeremy and the new influx of members. I’m not personally in favor of the new policy. It does seem to me more Tory-lite. But the battles are now more out in the open. My guess is that Labour will survive and will rule again, but only if the party can persuade Scotland and Wales to remain part of the UK. Adopting Tory-lite policies is precisely what alienated Scots Labour voters and drove them into the arms of the SNP, so that’s that the PLP gives you.

Britain is entering a period of flux: jobs, housing, respect for all – including all those dead, white people who made such a mess of the world, and respect for all forms of work, and greater social and economic movement within Britain will likely go over quite well with large sections of the electorate. Strong borders and a sensible immigration policy is part of that.

12

Gareth Wilson 01.06.17 at 5:31 am

It’s white-van man, not white van-man.

13

kidneystones 01.06.17 at 6:58 am

@10 “This sounds exactly like what has happened to the Democratic party in America. Which suggests that there’s something transnational going on, much larger than the specific political situation in any given country”

“This sounds…” Yes, in general terms. Yet, the donor-class candidates could have and should have won in Brexit and in the US.

In the case of the Brexit, I argued before and after that simply allowing Labour candidates and members to express their own views publicly, rather than adhere to a (sufficiently unpopular) particular policy set by Henry’s elite would have negated the need to adopt anti-immigrant Tory lite stances – a straddle that fooled nobody and drove Labour voters to UKIP in not insignificant numbers.

In the case of the US, a Republican donor-class candidate should have been a Democrat donor-class candidate. Owing to the particular corruption of the Democratic party over the last 8 years, effectively run by the Clinton crime family, the field was unofficially limited to just one. The collapse of the Republican establishment from below still makes my heart sing. Would that the same might occur among Democrats.

Had, however, the Clinton campaign actually placed the candidate in Wisconsin, in Michigan, and in Pennsylvania rather than bank on turning off voters, we’d be looking at a veneer of stability covering up the rot now on display.

The point being: there’s always something transnational going on. I explained Brexit to my own students as a regional rebellion against London, as much as Brussels. Henry’s essay is good on Brexit and UKIP. Both the US and UK outcomes could have been avoided.

@12 Thank you for this, Gareth.

14

J-D 01.06.17 at 7:33 am

kidneystones

Britain is entering a period of flux: jobs, housing, respect for all – including all those dead, white people who made such a mess of the world, and respect for all forms of work, and greater social and economic movement within Britain will likely go over quite well with large sections of the electorate.

If Britain were to enter a period of jobs, housing, and respect for all, with greater social and economic mobility, it would be reasonable to expect most people to be pleased; but there’s no evidence that anything of the kind is happening, or is going to happen.

15

Igor Belanov 01.06.17 at 9:26 am

Layman @ 6

“The PLP didn’t opt to get along, they opted to fight, and got mauled.”

They lost the battle but are winning the war.

Corbyn has been keeping a very low profile since his re-election, proposals for reform such as mandatory reselection seem to have been dropped, and the left of the party is squabbling over whether it remains a Corbyn fan club or an active agent for the democratisation of the party. Party policy remains inchoate and receives little media publicity.

Michels hasn’t been disproved just yet, and I suspect the party remains immune to lasting reform, short of a major split.

16

J-D 01.06.17 at 10:39 am

Igor Belanov

… I suspect the party remains immune to lasting reform, short of a major split.

There are plenty of examples from the UK and other countries, including the Labour Party itself, of parties undergoing major splits, and the evidence doesn’t suggest that the experience is conducive to lasting reform.

17

gastro george 01.06.17 at 10:40 am

@Layman @Igor

Yes, after the second election, the PLP have opted for the long game, with the expectation that a disastrous General Election (one of the reasons why the talk up the possibility of an early one at every opportunity) will see a return to “normality”. In the meantime, the strategy is to make Corbyn an irrelevance, hence the lack of coverage in the MSM, except for a drip of mocking articles of which today’s by Gaby Hinsliff in the Graun is typical.

Corbyn and his organisation don’t help themselves but, faced with such irredentism, they have little leverage on the situation.

18

Dan Hardie 01.06.17 at 11:06 am

You don’t make a single mention of Scotland, which is a massive omission to make. (And frankly, it’s a particularly odd mistake for an Irishman: it’s supposed to be the English who blithely assume that where they live is coterminous with the whole United Kingdom).

I like a lot of the essay, but it’s gravely weakened by the fact that you’re prepared to discuss things like political elites and class allegiance- and, in a European context, religious allegiance- but you don’t mention national or regional political identities. You really can’t leave those things out and give an accurate picture of current British politics.

19

engels 01.06.17 at 11:27 am

Research by Tim Bale, Monica Poletti, and Paul Webb shows that these new members tend to be well-educated and heavily left-wing. They wanted to join the Labour Party to remake it into an unapologetically left-leaning party. However, the research suggests that they aren’t prepared to put in the hard grind.

The authors’ own account of research makes for an interesting contrast:

First up, we find that new members are not significantly younger or more working class – but they are more likely to be slightly less well-off and female. The average age of both old and new members is 51 and more than half of them are graduates (56% and 58% respectively). Whereas three quarters of them live in households in which the chief income earner (CIE) has a ‘middle class’ (ABC1) occupation (76% vs. 75%), a third (34%) of old members’ household gross income falls below the national average of around £35,000 –something that’s the case for 41% of new members. Moreover, women make up a greater proportion of the new members than of the older members (52% to 38%). Corbyn, then, does not seem to have attracted a very different type of crowd in many socio-demographic respects, except insofar as it is slightly less well-off and more gender-balanced.

Though it’s undoubtedly real, I’m not convinced the ‘clicktivism’ problem is as important as Henry would have us believe—could be a combination of alienation from the party structure (which could eventually dissipate) and changes in technology and consequently methods of organising (which wouldn’t need to).

In general, the fatalistic tone of this post rather betrays its studied even-handedness in my eyes. But I guess if anyone has a right to feel despondent right now it’s professional political scientists, whose understanding of their object of study is looking about as authoritative as mainstream economists’ did post-2008…

20

engels 01.06.17 at 11:31 am

No necessarily more left wing – although some of them think they are
New members are certainly not very different from the old members when it comes to their views on the state vs the market. The overwhelming majority of members are pretty left wing, whether they joined prior to the 2015 GE or after: they are pro-redistribution (91% vs 94%), believe that ordinary people do not get a fair share (94% vs. 96%), think that the management tries to get the better of employees (92% vs. 96%) and think that spending cuts have gone too far (92% vs. 99%).

21

dsquared 01.06.17 at 11:33 am

I’d very much agree with John at #10. One of the consequences of the phenomenon you’re discussing is that volatility is incredibly high. I’d never before seen a politically party as totally, irredeemably fecked as Fianna Fail in 2010, but look at them now.

22

Chris Bertram 01.06.17 at 12:53 pm

I agree that a Labour revival isn’t coming along soon. The problem is that a lot of people in Labour think and hope that it might, and that makes them very unwilling to start thinking about electoral alliances, because they are committed to standing candidates everywhere. Labour, imo, needs some further and serious bad shocks to get them into the frame of mind that could make an anti-Tory alliance possible. Once it is, FPTP could turn from the secret of Tory success into the mechanism for their destruction. But 2020 might be too soon.

23

RINO economist 01.06.17 at 3:12 pm

Re MPA Victoria,
Speaking as an expat North American who had Corbyn as constituency MP for eight years, I’d say be careful what you wish for.

Re Kidneystones,
“the Labor bigwig” who mocked ‘white van-man’ was none other than Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s neighbouring London Labour MP and ally, currently the shadow Foreign Secretary. I’m not sure this identification supports your point.

24

Guano 01.06.17 at 3:28 pm

Re Chris Bertram #22

Forming coalitions and alliances requires negotiation and making trade-offs and active listening: unfortunately there are probably too many people in the Labour Party who would find that very difficult. They appear not to be willing to negotiate even with their own members.

25

Igor Belanov 01.06.17 at 4:10 pm

Chris Bertram @ 22

I really can’t see the obsession with an ‘anti-Tory alliance’. Given that it involves allying with a party who recently were effectively part of a pro-Tory alliance, it only works in any sense if you think that the Tories have morphed into the far-right, or if you have a well-worked out programme of constitutional reform you want to implement.

The bit that concerns involving the SNP particularly baffles me. Given that they have been at daggers drawn with the Labour Party in Scotland, and that they are highly unlikely to step aside from any of their 90-odd % of Scottish seats to give their alliance partner a few more MPs, it seems a non-starter. This impression is magnified when you consider that the spectre of a Labour-SNP minority government was thought to have scared off potential Labour voters at the last election.

26

Chris Bertram 01.06.17 at 4:25 pm

or if you have a well-worked out programme of constitutional reform you want to implement.

PR

27

Stephen 01.06.17 at 5:01 pm

JQ@10: for scenarios that would cement the current Tory political position, have you considered
(c) internal problems in the EU (Euro crisis, massive unemployment, immigration problems, very dodgy banks) result in serious electoral upsets for EU project in countries outside the UK, entirely changing the context of Brexit.
I’m not saying that would be a good thing, I can see several resulting problems. But are you sure it isn’t possible?

28

Phil 01.06.17 at 5:31 pm

Since I put down my £3 to vote for Corbyn and have subsequently joined Labour as a full member, this particular fabula de me narratur, at least in part. And I think there are a couple of problems with it. As others have pointed out, “detente” is a very positive spin on the PLP’s collective attitude to Corbyn in 2015-16; this may apply to the “just make it work” faction described by Helen Lewis last summer, but (as Lewis also points out) many other MPs took the “let him fail in his own time” position – not detente so much as isolationism.

As for us new members,

While most of them have posted about Labour on social media or signed a petition, more than half have never attended a constituency meeting, and only a small minority have gone door to door or delivered leaflets.

To which all I can say is, give us a chance! I joined when Corbyn won; it took me another three months to get myself to a party meeting, and even then it was only a social. Since then – a year ago – I’ve managed to get to one constituency meeting and one round of leafletting (plus a few party socials). It’s a feeble record – and I actually know people in the local party. Getting active in a political party is a big change if you haven’t done it before – or even if you’ve been out of circulation for a couple of decades; it takes time to get into it. Having local party meetings suspended at just the time when we were most interested in politics didn’t help; not knowing quite what the party’s policy is on the single most important issue of the day isn’t great for motivation, either.

What particularly irked me about this criticism was that you then go on to dismiss us (sorry, but I am a member of the group you’re describing here) as

a flotsam of temporary activists who do not seem willing to engage in the slow boring of hard boards that would actually be required to remake the party

It’s a bit much to criticise us for not making an immediate impression and then for lacking staying power! Suppose we are engaging in the slow boring of hard boards, etc; what short-term results would you expect to have seen by now? The word ‘slow’ is a clue, surely.

A couple more nitpicks:

Corbyn was a reluctant nominee. He did not run because he thought he could win, but because someone had to represent the left in the leadership contest, and no one else wanted to do it. He only just got the necessary 15 percent support among MPs to make it onto the ballot paper, and that because a few MPs felt sorry for him.

“someone had to … no one else wanted to do it” is wrong twice over. Corbyn ran because the left of the PLP wanted to put forward a candidate and, in terms of seniority, it was his turn – McDonnell and Abbott had already stood in previous rounds. As for pity-nominations, the impression I had at the time was that many MPs who nominated Corbyn – those who later expressed regrets included – did so because they believed that it was right for the Left to be represented, as indeed it was. Your formulation is dismissive and mocking, which – apart from anything else – is liable to get in the way of your readers understanding what you’re describing.

I agree that Labour’s in a terrible state, incidentally, and

29

Phil 01.06.17 at 5:35 pm

Oops. Am I in perma-moderation, btw? Irksome if so.

I agree that Labour’s in a terrible state, incidentally, and I don’t think Corbyn’s going to get us out of it singlehanded. I had high hopes of Tom Watson, but that was when I was under the impression he was going to work with Corbyn. What we need most of all is clarity on Brexit – clarity on a position that surrenders as little as possible to the idiocy of Brexit, that is. Again, I don’t know if Corbyn’s the man to lead that particular charge – I’ve got high hopes of Keir Starmer, or I would have if I weren’t feeling a bit once-bitten by now. It’s some consolation to know that the party’s position under Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper would be much, much worse.

30

engels 01.06.17 at 7:03 pm

Btw I haven’t read Mair’s book yet (on top of the pile as we speak) but trying to invoke it as an authority for your Corbynista-bashing seems more than a little tenuous when it was published in 2013. I also wonder what is the explanation for (us) newbies being so lazy and unserious compared to the old guard?

31

Layman 01.06.17 at 7:35 pm

engels: “I also wonder what is the explanation for (us) newbies being so lazy and unserious compared to the old guard?”

Heh, engels, I’m sure it’s all that time you’re spending on my lawn.

32

Guano 01.06.17 at 8:01 pm

Phil #30

“What we need most of all is clarity on Brexit – clarity on a position that surrenders as little as possible to the idiocy of Brexit, that is.”

Most Labour MPs appear to be frightened of pointing out the blatant Brexit idiocies because of the way that the tabloid press will react. It’s going to have to be the public that shoulders the burden of pointing out that what the Government says it wants to achieve is unlikely to be available, and that all the Leave assumptions about negotiations and alternative trade deals are “heroic” (ie off-the-wall). Then when it is discovered that negotiations have failed and there are no alternative trade deals, the tabloid press will claim that it was the EU being beastly, and again I suspect many Labour MPs will be frightened of saying anything.

Gaby Hinsliff’s remedy of “getting back in touch with voters” has little meaning when voters are so divided and many voters find it hard to recognise what is true in the media.

33

Dipper 01.06.17 at 8:02 pm

Corbyn is just awful. A toxic mix of naivity, ego, and blundering stupidity.

