A victory for left in extaordinary UK election

By   /   June 12, 2017  /   4 Comments

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Corbyn and the left now need their mandate to clean house within the Labour Party to ensure the loyalty of all MPs to the new left-wing party programme. It is probable a number will simply retire and take job offer from their big business mates rather than be part of a Corbyn-led party.  Others may want to start another centrist Blairite type party. But it is the absolute democratic right of members to go through a selection process for MPs before the next election.

 

The UK election was extraordinary for a number of reasons.

The Conservative Prime Minister called it early because opinion polls gave her at least a 20 percentage point lead over Labour. A huge victory awaited. Just as importantly a crushing defeat of Labour was possible. The hated Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be crushed and tossed aside.

The conservatives won 318 seats and lost 13 seats. Labour won 262 seats and gained 32. In theory 326 seats are needed for a majority in the 650-seat parliament. Actually it is nearer 323 as Sinn Fein in the North of Ireland won seven seats which they don’t occupy because of their republican views.  

The Labour vote in the UK election reached 40%. Their MP number increased The Conservative Party just made it back in office with 42% of the vote and the support of a Democratic Unionist Party – a deeply reactionary party based in Northern Ireland with terrorist links that holds 10 seats.

It was the highest Labour Party vote total since the 42% won in 1997 that produced a Labour landslide of seats. Blair got that total only after doing a dirty deal with the Media baron Rupert Murdoch and the City of London that he would not threaten their interests while in government. The Murdoch-controlled press said vote Labour that election while this election they campaigned against with extraordinary lies and vilification.

The Corbyn-led Labour Party lifted its vote by 10% on 2015. This was the largest vote increase since 1945 landslide following World War 2. It was probably an even more dramatic increase in the sense that the polls had the Tories on a 20 percentage point lead when the election was called less than two months ago.

Another vital statistic was that the percentage of those aged 18-25 who voted went from 41% to 53% and of those two-thirds voted Labour.

Corbyn’s victory rose to an incredible 55% in London, where even rock solid Tory Kensington went Labour, as did Croydon, Battersea and Southgate.

The Conservative party actually increased their vote by 5% as a consequence of the collapse of the UKIP party whose vote dropped from 12.6% to 1.8%. But this increase wasn’t enough to escape the Labour surge.

UKIP had become a bit of the grumpy person’s party with a mix of English nationalism, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant flavours. But its votes clearly didn’t all go towards the Tories. Many working people had voted UKIP who had previously voted Labour.  They had been alienated by the failure of the Blair-led Labour government to lift up their communities that had suffered under a programme of free trade and privatisations implemented by both Labour and Tory governments. A big number of these voters who had been seduced by the seemingly anti-establishment rhetoric of UKIP leaders responded to the inspirational message of hope and change that Jeremy Corbyn articulated for Labour.

The most important result of the election is the fact that the Labour left has now proved itself in practice as able to lead and win. The big majority of Labour MPs remain hangovers from the days of Tony Blair and have actively sought to sabotage Jeremy Corbyn again and again since he won the Labour leadership only two years ago.

The working class and youth in the UK used the election campaign of Jeremy Corbyn for leader as a chance to reclaim the Labour Party as a socialist Labour Party. There was no mistaking Jeremy for what he stood for. He had voted against half the policies put forward by his own party in the Blair years. He was the national chairperson of the Stop the War coalition and campaigned against Blair’s taking the country into disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Tory-led bombing campaign against Libya.  He was a member of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs in the Labour Party who were dubbed “hard left” because of their principled positions. Literally hundreds of thousands of people joined the Labour Party to ensure Corbyn’s election as leader in 2015 then again in 2016 after there was 172-40 vote of no-confidence in his leadership by Labour MPs.

I believe that if Labour had won this election, a grouping of the right-wing MP’s would have defected to prevent a Corbyn-led government being formed or to sabotage one at the first opportunity that a crisis could have been engineered to give them the excuse.

Corbyn and the left now need their mandate to clean house within the Labour Party to ensure the loyalty of all MPs to the new left-wing party programme. It is probable a number will simply retire and take job offers from their big business mates rather than be part of a Corbyn-led party.  Others may want to start another centrist Blairite type party. But it is the absolute democratic right of members to go through a selection process for MPs before the next election. They should start giving notice of that intention now. The snap election prevented that from happening this time. Democracy in the party demands it be done before the next election.

