Sunday, 26 February 2017

Two lessons from Stoke and Copeland by-elections

UKIP lost but UKIP has won

I spent the day in Stoke two weeks ago. If, like me, you have the sense that the world in 2017 bears deeply disturbing resemblances to the 1930s, then it seemed important to go to Stoke. It was being widely forecast that the UKIP leader would win in Stoke - dubbed the “Leave capital of the UK”.

In the end, UKIP lost in Stoke. Labour increased its margin of victory. The Brexit, Trump bandwagon was derailed. That is very important.

However, in another sense UKIP won in Copeland.  The Tory party in 2017 has adopted most of the policies and tone of UKIP. The Tories want a Hard Brexit, they are intolerant, harsh on the poor but indulgent to the very rich, dog-whistle racist, cruel to child refugees,Trumpist - and even support Grammar Schools. 

Much of the media repeat Theresa May’s own claims to be on the centre-ground of British politics as if they reflect reality. This is dire journalism. May’s claims in this regard are not backed by any meaningful actions - they are as vacuous as David Cameron’s were. 

The UKIP vote collapsed in Copeland. In 2015 Labour had a majority over the Tories of 2.5k with UKIP third. The UKIP vote collapsed from 2015 to 2017 by over 4k. Most of these votes clearly went to the "new UKIP" i.e. the Tories.

(Contrary to the media hype, Copeland was a marginal seat - the once great Labour lead there had been reducing steadily for decades due to a changing demographic).

If you want to beat the Tories, support Corbyn

I support Jeremy Corbyn because
1. He has, in my view, the best set of policies 
2. He will I assume be leader of the Labour party at the next election.

I think the UK faces an equivalent to a Trump/Clinton choice. The stakes have never been higher in UK politics in my lifetime. Those on the left who do not support Corbyn are the political equivalents of those who supported Sanders and then - on, as they saw it, a "point of principle" - refused to support Clinton. 

Whereas those on the right seem to understand that if you want power you cannot expect a "perfect" or even anything approaching a "perfect" leader, the left has too often descended into factionalism.

The Guardian newspaper is the base of the anti-Corbyn left. Their view is broadly - we agree with his policies but we don't like him. The famous Monty Python sketch was aimed at the far left but it applies now to the Guardian view of the Labour Party. This view is a self-indulgence which may well exact a heavy price for anyone who cares about a decent society in the UK.


  1. If either the Conservatives (there is no 'Tory' Party, hasn't been since 1909) or UKIP had withdrawn from Stoke, Labour would have been thrashed. Ten thousand votes between them, most clearly taken one from the other. Which is not to mention the apathetic turnout. If the left wants to win power, then it has to turn out. England is a conservative country.

    And by the way, comparing what's going on today in the democratic west with what went on in Germany in the 1930s is both historically illiterate and offensive. You might remember that Hitler took power despite losing an election. He was able to do that because he had assembled a mighty support system, under his control, of armed forces and agitators.

    There is no comparable situation today, and to suggest there is is intellectually lazy.

    1. It is a very comparable situation with today. Regardless of whether AH won a majority, the NSDAP won enough seats to change things. Democracy was able to be perverted to something quite different within a short space. That is not losing the election. To anyone who cares about who they are and the damage they do, they are a party, to whom you could apply the adjective Tory, if you are going to quibble.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. That's a poor argument. It only becomes a Trump/Clinton comparison in the short campaign. Until then, there's ample time for him to leave and be replaced by someone else.