I was wrong about Corbyn. Now, after this result, Labour has the space to make the case for investment

by Ian Moss

I was wrong, Corbyn did not drive Labour off a cliff, he won seats and he dramatically increased vote share. He comes out of the election stronger but that is partially because expectations were so low. His leadership was a galvanising force for youth and his language a refreshing change from wooden managerialism; authentic and without the timid terror of trained lines to take.

The challenge is still enormous for Labour. It has lost three elections in a row and is in no better a position, in seats, than it was in 2010 and the Conservatives no worse. Yes vote share has surged, but so too has it for the Conservative party. It’s possible we are back to the two player game for good. However, for the first time in a decade there is an obvious path, one which can galvanise Labour’s coalition of support and put an offer to the country that can bind older voters with the young.

Labour’s moderates can start to be much more confident on the economy and on public spending and move on from the paralysis they have faced since 1992 on it. The Conservatives have absented themselves from the issue of fiscal credibility, as the deficit still looms large, and the public are beginning to see the cracks in their local services. Labour can make the case for investment again, in return for modest increases on the taxes of those that can bear it most and a continuing commitment on efficiency and reform.

There is clearly an issue on tuition fees that resonates. The arguments and evidence don’t matter – that they have opened up access to HE for those from poorer backgrounds and that abolishing them is regressive – there is a swathe of the country that just don’t like the idea that they, or their children or grandchildren, start out in work with a large debt. There could be a way forward but it would have to be an equitable way forward. Remove fees, but do so on the basis of the broad offer Labour for adult education for all. People can take it at 18 or later, if they prefer. Blair had a similar plan – they called it individual learning accounts – that never took off. It would have to come with reform of HE for affordability and efficiency. A move to more two year degrees and a much greater expectation of studying at a local institution. If that can make the maths add up and keep both broad access and progressive distribution of opportunity, it could continue to be a vote winner but one that feels more progressive.

Labour should be gobbling up the ground for parents. Free childcare is an offer that may pay for itself in growth, but even if not, it is about equity for parents in the workplace and removing what is an enormous pressure for parents. Sometimes universality is right, and the Treasury will have to get over the theology of deadweight and start looking at the upsides of supporting people through the most difficult life events. Schools funding has to be fixed. This is an issue that resonated with every parent as they now get regular begging letters to fund basic provision.

The Conservatives offered space on inheritance and on tackling the ongoing intergenerational unfairness of the Pensions Triple Lock – and it ended very badly for them. A lock on pensions linked to GDP per head may offer a way out of the current ratchet. Despite this there has to be a better consensus on long term care and on the NHS. Labour’s call for funding has to be listened to, but the quid pro quo has to be a greater individual burden, whether that be inheritance or insurance. This also cannot come without improvements – but there is much that can be done through better use of technology to help individuals manage their health conditions better. Creating efficiency rather than focusing on structures.

Labour didn’t really have its policies tested, and next time they will. There has to be a story that locks together responsibility and progress on public services. The talent has to be bought back into the Shadow Cabinet and involved properly in decisions. However, the big lesson is optimism. Corbyn’s relentlessly positive messages may have belied a lack of grasp of detail, but it also offered a different way forward for the country. He has highlighted again the need to have a open, inspiring vision of “why Labour”. If Labour stops going round saying how terrible everything is, but as in 1997, tells a story of how good it could be there is a chance that this cheery defeat could be turned into a more satisfying victory next time.

Ian Moss has worked across government and is now in public affairs

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12 Responses to “I was wrong about Corbyn. Now, after this result, Labour has the space to make the case for investment”

  1. Tafia says:

    1. Tories got more votes than at any time since 1992, and won the popular vote.
    2. Tories improved their number of votes by 2.3 million, the most since 1979.
    3. Tories got their biggest percentage of the vote since at least 1983.
    4. Labour got their most votes since 1997.
    5. Labour improved their vote by 3.5m, the most that any party has done since 1945.
    6. Labour got their highest percentage since 2001.
    7. LibDems got fewer votes than they or their predecessors got since 1970.
    9. LibDems got a lower percentage of the vote than they or their predecessors got since 1959.
    10. Con and Lab combined got the highest percentage of seats since 1992.
    11. Con and Lab combined got the highest percentage of votes since 1970
    12. 83% of voters voted for a party committed to leaving the Single Market as a manifesto pledge. (That means we can’t opt for EEA). God help either of the two big boys if they row back on that – especially with Farage making noises about standing as UKIP leader if they do. If either did, they would never be trusted on anything for a generation.

