At present, it feels like Brexit has engulfed the Jeremy Corbyn-led movement. But ignore the naysayers. Because Jeremy Corbyn is heading straight for No 10.
‘Wishful thinking, mate’
One fundamental reason why Corbyn is heading for Downing Street is actually pretty dry. The UK voting system is first past the post, meaning that the Conservative and Labour parties are the only viable options for government. And with Corbyn as leader, offering a real alternative to the status quo, there will be an even greater focus on the two main parties. Because people actually have a real choice between them.
This is what happened in the 2017 election: the two main parties’ combined vote share was the largest since 1970 – they took nearly 90% of the parliamentary seats.
The local and Euro elections, meanwhile, tell us next to nothing about what will happen in a general election. No matter how much commentators like to exploit the results to advance their agenda. At the end of the day, using a 36.7% Euro turnout as a forecaster for a general election is like using an opinion poll with a skewed sample in the wrong context. It can only exaggerate the views of those preoccupied with the day-to-day theatre of politics. By contrast, turnout in the 2017 general election could’ve been as high as 80%, according to analysis from Oxford and Manchester universities.
A general election sidelined Brexit
When push comes to shove, Labour voters care much less about Brexit than the chattering class will have you believe. By the end of the 2017 general election, only 8% of Labour supporters listed Brexit as their top concern, compared to 48% of Conservative voters. The Labour leadership’s strategy helped bring about this sentiment by avoiding becoming the party of Remain, which sidelined Brexit as an electoral issue.
When the dust cleared, the Conservative Party’s record of austerity, privatisation, and inequality was there for all to see. It stood in stark contrast to the Corbyn-led agenda of social housing, free lifelong education, and peace.
An unstoppable force
The message of pro-Corbyn activists – “hold on, this guy is actually worth voting for” – rippled throughout the country in an unstoppable force. Labour’s manifesto became the first document of its kind to go viral online. In the space of the six-week campaign, Corbyn’s Labour went from 21 points behind in numerous polls to achieving 40% of the vote share, a whisker off victory. In fact, Survation – the only poll to accurately predict the results – had Labour on 45% and the Conservatives on 39% just a day after the election took place.
Even three shocking terrorist attacks – which traditionally should benefit the Conservatives – couldn’t stop the swing to Labour. Rather than treating the public as children, Corbyn ignored the right-wingers in his party and launched an honest critique of UK foreign policy and how it contributes to terrorism. This was a huge victory for the Labour leader.
We cannot underestimate the value of an election campaign with a programme people can get behind. This comes into even sharper focus when you consider that 57% of 2017 Labour voters selected the party within a month of election day. In other words, Corbyn’s Labour won almost two-thirds of its vote share in the four weeks before 8 June.
Corbyn is starting from a much better position than 2017
Avoiding becoming a hard-Remain party didn’t only carve the battle lines around austerity. In 2017, Labour managed to keep its coalition between large parts of the north and big southern cities like London together. A striking 61% of Labour constituencies actually voted to Leave in 2016, because of the UK’s electoral layout. With that in mind, it was the party’s focus on austerity – instead of Brexit – that enabled Labour to increase its vote share by more than at any point since 1945.
Fast-forward to June 2019 and the latest Survation poll, carried out on 22 May, has Labour on 33% – five points ahead of the Conservatives. That’s a way better starting point than it had two years ago. Provided Labour offers the radical programme of 2017, the energy of its election campaign will trounce the Conservatives. Ignore the propagandists who want to crush your morale. Corbyn is headed straight for Downing Street.
Featured image via Rwendland/ WikiCommons