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This day’s portion

Losing the election, strategy and hope

The Tories will win this election with a majority of 70-80 (I’ll say 78 just to have a figure come the exit poll on 12 December). I’m not publishing this before then because I don’t want to influence anything – I’m nothing if not superstitious and Labour’s success depends on energy and effort.

For what it’s worth, here’s my reasoning:

  • This is the Brexit election. We’ve had two years deadlock since the last election and the Tories are making a very simple pitch: Get Brexit done. And people do want the whole thing to end.
  • The Tories have become the Brexit party. Combine this with promising to end the whole thing and you have a solid, pro-Brexit block, while…
  • … The remain vote is split. Regardless of how dismal the Liberal Democrats are, they will still attract votes from Labour for being the party of remain. Ironically enough, the only realistic way to achieve remain, or the least harmful Brexit, is by voting Labour. Blame the remain movement as a whole: no realism, no strategy and an over-reliance on legal challenges.
  • It’s not 2017. The days of Oh, Jeremy Corbyn! have passed and JC has become a part of the furniture. We‘ve lost that sense of momentum and shaking things up.

I suspect the Tories will simply pick up the marginal, Brexit-voting seats they nearly got or lost last time round (including Ipswich, sadly). Forget about the north turning blue, they’ll be all over the country.

This will be bad news for lots of us, sobering in the extreme. But I think there’s some hope to be found in looking beyond Brexit. Imagine if Jeremy Corbyn had been able to fight a normal election.

So three reasons to be hopeful:

  • This is the Brexit election. Implicit in Get Brexit done is that will be it, no more parliamentary shennanigans, a promise of finality. Whether Brexit is actually done or not, the Tories offer very little beyond this promise, and I don’t detect any enthusiasm for Boris Johnson, or a swell of English nationalism. Oddly enough, Brexit seems to have drawn the sting from media debates on immigration – it’s the simple answer to a huge range of gripes. I don’t think there’s a US-style, religious right type core vote to appeal to (I could be horribly wrong, of course). They’ve fought a good tactical election, but the strategy strikes me as myopic, a symptom of a party in terminal decline. And if/when Brexit isn’t done, they’ll have to own it.
  • Everybody hates austerity these days. Perhaps the major achievement of the Labour party has been to shift every political argument from one about belt-tightening and balancing the nation’s books to fixing Britain. The belief that austerity has gone too far is now mainstream, and the narrative should naturally turn to rebuilding. Just as Labour could never win an argument over “controlling” public-spending on the Tories’ terms, a hard right Tory government doesn’t have a hope when it comes to investing in the country. Labour’s message has been absolutely clear – the offer of an FDRish new (green) deal: free broadband, nationalisation, no university fees, a green economy. (Too much stuff in the message, perhaps.)
  • The Labour party is in rude health. Although we’re post-Corbynmania, Labour boasts the largest political party membership in Europe. Momentum has a well organised ground force (which should perhaps have been deployed in more marginal seats rather than in targeting the likes of Ian Duncan-Smith in Chingford) and members are engaged. Count the number of Labour placards and posters along Woodbridge Road for a sense this. It may not convert to votes in this election, but it’s ready for the coming fight.

What I hope is that the Labour party doesn’t react to defeat by returning to the right. The same cast of Blairite, Guardian old men will argue just this. A new leader may be what we need, but they have to continue Corbyn’s work.