Jun 02

Shifting Sands

At a certain point campaigning and polls for the British Parliamentary election on June 8th will shut off (because that’s how they do things in Europe). I’m going to attempt to keep you informed because something miraculous (and yet predicted by me during the Labour Leadership election) is happening- an unapologetically Socialist, Populist candidate, running on a platform of unabashed anti-Neo Liberalism, is set to achieve electoral success.

The bulk of Corbyn’s victory is already accomplished. For those who persist in Manichean, binary, ‘lesser evil’ analysis every single seat Labour saves over the once expected trouncing is a fatal weakening of Theresa May and the Tory party. For those whose horizons are not limited by the idea that ‘there is no alternative’ to Neo Liberal dominance articulated by Thatcher and colluded with by Blair, it marks the end of the argument of the Quisling Tory-lite Blairites of the Parliamentary Labour Party that Corbyn and his policies are electoral losers.

Need I point out that this echos the experience of the United States under Barack Obama, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and Rahm Emanuel? They’re stone cold losers who damaged the Party with their Neo Liberal policies and are as responsible as anyone for The Donald. Forty years of failure.

The likely result currently is that the Tories lose seats in the double digits and perhaps their Parliamentary majority. Since the Liberal Democrats have already proven themselves worthless hacks who will sell their principles for a sou I’d expect them to give the Conservatives a coalition majority despite the fact that they’re running on a pure Remain platform (frankly they have no other ideas) and May is Hard Brexit through and through. They’ll cave- count on it. UKIP is cooked, the Scottish National Party just wants to leave Britain (and rightly so, the Tory leadership is insane).

Depending how bad it is it could be a straight minority goverment, subject to dissolution at the first controversial vote. Instead of Labour MPs breaking away (and good riddance to bad rubbish) the Conservatives could split on Leave/Remain lines depending on how May handles the negotiations with the EU (for which she has shown no talent. The EU is at least willing to reset the clock in the event of a Corbyn victory in the expectation he will be reasonable).

This is what winning looks like. This is what real incrementalism looks like. It is advancing your principled popular agenda against the Institutional Political, Economic, and Media elites

Is Britain Also Feeling the Bern?
By Robert L. Borosage, The Nation
June 1, 2017

In April, with the Labour Party imploding, Tory Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election because she was certain the Tories would expand their majority in Parliament. Early polls showed her beating Corbyn by 21 percentage points or more. Corbyn was ridiculed in the press, reviled by Labour’s Blairites, and deemed a potential “disaster” as prime minister by over half of British voters in a May poll. As a leader of a party whose establishment loathed him, Corbyn floundered. May, in haunting echo of the Hillary Clinton campaign, made character the centerpiece of her campaign, parading herself as “strong and stable” in contrast to the radical incompetence of her opponent.

Then the 2017 Labour Party Manifesto, “For the Many, Not the Few,” leaked to the press. A full throated, 24,000-word populist agenda, it was mocked as a “suicide note” by The Economist. The manifesto pledged to provide the equivalent of an economic bill of rights to guarantee basic security for workers—from education to housing to retirement security. It also outlined a plan to nationalize key utilities, thereby reversing the privatizations that have been driving up costs.

Corbyn’s plan would hike the minimum wage to the equivalent of $15 an hour, prohibit on-call employment contracts, ban unpaid internships, and bolster the ability of unions to organize. Labour also pledged to build public housing, make university tuition free, provide free childcare for children over 2, invest billions into improving public schools, and serve free school meals for every child in primary school. Pensions would be guaranteed, the National Health Care Service would be bolstered, and welfare cuts reversed.

These sweeping proposals would be paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the richest 5 percent of the population via a financial speculation tax and other vehicles. Corbyn’s presentation echoed Bernie Sanders’s rhetoric. Britain, he said, had been “run for the rich, the elite and the vested interests.”

“They have benefited from tax cuts and bumper salaries while millions have struggled,” he said. “We are asking the better-off and the big corporations to pay a little bit more, and, of course, to stop dodging their tax obligations in the first place.”

The manifesto went viral. Polls revealed that each of its various reforms had broad support, even as the pundits criticized it as unrealistic. When the campaign began, Corbyn started appearing more on television and radio, where voters could see he wasn’t a wild-eyed raving radical but an old curmudgeon, clearly comfortable in his own skin, and committed to the changes he called for. He looked more, as the New Statesman put it, “like a slightly bedraggled, if much-loved, family pooch than an apex predator.”

In contrast, the “strong and stable” Theresa May appeared to be anything but. When her call for cuts to pension guarantees and old-age care—what became known as the “dementia tax”—came under attack, she disavowed it. She refused to debate Corbyn when she was up in the polls, and then ducked him when he began to close in the polls. Even the conservative tabloids turned critical.

Polls showed Corbyn surging, reducing May’s lead to single digits. The value of the pound sterling got shaky. Elite commentary grew hysterical. This week, an extensive YouGov poll of 50,000 voters suggested that the Tories could lose their majority in Parliament, forcing a coalition government.

For decades, the Thatcher proclamation—that “there is no alternative” to neoliberal globalization—has been conventional wisdom among Tories, Liberals, and New Labor in Britain, and Republicans and New Democrats in the United States. As inequality grew and the middle class struggled to stay afloat, those displaced were essentially written off.

What Corbyn and Sanders’s surge—and the victory of Donald Trump on the right—demonstrate is that people in large numbers are looking for and open to bold alternatives, even ones that challenge the shibboleths about big government and the genius of markets.

The lesson should not be lost on Democrats. It isn’t enough to resist Trump’s excesses or expose the cruelties of his policies. Voters are looking for a bold new course and leaders with the integrity to champion it against the entrenched interests and big money.

Sanders’s surge was propelled by his call for fundamental reform. Corbyn’s populist manifesto was his invitation to the dance. In the United States, similarly robust policies are suddenly everywhere: a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, a green-jobs agenda, fair and balanced trade, tuition-free college, progressive tax reform, and a job guarantee. That agenda begins to offer people a choice. It won’t be easy to overcome the scorn of the establishment and the timidity of the political class. But on both sides of the Atlantic, when radical social reconstruction gets a hearing, it finds an increasingly receptive audience.

UK Election Polls Tighten to Three Points Between May and Corbyn

2 comments

  1. If I was going to bet, I’d predict the Tories lose seats but remain in charge. I haven’t seen any sensible predictions of the Northern Irish seats but the NI Unionists have always supported the Conservatives, even if this time the LibDems don’t. If May has to rely on Irish Unionist votes for her majority it might shift the Brexit discussion in directions that might screw Ireland less.

    Like you I’m thrilled to see a repudiation of the Clinton-Blair-Obama philosophy that the world will no longer support a party that is unapologetically of the left. Even if the Tories (possibly with help) remain in charge, the primary results seem clearly to be
    – 1. validating the philosophy that Labour should and can be a party of the left not the mushy center-left, against neo-liberalism and austerity
    – 2. validating the competence of Corbyn as leader
    – 3. exposing the incompetence of May as leader
    – 4. splattering the minor parties like roadkill. In honour of the UKIP and the Liberal Democrats, let’s have a chorus of “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road”.

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