#GE2017: What happened to the Tories and what next for Labour?

#GE2017: What happened to the Tories and what next for Labour?



Context

Cast your mind back to April 19th 2017, the day that Theresa May announced that a general election was to be held on June 8th. The mood on the left was despondent at this announcement - to say the least. The reason being that, at the time Theresa May was enjoying almost unprecedented personal approval ratings. The Conservative Party was leagues ahead of the Labour party in opinion polls - upto twenty-five points ahead depending on which polling agency you're inclined to trust the most.

This was set against a backdrop of a wide-spread perception amongst the press that Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable, a self confirming narrative, but one that was being confirmed none the less in the opinion polling. There was a widespread feeling that Labour was walking itself into an electoral disaster, after which the party would split, effectively ending their viability as a mainstream party.

In the two weeks following the announcement of an election it was widely predicted, in the press, that Labour would lose anything between fifty and one hundred seats. The parties internal estimate was that they would lose 75 seats. The most triumphalist reporting from the right-wing press put the figure as high as 200, which if it was borne out would put the Labour party on a par with the Liberal Democrats prior to them taking a punishment beating from the electorate in 2015, for being slithery little fucks. On numbers of seats, although admittedly not on sheer lack of morals.

To put these predictions in context, Labour has been the largest party in the principality of Wales since the party was founded over one hundred years ago, this looked set to end. In the North West of England and the North East the party has been the dominant force for the same period of time - this, likewise, looked set to end.

Furthermore, it's not like these prediction were even particularly implausible. Labour, which had long dominated Scottish politics, was reduced to one MP in the country at the 2015 general election. It was assumed going into this election that they would struggle to win voters back and were essentially finished in Scotland, and that the same forces which had taken them out of the running there looked likely to do the same across the wider United Kingdom.

It has been reported by Owen Jones at the Guardian that part of Theresa Mays motivation for calling the election, besides the obvious enticement that a twenty five percent poll lead represents, was that she had her eyes on the history books. She wished to be remembered as the Conservative leader who saw off the Labour Party once and for all. Again, it is not like this happening would have been unprecedented. For nearly two hundred years between the seventeenth and the nineteenth century politics was dominated by the Whig Party and the Tory party(1).

In the mid-nineteenth century the Whig party merged into the Liberal Party, along with the Radical party, who also joined the Liberals. The Tory party survived and the modern Conservatives can claim direct lineage with it.

Flash forward to the late nineteen eighty's and the Liberal Party merged with a splinter party of the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, to form the Liberal Democrats. As a result of the turbulence within British politics caused by Thatcherism. Ending the Liberal Party.

Flash forward again to 2015 and the Liberal Democrats are all but wiped out as a result of having been part of a coalition with the Conservatives. Meaning the Conservative Party can plausibly claim to have seen off four major parties. Make no mistake, they would have loved for Labour to have been their fifth victim.


The Local Elections

The local elections where held on May 4th 2017. There isn't really any way of sugaring the local election results for Labour. They were fucking atrocious. Despite some glimmers of light in London, and the party winning the mayoralty of Liverpool and Manchester, the wider results where a disaster.

Labour got 27% of the vote and lost control of seven councils, the Conservatives got 38% and won control of eleven, the Liberal Democrats got 18% and neither lost nor gained(2). The narrative that Labour where on the way to being essentially taken out of contention as a serious force in politics seemed to be being confirmed.

The Conservative press was ecstatic, and it seemed the Daily Mails fantasy of an elected authoritarian dictatorship looked set to be about to come true. Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail's, sexualised pleasure at the idea of the suffering that could be inflicted on people was almost palpable. If one listened closely one could hear the audible groans of pleasure floating in from the ice fortress that Rupert Murdoch shares with Skeletor, Dr Doom and the Demon Headmaster.

But then something changed.

The Campaigns

The turning point from the point of view of Labour seems to have been the announcement that only one of the fourteen Conservative MP's who where under investigation for election fraud in the 2015 General Elections where to be charged. Whilst this seems initially to be a win for the Tories. The reporting of the issue made it quite clear that wrongdoing was likely to have taken place but no conspiracy could be proven. Furthermore, the issue had been some what buried up till' this point. Therefore, for many people this was the first they where aware of the fact that these politicians had been under investigation.  From this point on(3) it seemed that the momentum switched to Labour.

