A stunning result for Corbyn and Labour

Protesting Theresa May's visit to Ealing, west London May 20. Photo: Steve Eason

Alan Davies argues:

The election result is a triumph for Labour. Although the party has fallen marginally short of enough seats to form a government, Jeremy Corbyn has pulled off the biggest swing from one major party to another during the span of an election campaign since 1945. The polls were predicting a Labour share of the vote of 26% or 27% but ended up on the night at 40%—which is 12.8 million votes. This is more than Tony Blair got in 2001 or in 2005.

With 649 seats declared, the Conservatives have 318 seats, down 13, Labour 261, up 29, 35 seats for the SNP, down 21, the Lib Dems up 4 to 12, Plaid Cymru remain on three, the Greens on one and UKIP wiped out. Kensington and Chelsea is yet to declare. One recount has already taken place and the count has been suspended until 6pm tonight.

The turnout is up by 2% to the highest since 1997. The turnout amongst young people was unprecedented in modern times. The UKIP vote collapsed. Nuttall, who has resigned, came a distant third in Boston and Skegness.

Labour made significant gains in both Scotland and Wales. The SNP remain the largest party in Scotland but the Conservatives have won 12 seats off them so far, Labour have won seven and the Lib Dems three. In Wales Labour took back Gower, Cardiff North, and Vale of Clwyd from the Conservatives.

Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell are right to say that they are ready to form a minority government but it is clear that May will attempt to do so. The result, therefore, is not just a hung parliament, but the slimmest and most precarious of hung parliaments with effectively a coalition between a crisis ridden Tory Party and the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party – one of the most socially conservative political parties in Europe.

Its members deny climate change, oppose abortion and marriage equality and are mostly Biblical creationists. Its candidates were endorsed by the Ulster Defence Association, a sectarian murder gang which is now involved in racketeering and drug dealing.  This lash up gives the Tories a majority of  two. Even if this gets off the ground it is likely to extremely unstable and we should prepare for another election before the end of the year.

Labour’s election campaign was spectacular and had a huge impact. The outcome is a personal triumph for Jeremy Corbyn, who was vilified in the most brutal way from the start of the campaign until the end. The Tories weren’t even able to use the two horrendous terror attacks to their advantage.

The manifesto changed the politics of the election campaign the moment it hit the streets. It mobilised hundreds of thousands of young people to register to vote, join the campaign and vote in, what for many,  the first election in which they had participated. Young people who have been abused and used by successive government have struck back with a vengeance.

We are seeing tectonic shifts taking place at several levels in British politics. Labour’s anti-austerity election platform has appealed to many of the same marginalised people who were drawn towards a Brexit vote. The vote is a massive rejection of austerity—bringing about a fundamental change in British politics. There is a new generation on the scene for the first time, completely open to the kind of radical alternative Labour is putting forward. For example, it was the student vote which took Canterbury for Labour which has been Tory for ever.

Corbyn is now in a powerful position inside the party. The Labour right who have campaigned for two years to discredit and get rid of him have been politically defeated and have some decisions to make. Every one of the predictions they made about Corbynism have been proven wrong. It is time now to back Corbyn or stand aside.

In this situation the job of the radical left is clear. Join the Corbyn movement if you have not done so yet, help him to change and democratise the Labour Party. Deepen the political trajectory that he has initiated, and stand ready to fight the next election as and when it comes.

 

7 Comments

  1. It is seismic. Labour had several mountains to climb and did amazingly well. But look also the polarisation that has taken place: the Tories increased their vote significantly – let’s discuss how we tackle this. Additionally, if Labour does come to power later this year, the big tax hikes on the 5% that are needed to pay for a Labour programme would be followed by capital flight, which can only be controlled by nationalising the banks – something not mentioned in the manifesto. What would Labour’s strategy be in Brexit negotiations? It would have to reach out to left movements and parties across Europe.

  2. It would also be good to discuss the Labour revival in Scotland further. How progressive is this, if the Scottish LP leadership is still unionist? Clearly many Scottish voters appreciated Labour’s anti-austerity programme, and many of these would have been pro-indy. But I wonder to what extent the independence question is still being debated in the Scottish LP and how the SSP is relating to this.

  3. Indeed, seismic, but I need to take issue with some of Alan’s arithmetic. First of all, Labour has won Kensington, a stunning win in probably the wealthyest constituency in the country, although it also contains huge housing estates in the north of the area. This gives the Tories 318. With the DUP they have 328 on a good day and the wind behind them. But there are two factors that Alan has left out. The first of which is that Sinn Fein currently won’t take their seats, and there are seven of them, leaving the size of the HoC at 643. Secondly, each seat that the government holds is one that the combined opposition doesn’t. Without boring you with the details, in practice it’s 328 vs 315, giving the government a majority of 13.

    The second issue I have is that Alan doesn’t discuss Scotland and the dramatic retreat of the SNP. It isn’t just that the Unionist parties voted tactically, the SNP vote dropped from over 50% to 38% and the combined Labour, Tory and LD parties got over 60%. Andrew is right to discuss the Labour vote, but we also need to look at the growth of the Tories, taking many previously safe seeming SNP seats including those of Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond! The Tories are right to crow that any IndyRef is in the furthest long grass. Moreover, had the SNP been able to stand its ground, the Tories would have been in far more trouble than even now in the UK parliament. We need to have a second article covering Scotland in more detail and explaining the dramatic decline in the SNP’s fortunes.

    We need to know more about the details in the six counties of Northern Ireland as well. Apparently small but sufficient shifts have removed the traditional Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP from the last of their remaining seats; 10 for the DUP and seven Sinn Feiners are the representation in the UK parliament today.

    I should say that none of this should take away from Corbyn’s achievement. I admit to being a bit Corbyn sceptic in the past, but the reality of his movement is now measured in millions, not just the hundreds of thousands that joined the LP. The Left needs to build on this to create the maximum opposition to the Tories. They still command a majority to maintain Austerity, Privatisation and more. The DUP will demand regressive social policies as well. Brexit is clearly in a mess. Opposition outside as well as inside parliament is needed and has to build on the clear mass support for Corbyn and anti-austerity policies.

    • A very good comment from Mark. Co-ordinated pressure should be placed on the 7 Sinn Féin MP’s to take their seats and put the ConUnionist coalition on a much tinier knife-edge. No to coalition with the DUP.in London, No to coalition with the DUP in Belfast.

      • Sinn Fein and Irish Republicans have declined to take seats at Westminster for nearly 100 years. This they promised to carry on doing at the election when the increased their vote and seats. Are you really saying they should break their promise and overturn their traditions and principles at the behest of a British left whose record on Ireland is pretty shameful? You cannot be serious

  4. This from Salvage: “Corbyn’s programme doubtlessly did bring voters back to Labour in Scotland, yet at nothing like the rate seen in England. The resulting undeserved victories ought to prompt a period of reflection on the part of the Scottish Labour leadership. Experience suggests this will not be forthcoming. Yet the Scottish Left, having attached itself so firmly to the independence cause now also has some serious thinking to do. As Scotland turns right, and we see the most realistic chance in seven decades for a Britain that is not solely for the rich, what reasons other than identification with a national project are there not to throw all into the battle for Corbynism?” ie, I suppose, maintaining the right of self-determination, and the right to secede – but putting indy on the middle, if not the back, burner? Just a question…

  5. The collapse in the oil price and BREXIT means economically and politically independence in Scotland off the agenda for decades. A Corbyn UK government only chance of an immediate progressive future.

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