The 2017 General Election : The Rudrum Ramblings Verdict

In possibly the biggest bottlejob in political history, Theresa May has managed to scrape back into number 10 with no authority over her own party, let alone of the rest of the country. From a poll lead of 25 points, the Conservative Party have ended up losing seats, and have to govern with Democratic Unionist Party, who like Sinn Fein used to back terrorists but are also racist, homophobic, catholic hating climate change deniers. Basically the DUP are UKIP with terrorist links.

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I bet you miss the idea of the 2010 coalition now don’t you?

Before discussing the two main parties, a quick word on the more minor parties. For my own party, last night saw a rise in seats but a loss in vote share. I think the Liberal Democrats will keep Farron on the basis that there is an acknowledgement as like the Greens, we were the victim of the surge of Labour support (like in Nick Clegg’s seat) and a rise of seats isn’t the end of the world. The move towards two party politics will be a worry though.

The Greens, as touched on, were a victim of a Labour surge, and with Labour shifting leftwards, and both Labour and Lib Dems being very environmentally minded in outlook, you have to question if there is any place for The Green Party in British politics now – all their voters in 2015 who I know voted Labour this time around. It is delightful to see that UKIP is dead, the Party has done enormous damage to Britain already and their demise couldn’t have came too soon. In a few years Paul Nuttall’s name will only be brought up as a pointless answer on a certain BBC game show. Those who think this vote spells the end for SNP and Scottish Independence may be disappointed. The SNP’s vote share only dropped by 2% altogether and the losses can only be explained more heavily by tactical voting rather than a grand demise of the Scottish Nationalists. This election also makes the current voting system in the UK unfit for purpose, as for the 2nd time in three elections First Past the Post has failed to fit its one brief of delivering stable majority governments, but this issue will be covered in a separate blog next week.

Leading up to the election I was predicting the seats in parliament to stay roughly the same, and after the personally crushing disappointment on 2015, where the youth vote did not turn out for Ed Miliband like I thought it would at the time, I was braced for another rough night as someone on the left. Obviously this pessimism was wrong, as for once, my generation came out to vote, and its result was great. I suspect if the youth vote was around 44%, as it was in 2015, the result would still have been an increased Conservative majority.

Starting with Labour, I have an apology to make to my many Corbynista friends and family members. I have called the Corbyn platform as unelectable since he became leader, and although they did not win, this election result suggests I was wrong. What this result does is make the Blairite faction of the Labour Party redundant, and means Labour must now embrace fully the anti-austerity platform, even if this year’s manifesto was overreaching a bit economically. It is also true that Labour may have had a greater vote share without the 2nd leadership contest in 2016. One word of warning for Labour though, I still talked to many people – work colleagues, friends, random acquaintances, who wanted to vote Labour but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Corbyn. Maybe this election more than anything else, shows that Owen Smith’s analysis was correct when he ran for leader: that the policy agenda of the Corbyn leadership was correct, but the man at the helm was the problem.

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Apparently Jezza is the Saunders of the UK after all

In the future, especially if there is another election soon, I believe Labour and the Lib Dems must sign an alliance pact to maximise the chances for a future progressive government, as they did before the 1997 Election. In Norwich South, Norwich North and Norfolk North, we saw how the progressive alliance could work. Traditional Lib Dem and Green voters flocked to Labour in the Norwich seats to protect Clive Lewis and to almost oust Chloe Smith, who had a 12,000 majority previously, while in Norfolk North, the Greens stood aside to help Norman Lamb protect his seat for the Liberal Democrats. I think Labour will spend the next how many years until the next election as the government in waiting.

This election has been an absolute disaster for the Conservatives, both for present and future. Although they increased their vote share, the Conservatives had a disastrous campaign, their policies were deeply unpopular, Theresa May was found out as a poser, Tory heartlands such at Canterbury and Kensington voted against a vague, hard Brexit and the obsession of soundbites and dog whistle campaigning turned people ultimately off.  The 2015 – 2017 Conservative government found itself as completely dysfunctional with a majority of 6, so with only 2 seats majority if you include the DUP is a very daunting position to be in, especially with the likely infighting. Theresa May has always has critics on the long-time Brexiteers within the party, so it’s not a surprise that Johnson is already manoeuvring from the right to displace May. More worrying for May is that the left of the party, now led by Ruth Davidson is also moving against her, outraged by May’s position on Brexit and decision to ally with the DUP, this group would try and bring about a Cameron style leadership again, something much more tolerable. I personally don’t see May lasting 6 months, but see her attempting to hold on to power in the party like a dictator at the last days before the revolution.