As the Conservative campaign proceeded it lurched between tragedy, comedy and farce at every turn. Listening to an increasingly fragile ego get up in front of her sycophantic supporters and repeat "Strong and stable government in the national interest" repeatedly, looked properly fucking ridiculous. Especially as it became clear that May was being kept away from actual members of the public and, even more bizarrely, the press - given their almost unwavering cheerleading of her up till' this point.

Then came the manifestos'. The Tory manifesto functioned as an exercise in how to piss the most people off with one document. Incredibly light on detail, completely uncosted and insanely regressive.

Highlights included; removing free school meals for infants, means testing the winter fuel allowance, and asset stripping people who had the misfortune of requiring old age care due to dementia.

Interestingly, the first two; meals for children, and means testing the winter fuel allowance would be the removal of a universal benefit. Those who take an unhealthy interest in the theory which undergirds social security, such as myself, will know - universal benefits tend to be much more popular than those that are means tested.

So, child benefit was an incredibly popular policy when it was given to every child, tax credits likewise - the same is true of the winter fuel allowance and universal free school meals. Basically, when narratives are set about these policies it is incredibly difficult to cast those in receipt of them as scroungers. It increases the uptake of them amongst those that are eligible as well. There is a phenomenon with jobseekers allowance that often people who need it and qualify for it do not claim it because of the social stigma attached(4)(5).

The uptake of free school meals and the winter fuel allowance is so high, precisely because they are not means tested. Benefits such as these lend legitimacy to the social security system as a whole, even amongst rabid cunts. The Tories probably judged that the point at which they manage to make all benefits means tested is the point at which the death knell of the welfare state has been sounded.

The press coverage of these policies - especially of what became known as the "Dementia Tax" was almost unrelentingly negative. The only exception being the Telegraph, the house newspaper of the Tory Party(6), and the Daily Mail, the house newspaper of the Legion of Doom.

The Telegraph essentially spun the decision as a pragmatic one, hoping to tap into the masochistic delight in self punishment that the British electorate has had for the past seven years. The Mail did the same. Cooing "Finally a politician who will tell it to you like it is" - as the velocity of Paul Dacres cum-shot over the idea of asset stripping people with dementia broke a window at Daily Mail HQ.

The wider public however reacted with justified outrage. The Conservative poll lead begin to plummet and the Tories where put on the back foot by an increasingly confident, and competent, looking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

Labours manifesto by contrast diagnosed austerity as the source of ongoing wage depression, poor economic growth and the ongoing depression in living standards that has attended, a diagnosis shared by Nobel Prize(7) winning economists, and crucially it seems a large chunk of the electorate. Offering to remove university tuition fees, look into debt forgiveness for those that have been subject to them, invest in industry and reverse the race to the bottom in the corporate taxation rate - whilst promising a review of business rates to help small businesses(8).

As I said to a small business owner whilst canvassing for Labour during the election: Unless you own Amazon, Starbucks or Vodafone - the pro-business party has become Labour. Basically, if you own a business that employs under five hundred people you would see you tax burden drop. If not, there would be a moderate increase to bring the UK back into line with the rest of the developed world.

Then came the u-turn on the "Dementia Tax" - which it has to be emphasised was one of the first unprecedented moves in the campaign. No leader of any political party in history had performed a major policy u-turn during a general election campaign. Far from appearing 'strong and stable' May began to look - to coin a phrase - fucking shook.

The Final Fortnight 

Then came the Manchester terrorist attack. A terrorist attack during a general election campaign is another one of the unprecedented moments. It is difficult to sum up the horror that many will have felt, especially as many of the victims where children, and the attack seemed to have specifically targeted them.

