Polling Day UK: My prediction is it won’t be pretty for anyone

I hadn’t expected to be watching a UK election so soon. Not because I took Theresa May at her word that there wouldn’t be one, but more because I thought the time had come and gone. October might have been a better time, as an earlier night would suppress turnout (bad for Labour) and she had the benefit of being new and fresh in power. It made little difference though, I watched the election appear and thought, well, that’s it. Tory landslide.

After watching the election campaign, I can’t deny that the narrative for Corbyn is compelling, but nothing I’ve seen has convinced me sufficiently that it will be anything other than a Tory landslide. Here’s why.

Firstly, the polls. Sure, some have narrowed, but I haven’t seen a single one placing Labour in front. Even the most hopeful reading shows Labour a few points adrift. Most are showing wider gaps. In the last few decades, polls have overstated Labour support (see 1992 and 2010), and underplayed Tory support. Polls are still the best gauge of how an election is going, and based on the evidence the Tories are going to win.

Secondly, I don’t believe the narrative about Corbyn. I remember the narrative for Brexit (or, rather, Remain) and Clinton. Both Remain and HRC entered the polls with a strong narrative of being in the lead. Sure, Clinton had most polls onside, but her campaign was shakey and, frankly, shallow. She had too little room for error, placing all her eggs in the industrial states, and promptly losing all of them (well, the ones that mattered). Remain’s was worse, because the polls were narrow and so it should have been clear that there was a good chance they would lose. A very similar situation occurred in 1992, as the polls showed a Labour lead (but not in the right places – something I get to in a moment). They should have ignored the propaganda – the narrative – and focused on what was happening. 

The problem with Corbyn’s narrative is that he has done little to motivate it. Yes, in some measure he’s upped his game, even to my surprise. He’s got more poise than I’ve ever seen before. In many respects this is frustrating, because it shows how he could have been. Maybe he feels more comfortable campaigning – I won’t deny it helps focus the mind a great deal. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this before in the far left. They exist in a perpetual state of campaigning, mainly because they have had so little success so they don’t have much choice. It also explains why they struggle with power on the rare times they get it – they forget that leading and campaigning are not the same thing. I don’t find Corbyn’s rise too surprising in that respect. 

Labour have delivered a good manifesto; it was a genuine statement of intent. No one could deny where it was placing Labour. That wouldn’t necessarily draw people to it of course, but it was distinct and finally produced the narrative Labour had been bereft of since, well, probably since Tony Blair stepped down. Compared to the Tories, and indeed all the minor parties, it provided energy and dynamism. My difficulty with this is that it may not be sufficient. The manifesto is likely to be the type of thing that only motivates people that already agree with Labour, not necessarily those that Labour needs for victory. There are many independent voters, and some Tories-willing-to-vote-Labour-from-time-to-time that wil not have been encouraged by it. 

So the policy is there, and the narrative (putting context to Corbyn’s policies) is also beginning to form. Unfortunately, much of the rest is actually the result of the vacuum left by the Tories. Theresa May has wisely retreated from public scrutiny – she’s actually been revealed as a very poor campaigner and performer. In terms of leadership she’s leaving plenty of room for Corbyn to seem like he can fill the gap. Unfortunately I think it’s just an illusion, a shallow cover over a void that May and the Tories don’t need to fill. I see too little evidence of a major shift in opinion. Even the social care debacle quietened the moment the Tories reversed it; embarrassing yes, but it didn’t destroy their campaign. Labour might have been hoping to carry that all the way to polling day, but the Tories made the only sensible judgement call they could, and Labour is left there with nothing.

The third issue is that I don’t think that the polling experience is showing sufficient leverage for Labour to be gaining where they need to. They’ve extended their lead a little in London – no surprise – and showed some resilience in Wales and even Scotland, but the long and short of it is that I don’t see sufficient energies by the Tories in defending their weakest seats. Rather, they seem to be trying to gaining Labour ones. It suggests that they feel they are performing better than the narrative suggests. Labour might be getting more support in places like London, Manchester and Liverpool, but I have yet to see the type of movement they need in the south.

That comes to the fourth problem, which is minor compared to the others, but I think indicative of Labour’s underlying trend. Corbyn is getting big crowds for sure, but these are people that already agree with him. Yes, it is rare for UK politicians to amass crowds like this, but that doesn’t mean it’s indicative of wide ranging support. Consider, if people were openly supporting Corbyn and Labour then why is this not measured in the polls? Why is the anecdotal evidence still reporting poor trending for Corbyn on the doorstep? More importantly, for my mind, these large crowds aren’t turning into major operations on the ground (i.e. Door knocking, leafleting etc.). It’s passive campaigning, and not likely to garner more support, although it does help build the narrative for Corbyn being on the rise. I just think it’s deceptive.

