The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Britain Goes to the Polls December 12th

Jeremy Corbyn

The bottom line here is that the Conservatives have been running about ten points ahead of Labour for some time. However, not only have polls proved to be less and less accurate, but in the last election, Labour did better than almost any of the polls suggested they would.

Tory leader Johnson’s main problem is himself, because he’s prone to impetuous acts which he doesn’t think through. His other problem is the Brexit party, which may siphon off votes.

If the Conservatives win, Brexit happens under Johnson’s deal, and there will be renewed austerity, increased drug prices, continued privatization of the NHS, and so on. Johnson will try to reforge Britain as a tax-free haven and free-trade zone. That’ll make the rich, richer, but it won’t be Singapore on the Thames, because the Singapore’s government puts massive work into making sure its citizens are okay (and they own almost all the land, which they lease it to citizens, etc.).

Labour’s issue is that their Brexit stand splits the difference. They’ll negotiate their own deal, put it to a referendum, and live with the results. That pleases neither the hard Leavers nor the hard Remainers, and the electorate has become rather polarized by the issue. It is the most principled way to deal with the issue, but passions are too inflamed right now for that to matter.

So, Labour’s votes are being eaten into by the Lib-Dems on Brexit. Labour still hasn’t regained their Scottish seats from the SNP, and it seems unlikely that they will do so for this upcoming vote.

All that said, Corbyn campaigns well, and the Labour manifesto, sans Brexit, is popular.

As readers know, I think the British would be insane not to vote for Corbyn. He’s really the last chance to save the National Health Service, to reverse austerity, and to prepare for climate change. Lib-Dems may be anti-Brexit, but they are hard, neoliberal austerians who voted for practically every significant austerity measure. They aren’t much less evil than the Conservatives.

Corbyn in England and Sanders in the US are the last chance–not to stop climate change (because that window has passed), but to mitigate it. It is also true that if Corbyn doesn’t do better than expected, he’s probably out as leader (which isn’t necessarily a disaster, there’s a good chance he’ll be replaced by another actual left-wing leader).

It’s now in the hands of the British. They will get the government they deserve It’s up to them to decide which government that is.

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  1. bruce wilder

    in nearly complete ignorance, i would tend to expect the Brexit Party to fade away in almost any district where a Tory might win, but isn’t certain to win. I know actual people are not good at “strategic” voting, but isn’t that the whole Brexit Party reason to exist? To “send a message”? If the Tories seem like the champions of Brexit, would it be “message received, time to hang up!” ??

  2. bruce wilder

    The Labour Party does seem well-positioned to die in this election.

    And, Corbyn has been set up to take the blame.

    I hope the setup for 2020 in the US is more favorable, but I doubt it will be.

  3. Mallam

    The polling should be more accurate this time around if they made corrections to education. College educated are moving left in almost every western democratic country, the dividing line occurring between outer and inner ring suburbs, and that’s where the polling missed last time — past Tory areas were moving to Labour because of cultural splits, not because of class and income. It’s been more visible in the US, but Brexit and Trump were both catalysts that amplified, intensified, and sped up the process that was long baked into the cake.

    What will become a problem in polling this time is that four way splitting in a FPTP constituency system is hard to predict, especially when the system has long been dominated by mostly two parties. Labour can’t win a majority by themselves, I don’t see that as possible. They’re pincered between old lefties and working class who don’t like the EU and aren’t fond of immigrants, and the young who not only want to remain but to integrate even more.

    Most elite opinion in the U.K. — pro-Remain or pro-Brexit alike — have their heads in the sand, though. Democracy, and Brexit itself, is a process. Even if it’s called off, what’s the next step? The EU is moving on to other things. Do they want to deal with a U.K. that can’t decide what its place in the world is going to be? And even if they go ahead with Johnson’s plan, that’s just the first step, it’ll take years to play out what it’ll mean in practice. Immiseration, for sure. Ultimately, UK doesn’t know what it wants and is at war with itself, a lot of it generational (just look at Labour+LD support among 18-34 vs. 65+).