His concept of role is almost non-existant. He walks onto a train without having pre-booked, finds it difficult getting two seats together, and decides on the spot that all trains must be nationalised. He spots a man sleeping rough and decides ending rough sleeping is his top priority. He blunders around like he’s just landed from another planet, sees an injustice and thinks he, Jeremy, is the first person ever to see such a terrible thing, and decides on the spot to make it his top priority to eliminate this evil by the simple policy expedient of saying he will eliminate it.

He doesn’t do policy in any recognisable sense. He does positioning statements which he assembles with mates and puts on his personal web site. Take his “Manifesto for Digital Democracy”. It claims to be a policy, but in reality its just a list of Things That Jeremy Thinks Are Good. It doesn’t appear to have gone through a discussion process or approval process. It is not clear if this is a party policy or just a personal document.

His position on Brexit is a disaster. On the issue which is coming to define politics in the UK he is neither clearly for it nor clearly against it. He gives the impression he finds it a dull subject. He is at best second choice for everyone, first choice for no-one; at worst, he is an irrelevance.

Worse, he appears completely oblivious to the power games being played out in his name. Neighbouring constituencies are to be carved up so Jeremy’s seat can be preserved. His son Seb is given a job in John McDonnell’s office. He is effectively held captive by a North London clique who look after him, tell him he’s great, and then use his “policies” as a checklist against which to assess conformance of MPs to The One True Corbyn Way and pursue vendettas.

His personality is completely unsuited to the job of Leader, let alone Prime Minister. Even if you believe in Jeremy’s policies you need to find someone else to implement them because he lacks any of the requisite capabilities.

Nothing is going to magically get better.

No matter how bad things get, under Jeremy they can always get worse.

references:

http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/digital_democracy_manifesto

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/22/shadow-minister-irate-labour-plan-save-jeremy-corbyn-seat-kate-osamor).

34

J-D 01.06.17 at 8:22 pm

effectively gagged/shamed

Any argument which treats being gagged and being shamed as effectively equivalent is not worth taking seriously.

35

Belle Waring 01.06.17 at 8:24 pm

kidneystones: “In the case of the US, a Republican donor-class candidate should have been a Democrat donor-class candidate. Owing to the particular corruption of the Democratic party over the last 8 years, effectively run by the Clinton crime family, the field was unofficially limited to just one.”

For crying out loud, dude…no. Just no.

36

Layman 01.06.17 at 9:05 pm

‘Unofficially limited’ dies give one the wiggle room to assert just about anything. It’s a way of lying which can’t be rebutted. If you say ‘but there were 3 candidates’, he’ll respond that he did say ‘unofficially’ limited. If you say ‘but two of them did quite well’, he’ll respond that he did, after all, say ‘unofficially’ limited. So he can take a case where there was actually a competitive race, and make it seem like there was never a competitive race. Of course, his post is, officially, approved by the moderators…

37

djr 01.06.17 at 10:22 pm

While most of them have posted about Labour on social media or signed a petition, more than half have never attended a constituency meeting, and only a small minority have gone door to door or delivered leaflets.

There’s a strong feel of “young folks aren’t doing politics the way my generation used to do politics” about this, especially given the activities you’re complaining they’re not doing. Is posting on social media achieving more or less than posting leaflets to fill up people’s recycling bins?

38

Hidari 01.06.17 at 10:32 pm

@22
The problem with this comparison is that the Fianna Fail resurgence is part of a world wide resurgence of the centre-right (and the far right): even those who did badly after the Great Recession (cf Greece).

Whereas the Labour Party’s travails, which so many people are so keen to pin wholly and completely on Corbyn, is part of a much more general worldwide collapse of the centre-left, which has been ongoing for the last 15 years and shows little sign of slowing down anytime soon.

39

Hidari 01.06.17 at 10:39 pm

@23
This is possibly correct, but presupposes that the rise of Sinn Feinn, Plaid Cymru and the SNP is because (for some mysterious reason), (parts of) Northern Ireland (parts of) Wales and (most of) Scotland have suddenly turned to the left, in defiance of global socioeconomic/geopolitical trends.

But maybe not. Perhaps these parties are in fact in sync with global political trends because they are all nationalist parties and nationalism is clearly on the rise at the moment. Perhaps the fact that they tend to tack to the left economically (now, certainly not in the past) is a ‘red herring’. Labour refuses to deal with these parties because they note (correctly) that the Labour Party has a vested interest in the UK remaining united, which, obviously, the three parties listed above do not. By empowering them, Labour might risk the split up of the UK, which would probably mean the end of the Labour Party (and, indeed, leftist politics in England as a whole).

Labour might have a point.

(the only exception to this are the British Greens, but they have yet to demonstrate that they can make any sort of major electoral breakthrough).

40

John Quiggin 01.07.17 at 12:25 am

Stephen @28 I agree, that’s another possible path to a good electoral outcome for the Conservatives. My general point is that anything can happen (and something surprising probably will)

41

J-D 01.07.17 at 1:49 am

djr

While most of them have posted about Labour on social media or signed a petition, more than half have never attended a constituency meeting, and only a small minority have gone door to door or delivered leaflets.

There’s a strong feel of “young folks aren’t doing politics the way my generation used to do politics” about this, especially given the activities you’re complaining they’re not doing. Is posting on social media achieving more or less than posting leaflets to fill up people’s recycling bins?

And what about constituency meetings? What’s the point of them? Apart from functioning as part of the social life of the people who attend them, what have they ever achieved — in past generations, never mind this one?

42

mclaren 01.07.17 at 3:43 am

kidneystones @14 claims: “I explained Brexit to my own students as a regional rebellion against London, as much as Brussels.”

If that’s correct, why did we get: [1] Trump/Sanders in the U.S., [2] Brexit in the UK, [3] repudiation of Matteo Renzi along with the referendum in Italy, [4] a probable win for Marine LePen in France (wait for it, you’ll be oh-so-shocked when it happens)?

`I do not understand the pushback [against transnational causes for these events]. Do they really believe that Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, the rise of many right-wing populist parties in Europe etc. have nothing to do with economics? That suddenly all these weird nationalists and nativists got together thanks to the social media and decided to overthrow the established order? People who believe this remind me of Saul Bellow’s statement that “a great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is strong.”’
Interview with economist Branko Milanovic in The New Republic, http://glineq.blogspot.de/2016/12/full-text-of-my-new-republic-interview.html?m=1

Scottish economist Mark Blyth has been making the same point: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/12/15/when-does-democracy-fail-when-voters-dont-get-what-they-asked-for/?utm_term=.0b8b5cf98cc4

I would suggest kidneystones is simply wrong. These are not idiomatic one-off events due to contingent political situations peculiar to each individual country. Something bigger is going on. If Marine LePen wins in France (and I predict she will), that will provide even more evidence. This looks like a global rebellian against globalization + neoliberal economics because the bottom 96% are realizing they’re getting screwed and all the benefits are going to the top 6% of professional class + licensed professionals + top 1% in the financial robber barony.

43

kidneystones 01.07.17 at 5:33 am

@43 Actually, I make no claim against trans-national developments. Quite the opposite.

Elsewhere, I’ve written that we are dealing with a world-wide tension between advocates of globalization and their opponents. Where you differ is in determinations and outcomes, which I argue are based on the actors, actions and dynamics of each state and which are, as such, unique. There is nothing at all inevitable about any of this and JQ very sensibly reminds us of the volatility of the present moment.

What is clear to me at least is that ideas and actions matter. Labour need not have decided in 2014, or so, to ban members from advocating either a referendum, or leaving the EU. I dug all this up at the time and the timeline is easy enough to recreate.

Austria stepped back from the brink, as did Greece when it repudiated Golden Dawn. The French right and left worked together to keep the presidency out of the hands of the FN, although it’s less clear how that successful these efforts will be in the future.

The next few years will be telling. I see no reliable evidence to indicate good fortune, or end times. The safest bet is more of the same, repackaged, with all the predictable shrieks and yells about ‘never before’ etc. that usually accompanies the screwing of the lower orders. The donor class is utterly dedicated to retaining power. I think JQ is spot on regarding alliances. We didn’t come this far just to have the wheels fall off.

The populism of the right (which I support in large measure) points the way. I’d have preferred to see a populism of the left win, but too many are/were unwilling to burn down establishment with the same willingness and enthusiasm of those on the right. Indeed, this thread has several vocal defenders of an utterly corrupt Democratic party apparatus busted cold for colluding to steal the nomination. There’s a reason donors forked over 1.2 billion to the Clinton crime family and it wasn’t to help Hillary turn over power to the average woman and man in America.

Ya think?

44

J-D 01.07.17 at 6:46 am

mclaren

How does voting for Trump look like ‘rebellion against … the financial robber barony’?

For that matter, how does voting ‘No’ in the Italian referendum look like ‘rebellion against … the financial robber barony’?

45

Hidari 01.07.17 at 9:15 am

@43, 45

Because the ‘soft’ left, in collaboration with the soft right (and the hard right) have worked assiduously since roughly about 1979 to destroy the ‘hard left’. ‘High points’ in this ‘epic battle’ include Neil Kinnock’s purging of Militant, the failure of the trade union establishment to (in any meaningful sense) support the miners’ strike (1984), the failure of the Democratic party establishment to get behind McGovern (1972), Carter’s rejections of Keynesianism (and de facto espousal of monetarism) in roughly 1977, Blair’s war on ‘Bennism’, the tolerance of/espousal of Reaganite anti-Communism by most sectors of the British left by the late 1980s/early 1990s, and so on.

So what we are left with nowadays is angry working class people who would, in previous generations (i.e. the 1950s, and 1960s) have voted Communist or chosen some other ‘radical’ left wing option (and who did vote in such a way in the 1950s/1960s) no longer have that option.

What the ‘soft left’ hoped is that, with ‘radical’ left wing options off the table, the proles would STFU and stop voting, or at least continue to vote for a ‘nice’ ‘respectable’ soft left party.

What they failed to predict is that (as they were designed to do) neo-liberal policies immiserated the working class, leaving that class angrier than ever before.

And so, the working class wanted to lash out, to register their anger, their fury. But, as noted before, the ‘traditional’ way to do that was off the table. Ergo: Trump, Brexit etc.

If you help crush the communists then don’t be surprised if, in 20 years time, you get the Nazis, because people who hate the system will vote to destroy it, and they will use whatever weapons are to hand to do so. If ‘left wing’ options aren’t available, they will choose ‘right wing’ ones.

We have all read this story book before: the ‘social democrats’ connived with the German state to crush the 1918/1919 working class uprising, and then were led, blubbering, to Dachau 20 years later. One wonders how many of them reflected that they themselves might be partially responsible for their fate.

In the same way: the ‘soft left’ connived and collaborated with the Right to crush the ‘radical left’ in the US and the UK (and worldwide) and then were SHOCKED!! and AMAZED!! that the Right don’t really like them very much and were only using them as a tool to defeat the organised forces of the working class, and that with the ‘radicals’ out of the way, the parties of the ‘soft left’ (with no natural allies left) can now be picked off one by one, at the Right’s leisure.

Boo hoo, so sad, oh well, never mind.

46

J-D 01.07.17 at 9:58 am

kidneystones

Ya think?

I think that the Democratic Party is unlikely to hand over power to the average man and woman in America, but I’m sure that the Republican Party is even less likely to do so; anybody who voted Republican in 2016 because it seemed the best chance of getting power for the average man and woman was played for a sucker.

(Incidentally, if ‘the donor class’ means the same thing as ‘rich people’, wouldn’t it be clearer to refer to them as ‘rich people’? and if ‘the donor class’ means something different from ‘rich people’, what constitutes the difference?)

47

gastro george 01.07.17 at 10:04 am

@Dipper

Any tirade against Corbyn is entirely pointless, because you’re not addressing the reasons why he was elected, or what he represents. I think most of those that support him have a varying degree of criticism, and many would prefer a more able leader. The problem for Labour is that there is not a more able leader available that understands the need to ditch Third Way nonsense. If any of the PLP “big beasts” had done this in any meaningful way, instead of plotting against him, they would be leader by now.

48

J-D 01.07.17 at 10:21 am

Hidari

So what we are left with nowadays is angry working class people who would, in previous generations (i.e. the 1950s, and 1960s) have voted Communist or chosen some other ‘radical’ left wing option (and who did vote in such a way in the 1950s/1960s) no longer have that option.

In the US, only tiny numbers of voters supported Communist candidates in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s true that the option of voting Communist no longer exists, because the Communist Party has stopped running candidates, but that seems to be a realistic response by the party to its derisory level of voter support. If there are people who still want to follow the Communist line, what they would have done in 2016 is turn out to vote against Trump (that’s what the party was urging on its website; the information is still accessible).

In Italy, on the other hand, it’s true that large numbers of voters supported Communist candidates in the 1950s and 1960s; and in Italy, voters still have the option of supporting Communist candidates, but the numbers of those who choose to do so have become much smaller.

People who voted for Trump weren’t doing so because they were denied the option of voting Communist; and people who voted ‘No’ in the Italian referendum weren’t doing so because they were denied the option of voting Communist.

If you help crush the communists then don’t be surprised if, in 20 years time, you get the Nazis, because people who hate the system will vote to destroy it, and they will use whatever weapons are to hand to do so.

The original Nazis emerged and rose to power in a context where the Communists were trying to destroy the system, and also seeking to crush the Social-democrats; close to the opposite of the pattern you’re describing.

49

Hidari 01.07.17 at 10:56 am

@28, @41

Yes, and another situation where ‘mostpeople’ have failed to follow the logic of a situation through. Many intellectuals can see that it is not in the EU’s interests for the UK to prosper out of the EU lest it ‘encourager les autres’. Fewer have pointed out that this works the other way, too. It is no longer in the UK’s interests for the EU to prosper (or, indeed, to continue), and a new nationalist orientated Conservative government might make moves in this direction.

