Labouring Under A False Narrative – On The UK’s 2019 Election Outcome And What It Means For ‘Left’ Parties Elsewhere

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In many ways, this should have been UK Labour’s election to lose. Or, at least, do a helluvalot better on with the Cons on the back, flat, bear-trapped-and-mangled foot.

Despite key campaign issues of Brexit, out-of-touch if not downright unrepresentative political elites, and an incumbent government suffering dang near Italian levels of instability [seriously, how else to describe a situation of it being on its third leader and third election inside what would otherwise have been a single Parliamentary term, alongside a state of literal brother-against-brother civil war inside its main Caucus] …

… Labour managed to lose while fielding one of the longest-running Euroskeptic MPs as its nominal Leader, and facing off against the literal second coming of Tory-Etonian born-to-rule privilege [the first coming being David Cameron … inside a pig] spouting Ancient Greek.

Now, the ‘received wisdom’ going into the Campaign, was that while the British voting public might be ‘sick’ of ongoing Brexit shenaniganry … this was in fact a soft-cover for much of the electorate actually being opposed to the whole thing going (any further) ahead.

And therefore, that by singular ‘virtue’ of not being a pro-Brexit party, UK Labour would stand to do well (particularly when buttressed with a whole lot of policy on just about everything else under the Sun).

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Clearly, this didn’t happen.

The “new” ‘received wisdom’ is going to be to turn the whole thing into an anti-Corbyn finger-pointing jamboree . As in … “it wasn’t UK Labour taking a soft-Brexit-Skeptic stance which lost votes … it was Corbyn muddying the waters by refusing to allow Labour to take an overt anti-Brexit stance that’s to blame! That and him being actually left-wing!”

Except the size of the Conservative victory, and the somewhat unexpected places in which it was bourne out seat-by-seat … show that this is a completely untenable interpretation of events. (It also completely glosses over Corbyn’s actual electoral record as leader – the 40% of the popular vote Labour attained under him in 2017, for instance; and the fact that even the 32.1% of the popular vote Labour got this week, is somewhat larger than the 29% under Gordon Brown in 2010 or the 30.4% under Ed Miliband in 2015. If you are attempting to make Corbyn look like the problem, preferably in order to scream “I TOLD YOU SO” in favour of some return-to-business-as-usual neoliberal as having been the better option for leader, or the logical ‘choice’ to take over now that Corbyn’s exited the position … then it does not do too well to cogitate upon just how much better he performed as compared to his two overtly ‘orthodox’ predecessors. Would rather defeat the narrative, that.)

It shall be persisted with, however, precisely because the sorts of people pushing this line are reflexively incapable of self-criticism or conceding that they’ve gotten things wrong. It’s their preferred metanarrative up against the world, and if there’s some dissonance or disagreement between the two … then it is clearly the world which is in error. Besides, nobody likes to wear the crown of blame, and it’s much easier – more fun, too – to shift it elsewhere onto somebody who represents various sorts of antitheses to what you despise, anyway.

The real horror for those of us out here in the rest of the Anglosphere, is that a whole swathe of notionally-“left” parties which might have serious shots at gaining or maintaining power … will take rather similar “lessons” from UK Labour’s defeat. They’ll brand it “Corbyn’s Defeat”. They’ll shout that “SOCIALIST ECONOMICS CAN’T FLY!” They’ll claim that allowing anybody even *somewhat* on the side of the people in a ‘populist’ issue liek Brexit *anywhere near power and leadership* is an automatic recipe for disaster.

I sometimes think that these sorts basically think the future both is and should be Liberal Democratic [ha] Technocracy Forever. And they’re professionally engaged in the card-house-construction of ever less tenuous headcanonry ‘explanations’ for why this *doesn’t* appear to actually resonate with much of anybody who isn’t already either a LibDem or a Technocrat.

In short .. the *actual* lessons quite simply aren’t going to be *allowed* to be learned. Because to do so doesn’t just risk ’empowering’ “the wrong ideas” and forces, it entails undermining core components of their incipient world view. And that kind of cog-dis is exceedingly painful for any has-be-would-been ideologue to have to endure.