So, if I was to summarise, I think there’s a 70% chance of Tories getting a 50+ majority. I think 25% of a hung parliament with the Tories the largest party. 5% for hung Parliament with Labour the largest party. I don’t see a realistic avenue for Labour to win a majority – sad but that’s how I see it. It’ll be devastating for Labour supporters that got their hopes up, and it will lead to further internal turmoil if Corbyn refuses to leave immediately.  For the Tories, their reputation will be shot. It’s been a poor campaign by any measure (which says a lot about Labour’s weaknesses that they haven’t been able to acquire sufficient gain). I’m not sure how Theresa May’s reputation will survive this. In fact, I can see Boris Johnson already setting up to ‘rescue’ Brexit and stage a challenge within the next twelve months. 

Who will lose the most? The UK, already suffering the repercussions of its self-harming episode last year with Brexit, will be the biggest loser. Nothing I have see – nothing – has led me to believe that there is anything in the political classes in British politics that can safely navigate its ways through Brexit. Tim Farron’s attempt to gain the Remain crowd as a platform has failed miserably, mainly because the British stubbornness extends even to catastrophic decision making. It’s like jumping off a cliff, only then realising you’re going to die, but thinking “but I might survive” and rejecting pessimism in the process. People talk about the death of the NHS, decline in education, business, standards, human rights,  but the truth is all that was lost when Brexit appeared on the scene. I’m looking at a distance and I think it’s fading away into death. For me, it’s a car crash of it’s own making, and I’m glad to have my little piece of solace out here in Australia. I could be wrong – the polls could be completely off the mark and Labour romps to biggest surprise victory – but I doubt it. I can’t muster the energy to even think about voting, much less worry about the outcome. Really wish I could, but I can’t. Polling day will be ugly, there’ll be no winners, and it’ll leave a mark for generations. 

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The Cult of Corbyn

I do wonder if Corbyn realises what’s happening in Labour right now. Sometimes his manner of affable socialist can be quite disarming, other times I think it is a ruse.

It’s a precarious position Corbyn finds himself in. A lot of the membership have put a lot of faith in him. If it turns out he’s not the Messiah, it may turn out badly for him. 
It’s a divisive time for Labour. Members with common cause across a broad spectrum of left wing thinking, but wracked with disharmony, discord and outright vilification.

I remember when I was a member in the party. My tendencies in principle were left wing, but I was startled at how mundane the policy thinking of many on the ‘hard left’ of the party was. They often had sound principles, and some good policies, but they struggled with the concept that they would have to ‘sell’ the idea to the public. In particular, they really struggled with the idea of simplifying the message for public consumption. They seemed to live in a world where everyone was as passionate about politics as they were, and so would take the time to read long tracts of literature put through their door. 

Worse still any opposition to their ideas (sometimes they had naff policies too) was met with instant labelling of ‘Blairite’ or ‘you’re just New Labour’. I also detested that claim, not least because it was untrue,  but also the hypocrisy that many of the ‘old Labour’ brigade were happy to accept the benefits of New Labour when it brought success. The broad church of the Labour Party was only broad if it accommodated the hard left and nothing else.

Still, for the most part they were good people, hard working in terms of campaigning and dedicated to tackling social injustice. Despite my many disagreements, I would never withhold support for them, I accepted the whip, and I’d actively campaign for them. I knew that whatever disagreements we had behind closed doors ended when we opened them – we all walked out Labour.

So to see some of the madness that has overtaken the party is both saddening and sickening. Yesterday, while on the Andrew Marr show, John McDonnell took a moment to look straight into the camera and appeal for unity. It was appalling, not least because he dismissed opponents Corbyn and (tellingly) himself as wanting to ‘destroy’ the party.

So it comes to this – dissent against the left and you are no longer just on the right, no longer just a Blairite or New Labour, you want to destroy the party. Yesterday McDonnell exposed the authoritarian nature of the leadership and Corbyn’s, shall we say, gentler politics.

This extremism is disturbing. It reminds me of the US Republican Party in it’s modern day zeal, denouncing Democrats and liberals as enemies of the US. There’s no middle ground, no acceptance unless there is conformity. McDonnell’s plea was no different, and he attempted to  delegitimise dissent in the party.

I’d also note the talk into the camera moment came at the same time he was being pressurised about an alleged break in to an MP’s office in Parliament. It seemed convenient misdirection, and suggests to me it was pre-planned.