As Jeremy Corbyn alone has had the perspicacity to point out, insofar as there is a political movement in the UK that is most closely aligned with Donald Trump’s Republicanism, it is the Conservatives under May (the UK’s latest intervention vis a vis the UN and Israel was a blatant attempt to curry favour with the new American administration).

And Trump, as we all know, is highly suspicious of the EU. Moreover, there is likely to be a battle between the ‘liberal (in the highly specific American sense) leaning’ intelligence services (the CIA etc.) and the Trump administration. Assuming Trump wins (not a certainty) it is possible/likely that Trump will use the newly ‘energised’ intelligence services to pursue a more ‘American nationalism’ orientated policy, and it is likely that this new approach will see the EU being viewed as much more of an economic competitor to the US, rather than a tool for the containment of Russia, as it is primarily seen at the moment.

And, thanks to Obama, the CIA, NSA etc. have far more leeway and freedom to act than they did even 20 years ago. It is also possible/likely that MI5/MI6 might be ‘let off the leash’ by a British (or English) nationalist orientated Conservative Government.

It is not implausible, therefore, that the US and the UK will use what ‘soft’ power they have to weaken the EU and sow division wherever they can. And of course the EU has enough problems of its own, such that these tactics might work. Certainly it is highly possible that the EU will simply not exist by 2050, or at least, not in the form that we have it at present.

50

Igor Belanov 01.07.17 at 11:48 am

dsquared @22

“One of the consequences of the phenomenon you’re discussing is that volatility is incredibly high. I’d never before seen a politically party as totally, irredeemably fecked as Fianna Fail in 2010, but look at them now.”

I think this is just one of the features of postmodern politics. For potential governmental parties they only have to retain enough support to be a realistic alternative, and even with 20% of the vote Fianna Fail had enough of a profile that an opportunistic campaign of opposition could lead to them recovering their fortunes to some extent at the next election. I suspect that even PASOK and New Democracy will receive a similar bounce at the next Greek election.

These kind of stances usually involve avoiding too close a link to certain social groups and maintaining a distance from potentially principled and activist party memebrships. This explains the hostility of Labour MPs towards Corbyn and the left of the party. They feel that ideological commitments and an orientation towards the poor and disadvantaged will reduce the party’s freedom of manoeuvre, damaging their chances of capitalising electorally on Tory failure.

Of course, they have not provided any reason why anyone of a left-wing persuasion should support such a cynical and opportunistic worldview, apart from the fact that the Tories are evil. And they then wonder why many people are alienated from politics.

51

gastro george 01.07.17 at 3:03 pm

@Hidari

“Fewer have pointed out that this works the other way, too. It is no longer in the UK’s interests for the EU to prosper (or, indeed, to continue) …”

Interesting, I’d not seen that elsewhere. I’d be pretty certain that this is the objective of people like Hannan.

“.. and it is likely that this new approach will see the EU being viewed as much more of an economic competitor to the US, rather than a tool for the containment of Russia, as it is primarily seen at the moment.”

Maybe less to do with competition than regulation? The Trump view is presumably that anything that restricts continued plundering of the economy, especially transnational institutions.

@Igor

“I think this is just one of the features of postmodern politics. For potential governmental parties they only have to retain enough support to be a realistic alternative …”

“This explains the hostility of Labour MPs towards Corbyn and the left of the party. They feel that ideological commitments and an orientation towards the poor and disadvantaged will reduce the party’s freedom of manoeuvre, damaging their chances of capitalising electorally on Tory failure.”

Very good.

52

gastro george 01.07.17 at 3:05 pm

” The Trump view is presumably against anything that …”

53

Ronan(rf) 01.07.17 at 3:22 pm

“Perhaps these parties are in fact in sync with global political trends because they are all nationalist parties and nationalism is clearly on the rise at the moment. “

Yes, they are clearly part of the nationalist turn. Or at least I assume that is true of Plaid Cymru and the SNP, but it definitely is of Sinn Fein, who are policy wise a leftist party, but ideologically first and foremost a nationalist one. You can see this in polling on their support base, which tends to be more reactionary* and culturally conservative than even the irish centre right parties, yet Sinn Fein as a political party often takes position (such as their strong support for gay marriage) in opposition to the preferences of a large chunk of their base.
This Is particularly the case with immigration, where for going on a decade local politicians have noted that this is one of the concerns they often hear in constituency work that they don’t make a priority in national politics. It’s difficult to (as Sinn Fein does) see yourself (rightly or wrongly) as the nationalism of a historically oppressed minority, and to support the rights of that minority in the north (I’m making no normative claims on the correctness of their interpretation) and then attack other minorities. This is why they’re institutionally , and seemingly ideologically, commited to diversity and multiculturalism in the south of ireland, while also being fundamentally a nationalist party. (Question is (1) does this posture survive the current leadership , and (2) is it enough to stave off explicitly nativist parties**) Afaict this is also true of the snp, I don’t know about PC.
But there’s still a lot of poison in it. “Anti englishness” , which a lot of this, (at least implicitly”) can encourage , might be more acceptable than anti immigrant sentiment, but it’s still qualitatively the same mind set.

*this is ‘re a big chunk if their base, but by no means the full story.

**basically what happens to the independent vote, which is (afaict)possibly the real populist turn in ireland.

54

Daragh 01.07.17 at 5:06 pm

dsquared @22 and Hidari @39

At the risk of sounding like I’m simply saying ‘but Ireland is special!’ I think the (partial) resurgence of Fianna Fail is a bit of a sui generis phenomenon. Irish politics have historically been tribal in a way that makes UK voters look like an exemplar of rational choice theory. It is only the very slightest exaggeration to say that my father’s vote in every general election he has participated in was determined in 1922, several decades before his birth – I’m sure other Irish Timberteers have experienced similar. Even then, FF is still far away from the kind of hegemonic dominance it enjoyed prior to the crash – when a poll result of 38% would have been regarded as disastrous – and the FF/FG combined vote total is still struggling to hit 60%. While I’d agree that this looks like pretty strong evidence for the ‘resurgence of the right’ thesis of European politics at first glance, the failure of the left in Ireland is more due to a) Sinn Fein and Labour being deeply imperfect vessels for the transmission of left-wing politics (albeit for very different reasons) b) the low-cost of entry into the Irish political system due to PR-STV leading to a splintering of the political left. Additionally, the attempt by former Fine Gael deputy Lucinda Creighton to tap into the supposed right-wing resurgence via the Renua party ended in an electoral curb-stomping as comprehensive as it was satisfying to witness. So I don’t think a surge in popularity for ‘the right’ is what’s going on here.

It should also be noted that Michael Martin is an infinitely more talented politician than Enda Kenny (even though that is a bit of a ‘world’s tallest dwarf’ comparison), and has explicitly positioned FF to the left of FG, but also as a fundamentally ‘centrist’ and ‘moderating’ force. In other words, he’s pursuing a political strategy similar to that of Tony Blair, and is reaping political dividends for doing so. Shocking, I know! (And FWIW – I have a deep, fundamental dislike of FF and all it stands for and would never consider voting for them, lest anyone think I’m here to carry water for Martin).

Unfortunately, for those arguing the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is only getting clobbered in the polls because of the perfidy of the PLP/the biased right-wing media/dark forces within MI5’ the Irish experience doesn’t offer much comfort. After 2010 the various hard-left groupuscules in Ireland put aside their factional differences and were able to mount a relatively united front in two successive elections, and under leaders like Richard Boyd Barrett, Joe Higgins and Clare Daly. All of these individuals are relatively charismatic, as well as possessing strong skills as political communicators (attributes even Corbyn’s most ardent defenders would admit he is lacking in).

They also had an issue, in the form of water charges, that allowed them to develop an extremely clear, very popular political position which resonated with large swathes of the electorate in every region of the country (again, something UK Labour is severely missing).

The results? Just over 5% of the vote in the last election for a total of 10 TDs, and basically zero influence over the actual governance of the country.

This is not because of some vast array of structural forces and barriers are arrayed against them (as discussed above, PR-STV makes the barrier to entry into Irish politics very low). It is because, as with Corbyn, the electorate neither trusts them to competently administer the state, nor supports their vision for its future socio-economic development. You can argue that the electorate are ignorant, or mistaken in this regard, but given that Corbyn has at various points in his career argued that East Germany, Cuba and Venezuela represent optimal socio-economic systems, I would argue that they’re probably right on this particular question.

55

RichardM 01.07.17 at 5:10 pm

In the US, only tiny numbers of voters supported Communist candidates in the 1950s and 1960s.

The effect is not direct. It comes down to the fact that for the average working person, there two main ways they could be significantly better or worse off; wages could be higher, or tax could be lower.

One of those is a thing that is promised by political parties, one isn’t.

The actual rate of tax, or the feasibility or secondary effects of changing, don’t really matter. Leaving the EU, whatever else it means, means not paying tax to it. A belief that the tax paid to the EU ends up as a net benefit to the payee requires a level of trust in the system that is easy to argue against.

The US has lower taxes than any other developed democracy, and so presumably wouldn’t carry on functioning as one if you cut further. Which means to deliver further tax cuts, you need a politician who doesn’t understand, doesn’t care, or just possibly is in hock to those who wish the US harm.

Traditional Communists similarly considered the collapse of the system to be more of a goal than a worry. Without them, arguments against higher wages always prevail.

56

Barry 01.07.17 at 5:12 pm

Kidneystones: “Owing to the particular corruption of the Democratic party over the last 8 years, effectively run by the Clinton crime family, the field was unofficially limited to just one.”

Seconding Belle here – ‘effectively run’ means ‘defeated by another, and forced to work your way back up’.

57

vasilis 01.07.17 at 6:08 pm

Not PASOK though.

58

novakant 01.07.17 at 8:04 pm

The Labour Party as a functioning opposition seems to have vanished – seriously: what did the general public hear from them over the last year or so apart from party infighting and accusations of anti-semitism?

I still support many of Corbyn’s policies and ironically so does much of the general public. But he lost my trust with his ridiculous wavering over Brexit and ineffectiveness as a politician in general.

I actually don’t think it would be too hard to organize an effective opposition considering the fact that the Tories have no idea at all what they are doing and their policies are not in the interest of the vast majority of people. But you have to hit them over the head with this on a daily basis and I have no idea why nobody does it.

59

Dipper 01.07.17 at 8:06 pm

gastro george @48

Any tirade against Corbyn is entirely pointless

Well I wouldn’t say it was entirely pointless. It is important to establish a baseline, and in this case the baseline is that Corbyn’s leadership is most unlikely to deliver electoral success for Labour.

But your main point is a fair one, so time to try a different tack.

Policy is a misleading guide to whether a party is left or right. The current conservative party is running a significant deficit, is committed to maintaining the NHS free at the point of use, has implemented a living wage, has introduced same-sex marriage, and at the last election touted state spending as the way to improve economic performance. all these policies were traditionally associated with left-wing parties.

Policy is free, and it isn’t particularly sticky. Given those features, policy is not a particularly reliable feature. No private company would make policy its chief USP as it can easily be replicated and customers show little loyalty based on policy. So if policy is not a route to political identity, what is?

What voters want from a political party is that the party holds them and their interests paramount as it goes about its business. When it implements a policy, it makes sure that policy is implemented in a way that benefits them and their group. They want to be sure that in the difficult and complex world of politics, the people they have voted for will look after their interests. The modern Conservative party understand this. So Teresa May puts her target market – Just managing families – dead centre in her Downing Street speech. And so far she has very high levels of public support.

By contrast, Labour doesn’t seem to know who it represents, who it is batting for, and what it wants for them. It doesn’t give clear signals about where British workers stand in its hierarchies of priorities. Until someone stands up and clearly articulates a vision of ambition for the mass of the people then Labour will get out-fought in all significant political debates.

60

J-D 01.07.17 at 8:21 pm

Hidari

Certainly it is highly possible that the EU will simply not exist by 2050, or at least, not in the form that we have it at present.

What a weak and trivial assertion.

It is possible that the US will not exist by 2050 in the form that we have it at present. It is possible that the UK will not exist by 2050 in the form that we have it at present. It is possible that the Conservative Party [the Democratic Party] [the Labour Party] [the Republican Party] will not exist by 2050 in the form that we have it at present. It is possible that MI5 [MI6] [the CIA] [the NSA] will not exist by 2050 in the form that we have it at present. [Lather, rinse, repeat.]

‘The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.’ (Winston Churchill, A History Of The English-Speaking Peoples)

61

Hidari 01.07.17 at 9:28 pm

@52
Yeah maybe I should clarify that. Obviously much of the UK’s trade is done with the EU so in that sense the UK does have an economic interest in the EU prospering, but only in terms of individual states. The UK (arguably) does not have an interest, any more in the EU as a unified political/economic entity and if, as seems plausible, the UK now moves in a more Trumpian direction, this tendency might well continue.

@55 Your evidence argues against your own argument. You have persistently argued, across many CT threads, that the only and sole reason that Labour is doing badly right now is because of Corbyn. And then the evidence you provide is that the left is doing badly in Ireland too. Do you see the problem?

The fact is that if there was any serious alternative to Corbyn, the PLP would have put him or her forward in the recent leadership election, and s/he would probably have won. But there is no such candidate because the problems the Labour party face are much more deeply rooted than the current crisis caused by the Corbyn leadership and these problems are faced by almost every centre-left political party in the West. (The ‘radical’ left, as I pointed out above, having essentially vanished in almost all of the developed world).

Let’s not forget that as recently as the late 1990s, almost every country in Europe was governed by the centre left. Now, almost none* of them are. That’s the scale of the collapse. Indeed the usual phrase for this phenomenon is ‘Pasokification’. Not Corbynification (at least not yet).

Corbyn certainly doesn’t have a solution to this problem but then nobody else does either, so there you go.