  2. Tafia says:

    Oh, and all your funding ideas have to fit in with the back-drop of devolution and the massive differences in the way the devolved regions govern themselves. For exampe, most of what May was ofering – dementia tax, free school breakfasts etc was only applicable to England. Winter Fuel Allowance wasn’t relevant to Scotland etc etc And if Parliament changes the funding methods for England in areas that are devolved (health, education etc etc), that in turn changes the funding model for the devolved regions – but the devolved regions in turn, although they then receive extra funding can spend it ion whatever they like – the aren’t bound by the fact that if Parlaiment spends it on health in England they have to spend it on health in the regions. They can spend it on smarties if they want. Or Carlsberg Special Brew.

    And no, you can’t change that uness it’s by referendum in the relevant devolved region.

  3. Peter Kenny says:

    Starts well, peters out into sub blairite bollocks later.

    You were wrong – exactly. Stick with that thought for a bit and consider your wrongness was deeper than just writing off Corbyn and the left as am electoral force – that your entire orientaion is mistaken.

    The killer line is that ‘moderates’ are now free from the constraints of talking about public spending. What kind of intellectual current is it that needs to be ‘freed’ by another, that can’t find its own voice, that needs to be shown its not scary in order to be brave?

    In fact this was an election we could have done even better in. There are loads of Tory seats we could have taken with a bolder use of our resources Amber Rudd as a prime example. More attention to Scotland would have given us more SNP seats etc.

    So it’s our third ‘defeat’ – well politically its a victory in a host of ways and sets us up to win big in the next election. Our ‘post mortem’ should essentially be about how to be bolder. We don’t need to do essentially different things we need to do them better.

    So, for people like you who have been a drag on our efforts the key message would be to get with the programme. If you can’t be helpful, shut up!

    You need to learn from us, not vice versa.

    Take that stance and then you can think about what you have to offer. In this article you pivot from a proper humility to a subdued arraogance in about three paragraphs. There is more to be gleaned from your wrongness!

  4. buttley says:

    Uncut back to….

    Prescribing laissez faire hoops through which they think Corbyn’s populist policies should be pushed.

    …..well that is a refreshing take, not.

    “The talent has to be bought back into the Shadow Cabinet and involved properly in decisions”

    But in reality, they “the talent” are not in fact, that talented, are they. As evidenced by their own actions over the last 36 months.

    “If Labour stops going round saying how terrible everything is”

    Not the hallowed New Labour

    “I just….Fear…….”

    Ian, you cannot gag Yevvette like this, it is just not comradely.

  5. paul barker says:

    Labour Centrists divide into 2 groups with respect to Corbyn. There were those who thought Corbyn couldnt win Voters over, couldnt energise non-voters & would put off more Voters than attract them. They were wrong & will presumably be climbing back on board.
    Then the were Centrists who actually disagree with Corbyn. They still disagree but what do they do now ? Clearly The Moderates/Centrists/Right Wing are not going to be in charge of Labour for a very long time, if ever. They are in a minority among The Members, The Unions & now, probably The PLP too. They need to ask themselves some hard questions.

  6. Peter Kenny says:

    Hi Taffia – how wrong were you about Wales?

    Very wrong!

    I remember your response to the opinion poll showing a clear Labour lead in Wales , no way, you said. You also said that Labour had nothing to offer on Brexit and you were voting Tory.

    I hope you enjoyed that.

    So, you were wrong about the country you live in and your dream of a hard brexit is probably over. Loads of Tories don’t want it, labour don’t want it, the DUP don’t want it. Actually most people don’t want it.

    We’re all so scared of a UKIP revival? I wasn’t scared of them when they were still alive!

    We’ll leave the EU, of course – probably stay in the customs union and have a ‘close’ relationship with the single market. So close it’ll be hard to see the join!

    You just lost.

