John Maynard Keynes, that greatest of economists, put it best: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?” After the last round of local Government elections, in which Labour’s performance was little short of abysmal, Zelo Street did not hold out much hope of Labour even holding its own in the upcoming General Election. The result of that General Election shows that the facts have changed.
The Tories went into the election believing all that had gone before would hold true: the boot boys of the Fourth Estate had destroyed Neil Kinnock, Pa Broon and Mil The Younger. They could therefore be relied upon to destroy Jezza. So Theresa May did the ultimate Faustian deal with the press establishment, promising abandonment of Leveson Part 2 and repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
This ensured that papers like the Sun and Mail would do her bidding, safe in the knowledge that their reward - all past sins swept discreetly under the carpet and carte blanche to carry on misbehaving - would follow. But then it all began to go wrong.
Expectation of Tory victory was predicated on the suicide note being in the Labour manifesto, but it was not. Attacks on the elderly, who had overwhelmingly voted for The Blue Team in the past, dismayed many. Thus the first cracks in the edifice.
Theresa May was an even worse campaigner than even the most pessimistic of her supporters could have imagined. When protesting “nothing has changed … nothing has changed” as she retreated from what was now firmly in the public conscience as the “Dementia tax”, she became just another started rabbit caught in the headlights.
The UKIP vote collapsed - the Kippers failed to turn up in many constituencies - but the assumption that it would mainly go to the Tories was proved wrong. Lib Dem support failed to recover significantly. The splintering of allegiance that had been such a significant factor in elections for the past 20 years faded, and two-party politics returned.
But what proved Corbyn’s approach to be the right one were two elements that the Tories could not match. One was his appetite for campaigning, the willingness to not only address rally after rally, but also meet ordinary people, listen to them, discuss their concerns, and, for Goodness’ sake, demonstrate a little empathy.
Then, two, busting the opinion pollsters by getting all those younger and less well-off voters out to the polls. It was Blair, Brown and Miliband’s great failing that so many of those people became disengaged from the political process.
Some pollsters were recording small Labour leads in the last days of the campaign - but their headline numbers showed the Tories in front, as the results were weighted to show their expectation of who would turn out to vote. They got it wrong.
Labour did not win. But they are now the party with the wind at their backs. The Tories are defensive and fearful, their press backers exposed as corrupt, vicious liars. Jeremy Corbyn offered the voters hope, rather than the cold and miserable gruel of Theresa May. All credit to him for staying the course and changing the facts. Now we must change our minds.