A media commentator described the last 24 hours for Labour as a ‘mixed bag’. Which is an interesting way of looking at the two by-election results since most mixed bags contain a health mix of different things, some of which are good and some less so.
So in that spirit, let’s look at the Labour mixed bag and how this transposes on to the national political scene in 2017.
Firstly the mixed bag upside for Labour. God clearly likes Mr Corbyn and the current Labour set up. Without him/her sending Storm Doris into Stoke then turn out may not have been dampened enough to guarantee that not enough frothy mouthed UKIP supporters waded out in 70mph winds and torrential rain to vote.
Secondly, Mr Corbyn doesn’t face a third leadership contest. Not because the parliamentary party don’t think that the Labour party is rapidly slipping into electoral oblivion, but because even if they could find a half decent, personable, intelligent candidate the unions and Momentum membership would continue to vote for the lunatics to continue to run the asylum.
There we go. That’s the upsides. Now the less upsidey stuff.
Labour got slaughtered in Copeland – a seat they have held for decades and what has almost always been a safe Labour seat. Their campaign centred on saving the local hospital, which, time and time again has proved a sure fire way of winning a by-election when you are in opposition. Not this time though. Instead the governing party won a by-election for the first time since the 80’s by the biggest swing since the 60s. It won in the far north of England and in an area that has been hit hard by the harshest of Tory public sector cuts.
The win in Stoke had little to be gleeful about either. Labour threw the kitchen sink, the chest of drawers and the family dog at it in a bid to stop UKIP from winning and in the end it worked. Yet it still needed the above talked about hand of God; an unknown UKIP leader hellbent on lying about where he lives and who he knew at the Hillsborough disaster and a good dollop of St George flag waving xenophobic nationalism to get the candidate limping over the winning line.
Even after all that and in almost 100 years no other party has even whiffed gaining the seat UKIP ran them close and the Tories gained voters compared to two years ago. Just a few years back the seat had been so safe they could parachute a bloke called Tristram into Stoke and still win. Now they had to rattle every cage, play every trick and spend to the max to eek out a tiny victory which should have been assured from the get go.
Yet all of this statistical analysis pales into insignificance for Labour compared to the aftermath. For in Corbynland there isn’t one. There is no soul searching about tenability of leadership or of policy. There is simply blame on everyone and everything else.
The list of excuses within minutes of the loss and victory has been amazing. Copeland was ‘unique’. Which would be funny if it wasn’t so daft since every constituency is unique and has its own electoral quirks. Everywhere is unique.
But that is by the by. Labour seemed to be implying that they lost because Corbyn was against nuclear. Yet, having been admonished by the unions for not supporting nuclear industry union jobs, that position have been changed. JC is now in favour of nuclear, just not weapons. So either the circumstances were unique and Corbyn and gang are against nuclear power stations or they weren’t unique because he is for nuclear power stations. Either was it makes no sense and cannot be to blame for such a disastrous loss.
Apparently as well, Copeland was always a ‘marginal seat’ despite the gap between Labour and Tory having never dipped below 8% since 1992. If Labour had swung that much in the last General Election then we could have seen a very different world.
It was also the fault of Brexit as people who voted remain didn’t come to vote for Labour now that Labour was pro Brexit. Or a pro Brexit Labour that even the whips of their own whip voted against.
It was the fault of people who voted to leave the EU as they don’t get the passion of Jeremy or his views on immigration.
The Copeland candidate was to blame for the failure (yet no one says why) even when the successful Stoke one appeared to be more right wing than Nigel Farage and more sexist than ‘calm down dear’ Cameron.
Good old Tony Blair got it in the neck because he wanted to fight Brexit when the current Labour leadership wanted to hide in the corner. Despite being a private citizen these days he should have kept quiet and helped cause the defeat.
As should Peter Mandelson – a man who is still the finest proponent of political strategy this country has ever known. His comments were unhelpful too and were ‘bad timing’.
Labour challenger Owen Smith caught some ire as well. As did those who resigned after voting against triggering Article 50 and those who simply voted against the Corbyn line – much in the same way Corbyn had done against the leadership of his party more than 400 times. For his supporters JC was a heroic man standing up for what he believed in when he did that but those that now do the same are cowards undermining the leaders position.
Jamie Reed – the MP who resigned from Copeland, who was so sick of the way Labour was being governed that he took the unusual and bold step for an MP of giving up and going and doing a different job also was the cause. So even someone who wants out of it all is now a scapegoat.
Amongst this ever growing list of who is at fault, there are two glaring omissions in this name shame and blame game. The first is the Momentum pack themselves. It is the largest political membership in Europe at this moment. Hundreds of thousands of generally young people who say they support JC and pay the fees to be a party groupie. The Lib Dems showed time and again that if you have enough activists swarming into an area you will do a damn fine job of winning by-elections. Yet they only have 60 or 70,000 paid up people. Labour has 600,000, ten times more than the yellows yet still could not get enough members to Copeland to get the vote out or deliver the messages. When they blame everyone else they have to blame their collective failure in not offering their 110% support to help stop a Tory victory.
And of course there is the elephant himself. Tanking in the polls. More unpopular than genital warts. Less trusted than an email from a Nigerian double glazing salesman offering USD$4million in uncut diamonds. Despised by his parliamentary party. Still in denial about his inability to connect to massive parts of Britain or extol a coherent policy narrative that anyone can understand.
If there is any hope for the UK to start having a functioning democracy rather than a one party right wing state then the Corbyn experiment must end now. Across the Western world while left or right wing eccentric politics has thrived and flourished the British attempt has failed spectacularly and it must be time to move on.
Yet the Corbyn bandwagon will hobble on to the 2020General Election at which point Labour will be annihilated. And then at that point it will continue to be the fault of everyone else. Meanwhile Britain, or what is left of it, will become a one party state of Conservative values of greed, cuts, looking after wealthy old people and insularity.
There is no mixed bag here for either Labour, the left or the country. For without a decent opposition there can be no effective government for the people by the people. There needs to be real opposition – holding the feet of Ministers to the flames of scrutiny. Yet Labour sits gazing at its own incompetent navel while the worst possible outcome for the majority of British people, and for that matter Europeans, will steamroller through without a murmur of dissent.