Rightly or wrongly, the election campaign was suspended(9), when it re-started the focus of the campaign inevitably turned to the issue of terrorism. Security is generally extremely comfortable territory for the Conservative Party, and it was assumed that they would enjoy a poll boost as a result of the attack. Likewise this was meant to be particularly uncomfortable terrain for Corbyn - who has been painted since day one, particularly by the Sun, as a paid up IRA member and ISIS sympathiser. The YouTube attack ad's that began appearing, made up of quotes from Corbyn taken out of context or otherwise distorted, attempted to ram this narrative home.

It doesn't seem to have worked. As campaigning re-started Corbyn made a speech on British Foreign Policy, in which he made the claim that Britains actions abroad, particularly the war in Iraq and the bombing of Syria has made the country the target of terrorists. This is a view shared by the majority of the British public. As well as Boris Johnson in a Spectator article from 2007. Mr Johnson himself seemed to have forgotten this fact, after all who can expect him to remember every position he has ever taken for personal gain over the years, and attacked Corbyn for offering this analysis.

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary went on Channel 4 news to attack Corbyn as well. Resulting in a brilliant exchange with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, in which Fallon was essentially tricked into attacking Boris Johnson for what he had written in 2007. Fallon being of the belief that these where Corbyns words not those of Fallons cabinet colleague.


The Magic Money Tree


Possibly sensing that Corbyn was winning the argument on the response to terrorism, with amazing co-ordination considering the Sun, Express and Tory HQ aren't meant to be the same fucking organisation, the "magic money tree" attack line was launched.

Simply put, it was shite. The "countries credit card is maxed out" analogy that David Cameron used was economically illiterate but it at least made sense to people as they conceptualised government spending. Having lived through seven years of government directed printing of money to prop up the financial sector, as well as tax cuts for the Tories and their mates it must have seemed pretty fucking obvious where the Magic Money Tree was. It was in the Forest of Tax Evasion, located on the Island of Back Door Deals, or alternatively the British Virgin Islands.


The Final Week

With the momentum(10) well and truly behind Labour going into the final week. Conservative sources where apparently saying that they believed that Labour would overtake them in the polls at some point during the week.

Think about that for a second. Less than a month ago at this point the party had been enjoying a 25 percent lead. Now they where saying that they thought they where going to be overtaken. This simply cannot be put down to a cack handed Tory campaign. Labours campaigning was working - their message, which had been written off as electoral poison, was resonating with voters and the Tories where looking increasingly shaky. By this point the "strong and stable" slogan had been reduced to little more than a joke in most peoples eyes. As Theresa May looked increasingly weak and chaotic.

Following on from several television interviews, ranging from the more serious Jeremy Paxman to the less so One Show interview, in which Corbyn had - to put it mildly - smashed it out of the park. Corbyn announced that he would be participating in the leadership debate. Theresa May had previously ruled out taking part, probably on the now quite wise looking advice of her media aides. This then focussed the issue onto Theresa May(11) - the issue of the EU negotiations began entering the debate for the first time - breaking exactly the opposite way to the way most had expected. How, it was asked, can someone who refuses to engage in debate with their opponent possibly hope to engage with EU negotiators?

Then for the second time in the election campaign, and the third in as many months, the UK was a victim of another terrorist attack. This time on London Bridge. Election campaigning was again suspended, although apparently the Conservatives didn't get the memo. The day after the attacks May gave a speech at Downing Street where she focussed on her manifesto commitments to counter online radicalisation by digitally strip searching every single British internet user, suggested that Human Rights were an unnecessary distraction in the fight against terrorism and generally just attempted to make party political points throughout.

Corbyn for his part called on May to resign as Prime Minister - casting her as responsible, given that she has been Home Secretary for six of the last seven years and Prime Minister for one of them. It was at this point that it seemed to me like Labour where going to do a lot better than people had expected. Labour where taking the fight right to the Tories in the final week - not only neutralising Conservative attack lines but offering different, and crucially more plausible narratives. It was said that May cannot attack Corbyn for making the country more vulnerable when police cuts she had personally overseen have led to chronic understaffing in the service, and harmed the 'soft policing' power of the force.

The Debate

May was only conspicuous by her absence. Corbyn put in a strong performance, as did the rest of the broadly anti-Tory parties. Tim Farron, who is a cock to be sure, summed the whole thing up best. Telling the public not to listen to the Conservative pitch because Theresa May couldn't even be bother edto turn up to argue the case for her to be Prime Minister.



