UK GE17 Open Thread

by Maria on April 18, 2017

Well in fairness, it hardly feels like summer is coming unless there is a massive, polarising electoral campaign in the UK.

On watching the PM call the election, issuing the death knell for Labour – a sentence the party is only to happy to carry out on itself – I had the same grim satisfaction I remember from boarding school, when the head-nun blasted apart a girl we all knew was innocent. We all stood in a semi-circle around the weeping victim of the precision tongue-lashing and watched as we’d been instructed to, sympathetic, appalled but also weirdly thrilled. Not by the spectacle itself, but by a grim gladness that even the pretence of even-handedness had finally been dropped. The bully in a habit was no longer acting otherwise. There’s always a next victim, and a next one, and in that place, the subsequent victim was me (public verbal demolition AND a face-slapping – from a great height, you fall a long way), but I can’t deny there was satisfaction, then, too.

Let’s watch this nasty show play out as what it really is.

{ 143 comments }

1

Adam Roberts 04.18.17 at 11:35 am

Think how badly Brexit must be going for Theresa May to sacrifice another soft theee years with Corbyn as leader of the opposition.

2

JohnT 04.18.17 at 12:02 pm

The rationale for calling the election (essentially: ‘the opposition is opposing me in Parliament’) also suggests that May’s authoritarian streak is even deeper than I for one had imagined. Under that standard, she’ll be calling elections every 6 months until the House of Commons resembles the North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly. They have lots of ‘stability’ and ‘strong leadership there, also.

Also, it’s a pity that Corbyn didn’t go for an abstention on tomorrow’s vote – I’m sure a cannier operator could have found a technicality to justify that (for example: ‘It’s not my job to enable Mrs May to call an election whenever she likes – if she wishes to negotiate a date she can come and talk to me’). That would have left May looking much weaker. God knows, authoritarians like her need all the weakening that can be done to them.

3

Tabasco 04.18.17 at 12:07 pm

Here are two predictions.

1. Labour is going to get smoked.
2. Corbyn will stand for re-election as Labour leader on a platform of he would have won the election but for the media’s bias. The Labour Party membership will re-elect him.

4

harry b 04.18.17 at 12:22 pm

Its probably not too late, Maria, for you, and Chris, and maybe even Daniel, to get adopted as non-raving-looney-party candidates, if you can find a non-monster-raving-looney party that has any chance of winning a seat you might want to run in.

5

Harry 04.18.17 at 12:32 pm

Is there a non-crazy strategy available to anti-Brexit voters of, say, pouring resources into Tory marginals which the Lib Dems could conceivably win?

This is, presumably, the end of Scottish Labour. If not the end of Labour.

I disagree with Tabasco. I don’t see how Corbyn could have a taste for another 5 years of this or how he could survive the loss of 75 seats (which seems entirely possible).

If someone can give me hope I’ll try to recruit some kids to go and work 24/7 for sensible candidates in winnable seats. But as of now I don’t have a party to recruit them for.

6

Tabasco 04.18.17 at 12:38 pm

Harry

If Corbyn is rational he will go quietly. But if he was rational he would have gone after Brexit.

7

sybil 04.18.17 at 12:50 pm

As voting for the lesser-evil is now the definitive approach for mainstream liberals at elections in the West, we hold our collective breath now in anticipation of a concerted push outside the right for Labour under Corbyn. Given British conservatism and anti-leftism, it is unlikely that Labour actually wins. Still, Tory under May’s super-vileness will demand the participation of every UK voter in stopping the great calamity that would be a pro-Trump, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-poor party from power. Even barring the remote chance of a Labour victory, denying the Tories an outright majority and therefore carte blanche is an imperative that must persuade all decent people. Right?

8

harry b 04.18.17 at 12:51 pm

This almost certainly means that Dennis Skinner will have to be ‘father of the house’ after the election, which is hilarious.

So, one upside, anyway….

9

kent 04.18.17 at 12:58 pm

Please explain to this confused American why calling for an election is an action of rank partisanship and unfairness. (Serious question, I don’t get it at all but would like to.) Is there really no chance at all that the anti-Brexiteers can combine forces and get themselves a good result?

Thanks!

10

Harry 04.18.17 at 12:59 pm

If the anti-Corbynites weren’t so totally incompetent they could have convinced him to go in the months after Brexit. They’d have probably had to live with someone who wasn’t one of them, but they would have been rid of Corbyn. They pushed him into a corner in which he couldn’t stand down without totally demoralizing his own faction, and the leaders of that faction convinced him not to do that. They behaved like inexperienced student politicians in the wake of the referendum vote. Of course, they’re entirely capable of screwing things up in the wake of another election defeat, and noone knows what the balance of forces in the parliamentary party will be after the election anyway.

11

Dipper 04.18.17 at 1:00 pm

The problem Theresa May faces was well articulated by John Quiggin and Francis Coppola (http://crookedtimber.org/2017/03/17/deal-or-no-deal/); that the EU would go for a punitive deal and try and force the UK to cave in and accept it. There is a majority in the current parliament terrified of life outside the EU and the responsibilities that come with it, who would vote to accept such a deal. May would find herself being forced to accept a poor deal by parliament, and hence have to call an election to avoid having her premiership end in disaster.

By calling an election now May is gambling that she can get a clear mandate to negotiate for a hard Brexit with the EU. Paradoxically, this gives the UK the best chance of negotiating a good and friendly exit deal with the EU as the possibility that by applying pressure they can get the UK parliament to cave in will have been taken away.

It is refreshing to have as leader a politician who understands how to lead, how to state your case and then push for support, who understands that leadership involves taking calculated risks, and who does the calculation and then goes all in. The FT says the “Vicar’s daughter inherited grit, sense of duty and no-nonsense attitude”. I predict the UK population will agree with the FT, recognise these are exactly the qualities needed right now, and give her a landslide victory.

12

Tabasco 04.18.17 at 1:13 pm

It seems hyperbolic to predict the death of the Labour Party. On the other hand, the Liberal Party died, at least as a party that could win an election and form a government. It is difficult to think what the ‘opposition’ party might be. The only serious non Tory party post election will be the SNP. It is unlikely they will want to be the opposition party for the whole UK.

These are strange times. But then again the French could soon be facing the choice of Le Pen or Melanchon.

13

Layman 04.18.17 at 1:38 pm

@ Dipper, I’m really having a hard time parsing what you said @11. I think it’s this: The EU is set to force a bad deal on May. A majority of Parliament are frightened of a bad deal, so when the EU forces that bad deal, that majority will endorse the bad deal, and May will be stuck with that bad deal. By calling an election instead, May will get a mandate for a bad deal, which will cause the EU to offer a not-bad deal. So this is a smart move for May.

It seems to me I’ve gone wrong in there somewhere. Help me out.

14

Dipper 04.18.17 at 1:47 pm

@Layman – nearly there. No deal is better than a bad deal. By getting a mandate to accept no deal rather than a bad deal, May increases her chances of being able to negotiate a deal that is not as bad as she would otherwise have got.

15

Philip 04.18.17 at 1:52 pm

@ Harry: ‘Is there a non-crazy strategy available to anti-Brexit voters of, say, pouring resources into Tory marginals which the Lib Dems could conceivably win?’

It would have to be in constituencies that were pro-remain or marginal in the referendum. It would also depend on how strongly the LDs argue that article 50 can be reversed and push for a second referendum.

How many candidates will UKIP put up? Some of their voters will be happy to return to the Tories post Brexit. But a lit who went from Labour will find it harder to vote Conservative. A lot of Corbyn’s policies should be popular with them but he has his difficulties with getting consistent messages from other MPs. He’ll need a clear policy on Brexit and whatever that is a section of the party will be alienated. I don’t know how he’ll do in Scotland and how the possibility of a 2nd independence referendum will play.

John T, I think the rationale is more that major constitutional changes are underway which weren’t debated in the last election and these being implemented by a PM who was not the party leader at the last election. This at least will give the electorate some kind of say on the terms of Brexit. Anyway, it looks like the Conservative will get a mandate for Brexit negotiations and Labour will get a new leader.

16

JohnT 04.18.17 at 1:53 pm

Kent #9 , the main procedural objection would be that it had been understood that Prime Ministers (who certainly used to have the right to call elections at will) had surrendered that right in the Fixed Term Parliament Act in 2010. May is taking advantage of a clause that allows an override by 2/3s of MPs, combined with a hapless Opposition leader to overturn this.

Politically she had said that an early election would deepen divisions and create instability, and is now completely contradicting herself on that only a few months later. Equally she had only recently said that another Scottish Independence referendum could not be held because it would cause unnecessary instability.

As regards long term impact, the appalling state of the Labour Party means that there will almost certainly be a massive Conservative majority. Your suggestion of the other parties working together might work in theory, but is against most British political tradition. Given time, something could have been worked out, but because May has made this a snap election (at 09:00 this morning almost literally no-one knew this was happening, and the election will now be held in 6 weeks’ time) there is no time. Again, Labour could have prevented this – May needs 2/3s of MPs to actively vote for the election on that date, so an abstaining Labour party would have formed a blocking minority – but chose not to. Armed with a massive majority May will be able to negotiate Brexit terms as she likes and rewrite the very large proportion of British law that is currently linked to EU law. This will allow the Tories to massively change Britain – permanently – based on what may well be a temporary weakness in the Labour Party leadership.

17

Daragh 04.18.17 at 2:00 pm

It’s grim alright. We now face five years of totally uninhibited Tory rule due to the stubborn refusal of a minority of a minority of a minority to recognise that Corbyn (or any Corbyn-esque, Corbyn-lite, or Corbyn-flavoured replacement) is not only totally unelectable, but would be disastrous if ever actually allowed near power. The only real questions are –

a) Do the Lib Dems recover enough in the SW to keep May’s majority to double digits and provide an intellectually credible anti-Brexit opposition?
b) Are Corbyn and his supporters crushed sufficiently completely, and in a humiliating enough fashion, that they absent the field completely and allow Labour to regain a modicum of electoral credibility under a Macron/Schultz analogue? Or as others have warned here do they cling on in barnacle like fashion in order to finish off the party and complete the UK’s conversion into a one-party state?
c) Does Aaron Banks manage to ooze his way into parliament, or does he get seriously schwacked and go back to offending the people unfortunate enough to be in his immediate proximity rather than the country at large?
d) Once the dust settles and May has her own, almost certainly overwhelming, parliamentary majority does she take the opportunity to get rid of mediocrities like Boris Johnson and Liam Fox that her colleagues inexplicably insist sit in cabinet?
e) Who will John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Ken Livingstone and Corbyn himself blame for their own hopelessness and general inadequacy as their political careers come to a predictably catastrophic end? (Just kidding – the answer, of course, is Tony Blair).

18

King Rat 04.18.17 at 2:24 pm

Can anyone explain why on earth Labour is going along with this? I’m not a fan of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act personally, but since it exists not using the veto it gives Labour seems suicidal. What are they thinking?

19

Neville Morley 04.18.17 at 2:24 pm

I found May’s short speech genuinely terrifying as well as infuriating: vote Conservative to make ME stronger, so that I can sweep aside all the inconvenient questioning and opposition in Parliament [what opposition??] to the unassailable Will of The People. This is barely distinguishable from the sort of authoritarianism offered by Trump or Erdogan, but we have a majority of the media all too happy to go along with the claim that Brexit is the Will of The People so anyone questioning it must be crushed forthwith. No, of course the British don’t do fascism so there’s nothing to worry about, but at the very least this is not a good look from the perspective of continental Europe – and as someone remarked on Twitter, it also seems to fall into the Greek fallacy that a vote will strengthen the negotiating hand, ignoring the fact that the EU 27 have voters to worry about too.

20

JohnT 04.18.17 at 2:35 pm

@ Philip 15 – that would be a great rationale (seriously) but
a) was just as true 6 months ago when May ruled out an election
b) would presumably have been worth a longer election campaign, ideally before Article 50 was triggered, called in collaboration with the other parties? and
c) that’s not what May actually said – her statement focused on the fact that she was receiving opposition in Parliament.

21

efcdons 04.18.17 at 2:55 pm

What is Labour supposed to do?

If the issue is “credibility” or being “intellectually credible” (god, that is some terrible “manufactured consent” kind of bs) then basically it’s having policies which are acceptable to the bulk of the media and opinion makers. Because Labour are only “not credible” as long as the people who apparently decide what is credible say so. Because the policies aren’t being objected to in any kind of evidence based fashion. It’s all an “everyone knows” kind of thing.

But Labour’s members have rejected those policy positions and why should the party be held hostage by the an undemocratic minority of opinion makers? There is even evidence that many of the policies are popular when not associated with any party or person.

It has been disheartening to watch from here in the US. Corbyn or anyone who might not dismiss the policies and ideas Corbyn was elected to push forward never had a chance. The entire apparatus of British opinion at all levels was committed to doing everything possible to bring down the Corbyn wing of Labour. Even if they had to “burn the village to save it”.

What has been a little bit interesting is the difference the way the media’s treatment of Clinton and Corbyn has been addressed by some people. The focus on their “gaffes” or “issues” was for Clinton a failure of the media and indictment on the whole enterprise. But similar treatment for Corbyn was par for the course and mentioning it has been considered whiny and Corbyn should have been able to completely defeat the media attacks if he was any good. That he couldn’t was further evidence of how bad he was.

22

JohnT 04.18.17 at 2:56 pm

@King Rat 18 – It’s a good question. Sometimes in business relationship or rivalry it comes to pass that one party has ‘got the other guy’s number’ – they can reliably predict how the other will react to things and thus steer them. May has quite clearly got Corbyn’s number. It happens quite often to weak leaders. One day soon a foreign rival of the US is going to get Trump’s number good and proper, I suspect, and the results are going to be embarrassing.

23

Igor Belanov 04.18.17 at 3:08 pm

“Can anyone explain why on earth Labour is going along with this? I’m not a fan of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act personally, but since it exists not using the veto it gives Labour seems suicidal. What are they thinking?”

Because it appears undemocratic to be obstructing an election, and because they would be (opportunistically) accused of ‘going against the will of the people’, a serious charge in these nationalistic times.

24

Cian 04.18.17 at 3:13 pm

Dipper: There is going to be no friendly hard exit deal with the EU. Maybe that was possible 2 years ago, but at this point the British government has managed to unite the entire EU against them. Quite a feat. The UK’s hand is very weak, while they’ve destroyed all good will.

