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

Consequences of the British Election

Labor won with a massive majority. In seats:

 

Of course Britain has a first past the post system, so these aren’t nearly the same as the percentage results.

  • Labour Party: 35 percent vote share, 412 seats
  • Conservative Party: 24 percent vote share, 121 seats
  • Liberal Democrats: 12 percent vote share, 71 seats
  • Reform UK: 14 percent vote share, 4 seats
  • Green Party: 7 percent vote share, 4 seats
  • Scottish National Party (SNP): 2 percent vote share, 9 seats
  • Sinn Fein: 0.7 percent vote share, 7 seats
  • Plaid Cymru: 0.7 percent vote share, 4 seats

Labour has a huge MP majority, but received less of the vote than they did in 2017 under Corbyn.

The Reform surge, which at one point looked like it might overtake and pass the conservatives died out, alas. But note that Reform received more votes than the Liberal Democrats but received four seats to their seventy-one and Sinn Fein received 7 seats for .7% of the vote. In first past the post, you want your votes clumped, not spread out. In vote total terms, Reform is now the third party.

It’s also worth noting that almost no one is voting Labour because they like Labour or Keir Starmer:

As with LaPen’s National Rally, Reform may well improve with each election and Labour is vulnerable to a real challenge from the left.

But let’s move to more immediate consequences.

The Conservative austerity policies severely gutted Britain:

  • The grant to local governments dropped 60% from 2010 to 2020. They’re the ones who run most of the government: libraries, fire departments, council housing, roads, public transit and so on.
  • 20% of libraries closed
  • Spending on old people down 35% with one estimate saying this killed 45K people.
  • Inflation adjusted wages are lower than in 2007, and the inflation numbers are certainly lower than reality.
  • Rent and housing costs are way up.
  • Twenty percent less people get cancer treatment on time.
  • The UK now has the highest homelessness rates in the Western world.
  • Gutted universities, one of the few world class industries left in Britain (and one which brings in a lot of foreign currency.)

And so on. Tory rule has been a catastrophe.

But there’s little reason to expect Labour rule to be much better. They voted for many of the bills that caused this catastrophe, and didn’t oppose most of the rest. They still believe in austerity and neoliberalism. It’s likely they’ll increase some taxes, but they’re not likely to use the money to spend much more and fix problems: Britain is serious fiscal condition, and the level of tax raises necessary to deal with that and to allow spending is off the table, especially as to really get money they’d have to tax the city and massively raise taxes on the rich.

They will continue to clamp down on public dissent, and likely use the banking system against protestors, along with locking them up. I’m unsure how they’ll handle strikes, but odds are that Starmer will be unsympathetic to mass strikes and use legislation and the police against them (which is why the big unions should leave Labour and support a new left party.)

In other words, Britain’s decline is not going to halt under Labour and neither is the decline in standards of living for most Britons.

This means that there will be room for Reform and a new left party to surge. While I’m not a fan of right wing social policies, Brits tend to be more left wing economically than Labour but socially conservative, which means Galloway’s “Worker’s Party” is positioned to take advantage, being economically left and socially right on some key issues, such as trans rights.

However Galloway’s party’s social conservatism is a barrier to some left wingers, like Corbyn (who won his seat as an independent) joining.

Whatever the specifics, there is a constituency for an economically left wing party, and Labour’s likely terrible economic performance now that it’s in power leaves an opening.

Generally speaking, as neoliberalism dies, there will be changeovers in dominant parties: either the parties themselves will change, or they will be replaced: this is true in almost every country. If we want a good world, and government which genuinely tries to help ordinary people, we have to work for and hope for the real left to take power.

One good piece of news in this regards is the continued weakening of the Zionist movement, since accusations of anti-semitism have been one of the main weapons used against the left, as they were against Corbyn and as they have been used against the left in France. Making charges of anti-semitism for supporting Palestine identically to excusing genocide (which they are) is necessary, and underway, especially among younger voters.

To summarize, however: nothing much will change immediately or in the next four years because Labour won. They’re still austerity loving neoliberal scum who can’t imagine, let alone institute any of the policies required to turn around Britain’s decline. The medium term trends, however, and the consequences of their failure to govern effectively offer some promise for the future, though by the time someone with sense gets in power it’s going to be nearly impossible to turn Britain around, assuming it’s even the United Kingdom any more. (Scotland should leave, and so should Northern Ireland, and both stand a good chance of doing so.)

