British election produces some surprising results

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn
Contributed by Joe Montero

The British election has brought about a hung parliament. Political commentators called it a recipe for instability and Conservative Party leader Teresa May is in deep trouble and may even be ousted by their party and the prime ministership, after clinging on only with with the support of the 10 members of the hard line Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland.

The political establishment has been stunned at the extent of the success of the Labour Party that was for once, under a leadership prepared to offer something perceived to be different than a pale imitation of the Conservatives.

But the suggestion being made that the election result marks a return to the two party system is wrong and covers up what is really going on.

Nor was the election result truly an outcome of the exercise of democracy. The institutions, custom, resources and control of the means of communication and the rusted on two party system operated by a small elite, allows only a narrow choice of possibilities. The system is thoroughly stacked up against any challenge.

What is most remarkable about this election is that Jeremy Corbyn and his team have been able to go so far against the odds, really coming from behind; a weird parody akin to something you’d find on tubev.sex. There is no doubt that part of the reason is that a big part of it is that a growing proportion of the British population has started to turn against the two party system, and by implication, are showing some dissatisfaction with a political system controlled by a few. This makes nonsense of the claim that there has been a return to the fold.

Small parties did not do well at this election for a very good reason. Political polarisation meant that most drew the immediate battle lines between support for change being led by Corbyn and his team, or opposition to this change. Voters made a strategic choice on this basis and it is a mistake to confuse this with returning to the fold. In the absence of this strategic imperative, the disintegration of the two party system is likely to continue, for it has a basis in the inability of the political system to deliver on expectations, at a time of economic and social stagnation.

If the systemic failing is unresolved, public discontent will continue to grow and so will the instability in the major political parties and the conditions for the rise of new minor parties.

Jeremy Corbyn’s style of politics, based on face to face contact with people, taking in their opinions, offering answers to their concerns and working towards a vision of what can be achieved has resonated.

Emphasis on political action from the grass roots up, rather than the traditional top down, has involved large numbers. With this, it was possible to shift from relying on the good opinion of the media barons. The possibilities offered by social media were taken up.

There are a few lessons in all of this. The method and people friendly and anti-austerity message of the manifesto encouraged a sense of hope and brought what looked like something different from the usual Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum choice.

Connection between the Corbyn tide and the wider public was strong enough to effectively challenge a hostile political system and big media, which sunk to new depths of misreporting, outright fabrication and the suppression of anything that did not blow the elite’s trumpet.

The British public was repeatedly warned that Corbyn was first incompetent. Then he was a backer of terrorism. Right up to election day, they said that Corbyn destroy the nation, if he was not stopped. The barrage may have been sufficient to frighten a section of the population, but it was not powerful enough, to prevent the result that did eventuate.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) suffered in the polarisation between the Corbyn tide and the reaction to stop it. But no one should write it off. The almost total victory the last time round could not be expected to hold. Opponents were going to organise themselves and hit back. There is also the curious factor that the base of support has moved from the more affluent north east to the working class south west. The losses were mostly in the old base and more conservative pole of its movement.

Brexit was a factor, not only in Scotland, but throughout Great Britain that mainly benefited the Conservatives and prevented an outright rut. Nevertheless, it remained a secondary. Otherwise Theresa May and her team would have scored a stunning victory, instead of defeat.

For the Conservatives, the election result is already causing more division and the already factions are jockeying for position. The most likely scenario is that the government will not last long.

Corbyn and Labour face a much better situation in the short-run. It would have been a disaster to form government, when much of the parliamentary wing and the party machine functionaries, do not want change and no not want to go down the Corbyn road. They have made this perfectly clear and there is absolutely no doubt that they would destabalise a Labour government.

A near win has brought an opportunity to consolidate. If Corbyn is going to keep on succeeding, it is vital that the party deals with those who do not want to be part of the team. It is not yet certain whether this is possible and without a loyal team the game is lost.

Corbyn and his forces will also continue to face the challenge of a hostile political system and powerful big media, which will double its efforts to destroy them.

The strength lies in the grass roots movement that has been created. It needs to be nurtured into a broad peoples’ power movement that seizes the initiative, uniting in activity at the local level and through this, building a powerful national movement that will challenge the elite currently in control, as the foundation for real political change.

The most important outcome of this election is that it has contributed to setting the conditions to make such a movement possible.

 

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