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