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21695887-centre-left-sharp-decline-across-europe-rose-thou-art-sick

*depending, of course, on what you mean by ‘centre left’.

62

Layman 01.07.17 at 9:45 pm

Hidari: “And, thanks to Obama, the CIA, NSA etc. have far more leeway and freedom to act than they did even 20 years ago.”

In what way do they have more leeway, specifically; and why is that ‘thanks to Obama’?

63

djr 01.07.17 at 10:44 pm

All elections for the last few decades:
Many people in the UK: “Can we have our share of the benefits of globalisation?”
Tacit cartel: “After the City has taken the lion’s share and we’ve had our cut, there might be something left that you can have.”

Referendum:
Tacit cartel: “Vote Remain or everybody will lose the benefits of globalisation!”

64

John Quiggin 01.07.17 at 10:51 pm

It’s obviously in the interests of (hard) Brexiteers that the EU should fail, but it’s not clear what they can do to promote this end, except in the sense that hard Brexit itself will be mutually damaging. Supporting ideological soulmates like Le Pen might help but could be a two edged sword (do Le Pen voters welcome British support?)

By contrast, there’s a great deal that the EU can do to harm the UK at modest cost, for example, by objecting whenever they try to carry over existing WTO arrangements made under EU auspices.

65

J-D 01.07.17 at 10:58 pm

Igor Belanov

Of course, they have not provided any reason why anyone of a left-wing persuasion should support such a cynical and opportunistic worldview, apart from the fact that the Tories are evil.

Preventing people from doing evil seems like a powerful motivation to me.

66

engels 01.07.17 at 11:10 pm

I’d have preferred to see a populism of the left win, but too many are/were unwilling to burn down establishment with the same willingness and enthusiasm of those on the right.

Maybe so, but in our defence: we actually mean it.

67

J-D 01.08.17 at 12:09 am

RichardM

Traditional Communists similarly considered the collapse of the system to be more of a goal than a worry. Without them, arguments against higher wages always prevail.

It’s commonplace for minimum wages to be increased without Communists playing any role.

68

djr 01.08.17 at 12:54 am

JQ @ 65

Yes, there’s a definite thread of wanting to make the EU fail from the Brexiters (at the same time as believing that it’s going to fail anyway, which is why we should get out). As you say, it’s not clear what the UK could do to make this happen, especially from the outside pissing in.

Vice versa, whatever “the EU” thinks about wanting the UK to fail, “the EU” can’t do much about it, and the interests of the member states’ governments may or may not be the same. On the other hand, if there’s one way to get them to respond with one voice, the UK attempting to damage Germany’s relationship with France might be it.

69

Daragh 01.08.17 at 2:05 am

Hidari @62

“You have persistently argued, across many CT threads, that the only and sole reason that Labour is doing badly right now is because of Corbyn.”

That’s not so much a mischaracterisation of my views as it is an out and out falsehood. I agree that there are many causes for Labour’s current difficulty. However, having a leader who consistently polls a distant third behind ‘Don’t Know’ when voters are asked who would make the best PM is not only one of those reasons, it is the primary reason Labour has gone from ‘struggling’ under Miliband to ‘in existential peril” today.

“And then the evidence you provide is that the left is doing badly in Ireland too. Do you see the problem?”

No, because the evidence I provided was that of political groupings pursuing explicitly Corbynite strategies and policies under maximally favourable conditions and still getting utterly clobbered, contra the expectations of many Corbynistas here and elsewhere that absent sabotage by the PLP/the Tory Press/MI5/The Freemasons that Corbyn’s Labour would be readying itself for government.

“The fact is that if there was any serious alternative to Corbyn, the PLP would have put him or her forward in the recent leadership election, and s/he would probably have won.”

There are dozens of serious alternatives to Corbyn. I have no doubt that, say, Keir Starmer, Dan Jarvis, Chuka Umunna, Hillary Benn and Liz Kendall would all be vastly more popular with the electorate than Corbyn is, and would do a far better job opposing May given the massive, continually open goal that is Brexit. (Though, to be fair, Corbyn is so politically incompetent he’s managed to find a political stance on Brexit guaranteed to alienate both Leavers AND Remainers, so even zero opposition would probably be more effective than him. We are, after all, talking about the man who failed to make political hay out of IDS resigning from the cabinet because he found Osborne’s policies too heartlessly right-wing).

The problem is that none of these people are acceptable to the current Labour party selectorate, which is comprised of people whose ideological preferences are hugely at divergent from the electorate as a whole, and who have largely brought into Corbyn’s somewhat creepy and (IMHO) frankly juvenile cult of personality. In other words, if there’s a crisis of the left affecting UK Labour, it is in no small part due to the inability of the party selectorate to accept that the party needs to appeal to voters that do not think exactly as they do.

“Let’s not forget that as recently as the late 1990s, almost every country in Europe was governed by the centre left.”

This is not only a highly, highly contentious statement (Kohl was in power until 1998, Chirac succeeded Mitterand in 1995, Aznar became PM of Spain in 1996 and Fianna Fail came to power with the PDs in 1997, among other, successful centre-right politicians of the late 90s I’m too lazy to google right now) all you’re really saying is ‘centre-right parties came to power after centre-left parties lost elections’, which is about as analytically insightful as the observation that sunsets generally follow sunrises.

“Corbyn certainly doesn’t have a solution to this problem but then nobody else does either, so there you go.”

Except with Corbyn leading Labour there is zero space for other politicians within Labour to develop a political strategy for reconnecting to the political mainstream. He’s not only a big part of the problem, he’s a massive impediment to finding a solution. Which is why I find the willingness of so many on the nominal left to offer him even the mildest of support so utterly, totally baffling. It’s like trying to cure lung cancer by going from one pack a day to two.

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J-D 01.08.17 at 2:43 am

novakant

I actually don’t think it would be too hard to organize an effective opposition considering the fact that the Tories have no idea at all what they are doing and their policies are not in the interest of the vast majority of people. But you have to hit them over the head with this on a daily basis and I have no idea why nobody does it.

That can’t be the whole truth: you must know why you yourself aren’t doing it, and the reasons that apply to you could easily apply to other people as well.

There are people making statements daily about how what the Tories are doing is not in the interest of the vast majority of people; but with what effect? maybe the job is harder than you imagine.

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J-D 01.08.17 at 3:03 am

Dipper

What voters want from a political party is that the party holds them and their interests paramount as it goes about its business. When it implements a policy, it makes sure that policy is implemented in a way that benefits them and their group. They want to be sure that in the difficult and complex world of politics, the people they have voted for will look after their interests. The modern Conservative party understand this. So Teresa May puts her target market – Just managing families – dead centre in her Downing Street speech.

Anybody who thinks that the Conservatives are going to hold paramount the interests of ‘just about managing’ families has been played for a sucker.

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kidneystones 01.08.17 at 5:06 am

Corbyn, like Trump, is the consequence – not the cause of the some twenty years of failed policies. Vastly more popular than Corbyn isn’t saying much. Some 20 percent of those who pulled the lever in November for Trump don’t believe he’s qualified for his new position.

Henry’s essay does a good job, I think, of identifying the general problem Labour faces. As for the leadership, it’s going go be extremely difficult to find a senior Labour PLP big beast who did not vote for the Iraq war/Blairites, or who did not oppose even the referendum on Brexit, not to mention Leave. Both of these issues are deal-breakers, it seems, for some of the more active members still remaining in Labour. Left-leaning Labour voters, especially those in Scotland, are unhappy with Tory-lite and with the pro-war positions of the Blairites. Labour voters hostile to London generally (many in Wales), and to the focus on Europe, rather than depressed regions of Britain, are unlikely to rally around PLP figures who spent much of the run-up to the vote calling Leave supporters closet racists.

Actions and decisions have consequences and the discussions that seem to distress a few here and there (not to mention Labour’s low-standing in the polls) are both long overdue and essential if Labour plans on offering a coherent platform on anything. Running on the NHS and education and even housing was fine for a while, and might still be so. Intervening in Syria, Libya, and Iraq complicates matters considerably, as does forcing Labour supporters to adhere to either side of the Remain/Leave case.

A little civility and good will here and there would do a world of good, but I’m aware that discussion is better suited to Henry’s earlier post on science fiction.

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J-D 01.08.17 at 6:58 am

kidneystones

Corbyn, like Trump, is the consequence – not the cause of the some twenty years of failed policies.

So, what you’re saying is that the present is the consequence and not the cause of the past? is that it?

Shall we ponder for a moment? …

Actions and decisions have consequences …

Thank you, Captain Obvious! Your work here is done.

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ZM 01.08.17 at 7:20 am

“It’s obviously in the interests of (hard) Brexiteers that the EU should fail, but it’s not clear what they can do to promote this end, except in the sense that hard Brexit itself will be mutually damaging.”

I don’t think this is right. Australia has neighbours that we aren’t in a trade and currency and migration zone with, but I don’t think Australia wants these countries to fail economically or any other way. I don’t see why Britain would want the EU to fail — the UK is better off being neighbours with stable prosperous countries in the EU than a lot of failed states pulling out of the EU I would think….??

“While most of them have posted about Labour on social media or signed a petition, more than half have never attended a constituency meeting, and only a small minority have gone door to door or delivered leaflets.”

My observations is that people do more voluntary work of this hands on kind with non-profit advocacy groups than political parties.

Maybe as the major political parties became more similar, and weren’t polarised in the sense they were in the post-war era to the 80s, people prefer to volunteer for specific causes they believe in, rather than for major political parties.

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J-D 01.08.17 at 7:57 am

ZM

It’s not ‘Britain’ that wants the EU to fail; it’s the people who were strong supporters of UK withdrawal from the EU who want that, because to them failure of the EU would provide vindication, or at least a plausible appearance of it.

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novakant 01.08.17 at 9:19 am

you must know why you yourself aren’t doing it, and the reasons that apply to you could easily apply to other people as well.

I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to organize the opposition.

There are people making statements daily about how what the Tories are doing is not in the interest of the vast majority of people; but with what effect?

Seriously, I don’t see that. Now there might be a big media conspiracy to drown out these voices, but I think it’s more plausible that the current Labour leadership is just not very good at this game.

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Hidari 01.08.17 at 10:05 am

‘I don’t see why Britain would want the EU to fail — the UK is better off being neighbours with stable prosperous countries in the EU than a lot of failed states pulling out of the EU I would think….??’

Yeah just to be absolutely precise (again) I don’t think the UK would ever want the EU to fail, exactly. But if the perception gains ground that the EU is trying to shaft the UK (and remember it’s in the EU’s interests to do just that) ‘tit for tat’ moves can spiral out of control and might be politically popular.

The joker in the pack is the new Trump Presidency. Almost all American Presidents since the war have been (either de facto or de jure) pro-EU for reasons of realpolitik. Trump might go either way but we know he holds grudges. In recent months Angela Merkel chose to give Trump veiled lessons on human rights, whereas the May administration has done its utmost to ditch all its previous ‘opinions’ and fawn all over him.Who is Trump likely to like most?

If the UK goes to Trump and begs for help in its economic war with the EU, Trump might listen.

More generally (and a propos of nothing, more or less), it might be ‘number magic’ but at least since the late 19th century ‘Western’ history tends to divide into 30 year blocks (more or less). You had the 40 year bloc between the Franco-Prussian war and 1914. Then of course the 30 years of chaos between 1914 and 1945. Then the Trente Glorieuses between 1945 and 1975. Finally we had the era of the ‘two neos’: neoliberalism at home, and neoconservatism abroad (AKA the ‘let them eat war’ period) between 1976 and 2006.

We now seem to be moving into a new era of Neo-Nationalism, with a concommitant suspicion of trans-national entities (e.g. the EU), a rise in interest in economic protectionism, and increasing suspicion of immigration. Needless to say, this is not a Weltanschauung that makes things easy either for the Left or for Liberals. One might expect both the soft and hard right to thrive, on the other hand.

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Igor Belanov 01.08.17 at 10:25 am

JD @66

“Preventing people from doing evil seems like a powerful motivation to me.”

The problem is that merely asserting that the Tories are bad does not necessarily mean that people will (or even should) automatically assume that you are a viable or less evil alternative. Indeed, the response of the Labour Party’s leading lights after the 2015 election was to minimise the distance between themselves and the Tories, and their actions during the ‘interregnum’ between Miliband and Corbyn demonstrated that they were quite willing to connive with evil in the shape of Tory welfare policy as they assumed it would appease ‘aspirational voters’.

This is the crux of the divide within the Labour Party. Corbyn’s political career has concentrated on defending those at home or abroad who cannot or find it difficult to defend themselves. The majority of Labour’s career politicians argue that these people are politically marginal and defending their interests will not win elections or achieve political power. To some extent they have a point, but they fail to acknowledge that their own brand of cynical opportunism has alienated not just many Labour members but also many potential voters.

The accusations of anti-Semitism and sympathy for dictators made by Corbyn’s enemies were so virulent not just in an attempt to smear his reputation, but also to try and salve their own consciences, having thrown so many of their moral scruples aside in an increasing futile quest to secure the support of the mythical median voter.

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gastro george 01.08.17 at 10:46 am

@Dipper

Where to start …

“Policy is a misleading guide to whether a party is left or right.”

You what?

I would have thought that policy, by which I mean actually implemented policies and actions, with real effects, rather than rhetoric, sound-bites or general bullshit, is precisely how we determine if a party is left or right.

As for the remainder of that paragraph:

“The current conservative party is running a significant deficit …”

As any decent economist, and even George Osborne, will tell you, the deficit is an outcome of the economy, not under the direct control of the chancellor so, despite the rhetoric, it’s not really meaningful to use as a policy target. Further, IIRC, in the history of modern advanced economies, I believe they have run deficits in something like 98% of years, so the presence of a deficit is hardly unusual if you’re in government.

