Blairism is dead and the left are back, now the real work begins, argues Lindsey German
A dreadful result for the Tories. Labour won 40% of the vote and the Tories 42%, with Labour gaining 29 seats and the Tories losing their majority. We are now in a hung parliament.
From the moment the exit poll was published, it became increasingly clear that this was not to be Theresa Mays night. From the hubris of her election announcement seven weeks earlier to the anguish on the faces of defeated Tories on Thursday night, this was a catastrophic night, one entirely of her own making. This was her election, her decision to destroy all opposition both within her own party and from Labour, one in which she thought she would emerge stronger.
Her response to the terrible terrorist attacks on Manchester and London during the campaign was to try to gain electoral advantage, and she endorsed and repeated attacks on Jeremy Corbyn which dishonestly claims he supported terrorism. She refused to be seen in actual public as opposed to stage managed events, and she was happy for a foul-mouthed press to repeatedly lie and slander, to create a red scare over Corbyn in order to boost her own lacklustre and chilling campaign.
In the light of all this, it was perhaps optimistic for anyone to think that she might do the right thing and resign following the loss of her majority in the election. Far from it. In order to preempt calls from within her own party for her to go, she rushed into an alliance with some of the most bigoted and unpleasant politicians on these islands, by allying herself with the right wing DUP. It is one of the ironies of the election that she denounced Corbyn for links to terrorism and the IRA but is going into alliance with an organisation whose hinterland includes links to extreme Loyalist terrorists.
One pollster wrote that the campaign was 'the most striking political failure I've seen in my 30 years of elections.' Talk of a 100 seat majority just crumbled, and they lost previously safe seats to Labour.
May's rush to form a government shows a level of delusion which is quite remarkable. Her authority is reduced, and she is completely lacking in empathy, as witnessed by her forced apology to those candidates who lost. She is now acting as though nothing has happened while at the same planning to go into alliance with the DUP. Whether this can even get off the ground is itself questionable. Leaving aside the nature of some of the DUP MPs (one is the daughter of a man who was involved in a failed plot to get weapons for Loyalist paramilitaries, another a Creationist against same-sex marriage, another who mocked the Irish language), there are major constitutional questions.
One is about the Northern Ireland power-sharing agreement, which may well be finished if the DUP (one side of that agreement) has its own deal with the British government. The other is whether it is ethical or right for this bunch of bigots to decide about questions which affect England and Wales - for example, on health and education. The Tories kick up at any suggestion of deals between Labour and the SNP, but are embarking on a much less legitimate deal.
Theresa May is now hated in the Tory party. The only possibility she has of hanging on is that Labour's strong performance means Tory MPs will fear a rapid election because it will mean a likely landslide for Labour. But this is exactly what we need to demand. This is a bitterly divided Tory party which will not be able to deliver on a lot of its manifesto, and it will be subject to defeat in parliament, especially if pressurised from outside parliament.
The ruling class will be very bitter against her. Not only does she have no answers to the crisis in British society, but she has actually made them worse from the point of view of the ruling class. Her claim that she could strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations through the election has rebounded on her. The British government must be a joke in Europe.
This is a very weak and wobbly government - and one in denial, backed up by our equivalent of the Tea Party. What a combination.
How Jeremy Corbyn drove a stake through the heart of Blairism
Labour's share of the vote rose nearly 10% from the 2015 election to 40%. This is substantially bigger than the share with which Tony Blair won in 2005. Corbyn's victory rose to an incredible 55% in London, where even rock solid Tory Kensington went Labour, as did Croydon, Battersea and Southgate. Despite hundreds of vox pops in the broadcast media which told us that Labour voters everywhere were deserting in droves, Labour lost only six seats to the Tories and gained far more from them. One of the few crumbs of comfort for the Tories was the party's revival in Scotland at the expense of the SNP. So Leave territory Labour areas didn't go Tory as predicted and Labour held onto most of its seats in the north and Midlands. This wasn't the nuclear winter we were promised by anonymous right wing Labour MPs, who briefed right up to election day that Labour would lose dozens of seats across the country.
