In the last few days, since the British General Election last Thursday, I have seen the rising denial of so-called progressives trying to come up with all sorts of excuses for Labour’s devastating defeat. I have seen various aggregations of the votes presented on Twitter and elsewhere attempting to claim that, in fact, the vote was a vote for Remain rather than Brexit. The line being spun is that the Tories do not have a mandate to implement Brexit, that the strong majority of British voters want to remain in the European Union and that, and that Labour’s defeat was about other things. Other things certainly impacted – such as the UK Guardian’s relentless and ridiculous campaign against Jeremy Corbyn which gave air to the anti-semitism ruse. And, the continued passive insurgency within the Parliamentary Labour Party from the Blairites who could not move beyond the past. And, the neoliberal framing that John McDonnell insisted on using to disseminate his economic plan, as a result of being advised poorly by a bunch of economists who couldn’t even get their studid Fiscal Credibility Rule right (given they had to change it at the last minute when it was obvious to all that it would fail). And John McDonnell himself, who told the British people in the months leading up to the election that he would support Remain. And the Deputy leader, who should have been expelled long ago from the Party. And those who conspired to ditch Chris Williamson for the most spurious reasons and thus cost Labour the seat of Derby North. And on it goes. But the result that transpired has been staring the Labour party in the face since the June 2016 Referendum and the Party chose to ignore the warnings. And the so-called progressive apparatchiks, economists and others, who were advising the Labour Party, not only told the Party leaders to ignore the warnings but actively set about vilifying those on the Left, including yours truly, every chance they could. The egg is … as they say!
The full results of the British election are not readily available in a form that allows me to do some detailed statistical analysis. That will come when the complete dataset is publicly available.
But I thought this graph was a good summary.
It is taken from The Telegraph article (December 16, 2019) – Election Result: Conservatives win historic majority
The horizontal axis depicts the distribution of votes in the June 2016 Referendum, from high proportion Remain to high proportion Leave (left to right).
The blue diamonds show the seats held (filled in diamonds) and gained (other diamonds) by the Conservatives across the constituencies ordered by the Referendum vote.
If you cannot see that the traditional Labour heartland in the old industrial and mining towns in the north deserted Labour for the Tories then you are blind.
And if you think that the almost 100 per cent correlation between the strength of the Leave vote and the change in seats in the heartlands is not meaningful then you lack analytical capacity (being polite).
To aggregate the vote for Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrats etc into a ‘Remain’ vote and then claim that the British people actually want to Remain rather than to Leave is just being part of the problem that caused Labour’s electoral demise.
Last Thursday, Britain held the ‘second’ referendum that all those smart-alec, urban, educated, cosmos were demanding, and which so perverted the Labour Party’s message to the people.
If the massive swing to the Tories is anything to go by, the Leave vote intensified.
And it was entirely predictable.
A few days after the June 2016 Referendum, I wrote this blog post – Why the Leave victory is a great outcome (June 27, 2016) – which led some of the high-profile, Labour advisors calling me “delusional” and accusing me of pandering to fascist elements.
I wrote in the post:
British Labour leadership was largely absent throughout – not knowing which way to turn and allowing the Pro-European (neo-liberal) Left elements within the Party to dominate its public viewpoint. It lost its traditional constituents along the way.
The point is that British Labour now has to change drastically and reject its neo-liberal leanings or face extinction.
If it doesn’t show leadership and present a truly progressive alternative to the neo-liberal orthodoxy then the anger will continue and it is possible that the right will dominate.
That summary conclusion resonates still.
Labour did change. But they moved in the opposite direction to where it should have gone and finally reneged on its undertaking to its voters.
Far from showing leadership on the issue, the Blairites forced the Labour leadership to dither and eventually cave into a Remain position.
When the majority of Labour Party’s MPs (more than 60 per cent) represent Leave majority constituencies and the Party then turns its back on those people after guaranteeing them that they would support the outcome of the Referendum in 2016, then what would one expect would be the consequences.
Especially, when the Tories are campaigning skillfully on a “Get Brexit Done” platform and successfully maintaining focus on that message.
The media can publish all sorts of ‘gotchas’, like Boris Johnson hiding in a fridge to avoid and interview and lighting up social media with accounts of how much a liar he is etc.
This no doubt made all the Urban Labour Remainers feel warm (excuse the fridge-warm bit) and righteous, but it all that paled into insignificance when confronted with the fact that the Labour Party abandoned its support base who clearly wanted to Leave by reneging on its guarantee to honour the vote.