Shouldn't have fucking said that, Amber.
The person May chose to represent her, Amber Rudd, asked people to judge the Tories on their record. A suggestion which was was greeted by derisive laughter, from the audience chosen by the BBC to be politically representative, in response. It doesn't really get much worse than that, does it?

For an understanding of why they where laughing at her consider these points:

There are 254,514 homeless people in the UK - according to Shelter UK.

In 2022 wages in the UK will be at the same level they were in 2007 if the current policies are continued. - according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Under the Tories a third of people have fallen below the poverty line. - according to the Office for National Statistics.

In the 2016/17 winter 20 NHS hospitals went onto Black Alert for patient safety, something unheard of under the last Labour Government. The NHS is experiencing a consistent and acute funding crisis as a result of Tory policies, having to rely on the Red Cross at points. - according to BBC News.

Student debt in the UK is higher than it ever has been in the history of Universities, and two thirds of students will die still in debt for university. - according to the Financial Times.

The number of serious assaults in prisons has more than doubled in the Tory years and the number of suicides has hit record levels. All whilst staff numbers have been in freefall and funding levels cut. Putting inmates and prison staff in serious danger. - according to BBC News, Guardian and Telegraph.

2.3 Million families lived in fuel poverty last winter, meaning they didn't have enough money to heat their houses during the coldest months. Resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. - BBC News, Guardian, Office for National Statistics.

It's pretty obvious why they laughed. Of course, poor Amber Rudd wouldn't have understood it. For her the past seven years will have been pretty good - the tax dodging mega-cunt.

Election Day

The final opinion polls of the campaign came in. YouGov gave the Conservatives a lead of 7%, ICM predicted a lead of 12%. Survation a lead of 7% and Kantar gave them a lead of 5%. These kinds of leads should have given the party a parliamentary majority - and would have represented a bit of a kick in the teeth for Labour - although not nearly as bad as the 25% drubbing they where told to expect as the election was called.

On election day, a day which I spent door knocking for Labour, the feeling seemed to be that the Conservatives would win a majority - possibly even an increased majority. But that Labour had run an incredible campaign and was in a position to build(12).

No one expected what came next.

The Exit Poll




The moment the exit poll was released can best be described as a moment of collective shock. There was now tentative optimism that Labour had done much better than had been expected. Whilst the exit poll still predicted the Conservatives to be the largest party. It also predicted that they had not won enough seats to form a majority government.

The prediction was:

314 Conservatives (-17) Labour 266 (+34) SNP 34 (-22) Lib Dems 14  (+6) Others 4 (-/+0)

Make no mistake, these figures if they where borne out would constitute a disastrous day for the Tories. Theresa May had called a snap election, which she did not need to call, on the premise of securing her own mandate to push through regressive policies and negotiate Britains exit from the EU. She started the campaign 25% ahead, and she was heading for a hung parliament. This was set to be a disaster by any measure.

At this point in the evening, it has subsequently been reported, senior Tory Party figures where pulled from appearing on the television as the Conservatives tried to work out what was happening. Michael Fallon being the notable exception. Appearing on BBC News to attempt to rubbish the exit poll and suggest that it was mistaken. He pointed out that it is just a poll, and these have been wrong in the past.

Exit polls however, are not the kind of polls that have been incorrect, at least not since 1992. The disaster for pollsters that was 2015, and admittedly now 2017 - but in the opposite direction, was on opinion polling taken during the campaigns. These measure how people intend to vote, where and how likely they are to turn out, and these figures interplay with each other to make the prediction.

The reason the polls where wrong in 2015 was that they tended to overstate the likelihood of Labour voters turning out. It would appear that in 2017 they understated the likelihood of Labour voters turning out. Exit polls involve people standing outside polling stations and asking people how they have voted, and it is for this reason they tend to be much more accurate.

Slightly later on, in the early morning, with still not many results in, due to the unusually high turn out for a general election, the BBC Reported that the Conservatives where saying to them that the exit poll was wrong and they believed they where still on course for a sound majority.