On the EU side, it is very much in their interests to make an example of the UK pour encourager les autres. And so far they’ve given every sign that this is their strategy. And while the UK negotiations have been laughably amateurish, the EU’s have been extremely professional.

25

Manta 04.18.17 at 3:17 pm

kent @9: it was so unfair and partisan, that this is what the opposition declared http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-39630899

26

Guano 04.18.17 at 3:20 pm

Can we please get away from the myth that the EU is in some way punishing the UK. It is Theresa May who has decided that the UK should leave the Single Market, as well as leaving the EU, by saying that she wants the UK to opt-out of the ECJ and the free movement of EU nationals. Those who campaigned for Leave last year claimed that it would be possible to still have access to the Single Market while opting out of free movement of EU nationals, but this was never on the cards.

27

Sheparick 04.18.17 at 3:21 pm

Given the political situation and opportunities she faces, it would be have been absolute political malpractice for Theresa May not to go for a quick election this summer. Yes, she has broken her word, but I don’t think any voter cares.

Speaking of political malpractice, of course Corbyn, who could block this election, does not.

@ Tabasco, I expect you are dead on right. Corbyn will not step down. Corbyn and the Labour Left cannot fail, they can only be failed.

@ Dipper. Boy , are you in for disappointment. May is doing this for several reasons, Of course, the primary reason is to win on her own an huge Conservative majority in her own name, putting her up there with the Iron Lady in the Conservative pantheon (and show David Cameron and all those tof boys a thing or two). However, that huge Conservative majority (I expect close to 200 hundred seats), will also make all those hard militant Briexiters on her back bench who currently make her life uncomfortable a mere noisy nuisance. (I expect Boris Johnson and the others to be seen off to political oblivion shortly after the election, or until the deal is cut with the EU that May can blame on them.) The fact is Dipper ol’boy, if the French see Jean Marie off in their upcoming election and join up with the Germans, Spainish, and Benelux on the EU negotiations, the UK is going to get an offer similar to the one Michael Corleone gave to Senator Pat Geary in the Godfather II (we give you nothing, but you pay us for the privilege of giving you nothing.) May will need that huge majority to shove that agreement through Parliament

Of course she will want to rewrite UK law and benefits in the most pro-business, City friendly way, she can, while cutting benefits and starving the NHS, because that is what Tory Governments do.

So despite 7 years of austerity, low growth, destruction of British influence in Europe, reduction of British influence around the world, and the likely departures of Scotland and Northern Ireland from the UK, the Tories are going to be Government for another 5 years and probably long after that as well. It reminds me why I don’t mind the American presidential system when I compare it to the British 1st past the post parliamentary system.

28

Z 04.18.17 at 3:26 pm

I admit I find current politics in the UK almost incomprehensible. From my naïve point of view, either May and her policies are more popular than her current share of political power or they are not. If they are, her seeking a mandate (even if phrased in the language of crushing the opposition) doesn’t seem inappropriate to me, but I wonder what explained her sudden change of position. If they aren’t, then the opposition has been given an excellent opportunity to prove it. So what’s wrong?

29

kidneystones 04.18.17 at 3:27 pm

The conservatives are doing what they can and nobody should be even slightly annoyed, or surprised. Labour problems are entirely self-created. They ran as Tory light for years, dismissed much of the working-class base as a loathsome after-thought, and were just about as bellicose and corrupt as the Tories. The PLP is at odds with much of the membership and much of the membership is at odds with much of the public.

Blaming the Labour leader is about as useful as punching a hippie. Jeremy didn’t create Labour’s problems and only a serious debate about issues, not personalities, offers a way forward. Too many of Labour’s ‘sensible’ supporters regard Jeremy as the real enemy, not the Tories – their argument being (we suppose) that Labour’s lamentable record on immigration, concern for the working-class, love of regime change, and utter lack of a coherent vision have less to do with Labour’s unpopularity than the current leader.

They’re going to be crushed, but that just might wake a few people up. Jeremy isn’t the enemy. The Tories are.

30

Philip 04.18.17 at 3:31 pm

John T, I can see why she would trigger article 50 first – to stop attacks from leave voters thinking she wouldn’t go through with Brexit. Yes, there should be a longer build and the fact there isn’t shows that May just wants a quick win to boost her majority. I think the problem she has had is that because she was not leader at the last election and no one seriously discussed what Brexit would mean she’s had to come out with meaningless guff like Brexit means Brexit and red, white and blue Brexit because if she actually states a position she has no mandate to support it. May can’t come out and say that her position is weak so instead focused on the opposition, although there isn’t really that much of an opposition.

If Corbyn wanted to vote against the election or amend it for a later date I don’t know if he could whip enough of his own MPs to support him. They’d see it as a way to get rid of him before 2020.

31

Heliopause 04.18.17 at 3:50 pm

“it hardly feels like summer is coming unless there is a massive, polarising electoral campaign in the UK.”

God, what I wouldn’t give for a massive, polarizing, SIX WEEK electoral campaign here in the U.S.

32

Daragh 04.18.17 at 3:54 pm

@King Rat and @JohnT

Labour’s veto under the FTPA is more illusory than anything. The Tories could simpy vote no confidence in themselves, then wait out the 14 days needed before another election is called. Or just overturn the act.

More to the point, the politics of an opposition party refusing the opportunity to take power – even if, in this case, that opportunity is a purely theoretical one – are even more suicidal –

“The policies of this Tory government have failed! It must be replaced with a Labour one.”
“OK – let’s have an election and let the people decide.”
“Ermmm… no thanks.”
“But you just said our policies are bad and you want to replace them with new ones. Here is your chance.”
“No, really. It’s alright. You carry on.”

See the problem?

Even if the rumours are true that Corbyn and his high command are fully aware of his utter uselessness and political toxicity, and had a strategy of playing for time until they could replace him with a more electorally appealing ideological analogue (not that one exists), there’s just no way they could veto a general election and maintain any semblance of political credibility. Literally every PMQs from here to the next election would end in May telling Corbyn she gave him the chance to put the case for a Labour government to the people and he bottled it.

As it stands, I suspect the politically sane wing of the PLP is secretly delighted at today’s development, even though their numbers are about to be sharply reduced. Corbyn is going to be put out of his misery before the threshold for leadership nominations can be reduced, meaning a likely Watson interregnum during which a short sharp purge can be conducted. With a bit of luck, Labour might actually have a chance at the 2022 elections. Shame we’ll all have to suffer in the interim.

33

Daragh 04.18.17 at 4:03 pm

@efcdons21

Yes, it’s the fault of a shadowy cabal of opinion makers that a man who supported the Provos, appeared on PressTV for money, praised the socioeconomic models of Venezuela and East Germany, hired the David Irving of Stalinism as his press bod, runs a legendarily incompetent political operation, and has spent a good deal of his leadership shielding anti-semites in his party is currently running a distant third behind ‘don’t know’ in the PM stakes. That the electorate simply don’t rate such a man and don’t want him leading their country is an hypothesis that is just too ridiculous to even contemplate. There must be a conspiracy.

As to ‘undemocratic minorities’ – that would be the definition of the Labour membership (or rather, the remnants of the Labour membership that haven’t left in disgust and the SWP/Greens/Whatevers who have flooded in on a wave of £3 text memberships). Poll after poll after poll have shown that Corbyn is also hugely unpopular with LABOUR VOTERS who now prefer May as PM by a significant margin.

Accepting that one’s political ideas aren’t terribly popular is a bitter pill to swallow (I should know – I’m a liberal). But the continual search for hobgoblins and grumpkins that are standing in the way of the Inevitable Victory of Socialism is the surest way to ensure that reactionaries rule unimpeded forever.

34

JohnT 04.18.17 at 4:12 pm

@Daragh – you are probably right that Corbyn had no medium-term way of preventing the election, either politically or legally. What I’m saying is that he could have at least showed some teeth by making May postpone tomorrow’s vote, for example, until she consulted with him and the other party leaders. Maybe I’m missing something, but after all the other times where he has done exactly what she wanted (especially on the various article 50 votes) it really seems to me that she can manoeuver him very adroitly.

35

Layman 04.18.17 at 4:13 pm

Dipper: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”

This does seem to be the communication problem. I can’t think of a plausible ‘bad deal’ that is worse than no deal at all. I’m sure I could come up with some implausible ones, but no plausible ones. ‘No deal’ more or less constrains the bounds of the terms to be negotiated, and no terms worse than nothing will be offered, just as no terms much better than nothing will be offered, either. What sort of ‘bad deal’ is May worried about, which would be forced on her by a tricky EU and a frightened Parliament, and which will not be forced on her by a different Parliament, one resulting from this election?

36

wp200 04.18.17 at 4:16 pm

Up to 28 Tory MPs (probably fewer, but the number keeps changing) are under investigation by the Crown Prosecution Service for alleged election fraud (spending over the legal limit). They are probably guilty.

By calling a new General Election, Theresa May can avoid a series of embarrassing by-elections.

Would it not be in Labour’s interest to delay elections at least until the CPS has declared wether it will prosecute the Tories?

37

King Rat 04.18.17 at 4:16 pm

Daragh, JohnT

Thank you. I get the point you make about it being terrible politics for an opposition party to turn down an election, and would consider that to be a complete answer to the question if Labour were down by an ordinary hopeless margin – 10 points, say. The 20 point disaster gap they seem to be facing, on the contrary, seems to me to set up a horrible dilemma. Maybe it makes sense to get massacred quickly rather than die by inches over the next few years.

38

Cian 04.18.17 at 4:27 pm

Guano: punish may not be the right word, but the EU leadership seem to be pushing for the worst possible deal for the UK. Maybe this is a negotiating tactic, though given how weak the UK’s hand is I’m not sure they really need to.

More likely, the EU have just had enough of Britain. And who can blame them?

39

Cian 04.18.17 at 4:32 pm

Efcdons – while I don’t disagree with you, Corbyn has also been a pretty weak and ineffective leader. Compare him to someone like Ken Livingstone in his prime and you’ll see that. Nice guy, not a leader.

The real problem in the UK (much like the US) is that the existing political class are exhausted and bereft of new thinking. Which for whatever reason benefits the right.

40

Barry 04.18.17 at 4:39 pm

Dipper 04.18.17 at 1:47 pm
“@Layman – nearly there. No deal is better than a bad deal. By getting a mandate to accept no deal rather than a bad deal, May increases her chances of being able to negotiate a deal that is not as bad as she would otherwise have got”

There will not be ‘no deal’. The consequences of not reaching a negotiated agreement are clear, and the Tories chose them.

41

Jim Buck 04.18.17 at 4:57 pm

Literally every PMQs from here to the next election would end in May telling Corbyn she gave him the chance to put the case for a Labour government to the people and he bottled it.

Not if he had a little more imagination than he patently has. He might have taken the line that May herself has on the prospect of a second indyref:
“Had one not long back, give people a break—next year maybe, if you continue as you are.’

42

gastro george 04.18.17 at 5:07 pm

@Dipper

“By calling an election now May is gambling that she can get a clear mandate to negotiate for a hard Brexit with the EU. Paradoxically, this gives the UK the best chance of negotiating a good and friendly exit deal with the EU …”

This is known as the Greek Strategy, and we know how that turned out.

“Too many of Labour’s ‘sensible’ supporters regard Jeremy as the real enemy, not the Tories – their argument being (we suppose) that Labour’s lamentable record on immigration, concern for the working-class, love of regime change, and utter lack of a coherent vision have less to do with Labour’s unpopularity than the current leader.”

This.

I’m frankly surprised, amongst all the Corbyn-hate, that few people here seem to understand why he was elected as leader. He is, in many ways, an accidental leader, and probably not very good. But he was elected for a reason, which is similar to the reasons for the Brexit vote, but which most people seem inclined to ignore.

43

Layman 04.18.17 at 5:35 pm

Cian: “…the EU leadership seem to be pushing for the worst possible deal for the UK…”

Can you give some examples? The only things I’ve seen are examples of the EU taking the not-unreasonable positions that you can’t be out of the EU while enjoying all the privileges of being in the EU, and you have to pay your bills on the way out. Those look like bog-standard starting positions given the situation.

44

Guano 04.18.17 at 5:41 pm

#38 – I think that there are quite a few people in other European governments who do not like the attitude of some UK politicians, which appears to be that the EU is obliged to give the UK more or less full access to the Single Market while opting out of its central tenets.

45

Daragh 04.18.17 at 5:46 pm

JohnT@ 34

I think you’re right there. Then again, May is an historically weak and not terribly competent PM whose paranoid authoritarianism has resulted in a leaky government that has already had to make policy reversals (NIC, the Single Market) that would have been near fatal under normal circumstances. If Jeremy Corbyn was either politically or technically competent as a leader, Labour would have a comfortable poll lead and would be chomping at the bit for an election. Acquiescing to a general election is arguably the least politically tone deaf decision he’s made throughout his leadership, even though that’s a floor-level bar to clear. Same with @41 – If Corbyn was a competent and imaginative political leader, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. That’s the problem.

KingRat @37

Yep. Like I said, I’m not looking forward to the impending triple digit Tory majority and subsequent era of unimpeded rule by incompetent reactionaries. I suppose I’ll have to content myself with that look of spluttering rage, and determination to blame everyone but himself, that Corbyn gets when he knows he’s snookered, after the Tories open up the massive folders on the shelf they’ve got with titles like ‘Provisional IRA – open support for actions by’ and ‘Anti-semitism – coddling and protection within Labour party of.’

That being said, Corbyn is now apparently trying to enforce mandatory trigger ballots across the PLP, so we could end up with the worst of all worlds. A zombie Labour party made up solely of Trotskyist mediocrities devoted solely to agreeing with itself and ritualistic adulation of The Leader and his Awesome Mandate while the Tories get so dizzy with success they start idly wondering if they can get away with literally eating the poor. Which, of course, is exactly what Corbyn’s cabal has wanted from the beginning.

46

efcdons 04.18.17 at 5:48 pm

Daragh @33

Yes. The people who praise (and arm) the KSA and support the economic model of austerity which has destroyed at least a generation of European youth are the ones who should be seen as “credible”. The people who have lost millions of voters over a decade are the ones who really have their finger on the pulse of the people.