Plus ca change, etc…

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27 Comments

  1. Mary Bennet

    Two questions: What has become of the Alba Party in Scotland?

    How much longer do you think Canada will remain in the Commonwealth?

  2. Ian Welsh

    1) Alba seems nearly dead.

    2) no serious movement for leaving the Commonwealth in Canada which I’m aware of. I don’t imagine it will happen soon.

  3. Labour received less of the vote than they did in 2017 under Corbyn.
    ——

    All those pleas that the only electable candidate’s are ones to the right of center-right parties of the 1960’s were lies.
    The neoliberals made those same lies in America in 2016 and 2020.

  4. Mary Bennet

    How does Commonwealth membership benefit Canada? Is it seen as a counterweight to US influence?

  5. Ian Welsh

    Being in the Commonwealth is mostly just traditional. Having the King (almost wrote Queen) as head of state just doesn’t matter, practically, almost ever. If they ever tried to use their theoretical power, an election would be run on getting rid of them and they know it.

    Any substantive change would require getting permission of the Provinces and would be a clusterfuck.

  6. StewartM

    Sad that a “Labour” party is no longer actually pro-labor.

  7. Purple Library Guy

    Why would Canada want to leave the Commonwealth? The Commonwealth isn’t doing Canada any harm. And little harmless traditions are the kind of thing that hold societies together and give them identity.

    Plus, keeping the royals is completely irrelevant at a policy level, but at the level of principle/symbolism allows the important concept of the “loyal opposition”. It’s often quite difficult in democratic politics to keep separate the idea of opposing the government of the day and opposing the country itself, especially since it can be quite advantagous for the government of the day to confuse them. The doctrine that both the government of the day and the opposition are loyal to the crown makes it harder for the government to treat its opponents as traitors. This is a Good Thing.

    And OK, yeah, it differentiates us from the Americans. I’d need pretty solid evidence something that makes us different from the Americans was bad before I’d be willing to dump it.

  8. Mary Bennet

    PLG, I was asking out of curiosity only. I have no interest in telling Canadians how to manage their own affairs.

  9. StewartM

    PLG

    And OK, yeah, it differentiates us from the Americans. I’d need pretty solid evidence something that makes us different from the Americans was bad before I’d be willing to dump it.

    Best justification for having a nominal royal head of state I’ve read.

    The whole messaging of movement conservatism, and it didn’t just start with Trump or Cheney or Gingrich, is that the opposition New Deal “liberals” are really anti-American and disloyal. Heck, you could say it began with Joe McCarthy, if not before. Reagan once called JFK essentially a ‘Marxist’ in 1960.

    By contrast, Gore Vidal calling William F. Buckley (or at least his movement) crypto-Nazi proved prescient, now didn’t it?

  10. Labour didn’t just receive less than Labour under Corbyn in 2017 – it’s worse than that! If you take England and exclude Scotland (which has its own dynamics with the SNP), it actually did worse than Labour under Corbyn in 2019!!!!!!!

    And this is their ‘mandate’!

    Reform (who took a fifth seat after a recount which to me seems suspicious) – are second in over 100 seats, 90% of which are Labour. Add to that the pressure Labour will be under as their party continues to fracture, losing activists, leftists, and Muslims over Gaza (try finding an article which properly covers the victories of the Gaza candidates) – and the picture for ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer DPP in 2029 isn’t a pretty one.

    One evil Empire down, one to go. Labour Delenda Est.

  11. bruce wilder

    First-past-the-post seems to work quite differently in the UK compared to the U.S., perhaps due to all those “third” parties. For all the complaints about gerrymandering and weight of the rural, the seat total and popular vote total by Party differ by single-digit percentiles. Nothing like one-third of the voters electing more than three-fifths of the representatives.

    Wild!

    And I know historically the Tories benefitted from the boundary-setting and also produced seat majorities from vote minorities.

  12. Soredemos

    Strange to see people simping for the institution of even nominally being ruled by a clan of six-toed, cousin fucking aliens.