Saying that Labour, if elected would hold a second referendum and then argue for Remain, was the culmination in their abandonment of the people that had elected the majority of their MPs in 2017.
Which advisor(s) came up with that strategy should never be employed by the Labour Party again.
All those who advocated appeasing the middle-class, urban elites who would never have voted Tory anyway at the expense of abandoning the workers in the North, who saw the Leave vote as an expression of their disdain for austerity and neoliberalism, should never be employed by the Labour Party again.
Their views should be disregarded in the future.
In these blog posts (among many others, do a search using the term Brexit to find others), I made the case as to why it was electoral suicide for the Labour Party not to embrace the Leave vote and become the progressive Leave party for Britain.
1. My brief comment on the British election (December 11, 2019).
2. Impending British Labour loss may reflect their ambiguous Brexit position (November 28, 2019).
3. British Labour surrenders to the middle class and big business interests (July 10, 2019).
4. The British government can avoid a recession from a No-Deal Brexit (July 31, 2019).
5. That progressive paradise (aka the EU) does it again! (July 4, 2019).
6. Being anti-European Union and pro-Brexit does not make one a nationalist (May 23, 2019).
7. The Europhile dreamers are out in force (April 15, 2019).
8. Bank of England backtracks on its doomsday Brexit scenarios (March 18, 2019).
9. Britain’s austerity costs are larger than any predicted Brexit losses (March 4, 2019)
10. Comparing the 2016 Referendum vote with the 2019 Withdrawal Act outcome (January 16, 2019).
11. The Brexit scapegoat (January 7, 2019).
12. More Brexit nonsense from the pro-European dreamers (December 27, 2018).
13. The Twitter echo chamber (October 31, 2018).
14. British fiscal statement – no end to austerity as the Left face plants (October 30, 2018).
15. Left-liberals and neoliberals really should not be in the same party (October 25, 2018).
16. Elements in a strategy for the Left (July 10, 2018).
17. Brexit propaganda continues from the UK Guardian (July 4, 2018).
18. The Europhile Left loses the plot (May 1, 2018).
19. Social democratic politicians continue to walk the plank – into oblivion (February 7, 2018).
20. Oh poor Britain – overrun by chlorinated chickens, hapless without the EU (February 1, 2018).
21. British Labour remainers – the reality seekers bogged down in myth (January 31, 2018).
22. When the mainstream Left gets lost down its Europhile hole (October 26, 2017).
23. Reclaiming the State (August 30, 2017).
24. British labour lost in a neo-liberal haze (May 3, 2017).
25. Mayday! Mayday! The skies were meant to fall in … what happened? (August 24, 2016).
That is a long list over several years since the Referendum. The list is not close to be exhaustive of the evidence I have presented on this topic.
Many of those blog posts were trying to redress the claims on the public record that Brexit would be devastating.
The UK Guardian, in particular, relentlessly gave voice to the Europhile Left, with their dire predictions and demands for a second referendum, because the poor darlings, used to privilege and success, couldn’t get their own way in the first referendum in 2016.
The arguments presented have always been evidenced-base.
None of the predictions made have been found wanting from the evidence subsequently.
Almost all the predictions made by the Remain camp have been, so far, flawed.
And, the scare campaigns about the losses from Brexit, even though they have so far proven to be ridiculously inflated, didn’t have any traction in the working class communities in the Midlands and further North anyway, because people here have already experienced massive losses in well-being from yaers of austerity.
What the Labour Party should have done was to take the running on the Brexit sentiment and weave that into their progressive Manifesto.
And that would have overcome the valid claims that the Manifesto was incompatible with Remain, because the EU would have prohibited a raft of the proposed initiatives.
This was one of the issues I raised with John McDonnell when I met him in October 2018.
I recounted that meeting in this blog post – A summary of my meeting with John McDonnell in London (October 17, 2018).
It was obvious he was captive to the delusional views being expressed by his advisors.
I told John that the Labour Party sounded as though it was still stuck in the mid-1970s when the Chancellor at the time Dennis Healey lied to the British people about the Government having to go the IMF for a loan because it had run out of money.
This was the beginning of the excess paranoia within the British Left about the power of the City – of the financial markets.
And that paranoia led to the development of the ridiculous Fiscal Rule and the neoliberal framing to give the impression that the Labour Party knew what they were doing.
While those in their social media echo chamber – you know who you are – clearly spent hours on-line convincing each other how bright you all were and vilifying anyone on the Left who dared to disagree – the proof is in the pudding.
The voters obviously rejected this position.
The problem now is that the actually progressive Manifesto will be impugned. It should not be.