“… is committed to maintaining the NHS free at the point of use …”

This is just a bullshit phrase and, in the context of actual policy, entirely meaningless. The Tory party has a long term project to privatise large sections of the NHS, and is currently driving it into the ground as a means to this end. New Labour laid the foundations for this to happen, so is equally to blame. No self-respecting left party would go anywhere near those policies.

“… at the last election touted state spending as the way to improve economic performance.”

More sound-bites. Nothing is delivered. Believe it or not, the state spends money with this aim all of the time. The scope of what new spending is to be delivered is likely to be small.

The other items sound like you think that we are still in the centrist liberal nirvana of Blair/Clegg/Cameron where we were governed by managerialist technocrats, concerned with “what works”, delivering much the same policy no matter who was elected, only competing with each other on the basis of media platitudes. But that has caused massive resentment, failed, and is the reason for Brexit and Corbyn. Precisely because none of those parties were delivering policies that benefited most people.

Indeed, I think that you will find that 600,000 Labour Party members believe that there is, or rather should be, a big dividing line in policy between themselves and the Tory Party.

“The modern Conservative party understand this. So Teresa May puts her target market – Just managing families – dead centre in her Downing Street speech.”

This reads like it has come directly from Central Office. Do you really believe that the Tories give two hoots about “just managing families”? Did Hammond reduce Osborne’s austerity plan in any way in the last Budget?

Labour, as a whole, certainly doesn’t seem to know who it represents ATM. There are multiple reasons for that: an irredentist PLP, a media sympathetic to the PLP and determined to trivialise or ignore Corbyn, and the disorganisation and incoherence of Corbyn and his organisation amongst them. But deposing Corbyn and returning to neoliberal bullshit won’t solve the reasons why he exists.

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bruce wilder 01.08.17 at 7:01 pm

Brexit has not happened yet, so it can be whatever you want it to be: that freedom to project counterfactuals tends to accentuate the centrifugal not the consensual as far as diversity of opinion is concerned. I actually think Corbyn is unusually wise for a Labour leader to mumble and fumble a lot at this stage. If it is a personal failing, it is appropriate to circumstances. The Tories have given themselves a demolition job to do. If your opponent is handling dynamite, best not to get close and certainly a bad idea to try to snatch it from them.

From the standpoint of Labour constituencies like Corbyn’s own in North London, taking The City down a peg or three would possibly be a means of relief, but if any Brexit negotiating “event” triggered an exodus of financial sector players the immediate political fallout would be akin to the sky falling and certainly would cause consternation among Tory donor groups not that supportive of May’s brand. And, failing to invoke Article 50 is likely to be corrosive to the Tories in ways that benefit Labour as much as the Liberal Democrats only if Labour refrains from expressions of hostility to Leave voters — a point too subtle for some Blairites, apparently.

There are a lot of different ways for Brexit to sink the Tory ship. May could be forced to procrastinate on invoking Article 50. Invoking Article 50 by Royal Prerogative could bring on a constitutional crisis, or at least a dispute over whether Article 50 has been invoked at all in a way that satisfies the Treaty. Having invoked, the EU may well step in their own dog poop, with overtly hostile or simply opportunistic gambits, underestimating the costs imo but otherwise as JQ suggests.

The whole negotiating scheme will almost certainly run aground on sheer complexity and the unworkable system of decision-making in the European Council. That could result in procrastination in an endless series of extensions that keep Britain effectively in for years and years. Or, one side or both could just let the clock run out, with or without formally leaving negotiations. Meanwhile, at home, in addition to The City, Scotland and Ireland are going to be nervous, possibly hysterical.

I suppose if you think the EU is fine just as it is, it is easy to overlook the glaring defects in its design, particularly the imperviousness to reformist, adaptive politics. The EU looks to go down with the neoliberal ship — hell, it is the neoliberal ship! I suppose the sensible Labour position on the EU would be a set of reform proposals that would paper over different viewpoints within the Labour Party, but that is not possible, because EU reform is not possible, which is why Brexit is the agenda. Corbyn’s instincts seem right to me; Labour should not prematurely oppose Brexit alienating Leave voters nor should it start a love-fest for an EU that might very shortly make itself very ugly toward Britain.

The Euro certainly and the EU itself may well break before the next General Election in Britain opening up policy possibilities for Tories or Labour that can scarcely be imagined now. It is not inconceivable to me that Scandanavia, Netherlands and Switzerland might be persuaded to form a downsized EU2 sans Euro with Britain and a reluctant Ireland.

In my view, Corbyn as a political personality is something of a stopped clock, but as others have pointed out, Labour like other center-left neoliberal parties have been squandering all their credibility in post-modern opportunism. A stopped clock is right more often than one perpetually fast or slow.

Labour has a chance to remake itself as a membership party while the Tories play with Brexit c4 (PE-4). Membership support is what distinguishes Labour from the Liberals and transforming Labour into a new Liberal party is apparently what Blair had in mind. Let Brexit mature as an issue and let Labour try out the alternative model of an active membership base.

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J-D 01.08.17 at 7:40 pm

novakant

I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to organize the opposition.

You’re not, of course. But when you wrote ‘I have no idea why nobody does it’, it wasn’t immediately clear to me that what you meant was ‘I have no idea why the Labour leadership doesn’t do it’ (where ‘it’ referred back to ‘hit them over the head with this’, and ‘them’ referred back to ‘the vast majority of people’ and ‘this’ referred back to ‘the fact that the Tories have no idea at all what they are doing and their policies are not in the interest of the vast majority of people’).

There are people making statements daily about how what the Tories are doing is not in the interest of the vast majority of people; but with what effect?

Seriously, I don’t see that.

Perhaps that’s a result of where you’ve chosen to look. Seriously, where have you looked? have you, for example, looked at the Labour Party’s website?

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J-D 01.08.17 at 7:44 pm

Igor Belanov
If you think Labour is just as evil as the Conservatives, then obviously you have no motivation to support Labour against the Conservatives.

Is that what you think, that Labour is just as evil as the Conservatives?

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bruce wilder 01.08.17 at 8:34 pm

Sidenote to J-D @ 8 on parties with religious identification

The disappearance of religious affiliation or identity as an organizing principle in Europe is interesting. You might recall that the British Tory Party was an Anglican Party, committed to establishment and the political disability of Catholics and Dissenters, as defining elements of their credo. Despite the extreme decline in religious observance in Britain, I imagine there remain strong traces of religious identity in British party identification patterns.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Greek Orthodox Church plays a political role in Greece and Cyprus, though the current SYRIZA government is somewhat anti-clerical. Anti-clerical doctrines have been revived in France by tensions with Muslims.

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Stephen 01.08.17 at 8:37 pm

Hidari, ZM, J-D

We need to distinguish between
(a) people in the UK who want the EU to fail, in the sense of the other EU countries failing economically and becoming impoverished. If there are any such, they are complete idiots, but I haven’t come across them.
(b) people in the UK who want the EU to fail, in the sense of the grand ever-closer-union EU project, with a ruling supranational state paying no attention to the wishes of its people, being abandoned. There are indeed such people; they would probably argue that it is in fact the grand EU project that has resulted in some EU countries failing economically and becoming impoverished. Are they wrong?

85

djr 01.08.17 at 9:41 pm

There really is a strong element to the Brexiteer mindset that the UK leaving is the first step in the break up of the EU. (Because everyone else also wants to leave, but haven’t been brave enough to do it until they see plucky Britain showing the way.)

“EU carrying on much the same without us” would be a bad outcome in this worldview. Definitely much worse than “all the individual countries doing great, but no EU”, and opinions differ on where “EU breaks up with much economic losses and some fighting” fits on the scale.

ZM: Compared to Australia, I think the difference is the degree of unity between your neighbours. Team Brexit don’t want to be Canada to the EU’s USA. This isn’t new: preventing the continent from being united without us has been one of the main goals of our foreign policy for the best part of a millenium.

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J-D 01.09.17 at 1:36 am

bruce wilder

The disappearance of religious affiliation or identity as an organizing principle in Europe is interesting.

You raise a more general point than the specific remark I was originally responding to, that some European countries had different parties for Catholics and Protestants.

In varying ways and to varying extents, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Austria, Ireland, and Luxembourg have all had historical experience of contrasts within the party system between parties more aligned to the Catholic Church and parties of a more secular bent; but none of them have enough Protestants to have significant specifically Protestant political parties. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway all have party systems with parties aligned with their respective established Lutheran churches and parties of a more secular bent; but none of them have enough Catholics to have significant specifically Catholic political parties.

But the larger trend you indicate is interesting, and the merger of Catholic and Protestant parties in the Netherlands is related to it (as perhaps also is the establishment in Germany of the CDU on a cross-denominational basis, in contrast with the earlier specifically Catholic basis of the Zentrum).

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Faustusnotes 01.09.17 at 3:28 am

84 comments about why labour can’t win, lots of blaming Corbyn but no one has mentioned Scotland. Without forming an alliance with the SNP labour can never again win power, regardless of how popular they are. The alternative – the SNP being somehow destroyed and labour regaining its Scottish stronghold – is likely impossible. So the question becomes who is better able to negotiate a deal with the SNP – Corbyn or a reheated tony Blair? I would suggest it’s Corbyn. Labour will win again once they get the guts to s al that deal, which we know milliband and his mates will refuse to do.

Of course if brexit happens and Scotland leaves then England will be permanently Tory. But once brexit happens no one in the rest of the world is going to care about who rules crumbling, backwards, stagnant Britain (even more so if it’s little England).

88

kidneystones 01.09.17 at 6:15 am

@ 88 “84 comments about why labour can’t win, lots of blaming Corbyn but no one has mentioned Scotland.”

comment 12 “My guess is that Labour will survive and will rule again, but only if the party can persuade Scotland and Wales to remain part of the UK. Adopting Tory-lite policies is precisely what alienated Scots Labour voters and drove them into the arms of the SNP, so that’s that the PLP gives you.”

comment 19 “You don’t make a single mention of Scotland, [Henry] which is a massive omission to make. (And frankly, it’s a particularly odd mistake for an Irishman: it’s supposed to be the English who blithely assume that where they live is coterminous with the whole United Kingdom).”

comment 26 ”The bit that concerns involving the SNP particularly baffles me. Given that they have been at daggers drawn with the Labour Party in Scotland, and that they are highly unlikely to step aside from any of their 90-odd % of Scottish seats to give their alliance partner a few more MPs, it seems a non-starter. This impression is magnified when you consider that the spectre of a Labour-SNP minority government was thought to have scared off potential Labour voters at the last election.”

comment 40 “This is possibly correct, but presupposes that the rise of Sinn Feinn, Plaid Cymru and the SNP is because (for some mysterious reason), (parts of) Northern Ireland (parts of) Wales and (most of) Scotland have suddenly turned to the left, in defiance of global socioeconomic/geopolitical trends.”

comment 73 “Left-leaning Labour voters, especially those in Scotland, are unhappy with Tory-lite and with the pro-war positions of the Blairites.”

comment 81 “Or, one side or both could just let the clock run out, with or without formally leaving negotiations. Meanwhile, at home, in addition to The City, Scotland and Ireland are going to be nervous, possibly hysterical.”

Happy New Year!

89

derrida derider 01.09.17 at 6:41 am

Its true you can get just about any outcome at an election with three parties in a first-past-the-post system, so its possible for Labour to win a majority from here with a complete Conservative collapse. But that just says something about the arbitrary nature of FPTP, and anyway it sure aint where I’d put my punting money. And if it does happen it will very clearly be DESPITE Corbyn and his old Trot backers, not because of them – I reckon some of the posters here are living in fairyland.

What I can’t understand from this distance is why the Lib-Dem’s stocks aren’t rising rapidly. Brexit should be energising their base for a start. They oughtta be loudly and very rudely, in the headline-creating style of Trump, crying “we wuz robbed” about that referendum and hence denying the government’s legitimacy. This would have the secondary effect of intensifying divisions in both the Labour and Tory parties on the issue (they need Bill Clinton – not Hillary, she’s a hopeless strategist – to explain triangulation to them).

Electorates have, as dsquared implied, amazingly short memories – surely they’re not still paying the price for the wanton idiocy of that coalition?

90

J-D 01.09.17 at 7:37 am

faustusnotes

What makes you think it’s impossible for Labour to win a majority of the seats in England and Wales? They have, after all, done it before.

And what makes you think the SNP would be interested in a deal with Labour? What’s in it for the SNP?

91

ZM 01.09.17 at 8:27 am

Stephen,

“(b) people in the UK who want the EU to fail, in the sense of the grand ever-closer-union EU project, with a ruling supranational state paying no attention to the wishes of its people, being abandoned. There are indeed such people; they would probably argue that it is in fact the grand EU project that has resulted in some EU countries failing economically and becoming impoverished. Are they wrong?”

I would think the last thing the UK wants is a whole lot of failed countries next door in Continental Europe if the EU failed spectacularly like that.

But I think I can see what you mean — some people in favour of Brexit might want to see the EU disband and fail as a transnational political entity so the countries within the EU go back to having more national Sovereignty, but they want the EU to fail in this sense without actually hoping that the EU fails because all the countries in the EU become economically and politically unsalvageable.

Is that about right?

92

Igor Belanov 01.09.17 at 8:38 am

JD @ 83

“If you think Labour is just as evil as the Conservatives, then obviously you have no motivation to support Labour against the Conservatives.

Is that what you think, that Labour is just as evil as the Conservatives?”

Trading terms like ‘good and evil’ is a bit hyperbolic and misleading. But there are certainly a good chunk of Labour politicians who are ‘just as evil’ as many Conservative politicians in their obsession with achieving power through the art of manipulation and in their willingness to sacrifice disadvantaged people at home and abroad to their bean-counting electoral calculus. Even now some are promoting a system of ‘two-class’ immigration controls that adversely hit poorer migrants, while others have suggested that Labour is a party for those who work, not the ‘undeserving poor’.