    Traditions aren’t what hold societies together. The availability of decent paying work is.

  13. bruce wilder

    Turnout would seem to tell the main tale of political woe, as voters simply failed to show up.

    Voting in the UK is so deeply ingrained a partisan habit that revolutions are made by those who stay home. More Tories stayed home than Labour loyalists, though a tell-tale number of Labour voters also stayed home.

    The collapse of SNP in scandal and impotence is surely an interesting subplot. Something interesting is going on in Northern Ireland, too, as the Unionist vote maintains share even as it fractures. And, g-d bless Plaid Cymru!

  14. In Northern Ireland:
    Unionists 43.5%
    Nationalists 40.4%
    Others 16.3%

    For wonks: https://irelandvotes.com/ni2024

    But in general, Northern Ireland Unionism continues it’s long slow deathmarch. Found these stats on sluggerotoole.com (for anyone interested in following NI politics, it’s a good site, mix of Unionist and Republican and non-aligned, and the comments are heavily policed to keep things polite, really great modding, a rare thing. Anyway, just from 2001, I’ve combined the Unionist MPs and Republican/Nationists (SF/SDLP), and added A for Alliance (neutral). The good old days of 11/7 (2001) are a distant memory. They’re not coming back.

    2001 (68.63%) – U:11 N:07
    2005 (63.50%) – U:10 N:08
    2010 (57.99%) – U:09 N:08 A:01
    2015 (58.45%) – U:11 N:07
    2017 (65.60%) – U:10 N:07 A:01
    2019 (62.09%) – U:08 N:09 A:01
    2024 (57.47%) – U:08 N:09 A:01

    The demographics aren’t quite kicking in yet, but the Unionist population leans heavily old, the Nationalist heavily young. The old aren’t dead yet, and oldies vote while younguns tiktok, but another 10 years will only move in the SF/SDLP/Alliance direction as the old Unionists are replaced by young (socially liberal) replacements, mostly from the CNR side (Catholic, nationalist, republican as well as neutral).

    NI Assembly elections are a better guide to the direction of travel. Note how the elections (local and HOC) are both showing a divide East/West of the Bann, as Unionism collapse into its core.

    2022 (Unionism: 46.9% / Nationalism: 38.7% / Neither: 8.1%)
    1998 (Unionism: 40.1% / Nationalism: 39.2% / Neither: 13.5)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Northern_Ireland_Assembly_election
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Northern_Ireland_Assembly_election

    And if you look at NI stats from when I was a spawn, early 70s, it’s another planet. 65%U.

    How did you go bankrupt? At first slowly, then quickly. When your voter core is old, and the other sides voter core is young, well, fast forward 10 years, or 15, and those numbers only move one way, blips notwithstanding. The battle is in that slippery ‘Neither’ side, the Alliance types. A lot of study has gone into them, and the Unionists cope with their decline by saying that, as the Alliance emerged from the Unionist side, they’re all ‘secretly’ unionist, so we win. Analysis of transfer patterns shows this isn’t true. Were I living in East Belfast, for example, I’d vote Naomi Long (Alliance) tactically, to keep the DUP or TUV out. Were I living in a different con, I’d even vote UUP to keep the DUP or TUV out. Heavy Alliance transfers have in the past moved to SF or SDLP, as well as Unionists. So anyway, they’re the battleground for a UI, with 2030 to 2040 being the point when this third rail gets the juice.

    A lot will depend (getting back to the mainland) on how disfunctional the UK becomes, and I think we ain’t seen nothing yet. It’s fortunate for all sides in the six counties that they have a “get out of jail free” card

  15. Jan Wiklund

    Don’t know Galloway’s Worker’s party, it’s not even on the wikipedia. What’s the meaning of “socially conservative” in that connection?

    Please note, I’m not contending anything here, I’m just curious to know.

  16. bruce wilder

    Thanks for the analysis, Dermot.

    Historically, Union was a core Tory conviction. Before Paisley, unionism had a High Tory flavor to it, a nostalgia for the Ascendancy. But, Boris threw Union under the bus pretty easily. I noticed that the election analysis treated Northern Ireland as an afterthought: “eight other parties, all in Northern Ireland”. Maybe that was partly a function of being excluded from the Exit Poll. Britain may be past ready to say goodbye.

