Supporters of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have three qualities on which I pass no judgment, other than to point them out. One, they have difficulty listening to anyone who is not in agreement with them, two, they refuse to accept that Corbyn and those who back him are less than totally competent in everything they do, and three, they insist all those big rally turnouts mean they are right, and everyone else is wrong.
But into every world a little rain must fall, and yesterday in Sheffield - part of what used to be dubbed the Peoples’ Republic Of South Yorkshire, such was the reliable and solid nature of the Labour vote - it came pouring down, as Corbyn’s party lost a council by-election in a ward where they had previously scooped all three seats. Worse, they lost it to the Lib Dems, who are supposed to be finished as an electoral force.
Worse again, it is only three weeks since Corbyn addressed a rally of around 2,500 supporters in the city’s Barkers Pool square. Then, we were regaled by Twitter interventions such as “The people of Sheffield on why they back @jeremycorbyn”, that the event “supersedes the biased press that Corbyn is unpopular outside of London. He also attracted huge support in Sheffield”, and “This has to be seen. Literally thousands have turned out to see Jeremy Corbyn at the Sheffield bunker tonight”.
Yeah, see, it wasn’t just a “bunker mentality”. The “people” were behind Jezza. They refused to be brainwashed by the “biased press”, and no doubt the rest of the rotten media. So how did that rally turnout translate when there was a council by-election in the former mining area of Mosborough? Sadly it didn’t. At all. They lost.
The Mirror told “The election was to replace Councillor Isobel Bowler, a longstanding and popular Labour councillor in the Sheffield Ward of Mosborough, who died in June … In May, Labour won all three seats in the Ward, with the Lib Dems languishing in fourth place behind Ukip and the Conservation Party … But in tonight's by-election, Both Labour and Ukip's votes collapsed, and Lib Dem candidate Gail Smith won on an 11 point lead”.
A former mining area. With lots of former local authority housing. That had returned three Labour councillors in May. Losing one of those seats to the Lib Dems. By a margin of eleven and a half points. After that rally where thousands turned out. And it got worse.
The local branch of Momentum - those Corbyn supporters who are supposed to help deliver their leader more of those expected victories - was absent on the night of the by-election. While others were trying to get out the vote, they were organising a phone bank for the Corbyn leadership campaign. What was that about competence?
But all that so many Corbyn supporters will do in response to this post is all too predictable. I’ll be accused of being biased, not being objective or even-handed, there will be disappointment - “I usually like your stuff BUT” - and still no-one will listen. But here goes anyway: Rallies do not mean electoral success, and winning real world elections comes before leadership contests.
Letting the Lib Dems back in Sheffield should sound alarm bells. Instead, there will be more “la la la I can’t hear you”. Theresa May has nothing to fear from this opposition.