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Guy Harris 01.09.17 at 9:20 am

bruce wilder:

It is not inconceivable to me that Scandanavia, Netherlands and Switzerland might be persuaded to form a downsized EU2 sans Euro with Britain and a reluctant Ireland.

Is that spelled EFTA? (Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland are members; Sweden, Denmark, and the UK used to be members; Ireland and the Netherlands never were.)

94

gastro george 01.09.17 at 2:37 pm

@derrida derider

“What I can’t understand from this distance is why the Lib-Dem’s stocks aren’t rising rapidly. “

Well they are rising, but they are more than a little hampered by the fresh memory of the coalition.

@Igor

“Even now some are promoting a system of ‘two-class’ immigration controls …”

A classic Third Way policy, that offers some superficial attractiveness, addresses populist “concerns”, while the effects are only felt by the lower orders, leaving the managerial classes free to carry on with business-as-usual.

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faustusnotes 01.09.17 at 3:04 pm

J-D, when was the last time that labour won enough seats to govern the country without winning any in Scotland? I don’t know how to easily obtain such information but I would suggest to you it is a fairly rare occurrence. Even under Tony Blair a lot of the seats were in Scotland (and Blair benefited from a remarkable LibDem success in Scotland and Wessex which will never be repeated). Now I’ll grant you it’s possible that the Tories will be so unpopular 5 or 10 years from now that Blair’s achievement could happen again (and I think Labour did it in 1945 too) but it’s entirely possible for the Labour Party to get a huge swing and still fail to win without help from the SNP. Realistically, Labour’s chances depend on the SNP, and trying to win without them means hunting down an electoral alchemy like they found in 1997 – which is hard to do and risky to depend upon.

If Corbyn can remake himself as a left wing populist (I think he lacks the fire to do it, but whatevs) and the electorate can be convinced that the negative consequences of Brexit are the Tories’ fault and not Europes (remember the British are always willing to blame foreigners for their problems) then Labour might be able to win without Scotland. But that’s a pretty big ask, in total.

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novakant 01.09.17 at 3:24 pm

have you, for example, looked at the Labour Party’s website?

No, but then nobody looks a party websites. People don’t red manifestos, they get their info from various news sources, and you have to be present there with the message you want to convey, day in, day out. Good intentions and policies are not a media strategy – something Labour sadly seems to be lacking.

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engels 01.09.17 at 3:45 pm

Even now some are promoting a system of ‘two-class’ immigration controls that adversely hit poorer migrants, while others have suggested that Labour is a party for those who work, not the ‘undeserving poor’.

Find you a Blairite careerist who can do both
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/rachel-reeves-brexit-immigration-labour-mp-riots-uk-conference-speech-a7334266.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/rachel-reeves-says-labour-does-not-want-to-represent-people-out-of-work-10114614.html

98

Dipper 01.09.17 at 6:02 pm

@engels 98

Rachel Reeves is spot on. The commonality of interests between workers who want to get out and work and non-working workers who would rather someone else takes the strain exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt.

The only think workers have is their work, their energy, skills, and abilities. If you discount those things then workers have no power and are completely dependent on the state for their existence.

99

gastro george 01.09.17 at 6:05 pm

@engels

And Reeves, like Umunna, gets funding from PwC.

100

engels 01.09.17 at 7:32 pm

The commonality of interests between workers who want to get out and work and non-working workers who would rather someone else takes the strain exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt.

I (a) want to go out and work (need to pay the mortgage) and
(b) would rather someone else did it (if J didn’t have to—there are more interesting things to do with my time)

Does that mean that the commonality between me and myself only exists in the minds of people who regard me with contempt?

101

Stephen 01.09.17 at 7:56 pm

ZM

Entirely right.A whole lot of failed countries next door in Continental Europe his the last thing anyone in the UK would want.

Seeing the EU disband as a transnational political entity, or at least to reform itself so that the current impoverishment of many EU countries is reversed, would be an entirely different matter, and it is not clear what the rational objections would be.

Mind you, that would probably involve having Jean-Claude Junker being carried out of the EU Commission offices, kicking and screaming. Not obviously an objection.

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gastro george 01.09.17 at 8:15 pm

@Dipper

“The commonality of interests between workers who want to get out and work and non-working workers who would rather someone else takes the strain exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt.”

Did it occur to you that these cohorts aren’t static, but might overlap substantially? Maybe you should read some figures from Joseph Rowntree or similar. 300k-400k people move between employment and unemployment each month. Two thirds of those gaining employment are low-paid.

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J-D 01.09.17 at 8:18 pm

derrida derider

What I can’t understand from this distance is why the Lib-Dem’s stocks aren’t rising rapidly.

I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think that you can’t understand, I think that you don’t want to understand, witness …

… surely they’re not still paying the price for the wanton idiocy of that coalition?

Yes, of course that’s what it is. Obviously. It could hardly have been more predictable.

104

Brett Dunbar 01.09.17 at 8:31 pm

Faustusnotes @96

The last time Labour won an absolute majority of English seats was 2005. Labour won 323 of 529 English seats. The information is fairly easy to find on Wikipedia. Labour came second in popular vote in England, but benefited from a systematic bias in the distribution of seats.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2005_(England)

105

J-D 01.09.17 at 8:53 pm

faustusnotes

J-D, when was the last time that labour won enough seats to govern the country without winning any in Scotland? I don’t know how to easily obtain such information but I would suggest to you it is a fairly rare occurrence.

The information is easily accessible, so my recommendation to you would be a diet of less pontification and more research. The 315 seats Labour won in England and Wales in 2005 (that’s two elections back) would probably have been a high enough total by itself to form government (and indisputably was higher than the number of seats the Tories won in England and Wales); the 357 seats Labour won in England and Wales in 2001 (that’s three elections back) certainly would have been enough.

Now I’ll grant you it’s possible that the Tories will be so unpopular 5 or 10 years from now that Blair’s achievement could happen again

In that case, you’re granting that you were in error in your earlier claim (the one I was questioning):

Without forming an alliance with the SNP labour can never again win power

You also repeat:

Realistically, Labour’s chances depend on the SNP

without answering the obvious question: ‘Why would the SNP be interested in a deal? What’s in it for them?’

106

Hidari 01.09.17 at 10:46 pm

‘The commonality of interests between workers who want to get out and work and non-working workers who would rather someone else takes the strain exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt.’

Fascinating fact: Britain still has a landed aristocracy (and a Royal Family).

107

engels 01.09.17 at 11:00 pm

The only think workers have is their work, their energy, skills, and abilities.

Aka labour power, it’s also the only thing unemployed workers have—only difference is in their case they’re not able to sell it.

108

engels 01.09.17 at 11:06 pm

commonality of interests

Thought for the day: making being unemployed even more miserable than it is probably isn’t going to improve your bargaining position as a worker…

109

derrida derider 01.10.17 at 2:21 am

FFS, J-D@104, cut me a little rhetorical slack. My point was indeed that I don’t think past strategic incompetence is likely to be a barrier to future Lib-Dem success. And the current UK political environment makes that especially so. It just depends if the Lib-Dems have the people to recognise and seize their opportunity.

Dsquared succinctly notes @22 that past ineptitude (actually, worse) led directly to really nasty outcomes for Fianna Fail supporters yet that has not prevented Fianna Fail riding high at present. And that is not at all untypical of long-lived political parties’ experience in parliamentary democracies.

110

J-D 01.10.17 at 2:59 am

Igor Belanov

Trading terms like ‘good and evil’ is a bit hyperbolic and misleading.

In that case, I am ready to accept your apology for misleading me by introducing the term ‘evil’ into this discussion:
Of course, they have not provided any reason why anyone of a left-wing persuasion should support such a cynical and opportunistic worldview, apart from the fact that the Tories are evil.
Do you have a way of expressing your point without using the term ‘evil’, so that it won’t be so misleading?

111

J-D 01.10.17 at 3:06 am

novakant

Now there might be a big media conspiracy to drown out these voices, but I think it’s more plausible that the current Labour leadership is just not very good at this game.

I don’t regard failure to achieve something very difficult as evidence of incompetence, and my opinion is that getting your statements regularly reported in the news media is very hard (and I don’t think we have to assume a media conspiracy for this to be true). You haven’t provided any reason to think that getting statements regularly reported in the news media is easy.

112

Placeholder 01.10.17 at 4:14 am

“Fascinating fact: Britain still has a landed aristocracy (and a Royal Family).”

The richest person is Britain is the 25 year old Duke of Westminster. God that’s like a joke.

113

faustusnotes 01.10.17 at 6:17 am

Well! Those majority achievements of labour were more recent than I thought but still before the era of UKIP and the collapse of the lib dems. With UKIP spoiling the labour vote and the lib dem collapse not really favouring labour, it’s going to be much harder for them to win government than it has in the past without Scotland.

J-D, I would have thought that the benefit to the SNP of a deal would be keeping the Tories out and forcing the whole country to the left. Isn’t that enough reason?

114

Dipper 01.10.17 at 9:19 am

@ gastro george 103

Did it occur to you that these cohorts aren’t static, but might overlap substantially?

Yes. I know. The benefits system discourages this as getting back onto benefits from having worked is a difficult process. Some people prefer not to take jobs because the risk that when the job ends they will not be able to get cash from the benefits system in a timely way.

115

Mercurius Londiniensis 01.10.17 at 9:26 am

Bruce Wilder at 81:

“If your opponent is handling dynamite, best not to get too close and certainly a bad idea to try to snatch it from them”.

True to form, Mr Corbyn is trying to get his hands on the red stick just weeks before the first explosion is due to go off: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/09/jeremy-corbyn-uk-is-better-off-out-of-eu-with-managed-migration

116

novakant 01.10.17 at 10:40 am

Oh great, Corbyn has just jumped on the Brexit battle bus and given up on free movement:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jan/09/jeremy-corbyn-uk-is-better-off-out-of-eu-with-managed-migration

Good riddance, Labour

117

Layman 01.10.17 at 12:23 pm

“The benefits system discourages this as getting back onto benefits from having worked is a difficult process. Some people prefer not to take jobs because the risk that when the job ends they will not be able to get cash from the benefits system in a timely way.”

Doesn’t this suggest that it isn’t the benefits that are the disincentive, but rather the ‘difficult process’ of returning them after losing work? Should be easy to solve, if someone actually wanted to solve it.

118

Hidari 01.10.17 at 12:37 pm

@113
I’m sure he worked his way up to that position via hard work and using his own initiative. Perhaps the Latin motto for his aristocratic family is ‘Be a striver, not a shirker’.

119

Brett Dunbar 01.10.17 at 12:42 pm

In fact the only elections where Labour won power where they wouldn’t have done without Scotland are 1964 and Feb 1974. Until 1983 the Conservative party held a decent number of Scottish Constituencies. Indeed even winning a majority of the Scottish popular vote in 1956.

120

gastro george 01.10.17 at 1:58 pm

@faustusnotes

“With UKIP spoiling the labour vote …”

There’s actually scant evidence for this. It might seem like this from some of the aggregate data but, if you look at the detail, most working-class UKIP votes come from former Tory voters.

121

gastro george 01.10.17 at 3:10 pm

@Dipper: “The commonality of interests between workers who want to get out and work and non-working workers who would rather someone else takes the strain exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt.”

Me: “Did it occur to you that these cohorts aren’t static, but might overlap substantially?”

@Dipper: “Yes. I know.”

Que?

So their commonality “exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt” but … they are substantially the same people.

122

Stephen 01.10.17 at 3:39 pm

Hidari @107: Further fascinating facts: Belgium, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden still have Royal Families and recognised aristocracy, some of whom are very rich. Japan still has a Royal Family; the kazoku, the former aristocracy, are not officially recognised as such but some of them are very rich.

Not quite sure what the moral of this is.

123

Igor Belanov 01.10.17 at 4:12 pm

JD @ 111

The ‘evil’ in that sentence should have been in inverted commas as I was illustrating a tactic of Labour politicians rather than expressing my own point of view.

124

engels 01.10.17 at 4:22 pm

Some people prefer not to take jobs because the risk that when the job ends they will not be able to get cash from the benefits system in a timely way.

If that’s true then maybe the solution would be to provide them with decent jobs rather than temporary shit work? But hey—why think rationally when you can kick the dog…

125

J-D 01.10.17 at 6:10 pm

derrida derider

My point was indeed that I don’t think past strategic incompetence is likely to be a barrier to future Lib-Dem success.

It won’t affect their chances forever, but it is plainly affecting them now, and your apparent expectations about how quickly the effect will dissipate are unrealistic.

126

J-D 01.10.17 at 6:25 pm

The ‘evil’ in that sentence should have been in inverted commas as I was illustrating a tactic of Labour politicians rather than expressing my own point of view.

Well, that’s the kind of clarification that isn’t. I’m left guessing at your original meaning. Maybe I’m wrong, but the best guess I have is that you meant that the only rhetorical appeal that Labour politicians have is to argue that the Tories are evil. If that’s what you mean, I suggest that arguing that your opponents are evil can be an effective rhetorical tactic. But I’m still puzzled, because as far as I know Labour politicians don’t accuse the Tories of being evil.

127

Phil 01.10.17 at 6:26 pm

@121 – I spent some time going through the figures after the last election, and it seemed to me that four different things accounted for the UKIP surge, such as it was.

Firstly, they picked up votes from all over; there were seats where all the three main parties lost 2-3% and UKIP put on 6-9%. But UKIP were big news in 2015 (gee, thanks, BBC), in a way that’s just not going to be the case in 2020.