Regardless of Corbyn’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness the idea it’s a “shadowy cabal” is just stupidly offensive. There are no shadows, it’s all out in the open! It’s the “stop hitting yourself” attack. You don’t need to gaslight us (to use the now popular mental health derived political metaphor in the US).

The problem is the policies aren’t unpopular. If they are presented devoid of any associative context the policies are quite popular. The policies are also, at least more than the Tory’s, supported by economists (for whatever it’s worth. Not much it seems). That’s the whole point. People like Peter Mandelson have had to make the context poisonous because the policies are popular and “correct” in their general direction.

Anyway, the disgusting glee at Labour potentially dying in order to purge your internal enemies is what is most unpleasant.

Cian @39

I don’t really care about Corbyn in particular. It’s the attempt to destroy him and anything/anyone he is associated with while salting the earth which has been incredible to watch. The PLP and “center left” have made it clear they will engage in Kamikaze attacks on Labour rather than see the success of anything an atom to their left. Seeing Corbyn’s ineffectiveness it seems like having someone else lead would have been better. But is there to indicate that person wouldn’t have received the exact same treatment? I don’t know, maybe someone else would have been able to weather the storm. But the forces unleashed were so strong and so clearly coordinated I don’t know if anyone would have the power to fight it off.

47

Daragh 04.18.17 at 5:55 pm

gastro george @42 “I’m frankly surprised, amongst all the Corbyn-hate, that few people here seem to understand why he was elected as leader.”

It’s perfectly understandable. Ed Miliband needed to distract attention away from Unite’s attempts to nobble the Falkirk selection, so he implemented a change to Labour’s electoral rules without giving the proper time and thought to the consequences of his proposed changes. Then, the PLP abandoned its proper role as gatekeeper without considering that this was a deeply dangerous thing to do now that anyone could vote for the leader on the basis of a £3 text message. The parties rolls were subsequently flooded with the kind of brocialists who will never, ever personally face significant ill-effects from Conservative governance and who are therefore free to treat electoral politics as an ideological pissing match rather than an exercise in the art of the possible. And thus – here we are.

And for those talking about Labour ‘betraying the working class’ – since Jeremy Corbyn has become leader there has been a sustained, and massive shift in working class support away from Labour and towards the Tories. It may just be that Tony Blair – Iraq notwithstanding – had a far better idea of what the CDE set wants from its political leaders than trust funders like Corbyn and Milne ever will.

48

Sheparick 04.18.17 at 6:06 pm

As much as I find Corbyn incompetent at the prime directive of a parliamentary party leader, I don’t blame him him and his supporters in the party for Labour’s current conditions. Tony Blair’s moral error with Iraq and George W. Bush probably is the mortal wound, along with New Labour’s neglect of its old working class base in the North, Midlands, and Scotland. But Gordon Brown may have been able to redeem the situation if he had gotten some better luck in the 2010 election and a better LD leader then Nick Clegg. The greatest fool and villain in British politics the last ten years is Clegg, the gift who kept on giving to the Tories, be they Cameron, Osborne, or May, for his decision to pay second fiddle to Tory austerity in 2010https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/06/i-cant-forgive-nick-clegg-lib-dems-useful-idiots-coalition-tory-savagery-pr.

49

Stephen 04.18.17 at 6:12 pm

All opinion polls should carry a health warning, but nevertheless reputable one
https://yougov.co.uk/opi/surveys/results#/survey/ac4f13f0-241b-11e7-939c-aada186fb1ac/question/105547e0-241f-11e7-939c-aada186fb1ac/politics
asks people how they voted, and whether they think Theresa May was right or wrong to seek an early general election.

The right/wrong figures, omitting Don’t Knows. are:
Con 62/12
UKIP 61/13
LibDem 50/20
Lab 44/25
SNP 38/31

If these numbers are even approximately right, then Corbyn’s decision not to oppose the early election seems quite correct.

50

Ben Philliskirk 04.18.17 at 6:18 pm

gastro George @ 42

“I’m frankly surprised, amongst all the Corbyn-hate, that few people here seem to understand why he was elected as leader. He is, in many ways, an accidental leader, and probably not very good. But he was elected for a reason, which is similar to the reasons for the Brexit vote, but which most people seem inclined to ignore.”

I agree entirely. Many people on the Labour right will be rubbing their hands today. Everyone will forget the abject electoral record of ‘New Labour’ between 2005 and 2015 and Corbyn will be the perfect scapegoat in June. So, despite the fact that the PLP is completely divided itself on the best strategy to adopt, they will be in the ascendancy again by the summer. It will be a pyrrhic victory for them.

51

Yankee 04.18.17 at 6:21 pm

Harry: But as of now I don’t have a party to recruit them for.

Is it totally necessary to have a party before standing? Tiresome. Chained to the master’s tools.

52

Manta 04.18.17 at 7:02 pm

Am I mistaken, or the alternative to Corbyn as Labour leader is one of the bunch of political geniuses that in the name of “electability” decided to stage a coup (and failed at it, to boot)?

53

novakant 04.18.17 at 7:24 pm

I’m frankly surprised, amongst all the Corbyn-hate, that few people here seem to understand why he was elected as leader. He is, in many ways, an accidental leader, and probably not very good. But he was elected for a reason, which is similar to the reasons for the Brexit vote, but which most people seem inclined to ignore.

It doesn’t matter – what matters is that 48% voted to remain in the EU and now find themselves not being represented politically because Labour couldn’t get it’s bloody act together and was never convincingly for Remain in the first place. I’ll vote LibDem or Green and Labour can go f@ck itself forever, which is the only thing they’re good at anyway.

54

john c. halasz 04.18.17 at 7:33 pm

Dumb question from an American: why is this general election 17 and since when?

55

Dipper 04.18.17 at 7:43 pm

@ gastro george, Layman, Barry, etc

I’m not going to get into possible outcomes of negotiations because that isn’t the point of the thread. With regard to the election, May has made it clear that parliamentary opposition to Brexit is at the forefront of her mind and she is doing this to get a mandate. It will be interesting how much of her hand she shows during the campaign, whether she advertises a hard brexit explicitly or simply says this is one possible outcome she wishes to negotiate. Also, it will be interesting to see how staunch Remainers like Nicky Morgan and Anna Soubry campaign and what views they will express on May’s stated negotiating ambitions.

56

Hidari 04.18.17 at 7:45 pm

Here’s Tim Farron, of the ‘Liberal’ ‘Democrats’ refusing to answer the question 3 times, when asked whether gay sex is sinful.

https://twitter.com/AaronBastani/status/827535230391169024

57

Guano 04.18.17 at 9:06 pm

Dipper #55

There hasn’t been any real parliamentary opposition to May’s strategy for leaving the EU, so her claim that that is why she is calling a General Election is dubious to say the least. Her claim that there is more opposition in parliament than in the country is upside-down. However perhaps what she fears is that there will be more parliamentary opposition in the future when the dangers of her strategy become clear.

It will be interesting to see how much of her hand May shows in the campaign, and what subsequently she claims to be the mandate that she has received: on current form, it is likely that she will claim a mandate for much more than she openly campaigns for in the next 6 weeks.

May has already said that she wants a Hard Brexit: she said it on her first day as PM. May says that she wants to leave the ECJ and for the UK to opt out of free movement of EU nationals: ie she wants the UK to leave the Single Market. No doubt in the election campaign she will, as usual, use smoke and mirrors to obscure the fact that she has made this choice and make claims about negotiating access to the Single Market; but the choice was made in her first speech as PM.

58

Brett Dunbar 04.18.17 at 9:21 pm

John C Halasz @ 54

It’s ’17 short for 2017.

This election is for the fifty seventh parliament of the United Kingdom, this terminology isn’t used much. We normally just use the year with the month as well for those years with more than one election (Jan 1910 and Dec 1910 and Feb 1974 and Oct 1974).

59

JohnT 04.18.17 at 9:40 pm

@John c Halasz 54 – British general elections (like American ones) are usually designated by year (so 2017 in this case).

60

Daragh 04.18.17 at 10:04 pm

efcdons @46

“support the economic model of austerity which has destroyed at least a generation of European youth are the ones who should be seen as “credible”.”

Austerity has indeed been a disaster, no argument from me. However, I don’t think the situation would be significantly improved by people who believe that the ideal political economy is that of Chavez’ Venezuela or the GDR circa 1975 (before Honecker went all squishy). To put it another way, bad policies – while bad – are still preferable to mind-bogglingly, utterly terrible policies implemented by incompetent idiots.

“The people who have lost millions of voters over a decade are the ones who really have their finger on the pulse of the people.”

Those people started by gaining an historically unprecedented number of votes, and saw their support gradually decrease over the longest sustained period of Labour government in British history. This is to be expected – governments lose support over time. This is something that anyone having an intellectually honest debate about politics. To claim that winning three elections in a row before succumbing to political gravity is some form of failure is the equivalent of putting a post-it note on one’s forehead saying ‘I am either arguing in transparent bad faith, or simply don’t know what I’m talking about. Please, under no circumstances take me seriously.’

And if we’re talking popular support, Corbyn, has managed to consistently trail the Tories in the polls in contrast to all historical expectations (Ed Miliband had a rough ride in the press too, and he managed solid, consistent leads) and has managed to bring the party to poll ratings that are so bad that if Labour were to match it’s 2015 performance – one of the worst in the party’s history – it would be seen as the greatest political upset in British history. As it stands there’s a very real possibility they’ll fail to break 20%. So please, tell me how is losing millions of votes without even having to make the compromises of being in power, or reap the benefits of doing so, show Corbyn > Mandelson?

“The problem is the policies aren’t unpopular. If they are presented devoid of any associative context the policies are quite popular. “

Here are policies that I have absolutely no doubt would prove hugely popular with the electorate in the abstract –

– Socialised unicorn farms
– A night of passion with Scarlett Johansson/Channing Tatum (delete according to preference) for every citizen
– NHS to be staffed entirely by cancer-curing robots, made out of gold
– Eternal life as a right, not a privilege
– Free money

The problem is that the electorate aren’t morons, and realise such policies are difficult to impossible to implement. So while they are popular, they wouldn’t actually vote for anyone proposing them, in the same way that most people raise an eyebrow when told ‘YOU can make £10,000 a week working from home!’ rather than clicking the link to find out more.

And even if we’re talking about policies that ARE realistic they cannot be separated from the people who want to implement them (or to put it in your terms “presented devoid of any associative context”). If I have cancer and there’s a strong chance I can avoid chemotherapy through a surgical procedure that is certainly a great option in the abstract. However, if the only option I have to perform the operation is an 83 year old with advanced Parkinson’s who was struck off the register due to incompetence and alcoholism, chemo is unquestionably the better choice. Corbyn has demonstrated total administrative and political incompetence throughout his tenure, and the voters aren’t unaware of that. They don’t fancy him running the country as a result.

“Anyway, the disgusting glee at Labour potentially dying in order to purge your internal enemies is what is most unpleasant.”

You’ve fantastically misinterpreted me. I’ve said repeatedly that this election provides a chance for Labour to regenerate itself by ridding itself of Corbyn and his miserable clique once their failures become undeniable. I welcome that as an immensely positive development for British democracy. If I wanted Labour to die I’d be cursing Theresa May for calling this election before Corbyn could cement his control over the NEC and other key bodies of the party (or to extend my cancer metaphor further, before he can get himself good and deep in the Labour party’s lymph nodes).

You, on the other hand, are insisting that the comprehensive political failure of Corbynism is due to dark plots and sinister gatekeepers, rather than his own clear incompetence and deep, deep unpopularity with the electorate, an unpopularity that was apparent in the polls from the very beginning of his leadership before the supposed conspiracy to undermine him got underway. In other words, I could fairly accuse you of preferring to watch the Labour party die rather than accepting political reality, growing up and making peace with the fact that the median UK voter has political views that are very different than your own, and indulging in the fantasy that the only roadblock to the victory of socialism is an evil conspiracy of unaccountable gatekeepers. That’s your right, but it’s not a position that deserves anything other than total contempt.

@Sheparick

The ‘Nick Clegg is history’s greatest monster for putting Cameron in power’ argument again. Tell me – how many MPs does it take to make a majority and elect a PM in the House of Commons? Then tell me, what was the combined number of Labour and Liberal Democrat (and hell, throw in Green, Alliance, Plaid and even Sinn Fein MPs) in the House of Commons after the 2010 election? Is the first number bigger than the second number? Because if it is (and I’ve just checked – it is) then your argument is objectively wrong.

61

Stephen Johnson 04.18.17 at 10:10 pm

Dumb question from an American: why is this general election 17 and since when?
Not a dumb question, really, 17=2017. The UK has, in fact, had more than 17 general elections

62

Suzanne 04.18.17 at 11:02 pm

@34: “Maybe I’m missing something, but after all the other times where he has done exactly what she wanted (especially on the various article 50 votes) it really seems to me that she can manoeuver him very adroitly.”

And since “adroit” is not a word that comes immediately to mind with regard to Theresa May (at least that’s the impression held by this American observer) that’s saying something about Corbyn.

63

Faustusnotes 04.18.17 at 11:03 pm

Daragh, did you vote with a £3 text in the labour leadership election? Because if you didn’t, why do you think other labour outsiders did? It’s always good to heck these kinds of allegations against your own behavior, on the assumption you aren’t special.

A question for people who know more about labour than me: could they actually change leader in the short time before the election? Aren’t their current leadership rules too cumbersome for that?

64

Guano 04.18.17 at 11:07 pm

To clarify: I think that Theresa May knows that a Hard Brexit with some negotiated access to the Single Market will take a long time to negotiate, and a Hard Brexit without negotiating any access to the Single Market would be disastrous for the economy. Thus she is probably looking at an interim agreement of some form and holding a General Election now should give her two more years to think what to do next.

65

derrida derider 04.19.17 at 12:01 am

I’ll never tease my American friends about the fecklessness of their system and their electorate since observing UK politics in the past few years. The political incompetence in each of the major parties has been simply breathtaking, and whatever happens in the next few years all Britons are going to pay a price for it.

Theresa May is the first major party leader since Gordon Brown who looks even vaguely as though she knows what she wants and how to get it. If I was a Brit I would be appalled at the direction she is taking the country – she is a reactionary – but (unless I was a Scot) I would see no alternative to voting for her party. You simply couldn’t vote for the parties of Clegg and Corbyn, and in a first past the post system (thanks to Clegg) voting anywhere else, or not voting at all, is equivalent to voting for May anyway.

