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Friday 24 February 2017

Jeremy Corbyn - We Have To Talk

What little solace Labour could take from the realisation that, however bad the party was under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, UKIP was infinitely worse, was wiped out with the result from a by-election some way North by Northwest from Stoke Central, in the Cumbrian constituency of Copeland, where they lost to the Tories for the first time since 1931 (the seat, formerly Whitehaven, had been Labour since 1935).
While the seat, vacated by Jamie Reed running off to secure More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now from the nuclear industry, has not been quite as safe as some have painted it in the recent past - Reed’s predecessor Jack Cunningham scraped home by fewer than 2,000 votes in both 1983 and 1987 - for the opposition to lose a seat to a governing party is little short of a humiliation.

The Tories in Government last won a seat at a by-election from an opposition party in 1982, and even then the circumstances were unusual: Angela Rumbold won Mitcham and Morden not from a Labour candidate, but a former Labour MP, Bruce Douglas Mann, who had defected to the nascent SDP and then decided, unwisely, to fight a by-election in the aftermath of Mrs T’s successful prosecution of the Falklands conflict.

Excuses from the Corbyn faithful have already proliferated: their candidate was not left-wing enough (wrong), it was Reed’s fault (ditto), it was the media’s fault (ditto), it was a one-off (and so is every other constituency), it was Tony Blair’s fault (wrong), and now Corbyn himself is saying the voters in Copeland were “let down by the political establishment”. He’s been an MP for almost 34 years - he IS the political establishment.

Discontented Blairites and Brownites? They’ve kept schtum and held their fire for months now. The reality is that the Tories established a straightforward narrative: in a constituency where the nuclear industry is the largest employer, they took Corbyn’s anti-nuclear stance and played on it remorselessly. The strong Labour counter-claims on the NHS - especially after Theresa May visited the area and was evasive on the subject - fell short.

So other constituencies don’t have the nuclear industry. But Corbyn is just not cutting through to the electorate, either in Copeland or the wider country. Labour shows no sign of regaining ground lost to the SNP in Scotland, and no sign of tapping into those seats won in 1997 and 2001 which were later lost to the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn is not a credible proposition as a prospective Prime Minister - even with Ms May leading the Tories.

That’s the problem in one. Theresa May is not another Margaret Thatcher: she is weak and evasive, an unappealing figure propped up largely by a combination of fawning press coverage and - hello Corbyn fans - a lack of a credible opposition. Jezza has had enough time to set out his vision and take Labour forward. It hasn’t happened. The pleading will continue; for hardcore Corbyn fans, he can do no wrong. But the reality is different.

I’ll finish with this snippet from the BBC report: “Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said the Copeland result was the best by-election performance by a governing party in terms of the increase in its share of the vote since January 1966”. Two months after that, Harold Wilson went to the country and increased his majority from 2 to 97. Just be thankful Theresa May can’t do that right now. And get real about Jeremy Corbyn.


Mo Mentum said...

Jeremy never said he was going to win elections, he said he wanted to 'build a movement'. That takes time. Save your moaning until he's lost a few general elections.
Say in about 2054.

Anonymous said...

So other constituencies don’t have the nuclear industry. But Corbyn is just not cutting through to the electorate, either in Copeland or the wider country. Labour shows no sign of regaining ground lost to the SNP in Scotland, and no sign of tapping into those seats won in 1997 and 2001 which were later lost to the Tories. Jeremy Corbyn is not a credible proposition as a prospective Prime Minister - even with Ms May leading the Tories.

One reason that Corbyn doesn't 'cut through' has been the relentless monstering of the print media, pundit class - and people in his own party. Only this week Mandelson made it clear that every day, in every way, he tries to get rid of Corbyn.

Labour's problems in Scotland predate Corbyn and also relate to the devolved parliament. Plus, for anyone thinking 'get a woman in' - Labour are on their third female leader in Scotland. Gender is less of a USP if the the SNP and the Tories are led by women, and the latter leader is also an out lesbian (as Dugdale now is).

'We' weren't meant to take Corbyn seriously from day one of his leadership - which begs the question: why did Labour allow him on the ballot in the first place?

I'm that much of a Corbyn fan, but I;'m even less by a strategy of 'Get rid of Jezza...[cough cough mumble mumble] Victory in 2020!

john riches said...

Good analysis Tim; but, like with just about every other pundit I've seen today - and over the last few months - completely bereft of any alternative. Two questions; would Labour under, say, Keir Starmer, have done any better in Copeland? And worse in Stoke? My suggestions are 'no' to the first, and 'yes' to the second, and I've yet to see a convincing argument otherwise. Maybe you could make it?

