Thursday, December 12, 2019

Well, That Could Have Gone Better...

Labour's somewhat more favorable late polling results did not pan out and what mostly appeared to be a looming disaster was, in fact, a disaster. I won't review the voting results in much detail until I find more interesting data on the election than is currently available.
Political scientist Matthew Goodwin had this to say in an article on the UK site UnHerd:
"The 2019 election will probably underline how Labour has, to all intents and purposes, broken into two distinct parties. On one side stand an awkward alliance of socially liberal white-collar professionals, students and ethnic minorities who reside in London, a few other big cities and the university towns. Together, these groups comprise what Thomas Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left”; a faction that is far more interested in expressing its social liberalism and pro-Remain views than delivering genuine economic reform and solidarity for Labour’s traditional voters.
On the other stand those blue-collar and socially conservative workers who reside in small towns, Labour’s northern heartlands and Wales. As we first pointed out five years ago in Revolt on the Right, these are voters who feel left behind not only by the economic transformation of Britain but also by the sudden rise of social or even “hyper” social liberalism, a creed cherished by the Brahmin Left but which workers neither support nor respect.
This is as much about value loss as economic loss. Consistently, for more than a decade, Labour has been losing ground among the latter group, who lean left on the economy but a little right on culture and identity. When the Brahmin Left reduces their instinctive social conservatism to racism or xenophobia, it simply confirms the rumours that are now circulating through blue-collar Britain: that Labour is no longer a home for them. Given that these groups hold fundamentally irreconcilable values, it is not easy to see how they can be held together either at this election or the one after."
A bit harsh perhaps, but there's truth there. Put a bit more succinctly: Corbyn and company. thought they could overcome the drag from their ambiguous/unpopular views on important socially-inflected issues by blasting out their (actually fairly popular) progressive economic message. Not so. There's a lesson there.
For a broader view that goes into some of the history of the Labour party and issues in and around the election's aftermath, I recommend this New York Review of Books article by Matt Seaton. Lengthy, but well worth reading. He concludes gloomily:
"Social-democratic Britain is already a tattered, damaged thing. The question is what will be left to save by the time the Labour Party can win a general election again."
Far-reaching though the effects of this punctuation mark in the Brexit story will be, the 2019 general election may change the landscape of British politics and the fabric of its society in even more profound and decisive ways. With renewed calls for a referendum on independence for Scotland, where....

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