June 10, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
They lost. They did better than people expected but they lost. Among the crowing at what happened to the complacent and arrogant Theresa May some facts seem to have been lost. So let’s just put Jeremy Corbyn’s achievements into some perspective shall we?
As I write this (Friday afternoon) Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour achieved 262 seats. This is 56 fewer seats than the Conservatives. To put THAT into perspective, the SNP won 56 seats in the 2015 election, and it was seen as a big number. So, up against one of the worst political campaigns in election history, Jeremy Corbyn came a distant second. Theresa May is still Prime Minister.
But let’s look at this another way, the number of seats Jeremy Corbyn won is way better than Ed Miliband’s 229 in 2015. It is also better than Gordon Brown’s 258 in 2010, although one should note that was considered a disaster. Michael Foot got 209 in 1983, the nadir of recent Labour election history. That said, Neil Kinnock in 1992, when it was thought he would win, only got 271 seats, and that is 10 more than Corbyn. Jim Callaghan lost to Margaret Thatcher in 1979 with 269. In 1970 Harold Wilson lost to Edward Heath with 288. So 261 is sort of in the middle of results, and remember is almost 60 seats short of a majority. That simply isn’t winning.
I know, I know, you are willing me to talk about the next bit. Voting percentage is something different. Let’s put Harold Wilson’s 43% in 1970, which was only enough for second, aside, as it was even more of a two-party state then than now. Callaghan got 37% in 1979, Foot 28% in 1983, Kinnock 31% in 1987 and 34% in 1992. Gordon Brown meanwhile only got 29% in 2010, which only went up to 30% for Miliband in 2015. So to have a vote share 40% in 2017 is actually seriously impressive.
It is the largest rise in vote share since 1945, when Clement Attlee beat Winston Churchill and changed the country. It even beat Tony Blair’s winning vote share in 2005. Talking of Tony Blair, the 12.9 million votes Corbyn got are more votes than any Labour leader since Blair’s landslide in 1997. Yes, it happened because of UKIP’s drop off, and the bad performance of the Lib Dems, but four out of 10 voters voted for Jeremy Corbyn. They said he was unelectable. Turns out he wasn’t.
If I was being uncharitable, I could argue that anyone could get 40% of the vote with a populist programme of throwing other people’s money at the masses. But I won’t be uncharitable, and over the next week I will have a good look at why Jeremy Corbyn did actually do very well.