It’s a disturbing turn of phrase that denotes the true intentions of this new leadership. It is why I wonder where Corbyn is in the scheme of things. How much control does he have? Is he genuinely ignorant of the very great difference between mindless opposition and critical feedback? I don’t know enough to about the man on a personal level to have insight like that. I can only judge what he’s done. 

He’s sowed the seeds of discord, and Cold War paranoia. Labour has gone from divisive to ugly. It may be that this ‘momentum ‘ needs to burn itself out. Perhaps only a general election defeat will deliver the realisation for the party.

The problem is that there is considerable irresponsibility with his supporters. Everything is someone else fault. Poor election results? Blame the media. Poor polling? Blame the rebels. Poor PMQ’s, blame the MP’s. Under Corbyn, failure is everyone else’s fault. He is crucified because of everyone else’s sins.

I see some talk of the Overton Window. I see some suggestion of a wider scale of change. Perhaps it is the case that we are in the midst of a major reset, and that the left is reorientating itself. It is possible, but I don’t see any political nounce in the likes of Corbyn, McDonnell or McCluskey. They close off the realities of the world because it’s too inconvenient to try and deal with them. I genuinely think, that despite 30 years of being an MP, Corbyn is no closer to understanding the nature of leadership and substantive policy than he was when he started.

It’s a scary thought. A group of narrow minded, unimaginative bullies trying to form government. How would they function in government? They look terrified, because the halo might slip and they’ll be seen for the frauds they are.

Politics is about the exercise and use of power. In the wrong hands it can be disastrous; in the right hands it can deliver deep and meaningful change for generations. For hundreds of thousands of party members, I fear they are about to learn the hard way that the exercise of power under Corbyn will be akin to using a rubber mallet to open a steel door.

It’s a pity, because with this desire for social change this mass movement could mean something, but under Corbyn, and his inner circle of extremists, I fear it so no more than the surging charge of lemmings. The great mass movement towards annihilation.

Leave, Remain

I saw a guy on the bus – he had Union Jack socks on. It’s a sign!

It really isn’t.

A real sign is a multitude of experts telling you the same thing. It’s a strange mentality to accept a given – experts are people and therefore can and do get it wrong – and apply that as an absolute rule – experts can be wrong therefore all experts are wrong all the time.

Like climate change.

Like Ellie Butler.

So it goes…

There has been a perverse celebration of ignorance in Britain, and that isn’t a recent phenomonen.

I remember the film American History X, where Danny is ruminating on the root course of his brother’s racism. He thinks back to a moment when their father casually discounts a teacher’s methods on the basis of the teacher’s skin colour. It’s a saddening moment of realisation for Danny – ‘it starts at home’.

For the UK, history means a great deal. Magna Carta gets cited a lot. I doubt most people really understand its significance. British Empire – invasion of other countries. In Australia, Stolen Generation happened under the auspices of the Crown. British soldiers shooting peaceful protesters in India. There’s even a monument in my home city of Preston, dedicated to striking workers shot dead by the army. Victorian society charged forward with scientific advancement, making so many arrogant and ignorant assumptions about the world as to make such advances almost a Pyrrhic victory. So if I look back to Britain’s own casual and rationalised racism, I feel it has yet to meet the realities and ephiphany that young Danny reached.

Poison starts at home.

If the underlying principle is flawed, what chance for anything else? 

Sat at a distance, 16000km away, I have fluctuated between outrage and impassioned belief about the referendum. Most of the time though, I have sat with increasingly sad disinterest. It’s been an unwholesome campaign, and justified every prejudice I held about you Great Britain.

Politicians do bear a great weight for what has occurred in this campaign, but you know what? They are just pandering to what they think Britain will respond to. They do this, because people have more often than not acted in that same way.

Sick of politicians lying to you? Don’t encourage them with expectations that can’t possibly be met.

Sick of politicians not listening? Speak some sense and understand you may be ignorant of the issue on which you speak.

Tired of the establishment? Don’t vote for it then. Don’t celebrate the purest of pure establishment – unelected monarchy – while at the same time deriding democratic standards – like the European Parliament.

Sick of immigration? Stop endorsing foreign policy that exploits poorer nations, forcing millions of people to seek work in wealthier ones (like the UK).

Stop cultivating your own ignorance Britain!

Poison starts at home.

Leave is poison. This whole rhetoric is poison.

A woman died because of this fucked up referendum. Have you still not cottoned on how much, as a nation, you are responsible for that poison?

I am not going to suggest how anyone should vote, but I am suggesting how you might want to think. 

Rationally, sensibly, and humanely. 
Stop poisoning yourself.