  17. Feral Finster

    1. The UK election can be seen, not as a vote of confidence in Labour, but as as a referendum on the Tories and their disastrous economy as well as their wars in Gaza and Ukraine (the fallout from latter of which has done much to amplify economic concerns).

    Fact is, Labour policies will be the same as the Tories or any other european political force that is allowed near power. No farmer asks his chickens whether they want to be converted into McNuggets or would they prefer become chicken filets?

    2. The irony is that Labour and Tories compete as to who can abase themselves more abjectly before their American Master. Some minor State functionary snaps his fingers and gesticulates in the general direction of his crotch, and european knees hit their floor with a resolute thud, grateful for being allowed the opportunity to gratify their American Master.

  18. somecomputerguy

    Genuine question.
    My context for British politics has been that Britain was probably the only country whose problems weren’t caused by EU membership. That is because they never adopted the Euro.

    Because they still print their own currency, the pound, they are free to deficit spend their way out of their problems at any time.

    The EU was successfully scapegoated for the results of domestic policy. That is the origin of Brexit.

    Do I have this wrong?

  19. different clue

    If Northern Ireland became British-no-longer, would it become an independent Republic of Northern Ireland? Would it join the Republic of Ireland? If it joined the Republic of Ireland, then it would become a default-part of the EU if the EU still exists by that time.

    What if Scotland became the independent Republic of Scotland? If it did, would it seek to join the EU? That would be showing some real functional independence from BritEngland. What if it declined to join NATO? That would be showing even more functional independence from BritEngland.

  20. Ian Welsh

    Wikipedia:

    “The party has been defined as socially conservative, for example rejecting gender self-identification,[4] and party leader George Galloway describes himself as such.[68] Galloway said the party was “the working-class patriotic alternative to fake woke anti-British ‘Labour'”.[69] In May 2024, Galloway told Novara Media that same-sex relationships are not “normal”, while Bolton WPB candidate, Sajid Pathan, refused to comment on this question.[70]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers_Party_of_Britain

  21. “If Northern Ireland became British-no-longer, would it become an independent Republic of Northern Ireland? Would it join the Republic of Ireland? If it joined the Republic of Ireland, then it would become a default-part of the EU if the EU still exists by that time.”

    Under the GFA (good friday agreement), when there’s credible evidence (successive polls for example) that there’s a reasonable chance of a majority vote in favour of unity, the UK cabinet minister is obligated to call a referendum (border poll) in the six counties. IIRC, there has to be a corresponding one in the 26 counties. In the case of both passing, the 6 counties would merge with the 26. There’s no position for an independent 6 Northern counties, I don’t think many people fancy that option. It would not be economically viable I would suspect, the 6 are really in a bad state, relative to the 26 in any case. It would become part of the EU, with knockon consequences for British territorial waters, as the UK would lose a chunk.

    “What if Scotland became the independent Republic of Scotland? If it did, would it seek to join the EU? That would be showing some real functional independence from BritEngland. What if it declined to join NATO? That would be showing even more functional independence from BritEngland.”

    That’s a main line of argument from the SNP, that Scotland rejected Unionism with the UK in the understanding that they were to stay in the EU (scots being EU-philes). Then Brexit happened two years later, oops. One line of propaganda was a paper with the Queen on the cover with the made up quote “Don’t let me be the last Queen of Scotland”, really pulled on the heart strings. Galaxy brain Obama even chimed in on the Union side, interfering where he had no business. Well, Lizzie’s in a box, so good luck with using crude emotional manipulation with Sausage Finger Charlie, ain’t gonna work (and support for the Monarchy is approaching historical lows, which actually surprised me, but good to see).

    Would an indie Scotland be a Republic? Hope so, as the Monarchy is a cancer, but they could keep them if they want, as monarchs of Scotland, if they don’t want an Irish style President head of state (ceremonial ribbon cutter, basically). Nice work if you can get it.