I rarely agree with Daragh but his comments in this thread have been spot on.

I have had enough of aging Trots living in some fantasy land where there is a proletarian majority somewhere just aching to cast off the yoke of neoliberal oppression and implement socialism. Their parents gave us Thatcher, and they are giving us May.

66

Layman 04.19.17 at 12:37 am

Daragh: “However, I don’t think the situation would be significantly improved by people who believe that the ideal political economy is that of Chavez’ Venezuela or the GDR circa 1975 (before Honecker went all squishy)…”

Given that no such people or parties or policies have been on the ballot in the U.K. during the last 10 years or so, this strikes me as the most irrelevant comment on the internets today. Congratulations!

67

Moz of Yarramulla 04.19.17 at 12:54 am

Guano@64: an interim agreement of some form … two more years to think what to do next.

I’m not convinced she is thinking that far ahead, or in those terms. She seems to be primarily focused on and good at internal party manipulation. The election will give her enough MPs that she can afford to annoy/dump ones that particularly annoy her, as well as a crop of new and hopefully easy to manipulate MPs that she can bend to her will.

I expect a major panic as it becomes obvious that the EU is willing to close the borders on the night of the 21st or whenever the actual date of exit is. May seems likely to continue to lead with her chin on that one, telling the UK that the hard Brexit will be a glorious victory for the mighty British Empire as her lieutenants bravely force their troops to charge the machine gun posts of EU bureaucracy waving their Union Jacks and wishing they’d been issued ammunition.

68

faustusnotes 04.19.17 at 3:03 am

I think the Daily Mash summarizes the underlying political reality here:

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/snap-election-suggests-the-shit-will-have-really-hit-the-fan-by-2020-20170418126224

May isn’t doing this to get more strength in negotiations, but because she knows that Brexit is going to be very very bad and she needs to win an election while she still has a chance. As the Daily Mash says:

the only good reason for Theresa May to go to the country now is if Britain will be ‘so fucked post-Brexit that people might even vote Corbyn’

Meanwhile the actual Daily Mail has a front page headline “Crush the saboteurs.” Stalinist much?

69

J-D 04.19.17 at 5:26 am

Dipper

It is refreshing to have as leader a politician who understands how to lead, how to state your case and then push for support, who understands that leadership involves taking calculated risks, and who does the calculation and then goes all in.

My evaluation of those qualities is not positive but rather neutral. The merit of going all-in depends on what you’re going all-in for; it can be bad as easily as good.

70

Dipper 04.19.17 at 6:28 am

@Guano – disagree. The Dipper clan had a discussion about this a few weeks ago and reached the conclusion May would have to call an election at some point because there was a substantial risk that Parliament would vote against her. There was a clear “Remain” majority prior to the referendum and subsequently a probable majority for non-hard Brexit. In addition, the threat of continued legal action at every point and the possibility that the Lords would continually send decisions back to the Commons means that for the next couple of years she would be fighting with one hand tied behind her back.

Personally I think it a good thing to have a Prime Minister who is prepared to take risks. The vote to Leave the EU was, above all, a vote of ambition. A vote by millions of people who ,having been told firmly by every leading political and authority that we should know our places and be grateful for what we were given, decided that we think we can do better. It is imperative that to deliver that we have a Prime Minister who believes in the people and who is bold. So far, Theresa May has been just that.

71

Hidari 04.19.17 at 6:49 am

‘I have had enough of aging Trots living in some fantasy land where there is a proletarian majority somewhere just aching to cast off the yoke of neoliberal oppression and implement socialism. Their parents gave us Thatcher, and they are giving us May.’

Ah yes, because the Left is always to blame. The left is to blame for the left, but it’s also to blame for the right. And the centre. If only we lived in a paradise like Poland where there are literally no left wing parties in Parliament, the left has been politically annihilated, and therefore (by this logic) er…the Left should now hold power?

‘If I was a Brit I would be appalled at the direction she is taking the country – she is a reactionary – but (unless I was a Scot) I would see no alternative to voting for her party.’

This is the line pushed by Nick Cohen, Aaronovitch and other presstitutes. It is insane, of course, but very popular amongst Rightists posing as liberals.* They ‘can’t’ back Corbyn etc. as his views are ‘unrealistic’ and so, ‘regretfully’ they ‘must’ vote for May.

It’s very simple. You vote for the party or person whose views are closest to your own. If there is no such person or party, don’t vote. If you are voting Tory, the only possible interpretation of that act is that you are a Tory, or at least more or less in agreement with their policies. Voting Tory and then (incomprehensibly) blaming other actors for ‘forcing’ you to vote thus is logically incomprehensible, and morally vacuous.

Tl; dr:

‘Their parents gave us Thatcher, and they are giving us May.’

No, you are giving us May by your own admission.

It reminds of an what the literary critic Martin Seymour-Smith once said, which is that the major threat to democracy in the West now is not fascists as such but ‘fascists posing as social democrats’.

72

Hidari 04.19.17 at 7:02 am

‘what matters is that 48% voted to remain in the EU and now find themselves not being represented politically because Labour couldn’t get it’s bloody act together ‘.

Because the Left is always to blame.

Mere words cannot express the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the British intellectual and political class. Increasingly, as one reads The Daily Mail or the Daily Express (both of which now read like Der Sturmer without the jokes) the editorial lines of which are more or less openly given tacit or open support by almost the entirety of the intelligentsia (and its the tacit supporters who are the worst) one thinks of Orwell’s little line about how we are all now ‘drowning in filth’.*

Still I suppose it gives one an insight into the intellectual world of the Western Roman Empire, circa about 420 AD.

*The full line is: ‘We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. Everyone’s thought is forensic, everyone is simply putting a “case” with deliberate suppression of his opponent’s point of view, and, what is more, with complete insensitiveness to any sufferings except those of himself and his friends. …But is there no one who has both firm opinions and a balanced outlook? Actually there are plenty, but they are all powerless.’

73

JohnTh 04.19.17 at 7:21 am

@Faustusnotes 63 – I don’t know the relevant party rules, but given that the general election is in 6 weeks there is simply no time to physically hold a party election to replace him. He could conceivably resign tomorrow and hand power to an agreed interim leader – probably his deputy, Tom Watson. But he won’t. And in fairness to the man, now that we’re here we might as well see whether any of the skills he showed in campaigning for the leadership twice are transferable to a general election.

74

MFB 04.19.17 at 7:40 am

The Tories won the last election (and Labour managed to lose the previous one, putting the Tories in). It seems clear they’re going to win this election, considering that there is no substantial alternative party other than Labour, and Labour are so busy fighting each other (and not only in the threads of Crooked Timber, alas) that they have no time to fight an election.

It would thus seem that there is no really significant change which is going to take place in British politics. The steady slide rightwards, which has been evident since the early 1970s, will continue. So there is no point in getting upset about anything.

I suppose there is one interesting question which could be asked: in an alternative world where the Blairites managed somehow to persuade the Liberal Democrats to support them after the 2010 election, and thus retained control of Labour (but had to shift their policies even further rightward, as usual), is it not quite likely that they would have ended up being forced to hold a referendum on the EU, and how would they have handled it if they had lost the referendum? Wouldn’t they have been obliged to hold an election which the Tories would have won, in which case Britain would now be in more or less the current mess anyway?

Oh, and if Corbyn goes after this election and the right-wingers regain control, how will that change Labour, and how much difference will there then be between Labour and Conservative?

75

novakant 04.19.17 at 7:40 am

Indeed, very simple. If Labour comes out against Brexit tomorrow, I’ll vote for them. Half the country and two thirds of Labour voters are against Brexit, so I don’t see why not. If Labour continues to follow May down the rabbit hole and try to appease the Leave camp, while waffling about ‘soft Brexit’ and ’embracing the opportunities’, I won’t. This is the defining political decision of a generation so show some balls Labour.

(The trouble is of course that the current leadership seems to be quite happy with Brexit, so this is all wishful thinking.)

76

Igor Belanov 04.19.17 at 7:41 am

“I have had enough of aging Trots living in some fantasy land where there is a proletarian majority somewhere just aching to cast off the yoke of neoliberal oppression and implement socialism. Their parents gave us Thatcher, and they are giving us May.”

‘Trots’ have no influence in or over the present Labour Party, which has policies no more left-wing than those of Kinnock in 1992 (or even Miliband in 2015 by some reckoning). All this idea of unrealistic far-left ambition is cooked up by the media and the current Labour leadership’s ‘centrist’ opponents.

77

J-D 04.19.17 at 7:57 am

Here’s Tim Farron, of the ‘Liberal’ ‘Democrats’ refusing to answer the question 3 times, when asked whether gay sex is sinful.

https://twitter.com/AaronBastani/status/827535230391169024

Compare and contrast John F Kennedy’s speech about religion to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, 22 September 1960:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16920600

78

novakant 04.19.17 at 8:18 am

#72

I have no idea what you mean, you seem to misunderstand what I am saying:

2/3 of Labour and 1/2 the country want to remain in the EU and Labour has failed to represent them. Instead they opted to appease the 1/3 of Labour voters who wanted to leave and are now trying to sell us Brexit light, which is not going to happen.

79

Faustusnotes 04.19.17 at 8:56 am

JohnTH, the Aussie Labour Party would knife him in one morning. They’d have done it months ago and May would not be even considering this election. A large part of this has to be millibands fault for changing the rules to make leadership elections like a primary (that was milliband wasn’t it?) I just hope Corbyn does what novakant says and goes full Leroy Jenkins over brexit, but more than being lukewarm about it I think hisbproblem is simply that he is incompetent. As others have said his policies should be popular but he just isn’t frontbench material.

I like the counterfactual of labour winning in 2010 and then holding a referendum on the eu anyway. I can see some blairist from central casting deciding to use it to wedge the tories, and having it backfire monumentally. But it looks like this time the tories get the infamy of finally sinking the uks moribund economy. Let’s hope labour go down fighting.

80

kidneystones 04.19.17 at 9:13 am

I confess I fired from the lip earlier. The 21 point lead May currently enjoys could evaporate and we all (should) know the way polls work. However, I’ll add a caveat or two.

May has two good reasons to call the election. Given the non-stop shrieking and back-stabbing of Labour it’s not surprising that grand canyon size fissures ripping apart the Conservatives have received less press. The political landscape has shifted. UKIP fervor is alive and well in spirit, but is no longer rooted in a single national party. It is entirely possible that we’ll see a significant realignment of voting blocs if the election can be reconfigured as a second Referendum on Brexit, in which case all bets are off.

Labour voters who migrated to UKIP could well migrate to the Tories to protect Brexit. Remain Tories would happily stay home, or vote another party to keep May from proceeding with Brexit. The fortunes of the SNP have soured somewhat and Scottish former Labour voters might well return to the fold if Labour comes out strongly for Remain, which is exactly how the Labour right will try to finally isolate Jeremy.

The election could well be much closer than I flippantly asserted with May actually losing, or being returned to power significantly weakened. So, yes, after a night’s sleep and a few hours of reflection I’ll argue that the election will be much closer than many think simply because every Remain supporter is going to cross party lines to ensure May is derailed. Indeed, I’d say it’s a coin toss at this point.

But what do I know?

81

Hidari 04.19.17 at 9:25 am

‘the current Labour leadership’s ‘centrist’ opponents.’

Yes but it’s the dead eyed extremists of the ‘alt-Centre’ who are the real fanatics in that party. You just need to imagine playing the, so to speak, ‘pass the political parcel’ game to see that most of the current PLP would, ideologically, comfortably fit in gay-hating Tim Farron’s ‘liberal’ ‘democrats’, or, for that matter, David Cameron’s Conservative Party, were they to be ‘teleported’ in.*

Not a few of them would feel comfortably at home in Theresa May’s Conservative party.

*If you don’t believe me, have a read through the LibDem manifesto and just ask yourself, which of these proposals would most members of the PLP have any serious, ideological objections to. Congratulations if you can find one. Two or more gets you a pony.

82

sybil 04.19.17 at 9:30 am

Is this just a bad dream?
Did some hear Greece’s scream and have the rush of blood to their heads say, ‘give us the EU or give us death?’ It is a peculiar solidarity and an incomprehensible internationalism that insists on membership of the EU as the voter’s red line. It is rather revealing that on the centre-left, being a Remainer is the most common justification for a loudly expressed preference for a no-holds-barred racist, viciously anti-poor, authoritarian prime minister.

83

gastro george 04.19.17 at 9:37 am

Daragh @47

Well that’s a pretty impressive rant, though not one I would generally expect from a considered blog like CT. I’m surprised that you didn’t include the Illuminati, or at least Putin, in the conspiracy.

I can’t help but feel sorry for those sturdy Big Beasts in the PLP, who are so effective as politicians that they can’t even mount a coup against the Worst Politician in Westminster (TM).

But when it comes to working-class betrayal, I can’t help feeling that it’s more accurate to gauge their feelings based on their opinions about policies rather than opinions about people. To use the latter is always to infer their opinions about policies. If you hadn’t noticed, Corbyn’s policies are actually quite popular – and would be considered quite banal in almost any other Western European country. It’s only when those policies are mediated through the vitriol directed at Corbyn that they are not.

The question is, what would you prefer? Plausible but dishonest politicians that will promise apple pie but leave you immeasurably worse off, or a rather inadequate politician with the right policies. Both the vote for Corbyn and Brexit were directed against the former, make no mistake. And yet your preference is for them. To what end?

And we are about to see more of the same. May will go to the election with a light manifesto, seek to avoid details or any debate. When she wins, she will then claim a mandate to do what she likes. When the inevitable disappointment over Brexit occurs, where will working-class betrayal be directed? Perfidious foreigners, probably.

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soru 04.19.17 at 10:07 am

> which has policies no more left-wing than those of Kinnock in 1992

This is bait-and-switch; technically, it has those policies. It’s just that any politician who dares speak enthusiastically in favor of them gets called out on twitter as Blairite scum, and so disqualified from any chance of the leadership under current rules.

What the alternative policies actually supported by Corbyn and his fans are isn’t clear; the 1975 GDR stuff is just one theory. More likely they don’t actually have policies, because policies are things a government plans to do, and they have no intention of becoming a government.

The one way out here is to hope the horse learns to sing. Vote for Corbyn; maybe he will pulls off a fluke win, cancel Brexit, and release MI6’s files on Trump…

85

Neville Morley 04.19.17 at 10:10 am

Pedantic historian, but I am struggling to detect the faintest resemblance between the current debate and the intellectual climate of the early fifth century.