It didn't play out that way.

The Result


"No! You're the best!'


Conservatives 317 (-13) Labour 262 (+30) SNP 35 (-21) Lib Dems 12 (+3) DUP 10 (+2)
Others 4 (-/+ 0)

This was a terrible result for the Conservatives, a rejection of Theresa May and her policies and has led to a situation where by the Conservatives look likely to be propped up in government by the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Something which could jeopardise the hard won peace in the area.

Labour for it's part has certainly moved forward, it gained seats such a Canterbury and Kensington & Chelsea which it has never won before. Where it didn't win, in many areas, seats have gone from being safe Tory seats to marginals. Senior figures in the Conservative government are now sitting on knife edge majoritys, such as Home Secretary Amber Rudd and party grandee Iain Duncan Smith. Add to this that Government ministers, such as the Housing Minister, lost their seats - which is always embarrassing.

To put this in context for those who wonder why Labour are so pleased with the result despite not being the largest party. Labours vote share has been decreasing, from an admittedly high base, since 1997. Corbyn has managed to increase the vote share by ten percent in two years, when it looked at the beginning of the campaign like they would be wiped out.

What tends to happen for a party to win a general election is that their vote share begins to rise in the elections preceding the one they ultimately win. This happened in 2017. Add to this the fact that the demographics are not on the Tories side. Labour won a landslide amongst 18-35 year olds and where also quite far ahead amongst 35-45 year olds. These kind of demographic shifts are mana from heaven for the party as they indicate that Labour is in a position to win the next election and to then dominate politics for the next thirty years.

This election may well be heralded as the day that Thatcher truly died.

The Aftermath



The fallout from the election is still ongoing at the time of writing. As they say, a week is a long time in politics - so keep your eye out for a part two where I'll discuss the aftermath in full. But know this, Theresa Mays days are numbered.

The Conservative party has never tolerated leaders that look like liabilities, and May couldn't look like more of one if she tried.

As for Labour - the central axiom that they had been working on since the days of Blair that socialism is electoral suicide has been disproven. Tony has been toppled and Corbyn is on the ascendancy - and if that's not a reason to be cheerful I don't know what is.

The King is dead, long live socialism!

FIN.

-------

(1) Which the modern Conservative and Unionist Party, to give it its full name, can claim continuity with the Tories - hence the still used moniker 'Tory cunt'.

(2) The Liberal Democrats always do much better in local elections - the reasons for which still escape me to be honest - maybe standing for absolutely nothing and falling for absolutely anything is a good local option.

(3) This is my opinion, I can't prove this it's just what it felt like from my position.

(4) For a book length treatment of this issue I recommend the 2010 Fabian publication on the issue "The Solidarity Society" which I will happily lend to anyone who wishes to read it. Unless this post goes viral, in which case, I only have one copy.

(5) I am one of the people who qualifies but chooses not to take it. Although it's because I refuse to be spoken to like a prick, by a cunt at the JobCentre. If they were polite then it'd be a case of fuck the stigma give me the benefits I have paid for through NI contributions, ya' bell ends.

(6) This isn't even necessarily a criticism, the Mirror has the same function for Labour.

(7)Not a real Nobel Prize tbf, but still.

(8)The Corporate Tax rate in the UK is the lowest in the developed world by some margin and the Conservatives proposed to reduce this still further.

(9) I think it was the correct thing to do, it seems vulgar to campaign directly after such a horrifying attack - I am aware that opinion on this issue varies however.

(10)Momentum, lol - geddit?

(11) I actually think that Corbyn always intended to take part and timed the announcement that he would so as to inflict maximum damage on May.

(12) There was something of a scare in Tooting around mid-day, where I was, that more Conservative supporting areas of the ward seemed to have a higher turn out than Labour ones. Given that it's probably not possible to get accurate data I can have a punt as to why this turned around - and gave this view at the time - the clue is in the name of the party. Labour. People where at work. Retired people vote Tory generally speaking - they also have an annoying habit of doing everything in the morning, and generally just getting in your way as you try to get your eleven o'clock caffeine hit from Starbucks.

Comments

Popular Posts