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.
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”.
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