Contributed by Jim Hayes
As the British election campaign roles on, a few things are becoming clearer, even from as far away as Australia. The electorate is unsettled. Blairite Labour lost many of its traditional supporters and this has been a big factor in keeping the Conservatives in government. The Conservative Party also lost some its own base to the reactionary United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
Now pitching in UKIP’s direction, the Conservatives have regained at its expense. This was seen at the recent regional council elections, and UKIP looks like being almost wiped out in the general election.
A lot is also being said about Labor doing disastrously in the council elections. But this is media over statement. The Conservatives did pick up, but this was almost to a number, at the expense of UKIP. Labour did not gain, it is true. But it was also made worse that these were regional elections and Labour maintains a solid grip in most urban centres. However, it does show a growing divide between city and country. This must be a concern.
Of course, there is the dark horse – Scotland, once one of Labour’s strongest heartlands and Labour’s refusal to countenance Scotland’s independence is costing it dearly.
Then there is Brexit. The Conservatives are working hard to capitalise on this. Labour is wobbly on the issue.
But the greatest difficulty that Labour has been facing in this campaign, has been a well-orchestrated media campaign, based on denigration and misinformation. Coverage of real issues has alrgely been blocked out. Saying this is not just the usual having a go at the monopoly media. The extent is extraordinary. Leader, Jeremy Corbyn is routinely described as an incompetent idiot. Corbin lives in a “Fantasy Island,” is how one front page headline had it. Her has even been accused of being a collaborator with the Russians. Corbyn is on the one hand said to have no policies and on the other that Britain is threatened with a red Armageddon. War has been declared against Corbyn. Although the campaign begins with Murdoch’s Newscorp, it even sucks in the BBC and the Guardian.
On top of this, most Labour parliamentarians, engage in constant undermining of their elected leader, some even going to far as to suggest that they would prefer a Conservative government rather than a Labour one led by Corbyn. These people have become champions of the media , as defenders of traditional british politics.
Such an extreme reaction over what is only a more militant version of social democracy, more akin the pre-Blair Labour. This is more telling on the knockers than anyone else, showing just how far down the road first carved out by Margaret Thatcher that the country’s political elite and institutions have moved.
There is more. Britain’s economic fortunes have not been going well for a long time and like in many other places in this age, dissatisfaction is growing. The problem with Corbyn is that he has touched a nerve, which has the potential to feed into popular demand for more extensive change. This mood is the reason why membership of the Labour Party has exploded, making it the largest social democratic party in Europe. New rules gave the rank and file more say.
These are the things that scare the political elite more than anything else and it explains the lengths gone to discredit the man. Nothing can be allowed to get in the way of the two-party consensus that the present order must stay at all costs.
But it starting to appear that it is not all going their way. Support for Corbin is on the rise. Polls are now saying that Labour could get up to 30 percent of the vote. With about a month to go, this could rise. This might not seem to be much. Then again, this is in a context where no party is going to score very highly, given the extent of disillusionment with the major parties that has been brewing for years and Scotland being knocked out of contention. Up to 20 percent are undecided and many are expected to not even bother to vote.
Whoever wins the election, they may well do so as a minority government and will have to face an unstable term. A near win, would leave him and his supporters in a strong position and provide an opportunity to build.
Some of the pundits are suggesting that a near win might be a better option for Labour than a win at this time. Corbyn would be saddled with an uncooperative front bench, ready to betray him at any point and side with the opposition. Applying the manifesto that Labour went to the election with might not be possible and this would undermine the his leadership.
Far more important is that a good result be obtained. Enough to give courage to a big enough number of people, to go off and do a great deal of grass roots campaigning and organising a more extensive movement that promises to take Britain further along a new road.
Work needs to go into strengthening the trade union movement, as the best hope of stemming the loss of wages and conditions.
There is recognition that overall economic policy must be changed. This is a work in progress that needs to be filled out to produce a clear direction and concrete measures on spending priorities and where the money is going to come from. It needs to be clear that the richest few percent should be paying much more than those at the bottom.
Concerns over income security, the rising cost of living, the deterioration of the health and education systems and other key issues need to be met.
For it all to transform from ideas on paper, it is necessary to involve millions of people into taking part in an unstoppable movement that will focus on change from below, rather than over reliance on having it decreed from the top. This is the challenge.