The DUP coalition could spell further trouble for the Conservatives as allying with such an extreme party could alienate many in the centre-ground, the voters Cameron and Osborne worked so hard to gain back in 2010 and 2015. The irony will also not be lost on people that they harked on about Corbyn being a terrorist sympathiser to then finish the election by going into coalition with another group of terrorist sympathisers. And to top off Tory misery they still have to deal with Brexit on a weaker footing, and as I have said many times, Brexit will almost certainly be a disaster whoever is in power, let alone a disunited Conservative Party.

If the Conservative-DUP coalition does dissolve into a shambles, which I believe it will, we could be voting again next year, and providing the Tory leader in that election is not Ruth Davidson, they will probably lose. The Conservative Party love to elect the wrong leader, since the turn of the century the only good leader they have had is Cameron, and there is currently little talent on the Tory front bench. As for Labour, the same questions of Corbyn will be there, although the Sinn Fien animosity would be lower due to the Tory alliance with the DUP, and I suspect the seats between the Conservatives and Labour would be almost directly reversed. If there isn’t an election until 2022, I do not believe Corbyn will be leader, after all in 2022 Jeremy will be 73, and the next heir – probably likely to be either Clive Lewis, Keir Starmer or Emily Thornberry, who had a very good election campaign, will likely lead Labour to a healthy majority, providing Brexit is the disaster I suspect it will be. It would be for the good of the country if there is an earlier election, as Keir Starmer is far more equipped and talented to negotiate a good deal for the UK than David Davis, but it would probably be better for the Labour Party if there isn’t an election until 2022, as it will give them a real chance at a Blair sized majority.

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Norwich’s own Clive Lewis could be Labour party leader going into a 2022 election

Back to the present, it is clear that the clear winners of the election are Yougov (for correctly predicting a large youth turnout) and the future of the Labour party, while the real losers are the future of the Conservative Party, Theresa May and UKIP. And for the first time since I have been able to vote, I have not sat through a UK democratic event to be left depressed, even if my party only has 12 seats.

The Rudrum Rambling Election Endorsement: Ignore the leader, vote for a strong Liberal voice in a progressive coalition or opposition

4 Days to go. Unless, like me you have a postal vote, it is judgement day across the country. Before I get in to who to vote for, I would like to point out the state of leaderships in the current leadership of major UK Parties. When Theresa May was ‘elected’ leader of the Consevative Party, I commented that she was a safe pair of hands, I am sorry to say I have been wrong. The woman is certainly neither strong and stable, and as you probably already know, has made more U-turns than Rally Drivers. Jeremy Corbyn, who may have had a good campaign, still does not look or feel like a leader, and after watching his business in parliament extensively as a student, I doubt he will be able to be a competent prime minister. Tim Farron, has, apart from one great put down at the end of the BBC leadership debate, not convinced me of why the membership voted him in rather than the far more assured, credible Norman Lamb; while Paul Nuttall just looks, sounds and acts like the type of person you find at Wetherspoons each day at 11am in the morning. The only good leaders we have, are the two Green Party leaders, who unfortunately have had their vote share mainly eliminated by Labour’s shift to the left, and Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is the only party leader who looks prime ministerial, and she is the only one who doesn’t want to be PM.

Now down to the business end. Rudrum Ramblings, from the start of this election, has championed the idea of a Progressive Alliance, and this does not stop here. Although I am not overly keen on seeing Jeremy Corbyn, and less keen to see John McDonnell and Diane Abbott in power, I would much prefer that to the poser that is Theresa May, the tax haven advocate Phillip Hammond, the worker rights opposer Liam Fox, the NHS privatiser Jeremy Hunt, the nutcase Boris Johnson, the economically illiterate David Davis, and the rest of the Tory cabinet. Back in the Cameron days, although I disagreed with most of their policies and the effect they had on people, at least they were to a degree economically sound, and that their manifestos made logical sense. Now, as commented on the last blog, we have a Conservative party which is not strong on any policy area, other than immigration, which it is economically and ethically repulsive over. To add, the last coalition government, whatever you make of it, has been far more competent at managing the country than either the Cameron or the May administration with a Tory majority.

Coalitions to me have always been a much fairer way of running the country. The 2010 – 2015 government was the first time a government represented over 50% of votes since the great wartime government of 1940 – 1945. Due to the atrocious performance of the Conservatives, there is now a small chance of the coalition government between Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats (and the Greens). For me this would be ideal, as there are parts of the Labour manifesto I prefer to the Lib Dems, and parts of the Lib Dem manifesto I prefer to Labour. The Brexit negotiating team, led by Keir Starmer, surely a potential future PM, is actually a lot more capable than the team led by David Davis as well.  However I do have an overarching concern that the Labour manifesto is ultimately unaffordable, and some (certainly not all) parts of it will need to be put aside if they were to lead a coalition.