    There’s the same problem with Ireland, an unwillingness to figure out the details in advance – would the northern 6 counties just be subsumed into the Republic, or would it be used as an opportunity for a do-over, a new constitution, and really radical changes. That would be my preference (e.g., moving the capital to Belfast I think would sway a LOT of middle class voters in Belfast, as it creates a ton of jobs there in civil service). One commenter on sluggerotoole said it was a bad idea as the infrastructure in Belfast is way less than Dublin. Bollocks, says I, that’s a solution, as it forces the new state to create working class jobs on roads, rail, and building to support the new capital. The devil finds work for idle hands, and you don’t want the former Unionists in East Belfast getting cranky. Dublin is groaning at the seams, it can’t go any further, so moving the gov. out would alleviate a lot of that. Painful? Yes, but omelettes and eggs.

    Nobody listens to me, but hey, I can talk.

  22. John

    You got it wrong about the Workers Party. They are economically left and socially right (you said it was the other way around). Also Galloway is no longer an MP. He lost his seat.

    He’s a talented and compelling orater. But he’s a terrible local MP.

    In fact since he left the Labour Party he has been elected in three different seats in by elections. And in each seat when the general election came around, he lost his seat.

  23. Ian Welsh

    Yeah, my bad. Not that I didn’t and don’t know that they’re economically left and socially right, simply an edit I didn’t catch. My apologies. (Galloway losing was fixed shortly after the post went out.)

    Edit in.

  24. elkern

    Craig Murray’s blog ( https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/ )provides useful perspective on modern British (and particularly Scottish) politics. He ran for Parliament this time in a Muslim-majority (ergo pro-Palestinian) borough in England; he lost, but he probably drew enough white voters away from Labour to allow Adnan Hussain – a local guy with Pakistani (?) background – to win as an Independent.

    The detail results from that district are interesting: Hussain won with less than 27% of the total vote, because 9 candidates got votes! Britain of course uses First-Past-The-Post voting, like the USA; I don’t understand how they have avoided the Two-Party System trap that the USA has fallen into.

    Looking at the Party results chart in Ian’s OP, I see that most of the Third Parties are Irish, Scottish, or Welsh – a natural result of local [ethnic/cultural] nationalism and reaction to neglect from London. The closest equivalent in the USA would be the South (where people often still complain about the results of the Civil War), but Southerners have generally chosen to wield power within a major Party (as Democrats at first, more recently as Republicans).

    US elections are administered by each State separately, which likely increases the barriers to entry for Third Parties. US elections seem to be far more expensive than British campaigns – another barrier. Britain has roughly 1/5 the population of the USA, but half again as many MPs as we have Representatives in Congress; the 2022 election in my district had 285K votes counted, almost 10x the total votes in the district where Craig Murray lost (another barrier).

    But Third Parties in Britain still mostly function as protest votes and spoilers; how have they managed to survive?

  25. Senator-Elect

    Quick comment on turnout: low turnout occurred partly because the election result was known in advance. This is another reason to ban public opinion polling. If you’re interested in the main reason, look into push polling and something called the integrated circuit.

    elkern has a good comment and question. Certainly, in Canada third parties have arisen out of regional concerns, the most important being Quebec separatism. I think the US is stuck with the two-party system partly because there is so much graft that no one is willing to abandon the gravy train. And US political culture of Democratic vs. Republican families is not seen as strongly elsewhere. Americans enforce their social norms very harshly: they are hardly free and brave individuals, despite their sloganeering.

  26. different clue

    Here is a comment on the British election by Jonathan Pie, a political satirist/commentator who is broad and blunt, and not subtle at all.
    It’s called : ” ‘It’s 50 Shades of Beige’ Meet Britain’s New Prime Minister.”
    Here is the link.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghr2M8mh8MA

  27. Jan Wiklund

    Ian: Thank you about Workers’ Party, I must have looked in the wrong place.

    But socially conservative? I thought that was when you wanted to keep social relations and hierarchies as they are, or perhaps were? Everyone in his place, so to say. Bosses as bosses, workers as workers, gentry as gentry, and so on.

    And isn’t “gender self-definition” a too minor issue to define a whole party? Well, I know there are people who think this is THE important issue, but I beg to differ. Perhaps the completely outsized importance the issue has been given has made a lot to make “the left” irrelevant for quite a lot of people. Yes, everyone has the right to fight for his/her main concerns, but if one wants to make an imprint, one also must consider if one wants to be a small minority or if one wants to gather a majority or at least a BIG minority.

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