Partially, this has probably been downright deliberate. In much the same manner as the Democratic Party in the USA moving to clamp down on its ‘insurgents’ lest they actually prove to be electable next year … the idea is simply to ‘wait out’ both the incumbents in office/government, and the insurgents in their own party even though it’s plainly an election-losing strategy.

Indeed, as the saying goes, that isn’t a bug – it’s deliberately designed that way.

14 COMMENTS

  1. After some thinking I have come to the conclusion that, just like in 2017, a large proportion of the Labour Party organisation were hoping they would lose. For two reasons;
    One (the most important): get rid of Corbyn once and for all so they can elect a new version of Tony Blair as leader and revisit the alt:Conservative policies of the 1990s.
    Two: sit back and watch (and laugh) as Boris the Spider, emboldened by his resounding victory, goes hardline on a Brexit deal and the UK economy disintegrates from the fall out. Then theoretically the people will be begging for Labour next time.
    Labour also failed to recognise that Brexit was really the only issue that people wanted to talk about. Their tactic of trying to change the subject and talk about social services, health, etc. was laudable, but only half-hearted and once again they squandered an opportunity to form some temporary electoral alliances in key seats to thwart what their pro-Brexit opponents were doing under their noses.

  2. You are right as far as you go. Corbyns popularity was that he stood for democratic socialism. The problem was that Corbyn’s was undermined by the anti-socialists in the party and lost his mojo. He didn’t stick to his leftwing guns and attack the Tories from a traditional Labour standpoint. Everything the Tories do is anti-worker.

    Brexit is no exception. In fact it is the mother of hyper-austerity, the reactionary nationalism that divides, rules and ultimately drowns the working class as a proto fascist populism.

    But to tackle the labour voters opposed to immigration he had to elevate his sights and show how immigrants are workers too; the only reason they have to compete for jobs, housing, welfare etc is that the bosses are bastards, British capitalism is failing, and no Labour party has had the guts to make jobs, houses, health. welfare and education affordable for all!

    He made a raft of promises around NHS, internet, Green New Deal, paid for by taxes on the rich etc but these were not launched as the socialist alternative to Brexit. So social democracy was not counter-posed as a credible answer to Brexit as the desperate attempt of the Tories to exploit chauvinism and racism to save their skins as the British economy tanks.

    As for whether a victorious Labour Govt could have delivered on this program, history is less about this and more about what a radicalised, mobilised masses, will do when Labour begins to back peddle in the face of fascism. It would take a massively militant labour movement to carry a radicalised Labour party forward against this threat against the forces of the bosses’ state and win. But it has to be tried. We don’t know what is possible unless we do what is necessary. And we don’t have any alternative.

    Because its not about personalities, conspiracies etc, but the class struggle that drives it all.
    Here’s my take on it. https://situationsvacant.blog/2019/12/13/where-is-britain-going/

  3. Corbyn represents elitism equally as much as Johnson.
    This is the same here in NZ where none of the Labour MPs have anything more in common with workers than their opposition counter parts.

    • Bullshit Jays ,,,, can you imagine Corbyn telling the Pike river family’s ‘”they can sue” ,,, as the tory national party DID here in NZ.

      The right wing are in contempt of workers ,/ unions / health and safety regulations etc,,,,In contempt ,,, not ‘in common’.

      Never mind all the differences between Corbyn and Boris over Assange , Iran, Israel, NATO and War ,,,, Boris is a anti Islam neo-con.

      Interestingly and on a vulture capitalist side note …the Legatum Institute which is funded by one of the NZ Chandler Bro’s was pro-Brexit and advising the Torys.

      The chandler bro’s made a lot of money out of Russia ,,,, when average Russians were hammered, ripped off and impoverished ,,, during their shock therapy of crony capitalism and privatizations.

      These two NZ Bro’s who most have never heard of,,,, made hundreds of millions while, ” Russia’s economy collapsed some 60%, the male life expectancy plummeted from 68 years to 56, millions were reduced to living on subsistence farming for the first time since Stalin as wages went unpaid for years at a time.”