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Keir Starmer – the Man I believe to be the potential next Centre-Left PM (Picture: The New European)

Ultimately, whatever the result between Labour and the Conservatives, we will need a strong Liberal movement for the future. Put your issues with Tim Farron aside, because firstly, he is not going to be Prime Minister, and secondly, whatever your stance on his flip-flopping over his moral thoughts on gay marriage, he has always voted, as a Liberal should, for the extension of their rights. The Liberal Democrats this time round, from the way they have attacking the Conservatives relentlessly over Labour, will not join the Tories this time round, and if they did, I would be the first to leave the party. The Liberal Democrats also are the only party who has a sound economic policy, yet at the same time has some radical progressive policies such as cannabis legalisation, the reversal of the snoopers charter, the expansion of community policing and the housing investment bank. Ultimately the Liberal Democrats are RIGHT on healthcare (the only way to fund is by a small rise in taxation), RIGHT on Brexit (that it is going to make us ultimately worse off and that there should be political representation to those who voted remain), RIGHT on Drugs, RIGHT  on constitutional issues, RIGHT on Policing and Terrorism, RIGHT (as are the Greens and Labour) on the Environment, RIGHT on Civil Liberties and have a lot of good to say as well on Education, Housing and the Economy.

If you live in a constituency in which either Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens or the SNP are in a direct competition with the Conservatives, please vote for whichever party is most likely to win and stop the reckless right getting a blank check. But if you are in a safe seat, or in a seat which is Labour vs Lib Dems or Lib Dems vs SNP for example, I implore you to vote Liberal Democrat and create a good presence for a Party which were the only major parliamentary opposition to the Iraq War (and the first to advocate action is Kosovo), always the first to come up with original popular policies such as bringing the lowest out of tax, a party which contrary to opinions in my circles did limit the damage of the austerity driven Tories between 2010 -2015 and have since 1997 have been the most forward thinking party in British Politics.

Would a Labour victory be down to the new “longest suicide note in history”?

Back when the up-and-coming election was called, I claimed that, against my best wishes, that Theresa May would walk the general election, that the Labour Party would collapse, that the Liberal Democrats would make a convincing comeback, and that UKIP would collapse. With just 9 days to go, it seems that only the latter of those predictions appears to be the truthful case.

Back in 1983, The Labour manifesto which led to their worst defeat since the 2nd world war was described as the “longest suicide note in history”. Looking at what has happened in the polls since the main two parties released their manifestos this time round, you can say the same thing about another manifesto. However, this time, it seems that the Conservative Party have decided to take some political cyanide. Labour may have been gaining in polling before May 18th, but, as demonstrated in the Ipos poll on that day, Labour were only gaining vote from the Lib Dems and UKIP, while the Conservatives were staying constant. In the last 12 days since this manifesto has been released, the Conservative have lost significant points to Labour in every poll. In average polling in England this gap has shrunk from 16.7 points (47.2 – 30.5) to 10 points (44.7 – 34.7). While average polling for the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party has stayed fairly similar since May the 18th, it suggests that Labour have gained most of its progress through either Conservative voters or undecided voters. In individual polls this change is more striking. In the Welsh voting poll following the release of the manifesto saw the Conservatives fall 7 points (down to 34), while the Labour rising 9 points (up to 44), a massive 16 point swing which took Labour from a losing position to a comfortable lead. Last night, YouGov even predicted that there would be a hung parliament after the election. If Labour keep catching the Conservatives at this rate, we could have the scenario which only 2 weeks ago was unthinkable of Prime Minister Corbyn on June 9th.

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Picture: YouGov

Now, why is this happening. Well firstly running an election campaign on the slogan “strong and stable”, before performing a U-turn on the first unpopular policy and crumbling in your first major political interview of the election is probably the easiest way to lose votes other than punching a baby or taking a wee on a Mosque perhaps. So Theresa May being uncovered as a bit of a con artist in terms of leadership stature has certainly not helped the Tories. It also has to be said that other than stumbling on is history with the IRA, the one thing which I think will still probably cost Labour this election, Jeremy Corbyn has done well to convince people he has some fight, and was very impressive on Jeremy Paxman’s verbal assault program Monday. Although I’m not totally convinced by him, I acknowledge he has gone some way to confounding expectations. The Labour manifesto, which although is economically unachievable all in one go, also is filled with popular policies and actual vote winners like ending tuition fees, the increase of bank holidays and the renationalisation of the Royal Mail.

