The results are in on Corbyn’s first few months. No matter how you spin it, they’re terrible

by Rob Marchant

The leader’s office spin operation began long before the elections, because everyone knew they would be bad. The objective was simple: essentially, anything, anything at all to try and make them look other than the disaster most expected.

For example as Dan Hodges, sometime of this parish, pointed out, the Corbyn team decided on a tactic (of comparing the outcome with 2015 results, instead of 2011 or 2012 when the seats were last contested) was leaked to the BBC. It was patently foolish. No sane psephologist would try and compare an election with the previous year.

And when even the Leader himself ended up describing the results as “not good enough”, we still had incoherence in the party’s appearances on the media. In only the latest in a series of car-crash interviews, Diane Abbott memorably described the results as “steady progress”. Oh, my aching sides.

But they were all attempting to spin the unspinnable.

Yes, Sadiq Khan did a highly professional job in winning the London mayoralty, the one bright point of the elections. But even he did not manage this without exposing his past as a cuddler-up to unpleasant elements of the Islamist far right. Not, as the Tories tried to imply, because he is a card-carrying Islamist himself; he is not. But he has been ruthless enough in his pursuit of political support to schmooze with extremists until quite recently, in a way that should make party members nervous.

And let us not forget that London is, historically, a Labour stronghold par excellence. In fact, the two Boris wins in 2008 and 2012 may arguably be seen as the result, not just of the pendulum swing against Labour nationally, but also of a serious falling-out-of-love with one Ken Livingstone on the part of the London electorate.

In short, Khan had a major advantage from the start in simply being Labour, while not being Ken. London’s metropolitan liberals are the one part of Britain in which Labour support warms to Corbyn.

The same is not true, sadly, in the rest of the country. In Wales and in England outside the capital we lost support. And as for Scotland, well, we need only note the following:

Who would have ever thought that a country, which had enjoyed Labour hegemony for as long as anyone could remember, could see Labour beaten there by the Tories as well as the SNP? And furthermore, a Labour which had dutifully followed the anti-austerity, anti-nuclear line of the Corbynites?

No, looking at the results across Britain, the bearded Emperor’s new clothes are duly removed in a fine deconstruction of the results by the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley, who rightly described it as “the worst performance by a new opposition leader in half a century”.

The trouble is that phrases like that no longer even surprise us, our expectations are so low.

And all the while the party’s MPs stand paralysed, it is moving backwards; not even standing still.

We do not need to wait for the next four years to play out. We do not even need to wait for a year to play out. The Labour Party can keep on fooling itself, but it will not fool the public.

It is perfectly obvious to everyone that it cannot win a general election with Corbyn at the helm. It cannot. Even journalists broadly sympathetic to Corbyn, such as the Indy’s Matthew Norman, are calling for him to step aside.

The Labour party is clearly passing through one of its periods of self-harm, as it did in the late 1950s under Gaitskell and the 1980s under Foot and Kinnock. But this one really seems to be on a different level altogether.

Even before the election, the party’s crisis with anti-Semitism had driven that august organ, the Economist, to pull no punches on Corbyn’s leadership, where it had been remarkably restrained with Miliband’s. It is worth repeating the whole, devastating quote:

“The truth is that Labour is dying, and every MP who thinks she can wash her hands of responsibility for that with the odd disapproving tweet has another thing coming. Today’s fracas will repeat itself, in slightly different forms, again and again, burying any scraps of self-respect (let alone electability in the next decades) the party has left.”

Uncut’s Atul Hatwal may well be right that now is not the time to launch a leadership challenge against Corbyn. The soft left of the party needs to see the penny drop before such a challenge can succeed, and it is not yet clear how long that might take.

But plans should be at least in place for when is the right moment. Labour cannot just wait until 2020 and hope for the best. There could be nothing left by then.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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15 Responses to “The results are in on Corbyn’s first few months. No matter how you spin it, they’re terrible”

  1. Tafia says:

    Considering the blatant and open hostility of the PLP to him, he’s actually done quite well. Still, the PLP problem will sort itself out when the boundary changes are released by the Electoral Commission. Such a big change as this will trigger re-selections for 2020 in virtually every seat – and my my will the membership get their own back then.

    The PLP will learn a very hard lesson then I think. Never take the piss out of people with the power to terminate you – because they will, and each and every one of them is 100% expendable.

  2. Rallan says:

    “The results are in on Corbyn’s first few months. No matter how you spin it, they’re terrible”

    Corbyn is not responsible for Labours plight. He’s not the solution to Labours decline (as so many in Labour hoped) but neither is he the cause of it.

    “Uncut’s Atul Hatwal may well be right …”

    Based on past performance that seems very, very improbable.

  3. paul barker says:

    Labour Uncut can sound oddly like The Far Left if you replace The Final Crisis of Capitalism with the coming popular revolt against Corbyn, its always receding into the glorious Future.
    Labour Centrists can wait for The PLPs latest Cunning Plan or for the legendary Penny to finally drop …. Or they could just go & join another Party. Personally I reccoment The Libdems who gained seats while Labour & Tories lost them.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Ken livingstone won the 2000 election with second prefs of. 880,000 votes
    Ken livingstone lost the 2008 election with second prefs of.1,020,000 votes
    SadiqKhan. Won the 2016 election with second prefs of. 1.400,000 votes

    Labour got 7 Assembly members in 2004 on a 39% turnout
    Labour got 8 Assembly members in 2008 on a 45.5% turnout
    Labour got 12 Assembly members in 2016 on a 45% turnout

    If anything it shows it wasn’t labour that lost in 2008 it was Livingstone as our assembly vote went up, and even though Sadiqs vote won it for us in 2016, the fact there was a lower turnout than in 2008, and we Again got more assembly members, the lower turnout may have had something todo with it

  5. Martin Haigh says:

    I don’t think the results are terrible – but certainly against a gaffe-prone government currently in the process of tearing itself apart over Europe, and which was never very popular in the first place, Labour should be doing much better. I agree with Rawnsley that the Corbyn strategy of moving to the left to win back disillusioned core voters and mobilise disaffected non-voters has been tested in Scotland and has failed. However Scotland is a very special case at the moment and we can’t generalise from it.

