Thursday, 22 June 2017

What can we learn from the 2017 General Election?

Here are 4 quick thoughts.

(1) As I pointed out in my earlier post, both May's Conservative Party and Corbyn's Labour Party won a lot of votes - a lot more than those parties won under earlier leaders. So it's a fair inference that what they were offering was more popular than what earlier leaders were offering. And what were May and Corbyn offering that their predecessors were not? Being keen on (or at least fully reconciled to) Brexit, and being antipathetic to neoliberalism ("The economic programmes in the manifestoes of both Conservatives and Labour were, effectively, anti-neoliberal programmes"). That's the new centre ground of British politics - it's in a very different place from the Blair/Cameron centre ground.

(2) Consistently with the success of the Conservatives and Labour, note the failure of the LibDems. The LibDems were: embraced by The Economist! the clear anti-Brexit option (and indeed the only such option in most places)! so thoroughly modern-liberal-metropolitan that leading it is incompatible with having traditional Christian beliefs (see Tim Farron)! the obvious alternative (for informed voters) to extremists like Corbyn and May! Surely that was an appealing package to many? Well, they lost 44,000 votes between 2015 and 2017 (despite an increase in turn-out), and they've lost almost 4 and half million votes since 2010. The LibDems - firmly planted in the old Blair/Cameron centre ground -  will have their work cut out in getting to the new centre ground. Or do they prefer their current small but comfy niche?

(3) The traditional media have lost their powers. If Brexit were not proof enough, what about Corbyn? Jeremy Corbyn was the most consistently reviled and ridiculed political leader since Iain Duncan Smith. He was ridiculed by his own side. Do you remember TrainGate, for example? He was widely regarded as being unelectable even by the Guardian. Here's Owen Jones at it. His own MPs (and Labour MPs must be regarded as a pretty good example of a left-wing elite) tried to get rid of him. Some people now regard the BBC as having a right-wing bias (!) because of the way it appeared to dismiss Corbyn. But none of that mattered. He picked up his game a bit, and offered a whole load of attractive policies that (a) had not been offered before (or at least not for a long time) and which (b) appealed to a large number of people, and that got him a lot of votes despite everything the newspapers said and the broadcast media implied.

(4) Corbyn really is quite like Trump: they are both populists, both older guys who attracted support from sections of the electorate not reached by their predecessors, who succeeded despite opposition from traditional media and their own parties - and who both get fewer votes than their less exciting but more qualified female opponents.

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