However, I see the closing gap in this election mostly down to the absolute farce that is the Conservative manifesto. Say what you like about the Cameron-Osborne era, but at least their manifestos were coherent, understood the trade off between vote winners and in their minds necessary unpopular policies, and actually bothered to cost the manifesto. Starting with the so-called Dementia Tax, it made absolute no political sense for the Conservative policy, when it should have followed an independent report to instead ignore the report and put through a policy which alienated many of their core voter base. It also made absolutely no sense for them to alongside this unpopular policy to also include a vote on legalising fox hunting, which over 80% of voters, including the majority of Conservative voters, are against.

With the route down hard Brexit, combined with the fact they didn’t even bother to cost their manifesto, the Conservatives also have shot themselves in the foot by following down a rhetoric of that they are the only party which can offer a stable economy, while at the same time following down policy lines which are economically careless. Even their ex chancellor, George Osborne, has labelled the Conservatives immigration policy as “economically illiterate”. It is striking that JP Morgan, a bank which would in more usual times would be ardent supporters of Conservatives, have said the so-called “coalition of chaos” would be better for the British economy.

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Going on to Brexit and Immigration, I do not need to tell anybody that the Conservatives are going after the UKIP vote on this issue, but as the way they are going is, as George Osborne rightly says is “economically illiterate”, they are taking a huge risk on this. By the day, Conservatives are risking a policy which are risking themselves losing the old floating voters who Cameron/Osborne used to target to beat Labour and the Lib Dems.

On the economy, the Conservatives have even tried to alienate their free market base, by promising the rather Keynesian policies of putting workers on company boards and the Miliband idea of energy caps which their supporters labelled last election as “Marxist”. This slightly more left wing economic policy has also failed to win any voters as every other party have gone more left wing than them combined with the fact there is no public confidence that the Conservatives will do any of these things promised.

To add to their struggles, the economy, immigration, Brexit and elderly care are the things the Tories are seem by the general public as better at than Labour. So when you go onto health, where the Tories are the party who has promised the least investment to the NHS, and education, where the Tories are following the policy which goes against evidence of better general attainment of bringing more grammars schools rather than supporting all schools, the Conservatives look just as incompetent if not more incompetent on those issues than before. At the same time to all this, the Conservatives are failing to offer anything again to young people, who, according to polling, look to have registered to vote in greater numbers to vote against the Conservative Party.

As I mentioned before, I still don’t necessarily think Jeremy Corbyn can win this election. If he does though, from a Conservative perspective you will have to put this down as the biggest bottle job in modern political history, and if that does happen, they can only have themselves, their poser of a leader and their stupid, nonsensical manifesto to blame.

The Blairites and Corbynistas are as bad as each other: Why it is time for an alternative

WARNING: If you are a Jeremy Corbyn or Tony Blair fan (I don’t know if Tony Blair fans still exist), be prepared to feel offended.

As they have been since the fall of Ed Miliband after last years general election, the Labour Party continues to be at war with itself. At the centre of this war are two particular factions of the party; the Blairites at the far right of the party, who believe that Labour should stick to the middle ground and not actually stand for anything to get to power; and the Corbynistas at the far left of the party, who believe that the party should stick to the narrow mandate of its core base but remain unable to remotely challenge the Conservatives come a general election. This war has led to me becoming increasingly alienated with Labour, and veering back towards the Liberal Democrats, who although currently uninspiring under Tim Farron, at least know what they stand for now and what they are offering as a political force, and since Brexit, are witnessing a renaissance of sorts according to recent polling.

My problem with Labour currently is the following:

