Newsflash: in the battle of ideas, Corbyn WON the 2019 general election

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson
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As the shockwaves from Britain’s latest snap election begin to subside, we’re witnessing the rise of Orwellian thought-control on an industrial scale. The government is now ‘investigating‘ independent left-wing media; newspaper columns and airwaves have been saturated with attacks on progressive politics; and the Labour Party’s prospective leadership candidates have all agreed to outsource its disciplinary process to an ‘independent’ body while ensuring that anyone who so much as questions the suspension or expulsion of a given member should themselves be purged from the party.

Corbyn’s Labour was winning the battle of ideas

Virtually all of the controversy embroiling Labour prior to the election was focused on Jeremy Corbyn. But of course, this was never really about him. The real target was a set of ideas that had captured the imagination of great swathes of the public, as demonstrated in Labour’s huge surge in the popular vote in 2017; one which transcended demographics and generations.

Remarkably, these ideas were by no means extreme or even particularly radical. They were about redressing the balance between the private and public sector to bring the UK more in line with our closest European neighbours; they were about reversing a decade of austerity that had needlessly claimed at least 130,000 lives and diminished prospects for long-term economic growth and stability; they were about resistance to endless and needless wars and military adventures in the Middle East, either direct or by proxy; and they were about genuine action to tackle the climate emergency. Even on the issue of Brexit, Labour adopted what was by far the most ‘moderate’ position of the major parties, supporting a confirmatory vote on a deal that would not seriously jeopardise either peace in the north of Ireland or the health of the economy.

These policies were not only sensible according to expert consensus, but were also broadly popular among the British electorate. So how did a party led by someone implicated in conspiring to violently assault a journalist and engaged in misogynistic, homophobic and racist discourse (not to mention persistent lies and evasion of scrutiny) achieve such a landmark victory?

The Conservatives looked to Labour policies for help

Some say the Conservatives won because the Labour Party didn’t pander sufficiently to either the Leave or Remain vote; others say that it was Corbyn’s leadership or communication skills that were to blame (forgetting the prevailing consensus after the 2017 election). Others, with more reason, blame the media – citing evidence of huge skews and imbalances in the campaign coverage.

But only one thing is certain: Labour did not lose the battle of ideas. Indeed, it was the Conservatives who were forced to wage a campaign based on a manifesto that broadly matched Labour’s 2017 spending proposals, accompanied by repeated promises and assurances that austerity was dead. As for Corbyn, no opposition leader in modern British political history has induced more government defeats. He also forced a spectacular number of policy U-turns by both Theresa May and Boris
Johnson‘s governments, along with a more significant abandonment of a long-standing policy paradigm (at least in name).

And while the Conservatives were forced to steal Labour’s policies, centrists suffered an even more devastating electoral defeat than Labour. The Liberal Democrats (widely predicted to make historical gains at the start of the campaign) ended up with even fewer seats in parliament, while not a single one of Labour’s centrist MPs who defected from the party kept their job.

Read on...

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A return to centrism is NOT the solution

However, these glaring truths have been almost completely ignored by the liberal commentariat in favour of a narrative that explicitly frames the left as Labour’s problem, and a return to centrism as its only solution. And this is a narrative that’s reverberating across the Atlantic as liberals take aim at the Bernie Sanders campaign, citing Corbyn’s defeat as ‘proof’ that progressive policies can’t win over voters. It’s the product of an unprecedented and relentless war on truth waged in concert with the hard right and reinforced by elements of the deep state. Its principal aim is to equate socialism with extremism (and even racism) in a form of double speak that would have made George Orwell gulp. As George Monbiot recently put it, “the oligarchs have discovered the formula for persuading the poor to vote for the interests of the very rich. And that formula includes massive lying and cheating on an unprecedented scale”.