Secondly – and very importantly – UKIP took votes from the Far Right. Over and over again, looking at some Northern seat where the UKIP vote had risen from (say) 5% in 2010 to 20% in 2015, I’d notice that the 2010 results also included 8% for the BNP and 2% for the English Democrats, or something similar. They hoovered up the fash vote, in short, and in some of those places the fash vote was more substantial than we’d like. But they’ve done it now; there’s no additional source of far-right votes that they could tap into to take that 20% up to 30%.

Thirdly, the 2015 election was the year of Lib Dem collapse; in a lot of seats a chunk of the vote seems to have gone straight from the Lib Dems to UKIP, presumably because some people voted on the basis that they wanted to punish the Tories but they certainly weren’t going to vote Labour (or vice versa). That’s not only a one-off resource but one that’s going to turn negative at the next election; the Lib Dems are doing rather nicely at the moment.

Lastly, there were seats where UKIP picked up votes that should have gone to Labour. Typically these were former Labour seats which were expected to swing back to the Labour Party; in the event, instead of Labour putting on 5-6% (and taking the seat) Labour put on 1-2% and UKIP put on 5%+. The perception of a UKIP surge, which was strongly connected with the coverage they were getting in the media (see first point), effectively put the lid on a possible swing to Labour in several places. But this is as close as they got to “spoiling the Labour vote” or taking votes from Labour – and, again, it’s not likely to be the case next time round.

I’m still optimistic, in a very heavily qualified (not to say heavily hearted) sort of way.

128

Gareth Wilson 01.10.17 at 7:12 pm

Another fascinating fact: everywhere from the United States to North Korea has people rich enough that they don’t have to work, and whether there’s an actual aristocracy has no correlation with how many of them there are.

129

Brett Dunbar 01.10.17 at 7:26 pm

Layman @ 118

Simplifying the bureaucracy involved in claiming after a short period of employment is one of the reasons for introducing Universal Credit. UC replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance and a number of other out of work benefits. Unlike JSA a UC claim doesn’t end immediately when you start work so resuming getting benefits is simple.

130

Ronan(rf) 01.10.17 at 8:03 pm

“I think the (partial) resurgence of Fianna Fail is a bit of a sui generis phenomenon.”

I’m not sure about sui generis, but Fianna Fail is probably a little, comparatively, peculiar

https://politicalreform.ie/2017/01/10/fianna-fail-as-irelands-natural-governing-party

(other than that though I dont think Irish political tribalism is all that unusual, even in a European or UK context context, and the old party system has been breaking apart for 3plus decades. The crisis just intensified it)

131

Pavel 01.10.17 at 10:46 pm

After Corbyn’s speech, is Labour the new NDP and the LibDems the new Liberals? Are LibDems the only official pro-Remain party at this point? What a mess.

132

novakant 01.10.17 at 11:31 pm

Are LibDems the only official pro-Remain party at this point?

There’s also the Green Party.

133

J-D 01.11.17 at 12:22 am

faustusnotes

Well! Those majority achievements of labour were more recent than I thought …

Hence the recommendation that I made to you.

… but still before the era of UKIP and the collapse of the lib dems

It is true that even the most recent occasions when Labour won a majority of seats in England and Wales were before the recent increase in support for UKIP. But there is no particular reason to think that UKIP will achieve the same sort of results at the next election and some reason to doubt it. (This is apart from the detailed analysis already given by Phil, suggesting that the extent to which UKIP is bad for Labour electorally has been overstated.) There is no basis for estimating the electoral performance of UKIP once the UK has withdrawn from the EU. Possibly support for UKIP will be just as high at the next general election, or even higher, but possibly it will collapse. We can only guess. Possibly opinion polling after the withdrawal will give some clue.

It is also true that the most recent occasions on which Labour has won a majority of seats in England and Wales were in a context where the Liberal Democrats were doing much better than they are now. I don’t expect the Liberal Democrats to recover to their former high point by the time of the next election, although recent opinion polls suggest they are recovering a bit. But it’s not clear how important a strong performance by the Liberal Democrats is to Labour’s prospects. Labour was able to win a majority of seats in England and Wales in 1966, back when the Liberals were doing as badly as the Liberal Democrats are now, or possibly even worse.

I would have thought that the benefit to the SNP of a deal would be keeping the Tories out and forcing the whole country to the left. Isn’t that enough reason?

First, it’s not clear how important keeping the Tories out and forcing the whole country to the left are as objectives for the SNP. Second, it’s not clear that if the SNP made a deal with Labour it would increase the chances of keeping the Tories out and forcing the whole country to the left.

134

derrida derider 01.11.17 at 12:25 am

“Are LibDems the only official pro-Remain party at this point? ” – Pavel @130
Yes, exactly. That’s their opportunity.

Corbyn has just thrown out a lot of his base – the antiracist multiculturalists and the civil libertarians. Not the first time he and his followers have gratuitously shot themselves in the foot.

There is now a YUUGE political space for the Lib-Dems to fill. If they can’t leverage that into becoming the second party and relegating Labour to third then they really are incompetent.

135

J-D 01.11.17 at 12:34 am

Strictly as a matter of historical fact, Rachel Reeves is wrong: the Labour Party was founded as a party for the unemployed (among others), in the sense that it aimed at getting jobs for the unemployed. The first Labour manifesto, for the 1900 general election, called for ‘Useful Work for the Unemployed’ (and also for welfare benefits, in the form of ‘Adequate Maintenance from National Funds for the Aged Poor’ and ‘Adequate Maintenance for Children’).

But even if she were historically accurate, what difference does it make? It is just as bad for a party to decide never to change from the way it used to be as it is for an individual. (That 1900 manifesto also called for ‘No Compulsory Vaccination’.)

136

J-D 01.11.17 at 5:04 am

Perhaps the Latin motto for his aristocratic family is ‘Be a striver, not a shirker’.

The Web offers a few different translations for Virtus non stemma, but I favour translating it as ‘The man, not his ancestors’, a nicely ironic motto to go with any hereditary coat of arms.

137

Igor Belanov 01.11.17 at 8:34 am

JD @ 126

“But I’m still puzzled, because as far as I know Labour politicians don’t accuse the Tories of being evil.”

I’m afraid they generally do, particularly when it comes to elections and getting the core vote out. ‘Lesser-evilism’ is one of the few ‘weapons’ that centrist parties still possess.

138

J-D 01.11.17 at 10:44 am

Igor Belanov

I’m afraid they [Labour politicians] generally do [accuse the Tories of being evil]

I’m afraid there’s no reason to take your word for it. If it were as general as you say, it would be possible to quote at least a few specific examples.

Although, as I wrote before, I still think it could be an effective rhetorical tactic (whether it’s one they actually use or not).

139

Dipper 01.11.17 at 11:46 am

Taking pot shots at hereditary wealth is easy. However, the late Duke of Westminster who died last year was well aware of the reasons for his wealth. When asked he if he had tips for entrepreneurs he said “Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror,” (from https://www.ft.com/content/57f2dec2-5e7d-11e6-bb77-a121aa8abd95). In that context the motto ‘The man, not his ancestors’ may well be a cautionary warning to each Duke of Westminster to live up to the challenges and opportunities that hereditary wealth has provided.

It isn’t aristocrats who are holding back the working classes. Labour is committed to not bringing back grammar schools because although some bright pupils do better under grammars schools, the overall results are lower than for similar comprehensives. So it is Labour policy to sacrifice the futures of bright working class children to aid less bright ones. Of course, their own children are exempt from such restrictions, going to a variety of private schools, grammar schools, and highly selective state comprehensives that mysteriously they always seem to get entry to despite living miles away.

140

novakant 01.11.17 at 1:26 pm

The good news keep on coming:

The government is seriously considering imposing a £1,000-a-year levy on every European Union skilled worker recruited by British employers after Brexit, the immigration minister has disclosed.

(…)

“It would be helpful to the British economy and to British workers who feel they are overlooked because of other people coming into the country getting jobs they would themselves like to get,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jan/11/britain-considering-1000-a-year-levy-for-skilled-eu-workers-robert-goodwill

These people are insane.

141

Brett Dunbar 01.11.17 at 1:31 pm

Engles @124

That was one of the problems with JSA it was intentionally designed to prevent part time work. If you were on JSA you effectively had a 100% marginal tax rate as all earnings were immediately deducted from benefits. Basically the reasoning was that if you prevent the long term unemployed from taking temporary work employers will have to offer permanent full time positions. What actually happened was that long term unemployed people whose employability skills had deteriorated were unable to ease back into the labour force by taking a part time or weekend job.

UC was deliberately designed to make taking a short term or temporary job actually worthwhile, rather than leave people on benefits for decades.

142

gastro george 01.11.17 at 5:25 pm

@Dipper

“It isn’t aristocrats who are holding back the working classes. Labour is committed to not bringing back grammar schools …”

If only I’d realised that the triumph of the working classes was only being held back b the lack of grammar schools …

143

J-D 01.11.17 at 7:46 pm

Dipper

In that context the motto ‘The man, not his ancestors’ may well be a cautionary warning to each Duke of Westminster to live up to the challenges and opportunities that hereditary wealth has provided.

By itself, apart from the gender issue (admittedly an important qualification, but it’s harder to escape in Latin than in English) it’s an excellent motto for anybody; what creates the potential for irony is using it with a hereditary coat of arms.

So it is Labour policy to sacrifice the futures of bright working class children to aid less bright ones.

I don’t think that’s an accurate characterisation of Labour policy, but it would still be better than the Tory policy of sacrificing the futures of the less advantaged to aid those who already have the most advantages. It is not a solution to the problems of the working class to allow a few of its members to escape.

144

engels 01.12.17 at 12:09 am

Basically the reasoning was that if you prevent the long term unemployed from taking temporary work employers will have to offer permanent full time positions

Interested if you have a reference for that but it’s not what I’m advocating (intervention in the economy to create more decent, permanent jobs, which unemployed people would then be free or not to take up according to their own judgment).

145

Dipper 01.12.17 at 6:28 pm

@ J-D 144

“It is not a solution to the problems of the working class to allow a few of its members to escape.”

But some people get to escape. Children whose parents can afford to move to the catchment area of successful state schools get to escape. Diane Abbott’s son got to escape. Steven Kinnock’s child got to escape to Atlantic College. And if no-one is allowed to escape, then what is the point in even trying? No wonder white working class boys do so abysmally at school now.

Oh, and on the Conservatives taking Labour’s policies, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/why-theresa-may-is-the-new-ed-miliband-9gc7v7zpx (£). Just saying …

146

J-D 01.12.17 at 8:37 pm

Dipper

But some people get to escape.

Agreed. I don’t doubt it, and never disputed it. Do you think that argues against my conclusion? On the contrary, it confirms it. Some people get to escape, and that’s how we know that individual escapes do not solve the problems of the working class.

And if no-one is allowed to escape, then what is the point in even trying?

I’m not sure there ever is a situation in which all escape has been made impossible; but obviously if there were a situation in which all escape had been made impossible, there would be no point in even trying to escape. But the situation we are discussing is not one in which all escape has been made impossible. Some people do escape, we’ve just agreed on that point. Which leads to the next point …

No wonder white working class boys do so abysmally at school now.

I don’t know where that information is supposed to come from. I very much doubt that you have given an accurate characterisation of the situation. However, if to any extent it is partly accurate, the explanation can’t be that no escape is possible, because some people do escape, as we’ve just agreed. Once again, my conclusion would be confirmed; if the problem you refer to exists, the existence of an escape route for some hasn’t solved it.

Or did you perhaps imagine that I was suggesting that all escape routes should be closed off? I can see how it’s just possible you might have got that impression, and perhaps I could have prevented it by expressing myself more clearly. It is surely not my intention to suggest that all escape routes should be closed off. Where they exist, they should be left open. But it’s still true that even if more people escape through them, that won’t solve the problems of the working class.

147

Harry 01.12.17 at 9:18 pm

Dipper — really, there is no evidence at all that grammar schools facilitate or facilitated social mobility. Indeed, they helped create a market for private schools — well-off kids who failed the 11-plus went straight to private schools (one reason why there was such a strong consensus for abolition in most places). Its not that adding a handful of grammar schools will do much harm. Its just that making that her signature issue (as May did) showed that she was clueless about education policy: demonstrating immediately that she hadn’t thought through the first detail of what re-introducing them would involve made her look clueless about policy formation altogether.

148

Suzanne 01.12.17 at 9:23 pm

@135: Is Tim Farron the fellow to do this? I know little about him, so I’m genuinely curious. I did see him at May’s first PMQ. He offered up a very nice welcome to her, which she accepted gracelessly, taking the opportunity to point out that her party was a lot bigger than his. It was like she was beating up on a Smurf.

149

J-D 01.13.17 at 12:58 am

Dipper

Oh, and on the Conservatives taking Labour’s policies, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/why-theresa-may-is-the-new-ed-miliband-9gc7v7zpx (£). Just saying …

The Times tells us (should we trust The Times?) that Theresa May is adopting Ed Miliband’s rhetoric, but rhetoric and policies are not the same things. Tories have been using rhetoric about giving ordinary people a better deal for a long time, probably since before the Labour Party existed, so they don’t need to take it from the Labour Party now. Of course, usually they’re lying.

150

Dipper 01.13.17 at 11:54 am

@ harry, gastro george, J-D,

Yes. There is lots to be suspicious about in the Tories promises to working people. But in the context of the post, the significant thing is that they recognise the centrality of the working class in British politics and make promises to them.

By way of contrast, Labour is constantly putting the working class in their place. See these refugees? They deserve housing/jobs/health career more than you do. See these Europeans? They deserve jobs more than you do. See these ethnic minorities? They deserve jobs at the BBC more than you do. See our children? they deserve a better education and jobs in the Labour party more than you do.

The old Labour party and Trade union movement had a strong element of improvement in it. The Workers Education Association, sending trade union officials to college. They were ambitious for ordinary working people to gain skills and qualifications. That seems to have completely gone.