  1. The Blairites inability to realise that its 21 year abandonment of the working classes has led to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn as well as the rise of UKIP in working class areas to start with. The Blair years were characterised by a anchor to the centre-ground of the post-Thatcher settlement, meaning that Blair’s Labour would not be developing a Britain which benefited normal working people. This created a disconnect with the working-classes and left-wingers which saw flocks of voters defect to both The Lib Dems and the Green Party. By the time I was properly engaging with an election in 2010, Labour weren’t even viewed as any way left-wing, just as a bit of a farce in the light of the 2008 recession. Once this disconnect was piled on by Tory cuts affecting the poor the most and the Lib Dems apparent betrayal, UKIP provided an answer, although undoubtedly a false answer, to many disenfranchised former Labour voters, in immigration. For the more left-liberal Labour voters, Corbyn became an answer other than having to support a party which will always be one of protest like the Greens. However, many on the right of the Labour Party still ignore the fact they made the enemies in their own traditional heartlands that they battle today, and this ignorance makes their claims to be able to win an election more than Corbyn’s supporters illogical.
  2. The Blairites inability to see that anything but anti-austerity will no longer be tolerated from what is supposed to be Britain’s left-wing party. This wing of the party, now supporting Angela Eagle’s leadership bid, fail to understand that by continuing to want to offer basically a Conservative manifesto on a social democratic diet, that they are not offering the British people a real alternative or even a real opposition to vote for; just look at Harriet Harman’s woeful performance as interim leader, where she ordered the party to not oppose cuts to household welfare and child tax credits.
  3. The supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s inability to see that past their narrow base. The fact is if you talk to your floating voter, or even many more elderly traditional Labour voters who are not active members of the party, they have a negative view of Corbyn. The fact is for many reasons, including resentment by many groups towards Corbyn’s participation with dealing with the IRA in the 1990s, Hamas and Hezbollah in the 2000s, and even to some more petty, his refusal to dress smart, Corbyn himself is a turnoff for millions who could vote Labour under a different leader. Although I have no problem with Corbyn personally, it does not change the fact some of his former causes make him too toxic to lead a party in an election. It’s not an issue if I personally will vote for him or not, it is an issue on will he be able to stop the Tories from doing further damage to the country, which I believe unfortunately he has no chance.

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    Corbyn’s previous involvement in Irish Politics has led to resentment towards him in certain parts of the voting public (Photo: The Telegraph)

  4. The Corbynista failure to compromise on a more popular, more articulate leader who could also advocate an anti-austerity program. One positive of Corbyn’s leadership is that he has changed the nature of debate on the political left in Britain, and many in the soft-left of the Labour Party, such as Owen Smith, who happens to be running for leader, are now also ready to run an anti-austerity approach. It must be remembered, even as early as last year’s leadership election, Andy Burnham had proposed the renationalisation of the railways and to scrap tuition fees. The fact is both Smith and Burnham are in my view, more articulate than Corbyn, and have a far less toxic reputation. If these supporters of Corbyn could compromise a leader to still have an abandonment of austerity and to a degree no longer having neo-liberal approach to the economy, it would be far more beneficial for Labour as an electoral force.
  5. The worst aspect of this row within the Labour Party is the fact that neither side are willing to working with eachother, and the pettiness of both sides. The Blairite attempts to kick Corbyn’s supporters out of Labour by raising the membership costs to £25 and to stop Corbyn being an option in the new leadership contest is petty and alienating. However, possibly more disturbing is some of the actions of Corbyn supporters. For months there has been vile treatment towards BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg for simply not being biased towards Labour, and now the threats made towards Labour MP’s opposing Corbyn’s leadership, including throwing bricks through Angela Eagle’s constituency office.

I have many friends who would describe themselves as followers of Jeremy Corbyn, and I sympathise with them. After seeing the depressiveness of 20 years of New Labour not producing a proper left-wing government and Ed Miliband, although I love him, not being the most inspiring leader, while the Tories put the brunt of the economic recession on the young and the poor, someone as uncompromising and socialist as Corbyn was always going to be refreshing. However at the end of the day, he is not going to win an election, his poor performance during Brexit confirmed this. I believe that either a Corbyn or Eagle victory in the leadership contest will split the Labour Party, as either result will make the opposing side to adrift to its leader. This will create a situation similar to the Weimar Republic during the rise of Hitler (definitely not saying Britain’s First are about to come out of nowhere), where the SDP (Social-Democrats) and KDP (Communists) were so reluctant to work together they opened the door for their right-wing enemies to do as they pleased.

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Owen Smith: a man who could unite Labour? (Photo: ITV)

What Labour needs is a leader who is still anti-austerity, to offer a real alternative to the Conservatives, but also someone who is moderate enough to have a realistic chance of winning an election. My personal ideal candidate would be Andy Burnham, after his role in Hillsborough and strong performance as Shadow Home Secretary has given him popularity in the North and towards many traditional Labour voters I’ve spoken to. However, he is not running in this election, but Owen Smith is, a man who is very articulate, anti-austerity, and has run as a third candidate in this leadership election partly because he has realised that if either the other two win the election, the party will not be united and will not have an alternative to the Conservatives.

Although Theresa May is a very shrewd operator, Brexit means there are choppy waters for this Tory government, I believe a progressive alliance between Labour, The Lib Dems-who would love to get some revenge on the Conservatives after their demise last year, the Green Party and the SNP , possibly with the promise of some sort of proportional representation at the end of it, could yet defeat them in 2020. But I believe this will only be possible if Labour gets its act together, and neither the followers of Corbyn or the followers of old Tony Blair are the answer.