Featured image via Sophie Brown and BBC News

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  • Show Comments
      1. This article is absolutely ridiculous. The real Orwellian double-speak here is claiming an electoral loss as a victory. If the policies were so universally popular, why did Labour lose so many seats? The media? Grow the fuck up. Extrapolating from this ludicrous logic, since the Tories apparently won this election by copying Labour’s ideas (are you 12 years old?), there should be no problem then- we’ve obviously now got a socialist government, so stop complaining. What a joke. No wonder the left is in such a mess.

        1. Completely agree Neil.
          The scraping of the barrel for crumbs of comfort by Corbyn.s supporters for the worst election result since 1935 is deeply worrying given the need to learn lessons if we are to avoid de facto permanent Tory power.
          Popularity of individual policy ideas on the doorstep counts for nothing if the overall package of policies and leader are not seen as credible. Hence why Corbyn never got near power as the polls consistently predicted. Who wouldn’t want free WiFi, more money in public services etc etc. Credibility on defence and the economy is where winning an election starts and I am hearing nothing from the left of the party that suggests any need to change course on those fundamental policy areas.
          Of course anyone who dare disagree with the idea that only a Corbyn agenda is dismissed as Tory scum and/or brainwashed by the media..

          There are lots of problems in the world but show me a country where an agenda similar to Corbyn is working? How realistic is it to think Britain can opt out of the capitalist system even if we wanted to – which clearly there is no mandate for.
          Being dismissed as Tory scum is an incredibly arrogant and sounds great no doubt in momenntum meetings but ain’t going to sell on the doorsteps of a) all those millions lost labour voters and b) the centre left, Lib Dem and those Tory voters with a conscience who need to be won over for an election to be won.

          1. Opting out of market-capitalism is not the issue: opting back in is what I seek.

            Market capitalism is moribund, having reached a sink state. Capital has been arrogated by a tiny minority who thereby deny its use in genuinely entrepreneurial endeavour. This state has been at least forty years in the making having being given substantial push by Mrs Thatcher’s adoption of Hayek’s ideas.

            Deregulation of markets, accompanied by the foolish mantra, that private enterprise always provides goods and services more cost-efficiently and to greater end-user satisfaction than communally organised enterprise, i.e. public sector in a mixed economy, is to blame.

            Corruption is rife, this along with unbridled greed (an entirely different animal from productive ambition) has brought about economic collapse, banks ‘too big to fail’, asset stripping and penury for Greece, with imposed ‘austerity’ elsewhere.

            Mendacious assertion of private enterprise always being the best way of conducting a nation’s business is being exposed in the USA in manner unthinkable a few years ago. Healthcare provision in the USA is receiving unwelcome scrutiny by ordinary citizens. Its insurance basis and requirement for layers of middlemen are being questioned; the pharmaceutical industry is revealed as more avaricious than people imagined (compare insulin prices in the USA with those in Canada and Mexico), and unethical, nay criminal, behaviour has been identified as leading to the ‘opioid crisis’.

            All the foregoing are accompanied by collapsing physical infrastructure with poisoned water, etc. US residents are well on the way to debt servitude. People seeking to escape abroad are hampered by the US browbeating banks in other nations into refusing to open accounts for US citizens. ‘The American Dream’, tacky though it be, is now a laughable prospect for US citizens not already born into the ruling class.

            Now, the odious Johnson seeks to hitch his wagon to the declining USA. He and its other occupants shall do nicely indeed whilst people left behind shall lose deep seated cultural benefits derived from our European historical legacy in order to join a two bit ersatz civilisation typified by Mickey Mouse, Western films, and broken English. Johnson’s ‘promised land’ is that mapped out by Ayn Rand.

