Friday, 4 December 2015

As I warned...Tories for Corbyn should be careful what they wish for.

On 22 July this year, in a blog about Labour's leadership election entitled "TORIES FOR CORBYN SHOULD BE CAREFUL WHAT THEY WISH FOR", I wrote:

"What we failed to anticipate [in Merseyside in the late 1980s] was the 'radicalisation' of those who had previously given-up on politics or had never participated. Just as those in search of spiritual understanding are attracted by the simple messages of evangelism, so those angry and disenfranchised with society were attracted to the equally simplistic messages of Militant Tendency. Turnout in the polling stations with the highest levels of social inequality and unemployment almost doubled, swamping any additional tactical Tory votes from elsewhere. One by one the Tory seats fell - and with them control of Wirral Council. We have never controlled it since."  

Last night's result in Oldham indicates that I might just have been right. Despite three months of torrid headlines and at the end of a week when he reinforced his image, at least to Middle Britain, as an "apologist for terrorists" Labour not only retained the Oldham West and Royton but did so with a 7% increase in vote share.

Labour's strategy is to me clear and obvious.

  • Bank the 28% core vote
  • Add 5% from the radical wing of the Greens and LibDems
  • Add another 5% from the previously disenfranchised and disinterested 
That gives Corbyn somewhere between 35%-40%. Or sufficient to win a General Election.

I have lived with militant politics and seen the effect its slogans have on people seeking simple answers to difficult questions. We might well be 10% ahead in the national polls, but slowly and steadily hundreds of thousands of previous non-voters are been politically re-engaged, and few (if any) of them are likely to vote for us. Coterminously the radical Left, which dissipated under New Labour, are being re-united for Corbyn.

We were never going to win Oldham West and Royton, but I suspect few of us would have predicted Labour's +7% swing. My concluding words in my 22 July post should ring a warning bell to us all:

"Should Jeremy Corbyn win it will be great for our Party in the leafy suburbs of West Kent and Surrey and Dorset - but these are the seats which Labour don't need to win and probably never will. The danger for us is in the dozens of constituencies which we win against Labour with the benefit of differential turnout.   These are the constituencies which will decide the government - and these are the constituencies which almost certainly contain thousands of voters in search of the simple answers than Burnham, Cooper and Kendall won't provide but Jeremy Corbyn might."

1 comment:

  1. I still think, on balance, you are wrong about the effects of Corbyn in the marginals Labour needs to win.

    Similarly to you, I was a teenage involved in Conservative politics in Tyneside in the 80's. We didn't have militant (thank goodness) but we were similarly decimated as a political force, so that by 1996 there was no Tory representation on three of the four Tyneside councils (North Tyneside being the exception.)

    Conservative support on Tyneside had been in relative decline since 1955 but that decline definitely accelerated after 1979. It was 1979 that seems to me to have been the turning point. The council elections were held the same day as the General Election and the increased Labour turnout resulted in many previously "safe" Conservative council seats becoming marginal or lost. The result going forward was that Labour actually began to campaign hard in seats they had never previously bothered with and the Conservatives never really recovered. I don't think militant or simplistic extreme messaging had much to do with it. Equally, to a large extent, changing demographics in places like Tyneside really hurt the Conservatives. In 1989 I moved south to go to university and whenever I met a fellow Geordie while canvassing for the Conservatives in Hillingdon they were Conservative voters. Conservative voters moved south and Labour voters stayed on Tyneside. (I know I am being overly simplistic here!)

    I do think Corby will be horrible in the current marginals that Labour and the Conservatives need to win. Those marginals, by and large, are no longer in Tyneside or Merseyside they are Gower, Chester, Croydon, Thurrock etc.

    Sorry for the long reply. I am interested in your thoughts!