  4. May be moot, in the generally accepted vernacular, a study published in Nature Communications indicates like Florida the United Kingdom could permanently lose land to the rising waters by the end of this century. Sooner than that over 3.6 million people in Great Britain alone could face annual flooding. With very little inland to migrate to.

    Widespread construction of massive sea walls around affected cities could be the only way to save low-lying cities from the encroachment of the oceans. Whether the resources and political will necessary to undertake and maintain such an effort will be available is, at best, doubtful.

    Averting mass death and suffering in the coming decades will require not only rapidly reducing carbon emissions and ramping up construction of seawalls and other fortifications but also facilitating mass migrations away from low-lying cities and islands and toward higher ground.

    People will leave when they become uninhabitable. Go somewhere else.

    It can’t be stopped.

  5. Hugh

    THE issue is Brexit. Procedure isn’t leadership. Principles are all fine and good, but sometimes it is necessary to take a stand. And that’s where Corbyn dropped the ball. He needed to make Brexit the center of his platform, and he needed to lead on it. He needed to listen to his base, and he didn’t. He was ambivalent on Brexit. He wanted to keep ties to Europe and at the same time, be free to nationalize things like British railways. This came through and turned off voters on both sides of Brexit. I think there was a way to bridge this divide if he had made common cause with the ordinary peoples of Europe and against the EU’s neoliberal, anti-populist overlords and institutions.

  6. edmondo

    “Labour’s plan (is to)… negotiate their own deal, put it to a referendum, and live with the results.”

    Didn’t they do that already? How many do-overs do you get? Maybe it is time for Corbyn to go.

  7. Mel

    A propos of nothing but a sunken Britain, a couple of sci-fi novels from 1928-9 by S. Fowler Wright.

    Rebuilding society, but without noticing the continuing class-consciousness of the early 20th century. Good stories, I thought. A little like James Kunstler’s _World Made by Hand_.

  8. Mallam

    Hugh, that gets it exactly right and I’ve made that argument on this forum before. However, Corbyn’s job was next to impossible. Because of Brexit strongholds, they stand to gain the most from a General Election. So if you’re campaigning for a majority to enact your program, you have to triangulate on Brexit. A referendum can win because it doesn’t suffer from these same geographical hindrances. Corbyn should have recognized his limitations on this front, and rather than setting up for an election he should have consolidated his 2017 gains and started to move towards embracing Remain, then made a full push for a second referendum on a pro-Remain stance in 2018.

    As it is, Corbyn just doesn’t believe in the EU (which is fair), but there was no forward looking plan for what happens next. Just lost nostalgia of leaving, pretending the EU never happened, or even now with Remainers who have nostalgia before the referendum happened. I think John McDonnell could have done a better job. Alas, so much of history depends on the right people in the right spots in the right time. If Corbyn were Bernie Sanders, he’d have recognized all of this and shifted his positions. Notice Bernie doesn’t talk about immigration as a burden on domestic workers anymore, now it’s about “fighting for someone you don’t know”. Corbyn has shown an ability to triangulate, but always too little and too late.

    I hope for a good campaign, if Johnson wins the authoritarians continue their destruction of democracy. In the name of “the Will of the People”.

  9. Grimgrin

    I don’t think we’re headed for a repeat of 2017:

    Brexit is the issue. This is not 2017, when the Conservatives had a relatively uncharacteristic remainer leading the party, and Corbyn was still relatively new. Last time around Labour benefited from a collapse in the UKIP vote and the Lib Dems being a non issue.

    This time, the parties that have gained have been ones with clear positions on Brexit. Boris’ “Get it done” has been clear, and he has obviously been fighting to that end. To the point that parliament passed a law preventing no-deal. This, I think, is where Labour have fucked themselves. Because “I want a do-over from the EU and another referendum” is not a credible position 3 years in.