            1. An interesting piece, but I am surprised you suggest that “penury for Greece” is a consequence of Market Capitalism and Deregulation. I thought it was a self-inflicted injury, with, for example, the pensions scandal exemplifying the government’s utter failure to manage their financial affairs. With, for example, the trombonist’s job deemed to be “arduous and unhealthy” allowing them to retire at 50 on a full pension, a benefit shared by other professions such as bakers, hairdressers and masseurs! Such over-generous pensions can only be funded by the next generation, placing them in penury.
              Similarly, in France, workers in “arduous occupations” retire early, and the “Special Retirement Plans” enable employees in such demanding work as EDF, SNCF, the French State Theatre; the Paris Opera, Civil-law notaries, etc, to retire early on a full pension. So now we have country-wide strikes crippling the economy, challenging proposals to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, and to make pensions more equitable overall. These strikes clearly represent your “unbridled greed” of vested interests opposing universal benefits, and the failure to achieve this will only burden the next generation.
              No doubt these countries assumed the EU project would bail them out, and similar government abuses of financial probity can be found throughout the EU, such as their building “roads to nowhere”.

        2. I disagree. Corbyn and Labour completely changed the discourse and have forced the Tories, to some extent to abandon austerity. We’ve had this dominant ideology for 40 years now and it was never going to go away easily.

          Corbyn is now officially the most smeared politician in history with at least 75% of the press vilifying him and creating mis- and disinformation. YOu need to throw all this into the equation to accurately assess what happened. The attacks from the establishment were relentless and just to show what was at stake for those with vested interests in a Tory victory -as soon as the result was announced huge sums of money flowed into the UK to buy up property as an investment vehicle. So much for ‘taking back control.’

          As for the scale of the defeat: this was largely to do with vagaries of the first past the post system, There were only about 300,000 extra Tory votes yet they were scattered over a wide number of marginal seats often with slim majorities for the Tories. Those areas called Labour heartlands had been losing Labour votes during the Blair era and the Labour vote in many of these areas actually picked up in 2017.,

          No Party leader in history has been subjected to that which was aimed at Corbyn. Labour also ran an honest campaign whereas the Tories used fake websites and social media manipulation and were deemed to have used material which was 88% misleading.

          The Corbyn vote started to collapse after the myth of antisemitism started to gain power combined with divisions in the Party over leaving the EU which caused 1.3 million former Labour voters to switch to Green or Liberal Democrat.

          Trying to maintain that the MSM played no role in this is laughable!

          1. Blaming the so called MSM is the go to excuse for this website, ironically ignoring the complete lack of any critical analysis of Corbyn on the Canary – the level of bias would made the Telegraph blush. .If the MSM was as effective as you say, none of Corbyn’s ideas which you claim he has won the argument on would have seen the light of day. You also need to factor in a lot of labour supporters holding their nose when voting labour in 2019. Plus the mainstream press circulation figures are lower than ever.
            A 5-0 defeat cannot be dressed up as a victory because a few nice crosses were played into the opposition box. Of course this leadership candidates apart Rebecca clearly recognise this and the need to learn serous lessons from the defeat. If Rebecca wins, labour will gave the pressed repeat button ( how Boris would do love that) and will remain a protest party with no chance of winning an election.

            1. In one respect I agree. The Canary is a curate’s egg. It is marred by three things.

              First, knee-jerk responses to events, these presumably intended to satisfy the long-standing Labour faithful whose ideas are rooted in pre-Blair nineteenth century style social concerns (Blair derailed the party before there was prospect of socialism consonant with 21st century aspirations).

              Second, paucity of analytic pieces.

              Third, an annoying style adopted by many of the Canary’s contributors. Too often, articles consist of a series of quotations padded out with connecting prose adding very little. Many quotations seemingly purport to be from ‘authority’, these taken from the lowest common denominator source known as Twitter.

              Setting aside the facile nature of this type of supposed journalism, sadly adopted by other outlets too, there remains its ugly visual display. By all means give direct quotation, preferably from sources with gravitas, when paraphrasing is inadequate, but only of the strictly relevant text and with attribution to locations from which quotations were drawn placed in end-notes.

