Keep moaning. Keep sabotaging. Keep resisting
PUBLISHED: 10:46 21 June 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
The Conservatives have been exposed as the opportunistic self-serving incompetents that they are.
Like many Corbyn-sceptics I’ve been bombarded with messages this last week demanding I issue some sort of grovelling apology for having said Jeremy Corbyn would lose the election. There’s one thing I feel I should point out in my defence: Jeremy Corbyn DID lose the election.
I realise that’s going to come as a shock to some people, given the (understandable) euphoria currently enveloping the left-most end of the British political spectrum, but Labour did – in fact – lose the General Election. They just a.) did far better than anyone (including myself) expected or dared hope, and b.) didn’t lose quite so badly as the Conservatives, for all that they technically ‘won’ (of which more in a moment).
I’m not apologising for my stance on Corbyn’s prospects heretofore, as it was based on the polling evidence available at the time, and I stand by my opinion that those who were insisting a few months ago that he was in fact the Great White-Bearded Hope were basing this on nothing more substantial than tribal loyalty and wishful thinking... the fact that in due course, events came to more closely approximate those wishes and loyalties didn’t mean they were right *at that time*, nor indeed that I was wrong at the time. When new data came in, my assessment changed accordingly. That’s how scepticism works.
And I reject both the what-if scenarios being floated at the moment; you can’t claim (as Corbyn’s fans are doing) that had the parliamentary party and the punditocracy NOT spent the last two years throwing shade at him, he would have done far better and possibly won, not having had to start with a 25 point deficit... nor can one reasonably posit (as Corbyn’s detractors are doing) that a different, more mainstream Labour leader would have fared better, as in all likelihood they wouldn’t have had a 25 point deficit to catch up on in the first place.
Both these suggestions are invalid for the simple reason that Corbyn’s 25 point deficit back in the springtime is the only reason the Conservatives called this election. Had he been anywhere near on terms in the polls, none of this would have happened. Were I feeling mischievous, I might even suggest that Corbyn owes this opportunity to prove his unexpected electoral mettle to the very fact that two years of criticism and sabotage made him look far more vulnerable than he in fact was. Maybe that’s been the plan all along? Maybe Corbyn and the PLP are currently high-fiving each other, having just pulled off the greatest political pool-hustle in electoral history?
For what it’s worth, I’m pleased that Labour did as well as they did and wouldn’t have minded them doing a bit better; my issues with Corbyn were never simply a matter of ‘electability’; I had and still have philosophical and ethical reservations about him which this result does nothing to alter. But I’ll happily put my hands up and admit that he turned out to be a far better campaigner than I or indeed most people expected (although this in many ways makes his dithering and equivocation before the EU referendum all the harder to forgive, but that’s a topic for another time. Like maybe next week). Mind you, even the staunchest Corbynite couldn’t deny that Labour was hugely assisted in its efforts by the epic levels of ineptitude displayed by the Tories.
If the 1983 Labour manifesto was “the longest suicide note in history”, the 2017 Conservative manifesto was the most lavishly printed threatening letter in history. It was relentlessly negative; not so much a series of promises as a list of things they were going to take away if they won. “Vote for us and we’ll steal your kids’ lunch and your grandma’s house!” Bill Clinton couldn’t have sold that platform; the furtive, stuttering Theresabot 9000 never stood a chance.
We’ve all been so numbed by seven years of austerity that political parties actually having something to offer other than blood, sweat, tears and toil doesn’t even feel like an option any more. So when Labour responded to the Tories’ message of “Life is rubbish and only we can protect you” with “Well... what if life wasn’t rubbish?”... It says terrible things about life in the year 2017 that their very concept of ‘optimism’ can feel revolutionary but it seems to have resonated with approximately 40% of the voters. And, of course, the wonderfulness of the huge upswing in young voter participation speaks for itself.
The Conservatives’ current predicament – scrabbling for favour with, of all people, the DUP in order to cling pointlessly to power – is emblematic of the disease at the heart of Conservatism. Michael Gove, who is not a fool – he’s no expert (see what I did there?) but he’s no idiot – tweeted this week “Conservatives always put national interest first”. The only way he can say that without bursting into flames after the last two weeks’ events are if he is incapable of telling the difference between the Tory party’s interests and the nation’s at large. All the chaos that party has wrought upon this country in the last two years has been entirely in pursuit of Conservative electoral advantage and ministerial job security. The nation has benefitted not one whit from any of it, nor is it likely to. But the Conservatives, as I said a couple of weeks ago, think they are the country. They’re so convinced that they’re the natural leaders, that any time another party is in power they believe that Britain is Going Wrong. Even if peace and prosperity reign through the land, if there’s anyone other than a True Blue Tory in Number 10 then the country’s going to hell in a handcart, and hang the evidence to the contrary.
So whatever keeps the Conservatives in power is by definition, they believe, in the nation’s interest, even if it beggars the economy, humiliates the country internationally and drives us to the brink of war (as this harebrained alliance with the DUP may yet, making a nonsense as it does of the Good Friday Agreement). Labour may not have won, but whatever happens next, the Conservatives have lost, in a big way. They’ve been exposed as the opportunistic self-serving incompetents that they are.
Meanwhile, there’s already talk of the start of Brexit negotiations being delayed, perhaps indefinitely, until there’s a credible UK government to negotiate with.
I told you it wasn’t over...
Keep moaning. Keep sabotaging. Keep resisting.
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