As someone reasonably well-connected and with a fairly widely-read blog, I receive a lot of comments and information from Labour members, supporters, union members and others. Over recent weeks, there has been an upturn in the number of people making comments to the effect of
I’m feeling worn down by the constant plots, supposed poor polling and the talking-down of Labour and Corbyn by both the media and disloyal MPs.
As I keep a close eye on all of those areas, I can empathise.
The latest ‘silent coup’ phase of Tom Watson’s ‘Project Anaconda’, which follows an attempted power-grab at the party conference in September, consists of right-wing ‘Labour’ MPs constantly claiming “there’s no plan”, even when it’s pointed out to them, while the Labour bureaucracy does its best to ignore or downplay Corbyn’s excellent policy platform. This is designed to take a toll on the spirits of pro-Corbyn members and to prevent Corbyn’s message reaching new ears.
If you’re one of those feeling worn down by this strategy, you’re exactly where the plotters want you to be – and you’ve fallen for a carefully-constructed fiction.
There are at least 6 areas that show this lie for what it is.
Membership is still soaring
Have you noticed there have been no announcements of updated membership numbers since Jeremy Corbyn’s renewed mandate in September? It’s unlikely to be accidental. A Labour insider tells me that membership is now touching 630,000, up by around 80,000 from its previous reported high, by the time of the leadership election result, of 551,000.
That figure of 551k was itself up by around 160,000 on the figure in late June, with an astonishing 128,000 joining in just the two weeks after the EU referendum.
The Labour right’s narrative has been that ‘a lot’ of members have been leaving after Corbyn’s 2nd victory. Possibly – but, if so, clearly dwarfed by the new members flocking in. Here’s a chart of membership at various key points, starting with 1997, Labour’s peak under Blair, through its nadir in 2007 and up to now:
Under Blair, Labour membership reached 405,000, the highest it had been for years. It then collapsed to below 177,000 in 2007 (while the party also haemorrhaged votes in General Elections, in spite of Blairite boasts about the number of elections New Labour won).
Over the past 6 months, in spite of co-ordinated mass resignations, a leadership challenge and then, after Corbyn’s victory, a failed Conference power-grab followed by a ‘conspiracy of silence’, the relentless scorn of media pundits and a procession of right-wing MPs on TV attempting to make Corbyn appear invisible and ineffectual, membership has risen to levels not seen for almost four decades.
If 4 coup attempts in 6 months and incessant scorn in the media have not dented Labour’s growth in membership, the message is still getting out there and people are seeing through the artificial fog.
Labour’s membership is now by far the biggest political party in Europe and the impending (and misnamed) ‘rebranding’ of Corbyn’s leadership is going to give it – and the party’s vision and exciting policy platform – even further impetus.
The Empress’s new clothes
I regard polls showing Theresa May’s high personal polling with the same kind of suspicion I’d feel if you told me polls showed that drinking seawater didn’t make you sick, but since her unelected accession, pollsters have insisted that the Prime Minister’s personal polling is through the roof.
The idea that the first among the gurning, heartless monstrosities that are the Tory party could be personally popular smells to me like a too-long opened tin of tuna, but perhaps the idea is that saying it often enough will make it so.
But the wheels look like they’re starting to come off. The nonsense of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ followed by ‘Red White and Blue Brexit’ is showing Mrs May to be ‘all mouth and only £900 leather trousers’ and her innate unlikeableness is showing through, as it was always bound to.
On top of this, the Blairite conspiracy of silence has, at its heart, a recognition by the right-wingers that openly and directly attacking Corbyn isn’t working. So the heckling in the Commons has stilled and Corbyn’s moral, intellectual and personal superiority over Theresa May is so pronounced that a little ‘STFU’ from the so-called moderates is all that it takes.
Week after week – increasingly recognised even by Tory commentators – Corbyn is taking his opponent to pieces at PMQs. And people notice. Word gets around.
So May’s personal ratings are sliding:
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) December 15, 2016
The media has focused on the by-elections in Richmond Park and Sleaford, won by the LibDems and Tories respectively, and have tried to paint these as a disaster for Labour and indicative of a threat from UKIP to the right and the LDs to the left. Commentators are simultanously claiming that this means Labour needs to swing right on immigration and left on the EU.
But the reality is that Labour were never going to win either of these seats – which wouldn’t get within 100 miles of Labour’s list of ‘key winnables’ that they would need for a General Election victory.
With the current polarisation of UK (and world) politics, trying to win seats that are effectively owned by another party would be madness – and Labour’s route to winning those key seats has nothing to do with ‘tacking UKIP‘ or tilting at EU windmills.
In fact, not only has the UKIP ‘threat in Labour heartlands’ – supposedly intensified by the election to the UKIP leadership (with all of 19,000 votes) of Paul Nuttall – failed to materialise in recent by-elections, it has shown itself to be withering.
In a Blackburn by-election, Labour’s vote share went up while UKIP’s fell significantly:
Higher Croft (Blackburn) result:
LAB: 58.2% (+12.1)
UKIP: 25.0% (-8.3)
CON: 16.7% (-3.8)
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) December 15, 2016
Meanwhile, in Tory-monopolised Shropshire, Horsehay & Lightmoor showed a 24.3% swing from Tory to Labour, resulting in a Labour win while UKIP’s share dropped.
Of course, in Tory/UKIP ‘heartlands’, those parties continue to do well – but they’re of no concern to any sensible Labour strategy for a General Election victory.
It’s not just Theresa May that is being ‘found out’. Last week saw disastrous results for the Tories in a string of by-elections – no fewer than four losses of previously Tory-held seats in one night, including one dramatic fall from an outright majority to less than a quarter of the votes, in ‘Tory heartland’ Somerset:
Blackdown (Taunton Deane) result:
LDEM: 71.2% (+49.9)
CON: 22.5% (-30.4)
IND: 6.3% (+6.3)
Other Ind and Grn didn't stand this time round.
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) December 15, 2016
Tonight’s Local By-Election summary
CON lose all 4 seats being defended 3 to the LDs & one to IND. Worst election night TMay's leadership
— Mike Smithson (@MSmithsonPB) December 16, 2016
It’s not just local
Labour’s right wing and the media have made much of Labour’s ‘disastrous’ polling, even though that has been far more an effect of the Blairites’ undermining and sniping. But Corbyn’s Labour shows signs of a turnaround in spite of the ‘conspiracy of silence’, as this recent Opinium poll seems to indicate:
Prior to the summer’s ‘chicken coup’, Corbyn had redressed a 9-point polling disadvantage and there’s no actual reason to believe he can’t do it again. Especially in view of…
This weekend, the Guardian carried the news that Corbyn’s team will ‘rebrand’ the Labour leader in the new year as a ‘left-wing populist’. Of course, this is misleading – Corbyn has always occupied the insurgent, left-wing position. It’s what swept him to the leadership – twice. A ‘rebrand’ is cosmetic and artificial and Corbyn is neither.
But a concerted drive to make his authentic position clear to the wider electorate, via a determined use of communication channels that are not in thrall to billionaires and the Tory party is a welcome, intelligent move.
One that, in a polarised world where the blandness of ‘more of the same’ is anathema to huge numbers of people, will – if properly done – blow all ‘business as usual’ predictions out of the water.
It may be December, but the signs of ‘spring’ for Labour are there if you look for them. 630,000, plus quite a few more – so don’t let 170 dishonest MPs and a small number of bankrupt Blairite functionaires wear you down and make you believe otherwise.
Share this to get the word out to any who are wearied by the carefully-constructed fiction.
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