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Daragh 04.19.17 at 10:27 am

Faustusnotes @63

No, I didn’t. At that time I was still nominally a Liberal Democrat and wanted to put my (very limited) political energies into rebuilding that party. I didn’t really consider the Labour leadership race to be my business, and so I didn’t participate. I guess I’m old fashioned that way. However, in 2016 I did pay £25 to vote for Owen Smith, though more out of a sense of desperation than any great enthusiasm for him as a candidate. Fat lot of good that did. I’m currently in a bit of a bind as to how to exercise my franchise. On the one hand, I’m loathe to do anything that might possibly be interpreted as expressing support for Corbyn. On the other, my local Labour MP is a decent skin who deserves re-election and would be a great asset in rebuilding the party after the impending electoral Hiroshima it is about to endure. If only more progressives could have gotten over their hatred of Nick Clegg for his refusal to believe 315 is a larger number than 326 and taken the opportunity to reform the electoral system when it was handed to them. Ah well…

@Hidari

On the Left always being to blame for everything – precisely no-one is saying that. Though in the specific case of Brexit, the referendum was decided by an extremely narrow margin. During the campaign, Corbyn and his closest aides did their best to actively sabotage the Labour Remain campaign. There is a mountain of documentary evidence to support this, and it fits with the Corbyn cabal’s long history of left-euroscepticism. Given the tightness of the result, it is very possible that this sabotage was responsible for the narrow victory of the Leave campaign. So yes, in this specific case the Left is to blame (or rather, the leader the Left chose for the Labour party who cheerfully and shamelessly lied to his selectorate about his intentions re Europe, and whom the Left chose not to punish for doing so).

You’re also terribly unfair to Cohen and Aaronovitch – they have been very open, from the beginning, in their belief that Corbyn is a nasty piece of work who is taking the Labour party in a deeply unpleasant and electorally disastrous direction. How this makes them ‘presstitutes’ I do no know, unless your definition of ‘presstitute’ is ‘journalist who holds opinions that I, Hidari, disagree with’ which I strongly suspect is the case.

More to the point, after the Chakrabarti whitewash, the attempted suppression of the Royall report, and the NEC’s decision to give Ken Livingstone the minimum politically acceptable love-tap on the wrist for his Hitler comments, there might be very, very good reasons for people with names like ‘Cohen’ and ‘Aaronovitch’ (or indeed, any halfway decent person regardless of their ethnic or religious heritage) to regard the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour party in power with horror.

@derrida derider

Thanks for your kind words, though I am a bit confused as to how Nick Clegg is the cause of FPTP. My understanding is that the current UK electoral system is the result of the Representation of the People’s Act of 1918. Nick Clegg was born in 1967. Unless Nick Clegg is secretly also Dr Manhattan, a super-being possessed of the ability to manipulate the space-time continuum, it would seem logically impossible that he had anything to do with it.

Layman @66

You’re right, they haven’t. However, in 7 weeks time a Labour party led by people with an extensive record of praising economically incompetent authoritarian leaders who throw the right ‘anti-Imperialist’ shapes WILL be on the ballot. Currently, all indicators are that the British public will once again prove a crushing disappointment to its intellectual betters and opt out of a glorious future of queuing for toilet paper so they can go attempt to barter it for bread. Boohoo.

@Igor Belanov

You’ve got half a point. Milne and his ilk have always been more Stalinist than Trotskyist.

87

JohnT 04.19.17 at 10:58 am

I’m with novakant – I will vote for the largest pro-European, anti-Brexit party in my constituency. Currently that’s the Lib Dems (who are a not very distant third)

88

Guano 04.19.17 at 11:01 am

Dipper #70

The risks and dubious assumptions of Theresa May’s “ambitions” are very large and, I think, she is well aware of them. It is quite likely that these contradictions will bubble to the surface in 2 to 3 years time just before a General Election was due. My suspicion is that she is more concerned about pushing back the next General Election from 2020 to 2022 than the size of the majority in the House of Commons.

At the moment, quite large sections of the electorate are unaware how disastrous it would be for the UK to rely on WTO rules in two years time; quite large sections of the electorate are unaware that May’s demands (an opt-out from free movement of EU nationals and from ECJ jurisdiction) are incompatible with Single Market membership and asking for a new, tailor-made agreement with the EU is a big ask. So far parliamentarians have been reluctant to explain to the public that these are enormous assumptions with big consequences. That, however, may change in the next two years, just because of “events, dear boy, events”.

Meanwhile some of us see it as our role to point out the dubious assumptions that Theresa May appears to be making and what could happen if these assumptions are untrue, just as we saw it as our role to point out the dubious assumptions that Bush and Blair were making when they ambitiously proposed to change the regime in Iraq (and the likely consequences if those assumptions were wrong). So I don’t propose to come together within anyone behind Theresa May’s vision or ambitions because it is the vision of someone running towards beautiful parkland in the distance who doesn’t see the ha-ha in front of them.

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Brett Dunbar 04.19.17 at 11:15 am

Realistically there was little chance of any of the MPs elected in 2015 being disqualified for breach of spending rules. The standard of proof for prosecuting either the MP or their agent is very high requiring wrongful and dishonest intention rather than an honest mistake about allocating battle bus spending between national and local spending. If there was a fault at national level the party treasurer could face up to one year. However a fine is more likely. Better Together was fined £2,000 for overspending by £57,ooo during the Scottish referendum, the Conservatives are alleged to have overspent by £40,000 so if found guilty a similar size fine is to be expected.

90

harry b 04.19.17 at 1:02 pm

“I have had enough of aging Trots living in some fantasy land where there is a proletarian majority somewhere just aching to cast off the yoke of neoliberal oppression and implement socialism. Their parents gave us Thatcher, and they are giving us May.”

Not sure how old you are, but I am old enough to remember 1979 and 1983. Callaghan gave us Thatcher by miscalculating in 1978. Jenkins, Williams, Rogers and Owen kept her in power by splitting from Labour but not having the courage to lead the splitters straight into the Liberals (probably that would not have had much better results). And Williams, Rogers, and Jenkins bear particular responsibility by allowing Owen (a particularly unappealing characters compared with, say, Williams) to appear to be the leader of their group.

I don’t blame Callaghan: it was an understandable miscalculation. I don’t even really blame the gang of four — they did what they thought was right. But Trots really were not involved in any of this. Sure, perhaps, just perhaps, if they had been much more obnoxious, Williams et al might have been able to bring another 20 or so MPs with them. But given that Williams et al weren’t willing to do the obvious, and sensible, thing of joining an existing party, its not clear that would have been much help.

And this time round? Brown gave us Cameron by failing to do exactly what May is now doing. I suppose you could blame David Miliband for not executing a coup against Brown when things looked desperate. I don’t. I will say that I watched the announcement of the 2010 leadership election live and the ashen look on Ed Miliband’s face when he realised that the party had chosen him instead of someone who would have been outstandingly good summed up my feelings exactly. Worth noting that Dennis Skinner supported David Miliband for the leadership at that time. (The first time I heard of David he was 18, and a bunch of Trots I hung out with were telling me how completely wonderful he was — gushing over him — so I was quite surprised after asking them whether he was recruitable they said “Oh no, he’s a right-wing social democrat”).

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Cian 04.19.17 at 1:06 pm

I’m bemused by the fact that some people think Theresa May knows how to get what she wants. I’m not convinced she even knows what she wants. She reminds me of John Major, desperately hanging on buffeted by events outside of her control.

On the Europe exit the EU hold all the cards. The only hope for Britain would be that the EU would take pity on them (always a long shot), but Theresa May and David Davies merry band of Euroskeptics have screwed that up.

Outside the EU it will be years before the UK will have any trade agreements. In fact, it may be years before the UK have a team sufficiently competent at negotiating trade agreements. Britain’s attraction as a manufacturing base for foreign capital is entirely premised upon easy access to the EU. The city (which includes things like accounting and insurance) will survive, but it’s EU related business will probably be lost to Europe. And it’s days as an international center may be ending.

And what is the Tory’s plan? To cut all regulations and gut Human Rights law. Sure, that will fix things. Idiocy.

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Elizabeth McIntoah 04.19.17 at 1:09 pm

Rather surprised at the level of hatred shown to Corbyn on this site. I thought its roots were in reasoned debate and rational conclusions. Also thought it had a concern with social justice and tackling inequality. Yet comment after comment are about demonising Corbyn and seeking to discredit any alternatives to the current order of things – and by using arguments that were seen as weak 20 years ago eg when in doubt mention Venezuela and the IRA, much easier than actually engaging with the political position.
It seems to be on the Left is to be utopian while being on the Right or as it likes to term itself, the Centre, is to be serious and keen on making tough decisions like being willing to wipe out humanity with nuclear weapons, putting in place pathologically cruel immigration policies, loving bombing countries where people have brown eyes.
You live and learn

93

Dipper 04.19.17 at 1:17 pm

Here’s a belated response to a previous thread where someone quite reasonably said that pointing out Corbyn is useless is an easy win; what do I propose Labour do about it?

To win, Labour needs to look at the three P’s – personality, positioning, and policy. In that order.

Personality – Labour needs a credible leader. Someone who can deliver when it is needed; can command a majority in the house, can front up to vested interests, and can negotiate effectively with fellow national leaders. Needless to say Corbyn is not that person.

Positioning – who do Labour represent? When stuff happens, who will be uppermost in the mind of a Labour government as they seek to respond? Theresa May put the “just-about-managings” front and central, so people who consider that applies to them know that in principle Theresa May will look after them. Labour talk a lot about people on benefits, people depending on the NHS etc, and whilst these seem to be the same set of people the distinction is important. The Tories represent people who are trying to get themselves and their families a better life, Labour represent people who have given up trying and are looking to the state to provide everything. More people think of themselves in heroic terms – struggling to do the best they can – than in defeatist terms – victims of circumstance that they can do nothing about. So Labour are the party of the defeated, which is not an obvious election winner.

Finally Policy – the least important of the three. There is a whole ecosystem of policy, of pressure groups, think tanks, national and social media, and smart parties pick and choose from whatever is bubbling up as the dominant issues in a way that best furthers the interests of their core group. To illustrate, consider two policies, gay marriage and unilateral nuclear disarmament. To go back thirty years or so, gay rights were still in their infancy and gay marriage was nowhere. This policy has just steamed in from the fringe and been implemented by a conservative government. Now, the conservatives are almost the natural party of gays and lesbians, representing personal freedom and opportunity, and have championed a policy that has benefited hundreds of thousands of people and is now broadly accepted in most of society. Meanwhile Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament has gone nowhere. This is a policy that you can never know is right, you can only know it was wrong, and that you will only know briefly. It is hard to see how this policy can be proven to be a benefit under normal circumstances. The Labour Party should just keep a distance from this until a clear vote winning consensus emerges (ie lots of military people saying we would be better off without trident). Otherwise the Labour Party just gives more people a reason not to vote for them. Needless to say Corbyn makes a big think about his nuclear disarmament pedigree.

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Cian 04.19.17 at 1:28 pm

Soru: If I as an ex-pat can work out what the policies of Corbyn are, I’m not sure what’s stopping you. Their plans are actually way more thought through and coherent than anything from the opposition in the Labour party. They’re also policies that the majority of the Labour party (save the Blairite deadenders) could work with if they actually read the damn things. The economic policies of Corbyn are not the problem – it’s his failings as a leader, and his inability to really deal with the (admittedly pretty intractable) problem of Brexit.

95

casmilus 04.19.17 at 1:46 pm

Re: 70s Trots. There is some interesting drama capturing the mood of the period. Dusty Hughes play “Commitments” deals with the expectations of revolution under the Heath government of the early 70s, and you can get that in a double-pack with his play “Futurists” about Mayakovsky. See also Trevor Griffiths works such as “The Party” and “Real Dreams”, though those are more part of the 1968 student phase.

A completely different world from the “anti-capitalist” activists today.

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Dipper 04.19.17 at 1:48 pm

@ Guano. I think more people are aware of those issues than you suppose, and have their priority list in place.

As a rule, it is better to fail through your own mistakes than through the mistakes of others who you allowed to act in your place. To quote from a Unite/labour party man I bumped into “I voted Leave because although I think it will be worse in the short-term I think it will be better in the long-term”. You are free to disagree with his analysis, and clearly lots of people do, but on the basis of his comments (and I think his view is widely shared) an immediate blip in the economy on leaving will not be the electoral disaster many suppose. And Theresa May fighting for a hard brexet may well get his vote, and the vote of a lot of other traditional Labour Party supporters.

97

casmilus 04.19.17 at 1:52 pm

@88

“At the moment, quite large sections of the electorate are unaware how disastrous it would be for the UK to rely on WTO rules in two years time”

Indeed, and the trouble is that Labour members are not much better informed. I was at a Momentum event a few weeks ago and the meeting about trade deals was mainly worried about TTIP. The few that had any general views about trade deals seemed to believe the “WTO rules” line that Tories and UKIP have fallen in love with.

98

Dipper 04.19.17 at 2:20 pm

@ Guano – and another thing … “At the moment, quite large sections of the electorate are unaware how disastrous it would be for the UK to rely on WTO rules in two years time”

Why would it be disastrous? The WTO exists to promote open and fare trade. It does not exist to entrench the power of major states or blocs.

If the UK electorate were unable to make free choices about who governs them, which laws they have to obey, and what relations they should have with other states then that is a dark day for free independent states national democracies. If the WTO were to act to prevent a successful withdrawal from the EU then it would be seen to be acting against democracy and in favour of blocs of nations acting punitively against individual nations making free choices. Were it to do that it would be a betrayal of all the things the WTO stands for.

99

Salem 04.19.17 at 2:28 pm

soru @84 makes an interesting point. What is Labour’s manifesto going to look like? Presumably, Corbyn will refuse to endorse large sections. The Independent is even speculating that they’ll just list all the (mutually contradictory) resolutions from conference, because that worked so well in 1983.

100

Hidari 04.19.17 at 2:36 pm

In any case, the key issue facing Britain, and the world as a whole at the moment is the ongoing Ecocide in general and Global Warming in particular, so it will be good to see all the party leaders intensively discussing that. And I’m sure that in 100 years time, all our descendants will be so pleased that we used this exercise in democracy to bring to the fore and really act on this, far and away the most pressing issue of the day.

