Earlier today, I lost my temper on twitter with a few shirt-rending hair-tearers of the “Labour is Doomed. DOOOMED I TELL YOU!” variety. I was really quite cross, which I know will surprise my regular readers for whom I’m a veritable sage of calm and considered wisdom. I have no patience for the “I’m a Labour supporter but I hope we lose big so that I can shout “I told you so” at all the members who wanted the Party to change” types. None at all. However, I accept that one of the many lessons of Brexit is that shouting at people that they’re idiots hasn’t, historically, changed many minds.
The venomous spittle-flecked aggression of some on the Labour Right actually pushed me back from wanting Corbyn gone to actually wanting him to stay, if only to keep the Party out of the hands of such unpleasant people. And I doubt my telling some wet-panted, weak-kneed Tory entryist that he is a wet-panted, weak-kneed Tory entryist inspired him to get out canvassing either. So let’s try another tack.
Even the Rightist of all Right members of the Party will acknowledge that the media is outrageously hostile to Corbyn, including many parts of the media traditionally sympathetic to Labour leaders. They might think he deserves it, but they’ll acknowledge the hostility. So let me put a proposition to you Rightists (and to despairing Leftists who think the game is up): if we look through the hysteria, there’s something here still to play for, and it’s not just a squabble over where to spread the ashes of a cremated Labour Party.
Let’s look at the statistics in another way. Yes we’re doing badly. I’m still struggling to understand how one poll can find a gap of 9% and one of 21% in the same weekend, but nevertheless the consistent picture is of a big Tory lead and a poor Labour position. But how poor? The columnists don’t shirk from using words like “catastrophe”, “wipeout”, “extinction”. And of course, the columnists have never exaggerated the problems of the Labour Party, have they?
Looking at the poll of recent polls, we’ve been averaging some 27%. Bad. That’s 2% below the 2010 General Election score of 29%. 2%. Not 20% – 2%. Ed Miliband did a little better in 2015, with 30.4%. So we’re averaging 3.4% behind where we were in 2015. We’ve lost just 3.4% of that 2015 support despite two of the most abysmal years in Labour’s history. The daily public evisceration of the Leader, the very public attacks by our own MPs, the endless whining and self-flagellation by ‘supporters’ on social media. Oh, and also Brexit. And the aftermath of Brexit. And the continuing madness and mayhem of Brexit. And a right-wing media which has decided to model itself on the press of fascist Germany in its pursuit of ‘traitors’ and ‘saboteurs’. That’s lost us a whole 3.4% in the last 2 years. My God, but Labour supporters are loyal stalwarts!
So what does that matter, if we still won’t get more votes than the Tories? Well, in the enormous post-Brexit mess, and looking through a media lens of “Labour is a disaster/catastrophe/extinct” we’ve too often forgotten that the Tories have a very small majority. That’s why they’ve actually had to back down on rather a lot of issues, from National Insurance increases to mass academization. They only got that majority in 2015 because they sucked the blood from the LibDem corpse and discarded the husk. They actually took few seats from Labour. The wonderfully non-televisual John Curtice, the only psephologist who got it right in 2015, notes that with Scotland and Northern Ireland both now out of bounds, it is much harder for either Tories or Labour to record the sort of landslides previously delivered. And by going early, May has gone before the boundary commission could help her with a seat redistribution.
Which raises a tantalising prospect: If all we manage to do is to match the result we had in 2015 (“woeful”, “dreadful”, “epic fail” etc) and defend the seats we have, while the LibDems resurrect a few of their old seats, then the Tories may well find themselves once again with either a tiny majority, or even lose it.
They finished 7.1% ahead of us in 2015, and got a tiny majority. This last weekend – although the media rather skated over it – there was a poll which put their lead over us at 9%. Could have been an outlier, of course. Their average is 42%, because they’ve benefitted hugely from UKIP nationalists returning home to nestle in the welcoming bosom of the Matron May. If they get 42%, they’re going to get a majority even if we exceed Miliband’s 2015 total. But. But. But…
It’s not easy. Of course not. It may not even be likely. Sure. But it’s possible.
Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist, although nobody’s ever called me that before, but I don’t see 3.4% as a target which we can’t make up in the next two months. In a campaign, people focus more on the policies than at other times, and we have good policies, which cut through to very good approval ratings. In a campaign, the broadcast media at least has to watch its step a bit more on issues of equality of treatment, and that can only help us. While I don’t know anyone who thinks Labour are going to win a majority, I don’t know anyone who thinks the Tories are really going to record a 21 point margin either. They can only go down from here. We can only go up. People keep telling me the LibDems are having one of their periodic ‘surges’ and will regain some seats. The sensible people are putting together tactical voting guides and vote-swapping websites to allow citizens to manage the iniquities of FPTP.
It’s possible. Maybe not to win. But to deny the Tories a majority. And from there, lots becomes possible. But we have to fight.
So this is my appeal to Labour supporters, whether you think Corbyn is God or the Devil. Whether you despair of the failure of the proletariat to rise up, or you despair of the failure of the Corbynites to lie down. There are possibilities here. Maybe remote. Maybe unlikely. But possible.
So for the sake of all that is holy, shut up moaning, get off your arses, and fight.
Get your posters up and fight.
Promote our really rather good policies, and fight.
Talk to your neighbours, and fight.
Get on your local newspaper websites, and fight.
Go deliver some leaflets, and fight.
Volunteer at your local party, and fight.
Just fight. Fight for Christ’s sake.
Don’t give me any more bullshit whines about “But Corbyn…” because that will not help us win one more vote. Do not send me any more smartarse memes about how biased the media are – I know, and it won’t win us a single extra vote.
But you might.
If you fight.