The new government with its razor-thin majority cannot last. Like Labour, the Conservatives are bitterly divided. No other party will touch them except the right wing extremists in the DUP. There are extremely contested issues around the decision to leave Europe known as Brexit that need negotiating. The Tory austerity programme has been repudiated. They repudiated their own programme during the election period. Another election is coming. The Labour Party needs to be made fit for the purpose of radical transformation.

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About the author

Mike Treen

National Director of Unite Union

4 Comments

  1. Susan St John says:

    Great article Mike

    “Another vital statistic was that the percentage of those aged 18-25 who voted went from 41% to 53% and of those two-thirds voted Labour”

    wow if that happened here imagine…

  2. WILD KATIPO says:

    ” The big majority of Labour MPs remain hangovers from the days of Tony Blair and have actively sought to sabotage Jeremy Corbyn again and again since he won the Labour leadership only two years ago.”
    .
    * we have our own counterparts in NZ , the ABC’s , and those neo liberals in Labours caucus who have ensured the neo liberal narrative for the last 33 years .
    ……………………………………………

    ” Corbyn and the left now need their mandate to clean house within the Labour Party to ensure the loyalty of all MPs to the new left-wing party programme . But it is the absolute democratic right of members to go through a selection process for MPs before the next election. They should start giving notice of that intention now. ”

    ** And this is precisely the solution needed in NZ’s Labour party. A ‘cleaning of the house’ . I have called it a ‘ purge’ in the past. ‘ Clean house’ sounds so much more …. neutral , perhaps, …. but amounts to one and the same thing.
    …………………………………………….

    The neo liberals must go.

    • Strypey says:

      Great article Mike.

      “The neo liberals must go… And this is precisely the solution needed in NZ’s Labour party.”

      I agree, but hasn’t this mostly already happened? Goff, gone. Shearer, gone. King, demoted and probably gone by 2020. Most of the legendary ABCs (Robertson, Curran etc) opposed Cunliffe not because they supported Shearer, but because they’d drunk the kool-aid and believed 2014 would be won or lost in the mythical “centre”. In view of recent events I doubt they still think this. A rump of neo-liberal ideologues remain (Trevor Mallard, Clayton Cosgrove, Stuart Nash, along with ‘useful idiots’ like Poto Williams and Kelvin Davis), but their influence is waning. They have been put on notice by a leader who came out of the union movement, and who, as Chris Trotter put it;
      “has spent the last 18 months convincing caucus members of every ideological stripe that disunity is death”
      http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2016/08/13/dangerous-company-andrew-little-quarantines-the-labour-right/

      The claim that Labour remains “neo-liberal” seems to be coming entirely from supporters of other parties who want to make hay out of left-leaning voters. Particularly NZ First, whose opposition to neo-liberalism is so paper-thin they won’t rule out propping up a NatACT government for another 3 years. Also Mana who, despite some very good policy, have no chance of building the alliances necessary to get to 5% this year (if ever), although I wish Hone well in Te Tai Tokerau (Davis has had it coming since his campaign in 2014 swung the election for the NatACTs). Anyone who thinks a Labour/Green government would be the least bad outcome of this election -certainly preferable to a Labour/ NZ First or National/ NZ First government -needs to stop buying into this spin and challenge those issuing it to back it up with reference to actual policy. Policy, policy, policy!

      “A ‘cleaning of the house’ . I have called it a ‘ purge’ in the past. ‘ Clean house’ sounds so much more …. neutral , perhaps, …. but amounts to one and the same thing.”

      No. It doesn’t. A “purge” is what Stalin did. It involves killing everyone who isn’t loyal to a cult-of-personality leader, or at least sending them off to the salt mines. Packaging up the rump of MPs who think the 1980s were the party’s glory days, and sending them off to the electoral purgatory of ACT where they belong, is not at all the same thing, and cleaning house is a more apt metaphor. I agree with you it needed to be done, but it seems to me it’s been well and truly underway since the membership and the unions elected Cunliffe as leader.

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