Because goodness me, they’re going to be so proud of us and what we did. The future generations.

101

Mario 04.19.17 at 2:40 pm

I don’t know why it gets mentioned so rarely, but EU membership isn’t exactly a fundamentally leftist position by any stretch of the imagination. This is the same EU that is killing Greece, that is an organized lobbyist paradise, etc. How can you get a lot of left leaning people to fight for membership in that without feeling stupid?

Part of the solution seems to be to organize support for EU membership on the basis that doing so is about fighting racism, sexism, classism, transphobia, ableism, and homophobia. Or so. And generally the decent thing to do.

That works better than not, but not well enough. In part, I think, because it is a little of a sham.

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Z 04.19.17 at 2:59 pm

it is very possible that this sabotage was responsible for the narrow victory of the Leave campaign. So yes, in this specific case the Left is to blame.

Would you really characterize the margin of victory as narrow, especially if you concentrate on England proper (where the presumptive influence of the Labour campaign was presumably greatest; I’m thinking, perhaps wrongly, that Corbyn had little influence on the Scottish vote)? Moreover, opinion polls seem to agree that Labour and Green voters voted Remain in a large majority, so that if you are right that Corbyn and his friends tried to sabotage the Remain campaign, they failed. In fact, if the YouGov poll I have been reading is to be trusted, Lib-Dem voters did not even vote significantly more for Remain than Labour Voters (68% and 65% respectively). Only the Green did so. Do you also blame the direction of the Lib-Dems for sabotaging the campaign? If not, what happened?

If the Left (broadly construed), which did not call for the referendum and which gave a very large majority to Remain, is to blame in that specific instance, I can’t quite imagine a situation in which it would not be.

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casmilus 04.19.17 at 3:00 pm

@98

You said previously you’d been reading Richard North’s blog. Didn’t you pick up anything he says?

WTO rules alone are not sufficient to maintain existing trade into the EU, we will revert to being a Third Country and get all the pile-ups RN has been warning about. It is not true that the US has “no trade agreements” with the EU. They have plenty of sectoral agreements, that’s what facilitates trade, the lack of a comprehensive FTA is not the issue. A comprehensive FTA with anyone important will take years to negotiate, unless we concede everything to the other side.

104

casmilus 04.19.17 at 3:04 pm

@101

It’s only since 1988 and the “Bruges Speech” that the Thatcherite Right went against the EU. Back in the 70s and most of the 80s “Europe” was a Tory cause and the Left were against it. Labour manifestos in both 1983 and 1987 were for Brexit.

105

Layman 04.19.17 at 3:55 pm

Dipper, I read yours @93 and I confess I didn’t find much of a prescription for Labour there. Is that what you were trying to do?

Your first P calls for a different leader, doesn’t really name one, and dismisses Corbyn. Your second P calls for a different position, doesn’t really suggest one, and dismisses Labour’s supporters. Your third P calls for different policies, doesn’t really suggest any, and dismisses Corbyn.

At this point I’m clear on a few things: You don’t like Corbyn, you don’t like Labour, you don’t like Labour voters. But I’m pretty sure I knew that before.

106

Layman 04.19.17 at 4:01 pm

Dipper: “Why would it be disastrous? The WTO exists to promote open and fare trade.”

Seems like a big deal to me.

“These WTO tariffs range from 32 per cent on wine, to 4.1 per cent on liquefied natural gas, with items like cars (9.8 per cent) and wheat products (12.8 per cent) somewhere in between. John Springford, an economist with the Centre for European Reform, the total cost of those tariffs would be large, ranging from a 2.2 per cent of GDP (£40 billion) to 9 per cent.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/what-would-brexit-mean-for-british-trade/

2.2 – 9 percent of GDP ought to be terrifying.

107

gastro george 04.19.17 at 4:05 pm

Cian @94

“Their plans are actually way more thought through and coherent than anything from the opposition in the Labour party.”

This.

The only reason that Corbyn is leader is that his internal opponents are people without anything like sellable policies. They stood against the Worst Politician in Westminster (TM) and lost. Twice. They triangulated themselves to death and ended up as what?
Supporters of a little light racism, a little light austerity, representing nothing.

108

sybil 04.19.17 at 4:28 pm

@Mario,
I see EU adoration as a form of racism. There is nowhere near the same consideration shown for migrants from farther away – the people whose wages May would cap at £35,000. The MSF tweets that the EU is leaving migrants to drown in the Mediterranean Sea but some here are so passionate about foreigners that they nail their colours to the EU mast. For them, this is the single most important issue of our time.

We never ever get to say lesser evil to the centrists. They’ll always prefer the right.

109

Hidari 04.19.17 at 4:34 pm

@101
EU membership isn’t exactly a fundamentally leftist position at all. The EU is, at heart, a free trade organisation. Free trade is not, traditionally, an issue close to the Left’s heart.

Now you can make various ‘instrumental’ arguments as to why it would be a good or a bad thing for Britain PLC to remain part of the EU (roughly, based on arguments about the desirability of tariff reductions* and British firms’ access to cheap foreign labour) but it is certainly not an issue that maps easily onto the ‘left-right’ axis.

*arguments which go back to the debate about the repeal of the Corn Laws, another debate in which the Left really played no part.

110

Hidari 04.19.17 at 5:28 pm

@90

I understand a lot of people here defending Corbyn and I get why, but understand this: I am an old man, and based on experience, let me assure you that the only constant in British political life is that Labour always, always always will let you down (and working people generally). The only exception is the Attlee Government but (even putting aside that, especially in foreign policy, that govt. was not as good as people think it was) that was in a highly specific socio-cultural environment* and situation, a situation which, essentially, cannot return.

The paradigmatic Labour leader is not Attlee, it’s Ramsay McDonald. Other countries (like France, Italy, the South American countries) have had really radical and popular mass left wing movements. The ‘Labour’ party has been one of the main reasons why such movements have never arisen in the UK. Corbyn misunderstands the true nature of the ‘Labour’ Party, and the PLP do not. They want to turn Labour into a slightly more Keynesian version of the LibDems**, and, as a matter of fact, throughout most of its history, that’s exactly what it’s been.

After Corbyn loses (a result the PLP are openly agitating for) there will be a coup, then instability/purges, then, years of internecine fighting. Possibly the party will split, possibly a Blairite will win and then go on to more heroic defeats, who knows (or cares).

But the idea that the ‘Labour’ Party will ever again stand up for working people and against injustice and exploitation, these are fantasies, I’m afraid.

As for the ‘United’ Kingdom, well, other countries have futures, the UK has pasts.

‘Singapore is the latest statelet mooted as a model for Brexitland after divorce from the EU. How will the country look in 2020? Scotland may well be on its way out of the UK and back into the EU***, leaving behind a wilderness of rumps – rump UK, rump Labour, even rump Ukip. Resident foreigners, those whose presence hasn’t been bargained away in the Brexit haggling, will need to be tolerated to deliver services that locals can’t or won’t perform…. At the same time, the state will need to offer fiscal incentives for inward investment and to retain ‘competitiveness’. It all sounds like national socialism, but without the socialism.’

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/04/18/glen-newey/mays-gambit/

*Briefly, the ‘arguments’ against nationalisation etc. could not be made as during the war the British economy, to boost efficiency, had essentially been run by the state. So no one could make the usual false claims about ‘state owned industries’ being ‘less efficient’ than private ones. There was also the common and correct understanding (now lost) that laissez-faire capitalism had led to fascism, indeed, was essentially the same thing. So all the ‘arguments’ of the Right were moot.

**a right wing (NOT centrist) political party.

*** perhaps followed by the North of Ireland and Wales, always assuming the EU survives in its present form.

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Daragh 04.19.17 at 5:38 pm

Gastro George @60

I’ve already explained why ‘but his policies are popular!’ is a rather irrelevant observation @40. I’ll confine myself to adding two more observations. First – voters consider policies hierarchically. They may like Labour policy on, say, school lunches, but they prefer Tory policies on the economy and place the economy higher in their hierarchy of priorities. Currently, the biggest issue for the electorate is Brexit, by an overwhelming margin. On this issue Corbyn has managed to adopt a series of positions so incoherent that he’s managed to alienate both Remainers AND Brexiteers. That’s actually kind of impressive.

Second, as Dipper has put @93 Personality and Positioning are more important than Policy in terms of electoral outcomes. This isn’t that surprising – most people have neither the time nor the inclination to read policy papers. I’ll concede that insofar as Corbyn’s team has bothered to articulate actual policy positions they’ve amounted to little more than reheated Milibandism (which worked so well the first time around). But John McDonnell could come out with a fiscal policy that Friedman would find a bit severe and he’d still be the man who waved Mao’s Little Red Book about during his first budget response. Corbyn could promise to triple MI5’s budget and he’d still be the man who waffled when asked whether police officers should be allowed to shoot terrorists, while they are committing terrorist attacks while being interviewed in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks (though again, Corbyn’s ability to find a position that is simultaneously both morally and politically completely indefensible is impressive, in a perverse way).

As to the attempt to remove Corbyn in 2016. You conveniently overlook two facts – first, as leader, Corbyn influences the composition of the selectorate he has to appeal to. Just as the party’s membership shifted to the left under Miliband, it has shifted even further to the left under Corbyn (aided in part by his supporters bullying of members who don’t subscribe to his personality cult, and insistence that his opponents are ‘Red Tories’ etc.). Secondly, the PLP was operating under the – mistaken – assumption that Corbyn was genuinely committed to the Labour party making a serious bid for political power at the next general election. An overwhelming vote of no confidence by one’s parliamentary colleagues is something that most leaders would recognise made successfully contesting a general election impossible, and prompt them to do the decent thing and resign. However, Corbyn is manifestly NOT interested in making a serious bid for political power, as evidenced by his push for mandatory reselections yesterday, even though this would result in Labour basically ceding the field for 3-4 weeks and losing the advantages of incumbency in an election campaign that is already going to be hugely difficult. His goal is to turn the party into an ideological purity cult devoted to agreeing with him and telling each other what wonderful people they all are and how nasty the Tories are, and what a shame it is we can never win because the evil media has brainwashed the electorate so let’s all have a big rally full of other people who agree with us about everything. This is, incidentally, also why Corbyn has remained in post despite the fact that Labour voters now prefer May over him as PM.

Labour has never had a leader as personally selfish and uninterested in implementing policies that might improve the lot of the citizenry as Corbyn, and that has left the PLP with very few options. That there’s already chatter about what is to be done if he clings on after an electoral drubbing, which says it all really.

Elizabeth @92

No-one here is “seeking to discredit any alternatives to the current order of things.” What we’re saying is Corbyn is so deeply politically useless that he presents an insurmountable obstacle to changing the current order of things, and we wish that he would get out of the way. I’ll admit to personally disliking Corbyn for a whole range of reasons, most notably his habit of declaring what a wonderfully personally decent fellow he is while surrounding himself with bullies and encouraging them to torment his opponents. His inability to take any personal responsibility for his failures of leadership while insisting all victories are attributable to him is also pretty unpleasant. This reached a near comical nadir during the Stoke and Copeland by-elections. The victory of Gareth Snell in Stoke (with a substantially reduced majority, after Paul Nutall’s campaign imploded after his lies about Hillsborough became public) was the result of Corbyn’s visionary leadership. The historically unprecedented loss of Copeland, a ruby red Labour seat for generations, was the fault of the perfidy of Mandelson and Blair. I wish that was sarcastic hyperbole on my part, but that was literally their excuse.

Z @102

“Would you really characterize the margin of victory as narrow, especially if you concentrate on England proper (where the presumptive influence of the Labour campaign was presumably greatest; I’m thinking, perhaps wrongly, that Corbyn had little influence on the Scottish vote)?”

No, I wouldn’t characterise the margin of victory in England as narrow. However, the campaign was fought across the UK (which also includes Wales and Northern Ireland BTW) so I don’t see how that’s relevant. Moreover, in a national referendum mobilising every vote counts so unless there were literally no Labour voters left in Scotland (which is far from the case) Corbyn’s failure to influence the Scottish vote would be a massive black mark against him, not an excuse.

“Moreover, opinion polls seem to agree that Labour and Green voters voted Remain in a large majority, so that if you are right that Corbyn and his friends tried to sabotage the Remain campaign, they failed.”

That partisans of political parties whose official positions are enthusiastically pro-European Union would endorse continued membership by a significant margin should be taken as a given. The issue is a) the margin by which they voted for the EU b) the numbers in which they turned out. It can be reasonably assumed that Corbyn’s interventions depressed both.

“In fact, if the YouGov poll I have been reading is to be trusted, Lib-Dem voters did not even vote significantly more for Remain than Labour Voters (68% and 65% respectively).”

I’d like to see that poll. More to the point, I’d like to see several other polls so I can get an average and try to compensate for the inevitable errors that any poll will include. In any case, your argument doesn’t account for the wee matter of the fact that in 2016 the self-identified Labour electorate was significantly larger in size than that of the Liberal Democrats. A greater shift towards remain by LD voters would probably not have been decisive. A greater shift by Labour voters would have (honestly, when it comes to blaming the Lib Dems simple arithmetic seems to go out the window here).

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novakant 04.19.17 at 6:14 pm

Young people voted overwhelmingly for Remain (75%) and if you would add all the residents who couldn’t vote you’d get an even larger number – so maybe they’re all right-wing racists… or maybe there are some things they identify with the European project that various old-school lefties don’t seem to get at all.

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Dipper 04.19.17 at 6:18 pm

@ Layman 105.

Leader – Rachel Reeves would be my preferred leader
Position – be ambitious for British people. It’s The Labour Party not The Welfare Party. Work to level the playing field and then expect good things from people and allow them to be rewarded.
Policies – Off the top of my head Minimum wage was a good one. More infrastructural investment as the market alone will not deliver. Support small firms through government contracts, and support worker-owned businesses through tax breaks. Suspend Freedom of Movement and provide bursaries for students to study subjects in which we have a shortage (e.g. Doctors and other health-care professionals).

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Dipper 04.19.17 at 6:45 pm

On the subject of WTO and trade negotiations yes I’ve read all the warning stuff. But am frankly unsure how much to believe these threats.

