The May elections should have been a slam dunk for Labour but no matter how some people want to cherry pick it —
Labour’s performance was diabolical in the context of what should have been a chance to shine.
It is a testament to how poorly Labour is performing among the public under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. It doesn’t matter if some opinion polls say that Corbyn is allegedly popular, if people don’t vote for the party you represent, who cares?
Even the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, took it upon himself to tell the public how his party’s leadership tactics are failing and will not be enough to win the election.
The Tories handed Labour seats on a platter, since Corbyn won by a landslide victory to lead Britain’s main opposition in September last year, with a flurry of deeply unpopular moves leading to social unrest, in tandem with scandals that only reflect badly on the incumbent Conservative party.
Here is the Tories’ litany of woe that should have provided fertile ground for Labour to plant the seeds for a reaping when the elections came up in May:
1. Doctors strikes — Britain is encountering a never-ending slew of strikes due to major disagreement between members of the British Medical Association and the health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
2. Welfare cuts — Britain’s work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith dramatically quit the cabinet in March after claiming it was because the government’s planned cuts to disability benefits were “indefensible” and a “compromise too far.“
3. The demise of the steel industry — Britain’s steel industry is on the brink of extinction and there is criticism that the Tory government isn’t doing enough to stop companies selling off plants and putting thousands of jobs at risk. Basically the government isn’t doing enough to protect blue collar workers.
4. Bombing of ISIS in Syria —In December last year, the government led by Conservative leader David Cameron pushed ahead with airstrikes in Syria in order to bomb ISIS fighters in the region. It was a deeply unpopular move with the public, which led to massive protests across London.
5. The Panama Papers revelation — Protests were led across London to get Prime Minister David Cameron to step down due to his family’s involvement in the “Panama Papers.” Basically Cameron’s dad, and at some point David Cameron, profited from Blairmore Holdings, an offshore investment fund which leads to an individual paying less taxes then they would in the UK.
6. Allegations of fear mongering and racism over Mayor of London race — Just before Brits went to vote in the elections, Cameron was called a “racist” by MPs for saying (the eventual winner) of the Mayor of London race Sadiq Khan had links to ISIS.
7. Tory civil war over a Brexit — The Conservative party is currently going through a massive civil war right now over whether Britain should leave the European Union of not. Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne are pushing for a “remain” vote while Cameron’s former closest allies — ex-Mayor of London Boris Johnson and former education secretary Michael Gove — as well as dozens of others are pushing for a Brexit.
So what happened? Did Labour snap up more seats? Did it mark a seal of approval for Corbyn’s leadership? Nope.
In council elections in England, looking at the numbers alone doesn’t tell the full story. For example, Labour actually lost fewer seats than the Conservatives:
Snarky articles and headlines followed saying that some parts of the media are wilfully ignoring how Labour didn’t lose as many seats as predicted, for example around 100 to 220, so therefore this is a win. It lost seats and it didn’t grow its share anywhere though.
Even in Wales, Labour failed to get a majority because right-wing party UKIP gained 7 seats.
But taking into context again how the Tories should have been annihilated in the elections thanks to the endless stream of unpopular policies and political scandals to boot, Labour scraping by shouldn’t be seen as a victory, it should be seen as a “what went wrong?”
Take what happened in Scotland.
Labour fell into third place in Scottish elections — the first time since 1910.
This is a huge deal. Labour’s policies are more in line with the Scottish National Party’s — like in welfare, pensions, and tax — so those who decide to not vote SNP, usually vote for Labour.
For the Tories to reach second place in the context of all the terrible press they have been getting over the last nine months alone was a huge. Realistically, it should have been a given that the SNP remained with a majority in first place and Labour came in second.
None of this happened. This is what happened:
SNP: 63 MSPs (-6)
Conservative: 31 (+16)
Labour: 24 (-13)
Green party: 6 (+4)
Liberal Democrat: 5 (-)
The Tories took Labour’s seats. This is what Scotland’s constituency map looks like right now:
Now this is a terrible situation for Labour.
Under Tony Blair’s leadership of the Labour party in 1997, the Tory opposition failed to return any Scottish MPs to Westminster. Now the Tories are gaining ground in a place where it should be extremely difficult to get any seats.
And whichever way you try to slice it and use different voting methods to try and find a way to make it seem like Labour did well, you cannot ignore that how well the Conservatives have done and, well, Labour just languished.
Scotland is incredibly important for Labour — it needs Scottish voters to gain a majority in government. In 2015, Labour had an unexpectedly bad defeat under Ed Miliband because its Scottish voter base was effectively wiped out by the rise of the SNP. Labour went into that election with 41 Scottish MPs, and came out of it with just one.
If Labour doesn’t repair its relations with the Scots, 2020 could also be a washout.
So all in all, yes — Labour did really badly. And this is looking at the context in which Labour should have done incredibly well.
But many Labour politicians do not seem surprised.
Chris Leslie, the Labour MP who was the former shadow chancellor before he resigned when Corbyn became leader in 2015, said he was “mortified” with the Scotland loss for Labour, that it is “a lesson in what the public want” and “what they want is a centreground, like what Sadiq is providing for London.”
“Scotland doesn’t want to go down that militant experiment” under Corbyn, Leslie added.
Even Khan, who became the new Mayor of London on Friday after securing a comfortable victory over his closest rival — the Conservative party’s Zac Goldsmith — and claiming a record number of votes for a single politicians in the UK was basically down to being nothing like Corbyn and his policies.
“Labour has to be a big tent that appeals to everyone — not just its activists,” said Khan in an article for The Guardian.
“Campaigns that deliberately turn their back on particular groups are doomed to fail. Just like in London, so-called natural Labour voters alone will never be enough to win a general election.”
Corbyn has only been the leader of the Labour party for around 9 months and this is the honeymoon period. You’ve got to ask yourself that if you’re struggling so early into the marriage, then is it really working?
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