May 9, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
The aftermath of the Labour’s landslide General Election defeat in 1983, on the back of a hard left-wing manifesto that one of its own MPs had called the “longest suicide note in history” gives us a clue as to what could happen after June 8th’s (likely) election defeat.
As he surveyed the wreckage of a campaign that had resulted in Labour getting their lowest percentage of the popular vote since the 1920s, almost coming in third to the Liberal/SDP alliance (in votes, not seats), and possessing only 209 seats, Lambeth Councillor ‘Red Ted’ Knight insisted that there should be “no compromise with the electorate”.
This may seem odd, but there has been a lot of evidence that the current cabal behind Corbyn may believe it. It suggests that the voters are at fault, and you are right. It suggests that all Corbynistas have to do is to stick to their guns and wait for a while and the pendulum will swing back towards them. It suggests that the electorate are not worthy of their attention as they are morally wrong (witness Labour MP Clive Lewis’s retweeting of a list of reasons people vote Tory that included ‘you don’t care about anyone else’).
So, it is entirely possible that the people behind Jeremy Corbyn will persuade him that he just hasn’t had enough time to get through the biased mainstream media to the electorate. The electorate therefore hasn’t had time to change their mind on him and his policies, and need more time to come to understand that they make perfect sense and he is the perfect person to deliver them.
This may seem rather odd, nay arrogant, but in truth it makes sense given the socialist view of human nature. It suggests that humans are malleable, and so their desires and preferences can be changed by education or experience. Democratic Socialists from Sidney and Beatrice Webb (the founders of the Labour Party) through to Tony Benn believed that once the public had experienced socialism they would not want any other political programme. The trouble was getting into Government to start that process.
Compromising with the electorate is what Tony Blair did, which is why many in the current Labour Party leadership call his leadership “The Wilderness Years” – which is the name of an excellent documentary about Labour’s years OUT of Government in the 1980s and 1990s. The belief is (and it does hold some water) that with such a massive majority and with public finances in good shape Tony Blair had the chance to institute democratic socialism but he didn’t do it, and that was a terrible missed opportunity.
Of course, whilst the Labour left wait for the electorate to realise that they were right all along, the Tories will remain in charge. Blair makes the point that getting into power led to the national minimum wage, disability discrimination act, civil partnerships, human rights act and so on. Meanwhile, not getting into power leads to Tory rule and public service underfunding and inequality.
But ultimately, the people around Jeremy Corbyn fundamentally believe that as long as he is popular with Labour Party members, that is what matters. As long as they want him to stay, that is the key to whether he stays or not.
Never mind that quite a few Corbynites I know personally financially benefit from Conservative Party policies whilst happily salving their conscience by supporting him. The electorate is not to be compromised with, and that is that.