I am quite sure, however, that folks who think that the threats to trade mean the UK shouldn’t quit the EU need to have a good hard think about what that says about national democracies and the UK’s place in the world (and for that matter many other nations’ place in the world). On tariffs; are tariffs a good thing or a bad thing? If they are a good thing, then the UK entering trade relations with increased tariffs must be a good thing. If they are a bad thing, then other nations erecting tariffs against us would be punishing themselves in order to punish us for an independent political decision. That would not be a reason for caving in, that would be a reason for not caving in.

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Collin Street 04.19.17 at 7:54 pm

The house of commons is too large. There aren’t enough talented people to fill it — UK electorates are 30% smaller than australian ones, and australian politicians have a significantly simpler job — and it’s of such a size that it’s difficult for individual politicians to get to know more than a fraction of their fellow members or to have any pull based on their own individual voice.

Halve the size of the HoC — this will need english federalism to work, btw — and the quality of your politics will dramatically improve.

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Z 04.19.17 at 8:46 pm

@Daragh

I’d like to see that poll.

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/06/27/how-britain-voted/

I’m not saying it is particularly good (I have no way to know) but it’s a data point.

More to the point, I’d like to see several other polls so I can get an average and try to compensate for the inevitable errors that any poll will include.

Sure

In any case, your argument

I don’t think I had an argument, really. More an observation that if you blame the Left for the victory of position X in a referendum it didn’t organize and for which Left-leaning voters voted in large majority against X, then you can always blame the Left, and though there is nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t strike me as particularly useful either.

when it comes to blaming the Lib Dems…

No, no, blaming the Lib-Dems was intended as a reductio. All I’m getting that is that, based on the little data I cared enough to look for, I see little point in blaming Labour voters, or Green voters, or Lib-Dem voters for the victory of the Leave. Even if, as you say, some of their leaders tried to sabotage the Remain campaign, they apparently largely failed. The blame surely must fall on Conservatives and UKIP voters and leaders. All in all, I have the impression that you would like “the Left”, say Left-leaning voters, to be something they aren’t (for instance, that they would not count some 35% of Leave voters or that they would agree with you that Corbyn is horrible) and that that upsets you. I’m afraid that’s a general problem, in a democracy.

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gastro george 04.19.17 at 9:28 pm

Daragh @111

If you could see through your red mist of vitriol, you would see that I’m not arguing about Corbyn’s competence or leadership – I fully accept that they are less than adequate. The point is, because it is how we got here, why was he elected?

Because New Labour was a busted flush, had already lost two elections, had alienated their traditional power base, and the best that they could come up with during the interregnum was to vote in favour of more welfare cuts.

If any of the Big Beasts of Labour had shown the slightest inkling that they understood these failings, they would now be leader.

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Daragh 04.19.17 at 11:00 pm

Hidari @110

“I am an old man, and based on experience, let me assure you that the only constant in British political life is that Labour always, always always will let you down (and working people generally).”

That’s one, rather grim, way of looking at it I suppose. Another is that the UK is a socially and economically heterogeneous polity, and that in order to win and wield political power, parties need to build coalitions among different groups with different needs and priorities, a process that involves trade-offs and compromises, and all of this in the certain knowledge that democratic politics means that at some point the other side will get a turn to implement a political program that is antithetical to yours.

The Labour party, or rather the left of the Labour party has never quite got this. The bloody catastrophe of Iraq may rightly stain the reputation of Blair and Brown, but they also delivered the longest single period of broadly progressive governance in UK history, and implemented a host of policies that delivered real, measurable improvements to the lives of working people (indeed, to British people generally). And when the wheel turned and the Tories came back to power, it was under a leader who had to campaign significantly to the left of his party’s centre of gravity, and in a coalition that placed real constraints on the influence and power of the Tory right (as the last two years have pretty indisputably demonstrated).

The refusal of the Corbynistas to recognise this as an achievement (largely because it demonstrated the total irrelevance of their own policy preferences in the 21st century), and to expend their energies demonising ‘Blairites’, as well as Ed Miliband’s own denunciations of New Labour has made it vastly easier for the Tories to undo these gains. And it’s also allowed the Tories to shift the political centre ground to the right far more rapidly than they otherwise would have. That’s because instead of empowering the fringe right-wingers who denounced Cameronism as ‘betrayal’ the party and its membership very sensibly ignored and marginalised them as irreconcilable cranks.They thanked Cameron for getting them into power, rather than moaning about the constraints of it. They made their case, patiently and steadily to the electorate and accepted the half-loafs that are the product of every political bakery with gratitude rather than sullen resentment. When the voters weren’t ready to go where they wanted to lead them, they spent time persuading them and gaining their trust, instead of cursing them for their shortsightedness. And as a result they went from coalition, to a slim majority to – if the polls are even remotely accurate – an impending thumping majority.

By contrast Labour is now deep in the political wilderness, potentially never to return, and if it does will have to spend at least one, and probably two or more parliamentary terms practising politics within a political economy that has been defined and shaped on Tory terms. There is a very obvious lesson in all this, but somehow I doubt very much you’re willing to learn it.

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Elizabeth McIntoah 04.19.17 at 11:02 pm

Daragh 111 – not sure if you see Corbyn as an incompetent or an evil genius able to hold sway over Labour members.
It strikes me that those on the Right of Labour and the right in general like to see themselves as ‘grown up realists’. This always seems to me to be self regarding and has led to an acceptance of growing inequality, break up of working class communities, deregulated markets and wars – all issues debated on this site. There needs to be more self awareness of political motivation rather than seeing what the Daily Mail approves of and calling this good policy formation based on realistic analysis when in fact it is animus against the Left.
It is not clear why ‘realism’ should always be to adopt the position the Tories hold today. This has led to Labour MPs failing to protect their constituents, political crisis and a loss of confidence. Corbyn has had to walk a tightrope to try and hold Labour support. On the Right he has faced constant attacks from MPs seeking to resurrect New Labour – and the frenzied and ill advised tone and substance of these attacks has only made his party support more solid. On the further Right he has to face the new populism, hostile to immigrants and experts, anti Muslim, appealing to the flag and self glorification of the past social arrangements. It could be argued that with any other leader eg Liz Kendal Labour would be in a worse electoral position since it would have become a hollowed out party unable to mobilise its membership, lost its remaining links to its historic base and still be defending things like catastrophic military interventions, bank deregulation and ignoring the result of the referendum.

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Daragh 04.20.17 at 12:41 am

Gastro George @117

“Because New Labour was a busted flush, had already lost two elections…”

Hold on a second. Is your argument that Ed Miliband, a leader who explicitly repudiated the legacy of New Labour on multiple occasions (despite warnings from many sounder political minds that this was not strategically wise) and consciously shifted the party to the left was, in fact, a continuity New Labour candidate? Because if so, I’m afraid I’m going to treat you with the same level of seriousness that I treat people who label the likes of Tom Watson and Lisa Nandy as ‘Blairites’ – that is, none at all.

If your argument is that Labour lost in 2010 because New Labour was a historical dead end, I would invite you to compile a list of instances in which mainstream British political parties have successfully contested four general elections in a row (as far as I’m aware it’s happened precisely once, because the UK electorate couldn’t quite stomach Kinnock as PM, which really doesn’t help your case either).

Once again – in democratic polities governments lose support over time. It is very difficult to maintain power for more than 8-10 years without the electorate deciding it’s time for a change and finding an excuse to do so. That New Labour managed 13 years in office is a remarkable achievement that you seem determined to ignore entirely because it doesn’t fit your ideological preferences. And yet you accuse me of being blinded by vitriol!

Elizabeth @119

Regarding Corbyn as entirely incompetent in terms of his ability to appeal to the national electorate while conceding that he is quite popular with a selectorate whose composition he is able to directly shape through various methods isn’t the contradiction you think it is. But then there’s a fallacy that Corbyn supporters seem bizarrely susceptible to – ‘Corbyn is hugely popular with people who already like Corbyn! Therefore the polls showing him to be hugely unpopular with everyone else must be wrong!’

I’m afraid I found the rest of your post reliant on a series of not terribly accurate political caricatures so I’m not sure engaging further will produce much in the way of an edifying discourse.

Z@116

Thanks for the poll. However, my argument is and remains, that in a tight campaign every vote is important, and that the sabotage by Corbyn’s office of the Labour remain campaign was potentially fatal for the Remain side. This has nothing to do, whatsoever, with ‘The Left’ or the Labour or Green or Lib Dem electorates. It’s about the small number of people running the campaigns and the leader’s office. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

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Layman 04.20.17 at 1:26 am

Dipper: “On the subject of WTO and trade negotiations yes I’ve read all the warning stuff. But am frankly unsure how much to believe these threats.”

Ah, so when you wrote “…why would it be disastrous?…”

what you meant to write is

“…I’ve read why it would be disastrous but choose to disbelieve arguments to that effect.”

You see, what you wrote reads like a request for information, while your response reads like a declaration of your a priori unwillingness to consider the information for which you appeared to be asking. Confusing, right?

The rest of your comment is equivocation. If WTO rules permanently reduce GDP by 2%, would you call that a disaster? How about 9%?

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Faustusnotes 04.20.17 at 2:06 am

Daragh I was living in the U.K. Until shortly before the election that saw Cameron in and I think your understanding of new labours achievements is completely different to how the vast majority of the electorate saw them. To use a famous Australian expression about a similar election in 1996, the voters were waiting in their porches with baseball bats (I think that’s the gist of the phrase and i think it’s Australian!) The financial crisis and the Iraq war were clearly owned by labour, but there were also huge issues with Eastern European migration that everyone seemed to think was labours fault, to the extent that most people seemed to think eu membership was itself labours fault. While you are right about some of labours achievements- I think especially their efforts on rescuing the nhs need more recognition – it’s just not possible for labour now to be associated with the rest of the mess. Even their work on the nhs is ignored because of the belief that they swamped the health system with welfare tourists from Eastern Europe who are taking all our jobs. Whatever you might think of Corbyn, there is a stench of war crimes and incompetence over the blairites which make it impossible for labour to head back in that direction. The depth of anger in middle England was really something else in 2009.

I think given that labour has little choice but to return to its old left policies, and in choosing to eschew interventionism they also have elected someone who appears unpatriotic. The idea that people will again vote for a party of rich spivs who are “intensely comfortable with people being insanely rich ” or whatever that stupid phrase was, and willing to engage in illegal wars of choice just to stroke their own phallic insecurities, is preposterous. In many ways Corbyn the anti-Blair is ideally placed to use that sentiment to win easily, but his incompetence is just unbearable. Look at the release of his tax returns, that show he is a simple guy with no hands in any pots and no conflicts of interest – he could have used that to show him and his party as he Party of the everyperson. But he released the wrong tax returns sobit became a story about how he can’t even manage his own taxes. Similarly the red book incident while extremely funny and spot on (he was advising Osborne to get some advice from his new bosom buddies, the maoists in China) just became a media beat down about labour being maoists. They should have known that such a stunt would not be treated fairly by the media .

Labour can win when the media is against it – Rudd and Gillard showed how to do it in 2007 when they crushed the libs here in oz, using a modern and intelligent campaign that subeverted their main media opponents and spoke straight to the electorate. But they were masters of political campaigning, not rank amateurs like Corbyn, who had never even held a frontbench position.

Labour can win this election from a solid left wing position – they can use mays brexit plans to absolutely smash this government – but they can’t do it with Corbyn and his incompetent allies in charge.

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J-D 04.20.17 at 2:12 am

Dipper

Position – be ambitious for British people. It’s The Labour Party not The Welfare Party. Work to level the playing field and then expect good things from people and allow them to be rewarded.

It seems to me that most of the British voters who are looking for a party that stands for a level playing field and reward for achievement probably think they’ve already found one in the Conservative Party and are unlikely to be much interested in the offer of another one. I can’t figure out how your suggested positioning for the Labour Party is supposed to differentiate it from the Conservative Party. What am I missing?

124

J-D 04.20.17 at 2:33 am

Hidari

I understand a lot of people here defending Corbyn and I get why, but understand this: I am an old man, and based on experience, let me assure you that the only constant in British political life is that Labour always, always always will let you down (and working people generally). The only exception is the Attlee Government but (even putting aside that, especially in foreign policy, that govt. was not as good as people think it was) that was in a highly specific socio-cultural environment* and situation, a situation which, essentially, cannot return.

The paradigmatic Labour leader is not Attlee, it’s Ramsay McDonald. Other countries (like France, Italy, the South American countries) have had really radical and popular mass left wing movements.

If Ramsay MacDonald is the paradigmatic leader of the British Labour Party, then who, to provide the contrast, is the paradigmatic leader of a French popular radical left-wing movement, or of an Italian one? Which are the French or Italian radical left-wing governments that have not let the workers down in the way that (you say) UK Labour governments have?

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Dipper 04.20.17 at 6:40 am

@ Layman – 121

well of course leaving the EU will reduce GDP in the long rung. There will be fewer people here, so we will produce less.

From your post I guess your political opinions on anything are an irrelevance given that as soon as someone threatened you with a significant reduction in GDP you just waved your white flag and handed them the keys to the house.

An estimate of between 2% and 9% is not an estimate, its a confession of having no idea.

126

derrida derider 04.20.17 at 6:58 am

daragh@86 –
OT, but there should have been a Representation of the People Act 2011, not a bloody referendum which your “partner” is openly intent on sabotaging. The 1918 Act for women’s suffrage – a far more divisive issue in a far more divisive time- didn’t need a referendum, so why would the 2011 one for an AV?

That should absolutely have been the make-or-break, do-it-or-we’ll-have-to-have-another-election part of the agreement with the Tories. Also, the agreement should have been about promising supply to a minority government, not a coalition (so no Lib-Dem bound by Cabinet solidarity and also each Bill has to get genuine parliamentary approval, not just be a rubber stamped decision of a Cabinet where you are a minority). That is hardly unprecedented in Westminster systems and puts the minor party in a far stronger position.

As I said, stunning political incompetence.

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novakant 04.20.17 at 7:01 am

#122

Actually there were no issues with Eastern European migrants, you just made that up or you believe the Daily Mail.

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Loki 04.20.17 at 7:12 am

Brett Dunbar @89 is correct regarding the low chance that there will be more than token fines for 2015 election expenses overspending. I’ll add that for a by election to occur the MP would need to be convicted. That is an additional hurdle as day to day running of the campaign is usually left to a separate Election Agent while the candidate focuses upon kissing babies and shaking hands. The candidate would be remarkably incompetent if they actually participated in illegal activity (rather than left it to others to organize).