    Probably (anything can happen, after all)

  7. Tafia says:

    Peter Kenny
    your dream of a hard brexit is probably over.
    Actually its more likely. May stood on a hard brexit ticket – read points 1 and 12 in my first comment above. Factor into that that the EU will be less likely to negotiate now. The most likely outcome now is we are leaving with no deal and reverting straight to WTO. It’s now more likely than not that we will do that a lot faster than 2 years as well.

    the DUP don’t want it
    About half the DUP MPs do actually, mainly the ones from the urban seats. But even the ones that don’t aren’t really that arsed – all they are really interested in is keeping the NI/RoI border ‘soft’ (as is the Republic itself and for the same reasons) and keeping farm subsidies. They will easily be bought off. May is really only flirting with the DUP so that the entire opposition combined can’t beat her on a vote of confidence and can’t vote down her Queens Speech.

    probably stay in the customs unionand have a ‘close’………….
    Just remember what Labour stood on in their manfiseto with regards the EU. To achieve it it requires leaving the Single Market in entirety – so there is cross House acceptance that we are leaving the SM whether you like it or not. Labour knew that when they put it in their manifesto or they wouldn’t have put it there. Which brings us to UKIP – you flip-flop over that now and UKIP will be back with a bang and your vote share drops to the low thortoies at best again.

    One thing that does mystify me is why May sees the need to bother with the DUP (other than for the two reasons I have goven). There is going to be precious little legislation going through Parliament for the next 2 years as Brexit takes centre stage, and what little will go through Parliament is largely – becuase of devolution, applicable only in England (health, education etc etc) so Plaid and the SNP will not take part meaning the Tories in English matters have quite a large majority – in fact an overwhelming one. On paper she appears weak, but over Brexit the Tories and Labour have very minor differences now because of Labour’s shift in position and stated aims. Likewise over what little legislation that does come to Parliament for the next two years it will relate mostly to England and the Tories will have no problems. factor into that the Lib Dems saying they will not support a Labour bid to run the country unless Corbyn steps down, May’s position is actually stroinger than first appears. Bottom line is May has more to fear from her own back-benchers if she softens Brexit than she does from the entire Opposition

  8. NickT says:

    Farage is utterly irrelevant, as is UKIP. Voters have left that party of idiot losers and shown no appetite for a Hard Brexit whatsoever. Corbyn shouldn’t get too comfortable though – he was lucky to face the worst candidate the Tories have fielded in living memory. Next time, he might have to face a real politician.

  9. Peter Kenny says:

    Hi Taffia – you mistake really wanting something to happen with it actually happening! I notice you didn’t adress my first question, which exactly illustrates my point. You really want hard brexit, you correctly thought a big Tory win was the best way to get it and so said you’d vote Tory.

    You then extrapolated your own wishes to everyone else, claiming the welsh polls were wrong and Labour would be overtaken in Wales by the Tories.

    You were wrong and I believe you’re wrong in your reading of the politics of Brexit. Of course we’ll ‘leave’ the single market, probably to live in an extension built in the side of it!

    If a hard brexit is more likely now, which is confirmation bias of the highest order, why was David Davies saying the whole Tory stance needed to be revisited? Why was Farage rattling on about another referendum. Why are the Tories relying on the DUP who clearly want a ‘soft’ Brexit.

    As for UKIP surging to the low thirties. – well it is true tgat support for a hard Brexit is at that level but that assumes everyon puts that first and they don’t. That is the reason you were wrong about Wales, you put Brexit first most other people don’t.

    When you talk about Plaid and the SNP it really struck me that you are a bit of a dreamer. The idea they won’t vote in ‘English’ matters is nonsense. The SNP said before the election that they would, if it could be argued that it affected Scotland. Well, that would be everything, wouldn’t it? I could construct an argument that bin collection in England affected Scotland. Nothing stops them voting in everything, they just need cover.

    You’re like Wil E Coyote in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. You’re over the abyss of your dreams failing, thinking that if you don’t look down you won’t fall.


    When you reply, as you generally do, you’ll tell me confidently why I’m wrong. I’ll welcome your wisdom but please do address my question about why you were wrong about Welsh and UK voting.

  10. Tafia says:

    firstly, welcome your wisdom but please do address my question about why you were wrong about Welsh and UK voting. Everyone got it wrong except a very small number of people. Even people in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet got it wrong. In Wales people were thinking that the dementia tax, university grants etc etc would affect them and Labour played on that conveniently using then as weapons and forgetting to remind voters that in actual fact those ptory pledges and more only affected England.