              The Canary needs to think where it wishes to place itself. Is it aimed at tabloid newspaper readers, else at educated persons whose thoughts add constructively to Labour’s armoury of ideas? Might it somehow encourage debate with its writers and between readers? Should the Canary invite opinion pieces from people whose views oppose socialism? Put otherwise, ought the Canary position itself as a place of intellectual ferment?

              That said, the Canary has liberal editorial policy with respect to comments published. Unlike in the Guardian there is no evidence of heavy handed moderation steering people away from expressing ‘insensitive’ views, from criticising writers, and from indulging in heavy irony which many people are blind to because they take life too literally.

          2. Corbyn didn’t need to be smeared by MSM or anyone else because he made such a fool of himself. Having repeatedly stated he had a “fully costed manifesto”, I remember him being asked by Andrew Neil where the £60M for the WASPI women was coming from, and he didn’t know. He first said it would come out of “Reserves”, but Neil said there weren’t any “Reserves”! So Corbyn said we would borrow the money, having previously said Labour would only borrow for infrastructure-type projects investing for future growth! He hadn’t a clue!

            Then when Neil repeatedly (6 times?) asked him if he would apologise for anti-Semitism in Labour, he refused, all on camera in front of a prime-time audience!

            As for the four-day week including in the NHS, he could only say they would be paid for out of productivity improvements – so how does a care worker improve productivity by 20%? By scrubbing her elderly clients faster, neglecting their care, driving faster between clients? And he said it wouldn’t apply to the NHS whilst McD said it would. Laughable!

            Corbyn didn’t need MSM!

            1. Smithe mogg nails it for me. The canary rails against what it calls the msm yet is bias to its absolute core in its eulogist ion of Corbyn. This is now being repeated with the low level undermining of all leadership candidates apart from long Bailey.
              And anyone who dares challenge this view on here really does have to be something of a masochist.
              I for one would be very interested to read of concrete examples from around the world where left wing policies delivered by left wing governments are actually working within the global capatlist system we all live in apart from North Korea. That is the challenge for labour in my view and all this talk of breaking up capitalism may be interesting and relevant over a 20 year span but not a 5 year elector,al cycle in a single country.

      2. I couldn’t agree more. I suspect most of this site’s traffic is conservative viewers who enjoy having a laugh at the sub student politics journalism that is spouted here. I particularly enjoyed the days of silence about the election result as they tried to consider how to claim it as a victory.

    1. The Tories, and Bojo in particular, needs to prove as their government proceeds that they did indeed win the election by ensuring Brexit really does get done. Will Brexit as envisaged by The Red Wall brigade that came to Bojo’s rescue come to realise the Brexit they yearn for and expect may turn out to be a figment? Will the odd sweetmeat thrown over the wall now and again suffice to keep them quiet even while nuances of Remain creeps stealthily back into Bojo’s tinkered BINO May deal? Is that why ‘infinitely intelligent Remainers’ are not kicking up as nearly a fuss as they might because they still know something those common Brexit folk behind the Red Wall don’t while chewing on their sweeteners and looking up from their side of the wall ever on the look out for the next shower of sweeties hurled up ‘n over by Bojo?

    2. It is hard to believe that anyone could be so stupid as to suggest that Corbyn won anything! If his ideas were so popular, who exactly were they popular with? Certainly not with the voters, who rejected Corbyn in record numbers. Certainly not with those who had been serially abused by his supporters. As Angela Rayner is quoted: “working class voters who were told to “f*ck off and join the Tories” did just that”. Corbyn lost everything.

    3. The battle of ideas has only just started. By battle I mean juxtaposition of two social/economic world-views so different they cannot co-exist as options for ‘normal times’ political discourse and thus must slug it out between themselves with victor takes all.

      What is happening now resembles the great ideological disputes arising in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They are sparse but each had profound consequences in setting the perimeter for political debate/options for major political parties during ensuing decades.

