Whatever some of the Left might tell you, last Thursday was for the most part a very good day for the Tories. They became the official opposition in Scotland, something that would have been totally unthinkable even a couple of years ago. This is one of those achievements that will reverberate through British politics for decades to come. Scottish politics now becomes Sturgeon v Davidson even more than it had been previously, and it will be a hard binary system to break. In Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour also have their only presentable leader – if she is sacked or decides she’s has enough, there is no one else left that could even be described as mediocre to replace her.
In the English local elections, the Tories lost seats. But not very many when you consider the fact that they’ve been in government for six years coupled with their recent massive internal problems. Cameron would have taken a net loss of 46 in this election before they happened – as would any sitting prime minister. Particularly when the main opposition party somehow conspired to lose seats in England as well.
The one hope for Labour – and progressive politics in England overall – was Sadiq Khan’s victory in the London mayoral contest. It was a victory for progressive politics in several ways. One, the Tories attempted to run a campaign that was much the same as the one they ran at the 2015 general election, only even nastier. And it backfired. Londoners were turned off by the Goldsmith campaign’s attempts to smear Sadiq as an extremist, seeing right through its attempt to fix the equation “Muslim politician = Islamist extremist” into their minds.
The main victory for progressive politics however, is that in an England which is currently dominated by Tory politics, with the main party on the rise being UKIP, a centre-left politician has the largest personal mandate in the whole country. And he achieved it in a way that should become the blueprint for a resurgence of centre-left politics: he reached out to all voters, not just the easy ones to get to. He listened to what people were telling him as opposed to simply forcing his version of reality down everyone’s throats. Sadiq spent a lot of time campaigning in areas where the Labour vote was weak instead of simply staying in the patches where he was sure to get a positive response. He aimed to speak to his whole constituency, not just the bits of it he personally felt closest to.
Far from showing that the path back to victory for Labour is through the Jeremy Corbyn method, Khan’s campaign and victory stands as a rebuke on the whole Corbynista way of doing things. No wonder there is tension between the two men: the Khan method has been shown to be the very opposite of the Corbyn one. Worse for Jeremy, Sadiq’s way of campaigning has just been proven to work.