Anyone who isn’t part of the Church of Jeremy will conclude that the Labour general election campaign has got off to a bad start. The day the election was called by May, I did up a Labour election bingo card. Every single event I predicted then has already taken place, and parliament hasn’t even been dissolved yet: Corbyn getting into problems on a question of national defence, Thornberry saying something derisive about Englishness, Keir Starmer giving a speech on Brexit that contains at least one gaping logical paradox. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop.
But I think the one that is really going to sink them is unavoidable, unless they really do manage to get rid of Corbyn last second. It’s this, “Corbyn sucks and won’t be prime minister, but a vote for your local Labour MP isn’t a vote for Corbyn but for that individual alone” thing they’ve devised. For I can see exactly why they are doing it, and there is probably nothing else they can do under the circumstances, but I just don’t think it’s going to work. At all.
In a general election, people tend to vote for the government they want – or at least would mind the least. Of course, there are sometimes local factors that outweigh this (otherwise, the Lib Dems/Liberal Party would have completely died a long time ago), but it is a hard thing to overcome. Saying Corbyn isn’t going to win so why not prevent a Tory landslide is not very inspirational stuff, is it? I figured out a long time ago that with voting there is a certain amount of group think that sets in, and people – and I still find this weird, but I also still find it’s true – tend to like to back the winner. In other words, a campaign pitch that says that although you would rather have a piece of putty run the country instead of Jeremy Corbyn, you should vote Labour because Corbyn is so obvious terrible he’ll never win…..again, however you slice it, this isn’t a compelling campaigning premise.
Like I say though, what else can they do? Well, they could split off into a separate group for the purposes of the election campaign only, swiftly elect a leader or anoint one (Yvette Cooper, say) and then campaign like mad to try and hold as many seats as possible without having to worry about the Corbyn thing. Although this probably won’t save that many seats and has every chance of backfiring (and in doing so, risking the wrath of Labour members who might otherwise be willing to see that the cult of Corbyn was a bad idea, post-June 8th).
Right, so there’s nothing to be done but run on the “Corbyn sucks, Labour rules” mantra it seems. It still won’t work though.
Nick, Labour MPs could try the 1983 Australian Labor party option: tear up the rule book and ruthlessly dump the existing leader in favour of a winner like Bob Hawke (if there is one). They won’t of course and it is probably too late for that anyway. Instead the Labour party will await the on-coming Tory truck like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Just look at Mrs May’s central Leeds speech yesterday. The Conservatives mean business: Brexit will be used to break apart the Labour coalition of metropolitan progressives and the provincial small-c conservative patriotic working classes. This is Nick Timothy channelling Joe Chamberlain. Signs are that it could work big time. The LibDems and SNP will probably suffer collateral damage in the process.
nick stewart says
But the Tory campaign is faltering. Criticism of May, her lack of public empathy and the relentless cliches she and others in the party spout are starting to backfire. Their cynicism is becoming visible. The polls are also wavering more. This endless “Corbyn sucks” mantra doesn’t stick as well as it did. A significant number of voters, self included, can see that he, and others fronting their campaign, have policies and a people centred approach that is gaining traction. Granted the Tories have a nigh unassailable lead but they might not actually gain the landslide they crave.
Nick Stewart – Look at the topline opinion poll figures. They have tightened a bit, as they always do, when an election is called. Voters’ minds become focused on making real choices at the ballot box, not just expressing off the cuff opinions about a hypothetical election tomorrow. Then look at the various polling analyses and the reports from journalists on the ground in the newspapers and in their vox pop interviews for TV. True, those reports are anecdotal, but crucially the reports and the polls are all pointing in the same direction. They tell us two things: Theresa May is pretty popular with the voters on a personal level and that Labour’s working class voters (not to mention former UKIP voters) are shifing noticeably towards the Conservatives. Some voters are shifting to the LibDems but, so far, not in a marked way.
There is no reason to expect anything other than a Conservative majority at this early stage of the election campaign. That is not to say election campaigns don’t matter, but they don’t matter so much when an election shows no signs of being a close contest in the first place. This election doesn’t appear to be a close contest at this stage, rather reverse in fact. We will see how things develop, but I don’t expect anything wildly different from the 1983 and 1987 election outcomes – Scotland excepted.
nick stewart says
Did you watch PM on Marr? If that had been Corbyn he would have been crucified by the media the next day. She was clueless. If people can’t see this mask slipping there is little hope for this country. English Tories have a relationship to politics that is like a client at a bondage or s&m club!
Nick – I gradually realised during the 1980s that voters respond to a clear lead from their politicians even when they themselves don’t agree with the lead being given. One of the most common and deeply irritating political comments of the period was
‘I don’t agree with her, but at least you know where you stand with Mrs Thatcher.’ I think the phrase is due for a recycling under Mrs May.
nick stewart says
… as I was saying, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/theresa-may-general-election-jeremy-corbyn-tim-farron-campaigns-a7711501.html#gallery