151

Dipper 01.13.17 at 3:54 pm

finally, if you have persevered this far then you are probably deeply interested in British politics in which case this is a must-read.

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/01/dominic-cummings-brexit-referendum-won/?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Lunchtime_Espresso_10012017

It is a fascinating account by someone at the heart of the referendum about how Remain lost it. It is self-justificatory, indulges in quite a lot of score-settling, in places is rambling, is very long, but is one of the most interesting pieces on politics I’ve ever read.

152

J-D 01.13.17 at 6:57 pm

Dipper

By way of contrast, Labour is constantly putting the working class in their place. See these refugees? They deserve housing/jobs/health career more than you do. See these Europeans? They deserve jobs more than you do. See these ethnic minorities? They deserve jobs at the BBC more than you do. See our children? they deserve a better education and jobs in the Labour party more than you do.

None of those are things the Labour Party has said. You have created an entirely misleading false contrast between an evaluation of the Conservative Party based on things they have actually said (although not done) and an evaluation of the Labour Party based on things they have never actually said but which (for some reason) you have chosen to imagine them saying. If you want to work that way, it should be easy to imagine the Conservative Party saying much worse things.

You yourself linked (as if it supported your case) to an article in The Times which (for whatever it may be worth) began by alleging that Theresa May has been saying the same kind of things that Ed Miliband used to say. It does go on to say that they are received differently; witness yourself.

153

engels 01.13.17 at 10:11 pm

The commonality of interests between workers who want to get out and work and non-working workers who would rather someone else takes the strain exists only in the minds of people who regard both groups with contempt.

…and in those of economists who have studied the causal connection between punitive unemployment policies and low wage growth

https://www.ft.com/content/7c045a82-d9a9-11e6-944b-e7eb37a6aa8e

154

engels 01.13.17 at 10:20 pm

By way of contrast, Labour is constantly putting the working class in their place. See these refugees? They deserve housing/jobs/health career more than you do. See these Europeans? They deserve jobs more than you do. See these ethnic minorities? They deserve jobs at the BBC more than you do.

If you don’t think refugees or ethnic minorities are part of the working class you are remarkably stupid or a racist or both.

155

kidneystones 01.13.17 at 11:52 pm

The resignation of Tristram Hunt points and the combat over the vote will, I think, show how weak support for UKIP actually is today, especially in respect to Labour. Depending, of course, on the quality of candidates my guess is that the Conservatives take the seat from Labour. Both UKIP and the Conservatives need a swing of 8.4 percent and my guess is that the Labour vote is going to: a/stay home; b/choose between Corbyn, the Greens, and UKIP depending on individual priorities. Conservatives who supported UKIP over Brexit are, I think, much more likely to return to the their principal party.

Corbyn needs to stay the course to convince Scottish and Welsh voters that Labour really is different from the conservatives. Support for the Iraq war and labeling Leave supporters as xenophobes and worse comes at a cost. That cost will be electoral defeat until the party has a viable alternative to offer voters. Tory-lite isn’t going to help elect a Labour government anymore than UKIP’s Tory-right is going to provide credibility.

Hunt will probably make a capable administrator at the Victoria and Albert. I wish him every success.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/13/tristram-hunt-quits-labour-mp-triggering-by-election-brexit/

156

kidneystones 01.13.17 at 11:54 pm

Sorry about astonishing lead sentence, shocking!

157

engels 01.14.17 at 1:57 am

Hunt will probably make a capable administrator at the Victoria and Albert

I think he’d probably make a capable administrator, I’m just not sure about putting him in charge of the whole thing. What on Earth qualifies him for that?

158

kidneystones 01.14.17 at 4:30 am

@158 Museums are run by experts. Hunt’s principal responsibilities will be more or less identical to his former position: brand management and hobnobbing with corporate big-wigs whilst grovelling for cash. Begging for funding is built into academia, so I’d say Hunt is well-suited to his new job. He’s also a capable historian.

There will others here, I’m certain, who can add much more. My own direct contact is largely with experts who are frankly pleased to have someone handy to raise funds. It’s easy to be glib, but regional arts councils are starving for cash.

This from the Guardian on corporate funding in general, and below for VAM.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/mar/02/arts-corporate-sponsorship-tate-british-museum

http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/c/corporate-partnerships/

159

Dipper 01.14.17 at 7:37 am

@ engels

“If you don’t think refugees or ethnic minorities are part of the working class you are remarkably stupid or a racist or both.”

Completely missing the point. It is the labour party and fellow travellers that draws these distinctions all the time, dividing and ruling.

160

engels 01.14.17 at 11:22 am

161

gastro george 01.14.17 at 3:04 pm

“It is the labour party and fellow travellers that draws these distinctions all the time, dividing and ruling.”

Yes, because we know that it’s the Labour Party and the left who are the real racists. Jesus.

162

engels 01.14.17 at 3:11 pm

So you think the Labour Party is discriminating against white people in favour of people of colour and refugees? Mmmkay…

163

engels 01.14.17 at 3:37 pm

164

Igor Belanov 01.14.17 at 6:48 pm

No self-respecting historian would accept a job as curator of a museum.

165

Dipper 01.14.17 at 8:00 pm

@ gastro george, engels

https://diversityuk.org/labour-introduce-race-quotas-ftse-boards/

if you introduce a racial quota and lump all white people in together, then you ignore class distinctions in the white group which will mean under-representation of white working class. The division along racial lines rather than class lines enables Labour and associated state organisations to justify their right to govern on grounds of social justice whilst continuing to give their own families and mates special access.

https://www.faststream.gov.uk/summer-diversity-internship-programme/

A. I’m from one of the following backgrounds:
• Asian/Asian British
• Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
• Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
• Other ethnic group
B. I’m registered as disabled
C. At age 14, my highest earning parent was:
not self employed
and not in senior management
and employed in one of the following categories:

so a BAME child of a professional is allowed entry to the civil service internship scheme but a white child of a professional isn’t.

Look folks. Labour support is falling off a cliff. there is not a snowball chance in hell of this lot getting anywhere near power. That means a lot of people who deserve some representation in power aren’t going to get it and they will suffer as a consequence. I’m trying to explain why IMHO this is and what Labour should focus on to get back to power. If you’d just rather have another round of that parlour game “You’re a Racist!” then so be it but I don’t see how taking that route is going to improve matters.

166

J-D 01.14.17 at 11:01 pm

“If you don’t think refugees or ethnic minorities are part of the working class you are remarkably stupid or a racist or both.”

Completely missing the point. It is the labour party and fellow travellers that draws these distinctions all the time, dividing and ruling.

The Labour Party never says these things. You choose to imagine that they do. I don’t know why.

if you introduce a racial quota and lump all white people in together, then you ignore class distinctions in the white group which will mean under-representation of white working class. The division along racial lines rather than class lines enables Labour and associated state organisations to justify their right to govern on grounds of social justice whilst continuing to give their own families and mates special access.

Point 1: You read about an Opposition politician saying that the party will ‘seriously consider’ doing something if they return to government and you imagine that they are actually going to do it. You’re remarkably trusting. It makes me think of Humphrey Appleby explaining that ‘under consideration’ means ‘we’ve lost the file’ and ‘under active consideration’ means ‘we’re trying to find it’.

Point 2: If you introduce a racial quota and lump and lump all black people in together, then you ignore class distinctions in the black group which will mean under-representation of black working class. Why don’t you mention that?

Point 3: Introduction of a racial quota will not cause under-representation of the working class on corporate boards; that exists anyway. Introduction of a racial quota would not solve the problem of under-representation of the working class on corporate boards, but no measure, however good, will solve all problems. Criticising a proposal for not being a panacea is unreasonable.

Point 4: The Labour Party doesn’t have special access for its families and mates to corporate boards and I’m puzzled to know what could give you the idea that it does.

A. I’m from one of the following backgrounds:
• Asian/Asian British
• Black/African/Caribbean/Black British
• Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
• Other ethnic group
B. I’m registered as disabled
C. At age 14, my highest earning parent was:
not self employed
and not in senior management
and employed in one of the following categories:

so a BAME child of a professional is allowed entry to the civil service internship scheme but a white child of a professional isn’t.

Point 1: So here you’ve got a scheme that actually does give special access to the white working class, and that’s still not good enough for you.
Point 2: This is an official government scheme. The Labour Party is not in government. If you think there’s something wrong with the scheme, why don’t you blame the Conservative Party for it?

I’m trying to explain why IMHO this is and what Labour should focus on to get back to power. If you’d just rather have another round of that parlour game “You’re a Racist!” then so be it but I don’t see how taking that route is going to improve matters.

I’m trying to discuss the problems with your explanations, and I don’t see how it will improve matters if you choose to indulge instead in another round of ‘I’m Not A Racist!’

167

kidneystones 01.14.17 at 11:15 pm

@ 165 Good thing Hunt isn’t, then, at least as far as you’re concerned. He’s the director.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/network/dr-tristram-hunt-announced-as-new-director-of-the-va

As for self-respecting historians, ahem, not all PhDs teach, as I’m sure you know. Good museums normally employ a number of area experts and these will include professional historians, especially if the museum is itself an object of study. This is, perhaps, more common in Europe where there are a number of museums of this sort. I would think the VAM qualifies. The curators may study the collection, but also study the artists who produced the work, the architects and builders who worked on the building, and the patrons and their collections in many cases.

Employment competition is often intense, especially at prestige institutions and whilst the curators normally do not have the need, or time, to publish as widely as their peers, they are normally among the most reliable area experts, at least that’s my experience and the opinion of the historians I respect most.

168

engels 01.15.17 at 2:54 am

if you introduce a racial quota and lump all white people in together, then you ignore class distinctions in the white group which will mean under-representation of white working class

That doesn’t make the slightest sense.

169

Layman 01.15.17 at 2:55 am

Dipper: “I’m trying to explain why IMHO this is and what Labour should focus on to get back to power.”

Perhaps, but I confess I’ve read your posts, and I’m having a hard time decrypting the prescription. What is it Labour should do, and why would it be a good thing if they did it?

170

Pavel 01.15.17 at 2:59 am

@165

In the age of contracting history departments and the rise of the adjunct slavery… ahem… economy, lots and lots of self-respecting historians would kill for a curator position. Hell, teaching history in a high school is a pretty difficult find in some of the nicer parts of North America. I’m not sure you’ve seen the number of perfectly capable history PhDs working in completely unrelated fields or not working at all (I quite my History MA when my PhD friends couldn’t find jobs after years of searching).

171

Igor Belanov 01.15.17 at 8:08 pm

Pavel @ 171

“I’m not sure you’ve seen the number of perfectly capable history PhDs working in completely unrelated fields or not working at all.”

I expect to be in that category myself in a couple of months. But I lack Hunt’s range of options. If he was fed up with politics he could have gone back to being an actual academic and written some more history. But being head of the V&A has more social advantages and a very nice income.

172

kidneystones 01.16.17 at 1:41 pm

@ 172 Sorry to hear that. Best of luck!

173

engels 01.16.17 at 4:00 pm

Being a member of the British parliament isn’t really supposed to be a temporary gig that you ditch as soon something more lucrative comes along imo. I’ve always loathed Hunt but I’m surprised how much this annoyed me.

174

J-D 01.16.17 at 8:13 pm

engels

Being a member of the British parliament isn’t really supposed to be a temporary gig that you ditch as soon something more lucrative comes along imo.

I don’t get what makes you suppose that. I would have thought that is roughly what it historically was supposed to be.

175

engels 01.16.17 at 11:12 pm

Historically it’s been common for MPs to quit mid-term for a ‘better’ job?

176

Pavel 01.17.17 at 4:29 am

@172

Igor, good luck in your search! On a positive note, a friend recently got a full-time position in Medieval Lit., so it’s not completely impossible.

177

J-D 01.17.17 at 5:29 am

Historically it’s been common for MPs to quit mid-term for a ‘better’ job?
It depends on how far back in history you go, doesn’t it? For the majority of the history of the House of Commons membership was not thought of as a career. (Indeed, for the majority of its history it would not have been considered meaningful to refer to quitting ‘mid-term’.)

178

engels 01.17.17 at 5:15 pm

For the majority of the history of the House of Commons membership was not thought of as a career.

…which has bugger all to do with my point

Indeed, for the majority of its history it would not have been considered meaningful to refer to quitting ‘mid-term’.

Umm we’ve had parliamentary terms since the 17th century but do carry on with the ‘splaining

179

J-D 01.17.17 at 11:09 pm

engels

For the majority of the history of the House of Commons membership was not thought of as a career.
…which has bugger all to do with my point

On the contrary, it has everything to do with your point. Since it wasn’t a career, giving it up to do something else would have been routine and gone unremarked.

Indeed, for the majority of its history it would not have been considered meaningful to refer to quitting ‘mid-term’.
Umm we’ve had parliamentary terms since the 17th century

So for less than half of the history of the House of Commons.

180

Collin Street 01.18.17 at 9:27 am

Historically it’s been common for MPs to quit mid-term for a ‘better’ job?

Hey, steward of the chiltern hundreds is a pretty easy job.

[which makes me think. According to the wiki, the V&A is a fully-governmental agency: the normal “resignation” procedure works by following the form of what becoming the head of the V&A is in substance. So he doesn’t need to jump through the sinecure position loophole. But I’ll bet you he will anyway.]

181

J-D 01.18.17 at 8:52 pm

Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds

Or Steward of the Manor of Northstead, depending on whether his application comes before or after Jamie Reed’s.

182

engels 01.18.17 at 10:46 pm

Since X wasn’t a career, giving it up to do something else would have been routine and gone unremarked

Er no (fill in the blank with fixed-term office of your choice oh one-armed knights of internet debating)

183

J-D 01.19.17 at 3:08 am

Er no
Er yes

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