Overall, the June election having avoided the prospect of jailed Tory MPs and by elections is best left to the fevered pages of The Canary.

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casmilus 04.20.17 at 7:26 am

Back in the heyday of New Labour 20 years ago, the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator found plenty to hate about the new regime. So, at least from their perspective, there must be *something* differentiating Blair/Cameron from what the Redwood/Cash/Lilley crowd regard as Real Conservatism, with Real Austerity (not the bogus version we got under Osborne).

The trouble with lumping Blair and everyone to the right of him together as a single bloc is you miss that different factions have different ends, and there are consequences about which one wins.

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casmilus 04.20.17 at 7:37 am

@125

The reference to 9% was not an estimate. It was part of a question to you, which you have avoided answering. In fact you haven’t addressed any of the responses.

The only way this country can make a trade deal in 5 minutes, as some Leavers seem to imagine, would be precisely by capitulating on every issue. That’s why negotiations usually go on for years. And ours won’t start until we’ve negotiated the exit deal, which is what these 2 years are for.

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faustusnotes 04.20.17 at 7:47 am

novakant when I say “issues with Eastern European migrants” I don’t mean that there were actually issues with Eastern European migrants, I mean that these are the issues that middle england was consumed with and yes, funnily enough, the Daily Mail was full of stories of Eastern European migrants coming here to take our welfare and our jobs.

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gastro george 04.20.17 at 8:04 am

Daragh @118

“The bloody catastrophe of Iraq may rightly stain the reputation of Blair and Brown, but they also delivered the longest single period of broadly progressive governance in UK history, and implemented a host of policies that delivered real, measurable improvements to the lives of working people (indeed, to British people generally).”

You are Alastair Campbell and I claim my £10.

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Hidari 04.20.17 at 8:11 am

Incidentally a few people here, engaging in fervid fantasies that those who pose as being hard-headed like to indulge in, are speculating that after 10/20/30/40 years of splits/infighting a Blairite might end in charge of the ‘Labour’ Party and we can go back to the ‘glory years’ of the ’90s. This is highly unlikely for lots of reasons (the overwhelming probability is that the ‘Labour’ Party is simply finished, along with all the other social democratic parties in Western Europe, an extremely long-term political trend that no one is even alluding to on this thread) but even imagine it’s true, and imagine (even more unlikely) that a Blairite Labour party would get into power.

What would they be able to do? Remember Blair had an astonishing number of things going in his favour: the ‘Great Moderation’, China coming ‘onstream’, relatively quiescence on the foreign policy front (that period of ‘quiet’ between the fall of Stalinism and 9/11), and, last and absolutely not least, the availability of cheap household credit that made up for the stagnation in real wages that began in roughly 1993. Also the small but perceptible ‘burst’ in productivity that occurred with the first ‘dot-com’ boom.

All of these were one-offs, and while 1 or 2 of them could happen again, it’s astonishingly unlikely that they (or similar events) would happen together. So any Blairite administration of 2050 would be like the first Blairite administrations only not as good if you can get your head round that dizzying concept. Not to mention the constant move towards the right wing in American and European politics that has continued, essentially without pause, from roughly about 1975 onward and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. This would be likely to have an effect, and it’s noticeable that of the few ideas the radicals of the ‘alt-centre’ in ‘Labour’ posses, being more racist is the one they return to most frequently.

‘Labour can win this election from a solid left wing position’.

No that’s absolutely NOT possible as the bulk of the PLP are far more hostile to the left than they are to the right. Blair was open that he would rather a ‘left wing’ Labour Party lost this (and all other) elections rather than winning on an ‘old Labour’ platform, but he was just saying what the rest of them think (and before anyone calls me out on this cynicism, remember that these were people who defied a 3 line whip to facilitate the genocide in Yemen: that’s the sort of people they are). The threat was not Corbyn’s possible failure (though many of the endlessly gull-able intelligentsia persuaded themselves to believe that) but his possible success. And this will never change (in the absence of de-selection, which isn’t on the cards).

So Labour will lose the next election (given their poll ratings, success is essentially impossible), Corbyn will resign, and Labour will descend into factional infighting or splitting, and the resulting chaos could continue for decades. A ‘left wing’ Labour party is a contradiction in terms, something which has been true since, roughly, about 1955, but in any case it is highly likely that any Blairite Labour leader would be ‘tarred with the same brush’ as the Western European quasi-Blairite parties, currently facing annihilation in almost all European countries.

So Labour can’t win on a left wing agenda, but they can’t win on a right wing agenda either.

Britain has a number of possible futures. The Tories would prefer the managed democracy of Singapore and are quite open about this, although the open racism of the ethno-state of Israel also appeals, as does, I would imagine, the creeping quasi-fascism of Hungary and Poland. The British delude themselves that 1 party rule under the guise of democracy is impossible but look at Japan.

In any case, these are your options. You might delude yourself that there are others, which is fine, but wish yourself a pony while you’re at it.

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gastro george 04.20.17 at 8:18 am

Daragh @118

I was waiting for the Red Ed response, a man so left wing that he ran the election using anti-immigration tea mugs.

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JohnT 04.20.17 at 8:35 am

@novakant 122 – I think immigration was seen as a major issue overall, and in some constituencies Eastern European migration specifically probably was an issue.
However I think that it is no coincidence that when the Leave folk wanted to hit that sweet immigration button they talked less about Polish plumbers and nurses, and more about decidedly Muslim Syrians seeking asylum and Turks joining the EU (and ‘flooding’ it), even though those matters are either tangentially related to Brexit or implausible. They certainly didn’t seem to think that specifically Eastern European migration was their winning card.

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Dipper 04.20.17 at 9:59 am

Sorry to see Gisela Stuart stepping down. A brave and independent minded MP who stood up and argued strongly for what she believed in. We could do with more like her in parliament.

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Dipper 04.20.17 at 10:08 am

Everyone has their favourite villain in the collapse of the Labour Party, but for me it is Gordon Brown, the Lance Armstrong of British Politics.

The various factions and manoeuvrings of the Labour party, the intrigue and squabbles, did historically produce politicians who knew how to develop and deliver policies and get mandates. Then along comes Gordon Brown, a power-mad ego-maniac. His version of socialism was that he was a genius, and his genius alone could deliver socialist utopia to the masses. He would micromanage everyone’s lives so each got a fair amount.

Workers, by definition, have nothing other than their labour. A constant thread of debate in the Labour Party has been to what extent the Clause IV bit about “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry” applied to individuals, and to what extent it applied to a class. Gordon Brown was at the class end of this, so he introduced the working tax credit system to redistribute money in a “fair” way away from individual workers and to the class as a whole. This meant that workers could no longer achieve advancement through their own efforts but only as a result of Gordon Brown awarding it to them. He removed all power from individual workers and gave it all to himself, making workers completely dependent on the government for their income.

His manic obsession with hoarding all power for himself meant he systematically destroyed all opposition within the party. The “next generation of leaders” – the Milibands, Cooper, Balls etc all had their individuality crushed and relied for their status only on their ability to please Gordon. This lack of fighting credentials and wider political skills is a major cause of the election of Corbyn.

Gordon Brown crushed all sense of a movement that could generate meaningful policy and replaced it with his own towering intellect. This delivered above-trend growth for many years, but the financial crisis revealed this had been achieved by a government sponsored credit boom. Once that was blown away the Labour Party was left with nothing – no coherent political philosophy, no track record of credibility, and no mechanism or process for producing effective leadership.

Gordon Brown has rapidly slipped out of sight in British politics. In some senses he had some noteable achievements – he kept the UK out of the Euro, and he mobilised other nations to stop the banking crisis in its tracks. But in my view the current state of the Labour Party is largely down to his time in power over the party.

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J-D 04.20.17 at 10:57 am

derrida derider

I agree with the opinion that the decision the Liberal Democrats made in 2010, to join a coalition with the Conservatives, was directly against their own partisan interests; they were fools to themselves, an opinion I formed in 2010 even before the deal was struck and have found no reason to revise at any time since. However I don’t think the alternative you suggest is realistic. In effect, you suggest that the Liberal Democrats should have offered the Conservatives less (no coalition, only an offer of limited support) and demanded more (AV guaranteed with no referendum). What makes you think they could have got the Conservatives to agree to this deal? I can’t figure how the threat of forcing another election, which is what you appear to be suggesting, could have done the trick; my estimate is that actually forcing another election in 2010 on the issue of AV would have turned out much worse for the Liberal Democrats than for the Conservatives, and I reckon the Conservatives would have formed the same estimate and disregarded any such threat as hollow.

The view I formed at the time, which I have also found no reason to change since, is that the strategic option for the Liberal Democrats which gave the best odds of serving their own partisan interests was to position themselves as the party of principle, the ones who would make no deals, roll no logs, trade no horses, participate in no corrupt bargains, enter no smoke-filled rooms. It wouldn’t have secured the changes they want to the electoral system, but I don’t think there’s anything they could have done that would have secured the changes they want to the electoral system.

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Guano 04.20.17 at 10:59 am

Faustusnotes #122

“The financial crisis and the Iraq war were clearly owned by Labour, but there were also huge issues with Eastern European migration that everyone seemed to think was Labours fault, to the extent that most people seemed to think EU membership was itself Labours fault.”

Indeed, the Conservative Party and the press that supports it has created a connection in people’s minds between Labour and the EU, and also created a belief that there is something treasonous about this. During the referendum campaign, it was Cameron and Osborne who took the lead for Remain while Labour was supposed to deliver its own voters for Remain while having little say over the direction of the campaign. The media focused on the Cameron/Osborne v Gove/Johnson story. Then after the referendum result Cameron and Osborne slunk away, the Remain Tories went silent leaving Labour to try to deal with Theresa May and a rabid Brexit press.

This is highly ironic for those of a certain age, like myself, who remember how keen the Conservative Party was on “Europe” from the 1960s to the 1980s, how keen newspapers like the Daily Mail were on “Europe”; the Labour Party was relentlessly attacked for its doubts about “Europe” until it gave up and embraced “Europe” so as to be electable. I suspect that the Labour Party doesn’t really know why it was in favour of Remain, except that at one time it supposedly made the Party electable, and most of the Party doesn’t have the depth of understanding necessary to fight through the smoke and mirrors surrounding Theresa May’s approach.

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Layman 04.20.17 at 11:24 am

Dipper: “From your post I guess your political opinions on anything are an irrelevance given that as soon as someone threatened you with a significant reduction in GDP you just waved your white flag and handed them the keys to the house.”

This is frankly childish. You asked a specific question, I tried to answer it. I’ve never said anything along the lines you suggest here. If your position is ‘I understand that Brexit and WTO rules will do substantial harm to the economy but I think it’s worth it because of the political gains’, you could just have said that.

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Daragh 04.20.17 at 11:43 am

DD@ 126

On a hypothetical ROPA 2011 – you’re overlooking the small matter that such an act would require Conservative MPs and lords would have to vote for such a bill. To be blunt, that is about as likely as the long-term survival of a particularly moist and poorly made snowball during an unusually warm summer’s day in hell. Maintaining FPTP is a bedrock Tory principle (for good reason – prior to Corbyn the idea of over 50% of the country voting Tory was laughable). Getting the party to concede a referendum was by all accounts the toughest sell for Cameron and Osborne during the coalition negotiations (there are even rumours that they felt compelled to – ahem – heavily imply that Brown was prepared to legislate for AV+ in order to seal the deal). You’re effectively calling Clegg incompetent because he neither demanded nor received the impossible. That’s more than a little unfair.

And the reasons why overturning legislatively enacted AV would be relatively simple, while overturning legislatively enacted women’s suffrage is virtually impossible are so obvious that there’s really no way to explain them without coming off like a patronising arse.

You’re on firmer ground with the confidence and supply scenario, but I’m still not convinced. After all, what’s to stop Cameron calling a snap election six months later, while Ed Miliband is still finding his political sea legs, the Labour party is dead broke and the Greek crisis is ongoing on a platform of ‘we need a stable majority’? And how could the Lib Dems have credibly made the pitch for coalitional politics having rejected the opportunity to enter a coalition when it presented itself?

At the risk of repeating myself, I find the continued fury with Nick Clegg, for the crime of bowing to the realities of the political environment he found himself in and making the best of it he could, incomprehensible. The coalition gave us five years of Tories with training wheels on – not the ideal form of government by any standard, but infinitely preferable to Tories with training wheels off as the last two years have demonstrated fairly comprehensively, and the best possible outcome given the results of the 2010 general election. Maybe our efforts would be better spent on trying to ensure better electoral outcomes in future, rather than finding whipping boys to expend our disappointment upon.

Faustusnotes @122 – I’ve been living in the UK since roughly 2005. My experiences differ from yours rather significantly. And you might note that in 2010 Gordon Brown was in power, a man who had little to no association with Iraq (even though he should have, but that’s politics) and was losing to the Tories well before the financial crisis due to the clear dysfunctionality of his government. In other words, I think you are projecting your own ideological preferences onto ‘middle England’ without any real evidence to back it up.

“Labour can win this election from a solid left wing position”

There is literally no evidence to support this position, and decades of practical experience arguing the contra.

PS – On the oft mangled Mandelson quote – it was ‘We are intensely relaxed with people getting filthy rich so long as they pay their taxes.‘ As Dipper has pointed out, allowing people to become wealthy and redistributing a reasonable chunk of their income to things like the NHS is a position that remains broadly popular. Mandelson’s phrasing may have been a touch obnoxious, but politically he remains spot-on.

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Katsue 04.20.17 at 1:34 pm

I really have to take issue with Daragh’s comments in post 111. Anybody at all familiar with Northern Irish politics in the 1980s know that the phrase “shoot to kill policy” was never used to refer to the use of armed force by police protecting civilians from a terrorist attack in progress. If it had been, Thatcher’s government would have stoutly affirmed that it had one rather than denying it.

What the term means, in fact, is the use of death squads to assassinate people suspected of paramilitary activity. Jeremy Corbyn was quite right to reject the suggestion, and David Cameron et. al were hypocrites to criticise him for doing so.

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Maria 04.20.17 at 2:50 pm

As the tone of debate is rapidly going south, and we at CT have made it clear we’re just not doing that any more, I’m calling time on this thread. Thanks, all, for the contributions.

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