    In Wales Labour is suffering from having been in government for 17 years – again, difficult to read much into this. London is a spectacular triumph, but a personal one for Sadiq Khan. There is some evidence of swing to Labour in English marginals, and some evidence that the Lib Dems have touched bottom and are starting to recover, which could hurt the Tories in 2020. But really, any predictions about 2020 are worthless until the dust has settled from the EU referendum. There are a lot of “unknown unknowns” around that one.

  6. Mr Akira Origami says:

    “Speakers at a Wednesday evening University of London Student Union (ULSU)-sponsored panel called for the destruction of Israel as a solution to ridding the world of antisemitism, The Algemeiner has learned from a British watchdog group”………

  7. Disenfranchised says:

    Can somebody please put these people out of their misery – the Labour party that I grew up with is dead, expired and gone to meet its maker.

    The damage was done by Blair and Brown, and Corbyn is just a reaction, but…he is still not representative of the vast majority of working class people.

    If he had stuck to his anti-EU beliefs, the plebs would be flocking to support Labour.

  8. Tafia says:

    Intersting little rough fact for you to ponder.

    Many of you convince yourselves UKIP voters are former Tories, but it just doesn’t stand up. The Tories won more votes last year than at any time since 1992. Labour, on the other hand, are still down 4 million on 1997.

    How many votes did UKIP win last year? Oh yes, 4 million. That’ll be in the main your traditional core vote and until you sing a song that addresses their concerns the way they want them addressed you can forget ever seeing them again.

    And it has absolutely nothing to do with Corbyn. He knows the problem hence why he wants to concentrate on non-voters etc. Because to win back that 4 million you will have to become at the very least euro-sceptic and tighten immigration dramatically.

  9. Tafia says:

    Some other kicks in the ball-bag for the political elite are the latest polling figures.

    YouGov Remain 42%, Leave 40%, Don’t know/Won’t vote 19%
    ICM Remain 44%, Leave 46%, Don’t know/Wont vote 11%
    (Both polls were done in the first week of May)

    Groups most likely to vote are the over 60s, the retired, those with no mortgage, and the CDE social group. And they are overwhelmingly for out. The more you move through the various stratas towards those likely to vote Remain, the less likely to vote they are. Most likely to vote to Remain are the 18-24 age bracket and around 25% of that age group aren’t even registered and of those that are, less than half ae likely to bother voting. If’Don’t knows are pushed to answer, they basically reflect the same split as those who have already made their minds up.

    How about this one (bearing in mind we ae only 40 days away) only 3% think EU membership is of any importance anyway. (yes, you read that right – 3%).

    Amongst people who voted Tory in GE2015:-
    David Cameron:
    Trust: 47%
    Don’t Trust: 45%

    And from a choice of Boris, Corbyn, Farage, Sturgeon and Cameron, Boris is the least untrusted.

    Of course, it’s all Corbyn’s fault………………

  10. Graham says:

    Rawnsley’s article in the Observer was psephologically illiterate. The real point of comparison ought to be 2011 – not 2012 – in that it was 1 year into the 2010 Parliament. In 2011 the NEV – National Equivalent Vote – produced by Rallings & Thrasher gave the Tories a 1% lead over Labour. This year their NEV calculation puts Labour 1% ahead of the Tories – so that on a like for like basis Corbyn did better this May than Ed Milliband did in 2011.
    There is a lot of tosh being generated by journalists who reveal their ignorance of electoral history – particularly the idea that Labour should be doing better at this stage of the electoral cycle. They fail to mention the Parliaments of 1959 & 1987 both of which saw the Tories retain a polling lead for the first two years. In the Local Elections of 1960 and 1961 the Tories gained several hundred seats from the Labour Opposition despite having been in office for 9/10 years. That did not prevent Labour winning the 1964 election!

  11. em says:

    Says it all, quoting a deranged right wing nutter as authority!

  12. paul barker says:

    The results are also in on the internal Labour struggle between Left & Right & The Left continue to win. The Right/Centrists/Whatever have been consistently out-thought & out-manouvred, Corbyn speaking to Progress is just the latest example. The PLP majority are divided, demoralised & apparently leaderless.

  13. Anne says:

    I have recently revised some books I read over 40 years ago by Howatd Spring – ‘Hard Facts’ ‘My son, my son’ and ‘Fame is the Spur’ (about the development of the Labour Party. These are well written books and good story telling – I enjoyed them just as much as I did when I first read them. Howard Spring was a writer of his time. Why I have mentioned this now is because the needs of the U.K. Is different from when Howard Spring penned his books. For example we have a growing elderly population, demands on the NHS are ever increasing, how do we help the 3.9 million living below the poverty line, controlling immigration, holding the seriously rich to account, the changing structure of the work force. We need a Labour Party which addresses these needs – a modern party of the 21st Centuary and a leader who has the vision, ability, courage and strenge to lead this modern Labour Party. Corbyn is not this person.

  14. Mike Homfray says:

    ” a modern party”
    What exactly does this mean? If you mean a centre party, then say so, and then those of us who disagree can make it clear.
    I wouldn’t vote for that sort of party , which already exists anyway – its called the Liberal Democrats

  15. Anne says:

    Mike- the word modern – according to dictionary reference is’of present or resent times’ That is what I mean (surely you know this). As I said a party which addresses the needs and requirements of today.

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