Roy said...

It might be the best thing if May *did* call am election (There are ways. They aren't straightforward but they exist)

As it is, Labour is sleepwalking into a catastrophe in 2020. 2025 is the absolute earliest opportunity to get the Tories out.

An election this spring, three years early, would surely depose Corbyn and let them get started on 2022.

SimonB said...

Fully agree, Tim. And the problem with Corbyn is nothing less than the man himself: he's chosen bad people and has no presence. There's no sign of anything, let alone some fantastical new movement. For those of us in constituencies he's a liability every time we go out to campaign.

The plus side is we campaign locally and build up personal support. In five years or so there might well be a lot of good new people representing the party. Heaven knows they're needed!

Unknown said...

This is no more than I expected for a party in denial. It's no good talking about getting rid of Corbyn, the membership is now dominated by the hard left and they will just select someone as bad or even worse like the odious McDonnell. RIP Labour

grasmit said...

Its breathtaking how shallow and facile this argument is.There is no quick cure for Labour.The thickness of the blairites wallets is testimony to this.The pigs wont stop eating volountarily.

Anonymous said...

Oh someone help us all when you think 100ks people that care about others/themselves against Corps etc milking it are 'hard left'

Paul said...

The nature of the media should not have come as a surprise. I would suggest that Seumas Milne was not the man to point at them.

Sam Best said...

The party should have united behind Corbyn - even those who hate him - and given him a good 3 year run. They should have made that deal with Corbyn. A possible successor could have been building his case as an alternative in the meantime. 2 years after replacing Corbyn is plenty of time to win an election.

But no, the Blairite wing have basically split the party into 2 groups. This is a rift that will not heal and it's directly down to the undisciplined Blairites who would rather see a party in disarray than Corbyn gain ground.

Why is it that both the Australian Labor Party and the ruling Liberal /LNP Party who are as diverse as the UK parties can do this? They unite behind both leaders as they have with the various factions. They do tolerate dissension as disunity is death. And then when the leader's polls are plunging they move swiftly and an agreement to replace him /her is made.

It does not matter how Corbyn performs quite apart from the disgraceful and undemocratic media campaigns against him. The Blairites who are now the infamous 'bookie runners' and 'real estate agents' of Denis Healy fame, led by the treacherous Tom Watson who oozes disloyalty.

The Blairites have fucked Labour over for petty ambition. Replacing Corbyn now or later will not work. The public can sense a split party. Of course Corbyn cannot win now but put the blame squarely where it belongs.

@OffCentreNews said...

A few facts & thoughts about Copeland. And it's an area I know well.

It wasn't a safe seat. Anyone with any knowledge of its history knows that. Yes Whitehaven had been Labour since 1924. Whitehaven used to be a mining town. It no longer is. That traditional Labour core vote has long gone.

In 2015 there were major boundary changes which meant a much larger area was incorporated into the constituency, rural areas and also Keswick. I'd suggest many voters in the new extended constituency were not traditional Labour supporters.

MP for Copeland since 2005 was Jamie Reed. Reed came from Sellafield, a major employer in the area, and on his resignation as MP he went back to being a PR man for the nuclear industry there.

Reed had been losing votes for Labour since his election in 2005. I suspect had he not had these local connections he may well have lost even more votes. He could see a time when his vote would vanish entirely and jumped ship, partly in the hope of damaging Corbyn. Reed was one of the most vicious and vocal opponents of Corbyn, and that can't have helped. He didn't reckon on the Stoke by election being on the same day (Hunt's resignation came later) so Labour's win there meant the tactic of showing Labour unelectable under Corbyn didn't work out as planned.

It appears some voters believed Corbyn was going to close down Sellafield (untrue... though possibly given the history of the plant it could well be argued on safety grounds it should be closed...).

And from a quote in the Guardian today where one voter described Corbyn as a 'lunatic' who also wanted to close down the local hospital, which is bullshit, the big campaign message re the future of local hospital services and the NHS hadn't reached some voters either. As the Tory candidate was claiming her support for keeping local hospital services and not transferring to Carlisle, a BIG issue in the area, that took the rug from under the feet of the Labour candidate somewhat, though promises by Tories seeking election are in my experience to be treated with caution.

Personally, I despair at the stupidity and sheer ignorance of many who are allowed to vote. But that's the situation we are in.

A.Robot (Mrs) said...

So what's the plan then?