    As for the rest of your piece, it’s you that’s the dreamer I’m afraid along with the young voters that you have just led up the garden path. In a years time when they realise that Labour are no nearer No10 then than they were last wednesday and you basically conned them they are not going to be best pleased with you.

    Always remember, the default position over BREXIT is we leave March 2019 with no deal. Any negotiations as such, can’t actually fail because the process can’t be stopped unless every country in the EU votes in favour of delaying, with no votes against, no abstentions. You say it’s nonsense about English matters then promptly state that they will if it affects Scotland. If it affects Scotland it isn’t an English matter – it’s a UK one.

    You mention Labour’s position on BREXIT Just to remind you, McDonnel told ITV live this morning: “We will push for a jobs-first Brexit. Labour wants to respect the results of the referendum.” Which matches what the manifesto said, however he then went on to add “Staying in the single market would not honour that. We remain absolutely wedding to completing Brexit and getting on with the job.” Now you can turn that any which way you want, but an awful lot of under 25s are absolutely furious with you and have been all over whatsapp and snapchat all day going mental about it using words such as “lied to” “betrayed” “not what we voted for, not what we want”

    Then we have reality – which you avoid totally but just to remind you:-

    1.May is still PM. Even if she steps down she will only be replaced by a Tory.

    2.BREXIT is still going ahead, talks start in a week and Davis is back to the original BREXIT script.

    3.You cannot muster enough opposition in Parliament to bring her government down, stop any budget or stop the Queens Speech.

    4.The tories, after fighting an absolutely garbage campaign, got 800,000 more votes than you and and 60-odd seats more than you. Which means you can’t beat the tories even when they are crap.

    5. The Lib Dems remain firm in their position and stated yet again today they will not deal with you while Corbyn is your leader.

    6. Sturgeon today said the SNP will not support any party committed to BREXIT.

    And finally Corbyn promised Friday that the Tories would be gone in days. ‘In days’ is less than a week. Not only will May still be PM in a week, but the tories will still be in power – so he was talking absolute rubbish or deliberately lying.

  11. john P reid says:

    I agree with Tafia and my mum, who was a party member for 54 years ,and on many picket lines in the 70’s 80’s
    just voted tory for the first time

    I made it only 12,5% of parties Plaid, SNP libdems, greens and Sinn Fein who were pro remains’ vote

  12. Peter Kenny says:

    Hi Taffia – you were wrong because everyone else was wrong! You always sounded so certain and yet you were utterly, utterly wrong, about your own country!

    You just confirmed in your reply that the reason you were wrong was because hard Brexit wasn’t the be all and end all of people’s votes, as it is for you. That makes you incapable of seeing further or broader, as it does in the question of what the outcome of the Brexit talks will be.

    Now, you’re setting up a straw man in many of the points you make – of course Brexit will happen, it’s the nature of it that’s in question. I’m saying that leaving to WTO rules won’t happen, that the ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ idea is finished.

    Of course we’ll leave the single market as we’ve promised but there are plenty of other options which, you know, look quite like it, once the hard Brexit option is off the table.

    You see Teresa May is finished, maybe this week, maybe in the autumn but she’s done. Seriously weakened, unless you think miraculously this has made her stronger! There are plenty of Tories who want a ‘soft’ Brexit – why wouldn’t they rebel? Why wouldn’t they put the pressure on, especially those in ‘Remain’ seats.

    I think you’ll see I never talked about what will happen to who the government is because I think that’s unknowable. the Tories will, of course want to stay in power but its possible they’ll fail, for a range of reasons. If they did, under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, it’d be labour’s turn to try – if they failed, which they probably would, there’d be an election.

    If there was an election today labour would probably win, or at least be the largest party. Most likely is an ineffective Tory minority government, tarred with it’s alliance with the DUP, struggling on, subject to ambushes, bye election losses, endless deal making and compromises, hard liners on both wings rebelling or threatening to etc.

    I don’t pretend to know, though, what will happen, I don’t have your crystal ball. I was just talking about Brexit

    I see even Farage is saying we could end up with a ‘Norway’ type Brexit – why would he be talking like that?

    We’ll live and learn but there’ll be no ‘hard’ Brexit in my view – I think you’re just desperately trying to keep your hopes up. ‘Hard’ being out of the EU on WTO rules.

    If I’m wrong I will come here and type the words ‘I was wrong- Taffia was right’ in capital letters!

    Will you reciprocate if you’re wrong?

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