      “The Chandler brothers reportedly were the single biggest foreign beneficiaries of one of the greatest privatization scams in history: Russia’s voucher program in the early 1990s, when each Russian citizen was given a voucher that represented a share in a state concern to be privatized . ”

      Brexit may not be as those patriotic Brits imagine ,,,,

      https://pando.com/2015/05/17/neocons-2-0-the-problem-with-peter-pomerantsev/

  4. Given that the last three elections, and 2019 in particular have been dominated by the brexit issue, it would make sense to hold another election once brexit has been completed. Britain needs to get some feedback from its people as to the direction the country should take post brexit. However I can’t see Boris asking for another election; with his majority, why should he.

  5. There is a clear rise in right-wing popularity unfolding in “The West”, which imo largely stems from the constant virtue signalling and identity politics from various social justice warriors that especially the left (and the media) is mindlessly pandering to… despite forming just a tiny minority of the general populace. For example, Greta Thunberg might play well here, but for regular people (myself included) she is utterly insufferable. Ditto for the constant anti-Trump rhetoric.
    Really, how would you like to see this every morning when you go to work? I mean, seriously:
    https://thespaces.com/a-60-ft-high-greta-thunberg-mural-pops-up-in-san-francisco/
    I photoshopped it slightly to show exactly how I think most folks see something like this:
    https://i.postimg.cc/NGbLjZr9/Greta.jpg
    Labour here in NZ will handily lose the next election if someone like Paul Henry or [gagging] Mike Hosking became leader of the National Party. Simon Bridges is the only thing right now in the way of a “surprise” National win in 2020.

  6. Corbyn lost for three msin reasons:
    1. He is unlikable.
    2. He wouldn’t commit to the democratic outcome of the Brexit referendum.
    3. He drove too far left.

    On point 3, what almost nobody on this forum seems to understand is that your policies need to appeal to a majority of the electorate.
    Just as a hard right agenda will never pass, nor will a hard left agenda. So stop bleating about how its not fair he didn’t win, you are starting to sound a little like the Democrats post 2016.

    • It was the Blairite centrists who insisted on Labour’s support for another referendum because they did not like the result of the last one.

      They used his success in 2017, numbers to block Brexit in parliament to force another election. They knew this would annoy Labour voters who supported Brexit and result in losing seats in the Midlands and the North. But they wanted to get rid of Corbyn and this was their way to do so.

  7. Yes, you keep thinking along those lines and Conservative parties will keep on winning.

    The real takeaways:

    1. Corbyn is a prat. Always was and always will be. He has the political beliefs of a 1960’s art student.

    2. People are naturally aspiring and socialism isn’t aspirational. It’s based on envy, anger and division.

    • That’s still batshit crazy identity politics.

      Capitalism creates more innovation.

      Lefties want socialism to redistributes wealth. So the capitalist ought to be more afraid of the working class.

    • Socialism is part of every civilized modern society Andrew ,,, Why would you claim Firemen and our fire service, or the police and other employees in— our justice system ,like judges ,,, and our defense force ,,,

      Why would you say these three examples of Socialism ,,,, which they are ,,, are based on ” envy anger and division.

      Your stupid representation of socialism ,,,as both bad ,,,and as a either or proposition ,,, is like saying red blood cells are not as good as the white ones ,,,. and the white ones will win.

      Every modern civilized society is a MIXED economy ,,, So the question is How Much Socialism.

      Examples of bad socialism would be the 600 Billion plus the usa spends on its bombs, its wars,,, and its huge military ,,, Their war socialism kills and maims overseas people ,,, while also starving funds for their public health system ,,, which they do not have.

      Their military gifts / aid to Israel is bad socialism ,,,

      And same with the bail out of wall st during the GFC ,,, John Key got gifted his Bank of America shares during the socialist rescue of the corrupt international financial system ,,,Socialism for the rich IS wrong.

      Anyway ,,,Mixed economy s with effective regulations is the obvious choice over your right wing slogans Andrew.

      11 Mins ,,,, mixed do best.

      Or were you thinking that with military style weapons ,,, you don’t need a socialist bloody police force.

    • Democrats can’t beat Trump economics because the US economy is doing well under Trump, but they can beat Trumps forign policy because Trumps pawning off US hegemony for nationalism.

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