      As example, consider the 1945 UK government. WW2 induced changing expectations from life among the masses. The incoming Labour government had succeeded in persuading people things could be different. The NHS, a wholly radical idea, coupled with reforms in provision of education and welfare, garnered sufficient support that during following decades they had to be taken as ‘given’ by political parties, as did the mixed economy. Their introduction necessitated lasting shifts in wealth and income.

      Until recent times no government, Conservative or Labour, suggested revisiting the conceptual basis underpinning the NHS. The UK muddled along as always during times of ‘normal’ politics with parties attempting to tune extant institutions and ways of doing things rather than proposing extensively radical packages in the areas of health, education, welfare, public utilities, and taxation. In so far as there was a genuine battleground it concerned relationship with the Common Market, later the EU, and some contentious issues about ‘rights’.

      To Mrs Thatcher and her government goes credit for deeply ‘reforming’ economic/social policy. Mrs Thatcher changed the game. Her ideas, based on Hayek’s writing and the Austrian school of economics were presented in a manner making them appear good sense. I recollect agreeing with the notion that ownership of utilities was a separate matter from regulation of their conduct. On financial de-regulation I was agnostic. The Community Charge I supported and still do. Thatcher’s government introduced a form of austerity for public services; this put forth as squeezing out ‘slack’ which had arisen from complacency; not of itself a bad idea if in the hands of people of good intent.

      Also introduced was the NHS internal market; to be fair to Conservative leaders of the time this was turning out to be an excellent way of making major resource users (e.g. hospital consultants) accountable for meeting population needs determined by GPs, public health practitioners, and others able to perceive the broad picture; it was beginning to work as intended when the execrable Blair later decided to introduce his own ‘reforms’.

      When Thatcher’s remodelling of the economy was initiated the public was gulled into belief of good times ahead by measures such as sale of council housing to occupants and seemingly knock-down price utility share issues to folk who never before had held shares in their own names (the bulk of issued shares being pre-allocated to friends in the City). Ridiculous pseudo-competition was introduced e.g. competing providers of gas buying their product from a common source and shifting it along a common pipeline to industry and households as if in distinguishable packets earmarked for specific locations. Only later did I and other sentient members of the community begin to grasp that Thatcher et al had introduced a paradigm-shift (the overused term truly applicable here) in economic and social thinking. Much later did awareness arise that abandoning the concept of ‘society’ and introducing unregulated markets were elements of neo-liberalism and that this selfish doctrine had put the UK on the road to Ayn Rand dystopia.

      Blair/Brown jumped on this, profitable to some, bandwagon and later under the Conservatives it careered into the buffers of Brexit without serious attempt to map out for people what the future might hold.

      Thus now rather than politics as usual there is irreconcilable ideological divide. The Conservative Party, which at one time I supported, did broadly stand for decency and there was an underlying grasp of noblesse oblige. Now it is controlled by an unpleasant coterie of would-be carpetbaggers seeking, in connivance with USA corporate interests, to asset strip the UK.

      Labour must reach out way beyond its traditional and passive electorate to convince well off professionals that their apparent winning streak under neo-liberalism is illusory. Concentration of wealth with its concomitant monopolisation of influence, power, and opportunity, is destroying market-capitalism as understood by Adam Smith. Compared to the emergent billionaire class even CEO’s of banks (actually mere employees) with annual income measured in millions are as nought. Even if all their wealth is invested rather than spent on luxuries they have no hope of their families ever escaping eventual servitude; this a consequence of rate of accrual of additional wealth rising disproportionately as the starting point increases.

      Literally, “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, that also which he hath shall be taken away from him” [Mark 4:25-27]


      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license.

      1. But it didn’t double. A multitude of FOI requests are showing about a 1% point increase from 2017. The “doubling” comes from an Ashcroft poll which overstated 2017’s PV by about 100%.

        Labour lost because they got about 3.7m fewer votes than the Conservatives.

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