The shock of the result has led to the sometimes nauseating spectacle of even right and centre MPs and commentators praising Corbyn - for now, that is. That's good, and some are no doubt sincere in their apologies and will work constructively with Corbyn. Others will jump on him at the first opportunity. But let's be honest here. Given how good the results are, it is obvious that Labour would have won. So these often deeply unpleasant personal attacks have cost us a majority in parliament and Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. This Treacherous behaviour was reflected in the shoddy local campaigns where Labour candidates refused to campaign on the manifesto or mention Corbyn - still evident in post result speeches. Channel 4 News has helpfully put together clips from all the useless MPs and commentators like Alastair Campbell who briefed against him. It is worth a watch.
They should have no say in what happens now, but there will still be a battle inside the Labour Party to move it to the right. They will not succeed, at least in the short term.
This is because Corbyn's campaign has been highly successful. It mobilised the young in large numbers but also pulled in a lot of other voters, a number of whom hadn't voted before. This is an alliance which will create a new left. This puts left politics on the agenda and is a boost for the whole left. The left is back. Another election would almost certainly lead to greater support for Labour. This has, among other things, put a stake through the heart of the Blairite vampires, and shifted Labour further to the left.
There's a lot of prejudice in these polls
We're not hearing much about how the polls got it wrong. We were repeatedly told young people, ethnic minorities and the poor would not vote. Now they are saying we were surprised. But we shouldn't be. The raw data of those polls pretty much reflected the actual result. It was the prejudiced weighting of those polls which made them so out of whack. This was a political decision. You can only conclude that the pollsters and politicians disrespected young people and scoffed at them as too lazy to turn out for Corbyn. Peter Kellner even on election night was dissing the exit poll which turned out to be right, unlike his polling company. We should remember that the pollsters are part of the whole bubble around Westminster along with the press, which repeatedly published headlines based on substantial weighting as though they were fact - right up to polling day.
There is a scandal about the right wing millionaire press, but also about the Guardian and BBC, which echoed many of the attacks on Corbyn (despite the Guardian's almost democratic centralist turn in support of Corbyn in the last week). The truth is, the media have been no friends to Jeremy Corbyn, but he won with an insurgent campaign despite them. Too much to expect that they will learn much from this, but we should.
Where it all begins
The issues were clear: Tuition fees, taxing the rich, the NHS and education. Scrutiny of questions around terrorism and foreign policy did not play in the way the right expected. Indeed a poll published during the campaign showed three-quarters of people in Britain linked terrorist attacks to foreign wars. This is a huge opportunity for the left to continue to put forward radical policies and to mobilise around them outside parliament, and that's exactly what we will be doing.
There is a huge amount of mobilisation to be done. I will be in parliament square today as part of a demonstration against austerity, racism and war and to get her out.
Our aim should be to bring down this illegitimate government and to build a mass movement on the left. This is also about Labour's future. Talking to people in working class Islington (yes it's there - Corbyn and Thornberry don't get those votes mainly from the £3 million houses but from the council estates and working class areas), there is hope that Labour will deliver, especially for their kids, but also still a sense that nothing can change, all politicians fail to deliver. I blame Tony Blair for much of this. The enthusiasm of the 1997 landslide was dissipated not just by war but by policies which did little for working people. Proving those voters wrong requires a good left leader but also organisation which can get results in workplaces and communities. It's a great challenge but this is where it begins.
I will write another briefing for Monday looking at some of the further issues. But for now, let's just sum up. A nasty right-wing prime minister fatally wounded, the Blairites finished as an influence at Labour's heart, the defeat of centre politics, a big upsurge of support for the left in the Corbyn campaign, a UKIP wipeout and a sense of hope and enthusiasm among millions of working class people, the return of class issues to British politics. Not a bad night's work really.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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- Where do we go from here? – election briefing 13 December