    There’s almost no chance the EU will go back to square one and give Corbyn a better deal than the UK already negotiated, and promising another referendum is not something anyone who’s committed to Brexit is going to want. Basically Labour is competing for the Remain vote with Lib Dems who are more credible on the issue, against a far more charismatic Tory Leader than he faced last time around. Maybe there’s a huge swing, but the recent Canadian election showed that sometimes the polls get it right.

  10. bruce wilder

    I don’t think I recognize Mallam’s credentialed left as genuinely left. Those people are a good fit to the Blairite PLP or maybe the Lib-Dem, but I do not think you can get them to back socialism in any form.

    As several commenters have said, “the issue is Brexit” or so it would seem. There is “a deal” on the table, which would seem to take away the club the Remainers have been using against Johnson’s Tories. And, Johnson has done what Corbyn should have done to the Blairites (which given their numbers was impractical), he has moved to make the Conservatives into an unambiguously Brexit party.

    There are interesting possibilities for fracturing the Tories on the specifics of their Brexit plan. They have basically moved Ireland toward unification, something the Conservative Party has defined itself on opposing for 150 years. It is a tribute to Johnson’s talents that he could pull it off. It was the logical thing to do in terms of solving the impasse with the EU. (And there was an impasse: May’s plan was unacceptable and should have been unacceptable. It is politically interesting that Remainers so rarely acknowledged why it was unacceptable — polarization is created by such adamant refusals to acknowledge shared reality. )

    The risk to Johnson is that Remain can make a case. Lib-Dems have been for 100 years the Party of people too pure and too ambivalent to want to do anything or take a stand. Now they have the chance to be something else. I rate their chances as slim to none, except that Labour seems to be determined to take the muddled position. Johnson is uncredited for his ability to play the charismatic, eccentric, principled (but hypocritical in class terms) Liberal on teevee; it was how he carried off the Mayor of London gig.

    It is sad really that things have gone into a cul de sac where there is no mindspace to make the case against the neoliberalism and authoritarianism of the EU. Mallam’s pseudo-left in the better neighborhoods cannot see the problem. And Corbyn doesn’t do resentment, apparently.

  11. Mallam

    Bruce, just as you don’t recognize my socialism as such, I don’t recognize Brexit as recognizable “leftism” as such. It is a reactionary movement borne of hatred of immigrants and resentment at the loss of Empire. Fascism relies on myths, past and present, and Brexit is no different. There can be no Brexit from the left, and all that would be required to understand this is to look at the material conditions on the ground. Any Marxist analysis would understand this.

    If you wanted to Brexit from the left, you need an actual organized left in the U.K. and in many governments in the EU to give favorable conditions. These governments would also want to leave themselves, or give themselves leverage to use later. Do you see any among the 27 governments who are willing to do this? None of them are! Because it’s counter to their own interests. UK can’t dictate anything, they’re at the mercy of the Troika even more so if they leave. Mandos and I told you this before and yet many here want to play make believe.

  12. ponderer

    Ah, Brexit. It’s always refreshing to see that no matter where you go in the world for the (neo)Liberals if the polls are in your favor then its “Democracy in Action”, if not its “Reactionary Fascism of the uneducated masses”. I guess cognitive dissonance prevents The Left from recognizing that there are no Liberals anymore, just NeoLibrals. The populaces have figured it out and after a few decades of broken promises as they have turned “conservative” we see Parties of the Peoples’, condemn them and engage in ageism and fear mongering to the naive younger generation. Yes, the Empire is dieing, but the ones who are most upset about it are the ones in the corridors of power, the ones who benefit and their sycophants. They have successfully broken and battered the Left until they have to prop it up to pretend it still exists. What have so called liberals done in the last 40 years aside from labor arbitrage? Brexit is a disruption to the system that allows all of that to happen. It will only get worse.

  13. bruce wilder

    Shorter Mallam: There is no alternative.”

  14. Mike Barry

    When you’re a pretend-Marxist Thatcherite, there’s not much wiggle room.

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