I should caveat that headline a little, since I’m now out of the game of predictions: as things stand, I just don’t see how Labour can possibly win a general election. We live in volatile times, and things can change very quickly, of course. Corbyn could quit and then Labour turns itself around in record time; the Tories could collapse spectacularly in a way that creates no new political space in the centre (I find this hard to imagine, but you never know). But given the range of foreseeable events, even to their furthest extremes, I don’t see how Labour can win the next general election, and in fact, unless there is some major schism in the party political structure, the Tories are 90% likely to win the next GE, whenever it should occur. Here’s why.
The few weeks following the last general election provided a rare window of opportunity for Corbyn. He could have shorn up both his position in Labour and the party itself with the electorate if he’d used the goodwill present to unite the party behind him. This would have involved bringing people like Yvette Cooper back into the shadow cabinet. Some on the Left claim people like Cooper would have refused to do this; the fact that almost a year later, in the midst of Corbyn being weak in the face of a national security crisis AND a major anti-Semitism shitstorm, she would go on television and support him tells me she would have almost certainly come back to the fold in June 2016. Or at the very least, enough of the Blairites and Brownites would have accepted such roles, enough to have ended infighting, possibly for good. Corbyn chose to only to one of those things, i.e. shore up his position as leader. The problems he’s facing now are the direct result of this.
In the same way choosing Ed Miliband over his brother as leader was a major case of taking the wrong road in the face of a fork in it, this was a major missed opportunity for Labour. This may become apparent at the next electoral event of real importance for the party, which is the local elections in May. I don’t think Labour will do nearly as well as expected. There will be two drags on their hopes of success: one, the fact that Corbyn’s Euroscepticism is becoming more and more apparent to Remainer voters and two, the Russian thing hurt Corbyn with a lot of voters in general, particularly outside of London. The first will be less severe than the second – pro-European people are still coming round to Corbyn as pro-Brexit and besides, these people are, for the moment anyhow, more anti-Tory than anti-Brexit. Corbyn’s handling of the Salisbury incident, on the other hand, was a gift to the Tories, and could save the locals for them, at least partially.
When this autumn rolls around, things will come to a head for Labour. If May delivers the reasonable outline of a deal and parliament votes it through, politics will move on. Corbyn will be re-examined in light of a new, post-Brexit era and I don’t think that will be good for his image. Or, we’re headed for a no deal Brexit, in which case Labour will probably formally split in some way, or a second referendum scenario unfolds somehow, in which case they’ll formally stay together for the time being only to split afterwards. That’s before we get into deselections, the blame game if the locals don’t go as well as hoped, more scandals particularly around anti-Semitism, or the fact that the Tories have the opportunity to get a fresh new leader in a little over a year’s time, something denied to the Labour Party.
What always scares me about this is what happens to the Left after another Tory GE victory. There’s the hope that everyone grows up a little, but I’m not banking on it. Could the Left become even more insular and conspiracy theory driven? I shudder to think.
Cory Bin says
I cannot believe your continuing the line that Corbyn won’t be PM. He proved you wrong in 2017, he’ll prove you wrong in 2022.
Hopefully one day you’ll see where you went wrong.
Has Jeremy been PM since last year without me noticing?
Cory Bin says
I think you’ve misunderstood. Nick thought that Mrs May was going to get a Mega Majority in 2017. In fact she lost it. Nick now thinks Corbyn won’t be PM. In fact he is.
Quite simple really.
Cory Bin says
the local elections in May. I don’t think Labour will do nearly as well as expected.
Prediction: they’ll do better than expected in London, a lot worse than expected outside it.
Phil Beesley says
I hope that people vote against Corbyn, given all that is known about his beliefs — or was known at the last election.
I sincerely hope that anti semitic labels stick — that Corbyn is indiscriminate when hanging around with holocaust deniers.
26th March 2018 at 17:15
I cannot believe your continuing the line that Corbyn won’t be PM. He proved you wrong in 2017, he’ll prove you wrong in 2022’ Aaaaa did I miss something? He lost!!!!. The Tories got the biggest share of the vote for many a year.
Cory Bin says
Did you mean to write this?
“When this autumn rolls around, things will come to a head for Labour. If May delivers the reasonable outline of a deal and parliament votes it through, politics will move on.”
Do you really think this is possible? Every indication this far is that there will be a rather fudged ‘transition’ that is in fact a transition to nowhere, but will effectively extend the Article 50 negotiation time in a way that is easier for the EU (no UK MEPs for example). I do not think there will be much more of an outline of ‘a deal’ than there was last December.
Nor will there be a ‘no deal’, nor clarity for UK businesses and industry. March 2019 was supposed to be a crunch point and indeed it will officially signal the beginning of ‘Brexit Limbo’, but there will be nothing dramatic. December 2020 then becomes the new crunch date, but I suspect that a transition Mark II will further extend ‘Brexit Limbo’. A general election at or before May 2022 is when “things will come to a head for Labour”,
Every indication this far is that there will be a rather fudged ‘transition’ that is in fact a transition to nowhere, but will effectively extend the Article 50 negotiation time in a way that is easier for the EU (no UK MEPs for example).
But that’s exactly the point: politics is currently stuck in, ‘Will we actually leave the EU or can the referendum result somehow be overridden?’
If Parliament votes through May’s transition deal in the autumn, then politics will move on to, ‘What will the post-Transition relationship with the EU look like?’ and indeed ‘What will the UK be like internally once it leaves the EU?’ Second referendums, ‘meaningful votes’, court challenges, all will become moot questions.
Therefore the ‘cover’ that the Labour party has been using so far of its creatively ambiguous Brexit stance — pro-Brexit to Leavers, anti-Brexit to Remainders — will be stripped away and Corbyn will be forced to stand or fall on his foreign and domestic policies: the former of which as we’ve seen this week is not at all in tune with the country, the latter of which will fall apart once he is asked for numbers (which he wasn’t in the 2017 election) and it becomes clear that the only way it could work is widespread appropriation of private property.
“… I’m now out of the game of predictions”
I suppose it was inevitable that this disclaimer would be followed by your predictions for the rest of this year!
Geoffrey Payne says
I would say that Corbyn must currently be the favourite to at least lead the largest party after the next general election.
I do not think voters will be the slightest bit concerned about Salisbury by the time of the next general election, or even the local elections coming up.
The advantage Corbyn has got is a demographic one. Young voters are largely not aware of the left wing ogres of the past; Arthur Scargill, Derek Hatton, Sinn Fein. They are told that Corbyn is an extremist but his personal demeanor does not fit the label.
Of course the internal politics of the Labour party is nearly always awful and possibly new ogres will emerge. Also it takes time for generational demographics to change the electorate enough to make a difference. However it would appear all that Corbyn needs to do is as little as possible and let events take their course.
If on the other hand JRM becomes leader of the Tory party then the question will be is he another Margaret Thatcher – underestimated by the left and who sweeps to power – or an IDS who is as bad as he seems? I suspect the latter which will give Corbyn more reason to cheer.