Brexit will help the Labour Party
Labour now will have a fantastic opportunity now that the nation will leave the European Union.
I outlined the reasons in this blog post – Why the Leave victory is a great outcome (June 27, 2016) – written a few days after the Referendum.
I considered that the progressive space will expand dramatically as a result of restoring sovereignty.
First, it represents a major rejection of the neo-liberal policy structures that are now commonplace. They no longer have legitimacy and the vote shows that ordinary people ultimately have more power than the elites.
This doesn’t mean that the ordinary voter on the Leave side knows what the alternative is or understands Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) or anything else.
It means they have rejected the mainstream.
Second, if carried through, the exit will unambiguously restore British sovereignty and frees it from the austerity-obsessed neo-liberal European Commission and Council. It will no longer be subject to rulings from the European Court of Justice.
The constitutional validity of British legislation, motivated and introduced by an elected British government rather than the unelected technocracy that is the European Commission, will be scrutinised by British institutions (the High Court etc).
Which is how a democracy with separation of powers should operate.
Third, the opportunities by the British polity to depoliticise poor decisions which harm the interests of ordinary people by appealing to the external forces beyond their control have been reduced.
British politicians of all flavours will have to take more responsibility for their legislation and policy choices, which is progress on the current state where they can avoid such responsibility by blaming things on Brussels.
Fourth, the choice will not free Britain from neo-liberalism but it does bring the debate back into focus – voter face to face with the British politicians.
There are no guarantees that the decision to leave the European Union will lead to good outcomes, by which I mean help those who have been disenfranchised by the neo-liberal system.
There are scenarios that would lead to the conclusion that exactly the opposite might occur.
The right-wing Tories who have always hated Europe might push for even greater ‘competition’ and cuts to government spending and services, which would further undermine the fortunes of the weak and precarious.
Bosses might push for further cuts to wages and conditions.
But as the Polish economists Michał Kalecki said – in a crisis there are opportunities for both the Right and the Left.
The exit campaign was dominated by those on the Right that could see the potential of giving voice to the disenfranchised outside of the London elites.
The Brexit vote was a rejection of New Labour as much as it is a rejection of Tory-style neo-liberalism.
The way forward – my initial 6-point plan for British Labour
The way forward for Labour, in my external eyes, is to:
1. Split off the Blairites – they are a cancer within a progressive party. Their careerist ambitions will always pervert progressive pursuits.
How much damage does Tony Blair have to inflict on the people of Britain and the Labour Party?
2. Sack all the smart-alec advisors who thought that Remain was the way forward.
It is not votes that count in the quest for government but seats won.
It is obvious that the British voting system (FPP) is deeply flawed and writing articles that claim in, say, a proportional system, the massacre of Labour wasn’t as bad as it was, amounts to plain denial.
The system is the clear to all. Seats have to be won. And a party will unlikely win government where the majority of its MPs were elected by people who just three years earlier had told them they wanted exactly the opposite to what the Party brings to the election.
And, seats will not be won, when, the Labour apparatchiks and supporting media (UK Guardian etc) relentlessly vilify those voters as being dumb, racist, xenophobic, ‘Little Englanders’ and all the rest of the abusive nomenclature that the London-left elites poured out when the Remain side lost in June 2016.
3. Sack/ignore all the advisors who advocated neoliberal fiscal rules as being clever.
They were stupid and unworkable and the fact that the Labour Party changed the Rule in the weeks before the election when the IFS pointed out that they were incompatible with the Manifesto, a view I had presented when the Rule first came out, is testament to that.
4. Maintain the progressive Manifesto without the neoliberal frames and structures.
5. Begin this 5-year period of isolation by mounting a massive education campaign to allow British voters to truly understand the capacities of the currency-issuing government which will make it much easier to disabuse arguments that start with “How will we pay for it?”.
In that sense, I advise the British Labour Party to commission a series of workshops on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), starting February when I will next be in the UK.
6. Choose the new leadership carefully.
Here is one of the contenders for the Labour Party leadership – in a pre-interview for that job, making it clear no reasonable committee would ever consider her as qualifying for the short-list.
I will expand on that plan in the months ahead.
And, at least Chuka and Jo Swinson and a host of other neoliberal opportunists lost their seats,
If British Labour doesn’t revise its economic narrative which means it has to stop getting advice from New Keynesians and other economists who think the City of London is all powerful and the government has to appease the financial markets, then there will not be no short-term recovery for Labour.
And, most importantly, Brexit will turn into a nightmare for Britain when it should be a progressive force.
And, in February, I will walk more easily through immigration as the non-EU resident access rules change (hopefully).
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.