That Happened. GE17.

Just a few thoughts from last nights stunning results

Surprise and bewilderment but also slightly pleased. Surprised because this was supposed to be a complete wipe out for the Conservatives as they swept up Labour seats left, right and centre… as the polls predicted in the beginning. Guess this is what happens when you refuse televised debates, refuse to seriously interact with the general public and refuse to do anything but staged photos and events. Just as I said when the campaigning began, it wasn’t Jeremys’ to win but Theresas’ to lose. And she bloody well lost it alright.

I am however slightly pleased because the Scottish National Party took a bit of a thrashing. Sure they still have the most seats in Scotland but hopefully, now they don’t command almost every MP in the country, someone will grow some balls and tell them to bog off with independence referendum number two. Although I do have to say it really is a bewilderment as to how Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson managed to lose their seats, to the Conservatives of all people!

Are UKIP dead? the simple answer is yes they bloody well are. I mean I do feel a bit sad about this but what can you do? It was to be expected that after achieving that which was their main goal, for 20 years, they’d simply lose clout.

Although I do have to say congratulations are in order for Jeremy though! He deified the odds stacked against him to rob the Conservatives of what was supposed to be their overwhelming majority. Looks like going around the country giving speeches and meeting the general public seem to yield positive results, who’d have thought? funny that.

What a strange timeline.

The BBC Leadership Debate: How the Leaders Fared.

A few words on each of the leaders or representatives of the two major, and 5 smaller political parties from Wednesdays live election TV debate

Yesterday on the 31st of May the BBC held an election debate featuring either the leaders or leading figures of the two major political parties, and some smaller ones. The leaders of UKIP, the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, Plaid Cymru attended the debate for their parties while for the Conservatives it was Amber Rudd (Home Secretary), for the Greens it was Caroline Lucas (who shares leadership) and for the Scottish National Party Angus Robertson (deputy leader) took the place of Nicola Sturgeon. Taking place at 19:30 the debate lasted an hour and a half, ending at 21:00 sharp.

Until the morning of the debate it was unsure whether Jeremy or Theresa would actually turn up as the position of both leaders had been uncertain. This was emphasized by the face that both the Conservatives and the Labour Party failed to send anyone to attend the ITV leaders debate a week before. Surprisingly after much confusion Jeremy revealed on the morning that he would indeed take part in the election debate, throwing down the gauntlet to Theresa to attend.

This was quite the clever tactic on Jeremys’ behalf, waiting until the final moments to announce his attendance meant that it put Theresa on the spot, putting the pressure on her to attend and giving the impression of cowardice if she failed to do so. For if it was known that Jeremy was to attend in advance, the pressure on Theresa would have been placed over a number of weeks, petering out over time. Whereas what happened was a large amount of pressure was piled on the embattled Prime Minister within a short amount of time to put forward the case for a Conservative government and defend her precious records in government.

Throughout the hour and a half the debate took place, there were a few questions asked by the audience which covered a wide range of topics. From the decline in living standards, President Trumps announcement to leave the Paris Climate agreement, Brexit, immigration and the parties costings of their manifesto. Quite a variety of questions from which the panelists responded and debated aptly. With each came to the forefront the different strengths and weaknesses of each party, and most preeminently their leaders. This is how I thought each of the leaders and representatives did during the debate.

The Conservatives took a thrashing from all sides tonight, attacked for Mays’ lack of resolve to attend the debate herself, instead sending Amber in her place. She was there to defend their record in government and come under fire due to austerity and a disastrous foreign policy which has created space for one of the most hostile groups to grow and seize power. This atmosphere created a tough environment for Amber, but she managed to shrug off the hostility to focus on her main opponent, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Acting as the vanguard of the Conservative machine of spin and soundbites, she relentlessly scorned Jeremy  for “Labours magic money tree” and claimed his policies were nothing more than fantasies. After these attacks she would be put onto the defensive by the rest of the leaders as they savaged the governments record, she did what she could to stand her ground, but she took some flak along the way which she was unable to successfully shake off. This comes from the fact that some of her arguments were quite underwhelming, so much so that the audience seemed to do nothing but laugh, especially when Amber asked the British people to trust their record in government in response to the question of the lack of costings in their manifesto.

For Jeremy Corbyn the main crux of his argument throughout the debate was to reinforce the message of his electoral campaign, which says that there is an alternative, it doesn’t have to be like this and that things can get better. To emphasize this point he rigorously attacked the austerity agenda which the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats as he pointed out, supported in government, the effects of those policies and the damage they’ve caused. Subsequently in between these relentless assaults he would also launch attacks on Theresa for refusing to turn up to the debate, saying at one point that the first point of good leadership was to “turn up”. In between these assaults upon the Conservatives he put forward a vision of a fairer Britain, through progressive taxation policies, greater investment in public services and in the welfare state. Providing a stable platform from which to create the basis of a Labour government under his leadership.

Similar to the rest of the progressive parties Leanne devoted quite a lot of her time to attacking austerity. Throughout the debate she consistently linked her arguments back to Wales, which while to the rest of us seemed irrelevant, it was important to hammer home in the Welsh constituencies. She would do this through attacking austerity, the Conservative economy policy and the immigration rhetoric then link it back to Wales where in the Welsh Assembly the party would introduce measures to attack social injustices and lessen the affects of austerity, such as the banning of zero hours contracts, which in turn the Labour Party would block them time and time again. Thus trying to prove to the Welsh people that the Labour Party was not their friend, but their enemy acting against their interests and effectively giving the Conservatives a free pass in enforcing the agenda the leadership was so against.

Unlike her predecessor Natalie Bennett, Caroline Lucas was an inspired intellectual whose carefully articulated vocabulary and debating style was a welcome surprise. Like many who fight from the progressive corner, she focused greatly on the effects of austerity and how the Greens would reverse the cuts, focusing on a better society rather than benefiting the privileged few. One of the key focuses for Lucas was scrapping of nuclear weapons, reinvesting the money we would spend on Trident into programmes such as promoting green energy, the NHS and other social programmes. One government policy which she wholeheartedly disagreed with was the continuation of selling weapons to countries such as Saudi Arabia, who is fueling wars and terrorism across the middle east, such as the Yemeni Civil War in which the Saudis have interfered.

Tim Farrons precarious centre ground positioning and the shameful leadership of his predecessor has left people wondering what exactly the Liberal Democrats stand for. Unable to provide what exactly a Liberal Democrat platform would be he certainly pulled above his weight this debate. Focusing on the issues which be believed were true to his heart and what people deeply cared about this election he attacked the Conservatives and Labour without end, specifying some of the key policies which he has been advocating throughout the election campaign. Issues such as social care, free school meals for kids, the NHS and the refugee crisis. One of his most important comments, as expected, were to come on the Brexit negotiations, focusing exclusively on Jeremy and the Labour Party for triggering article 50  as well as refusing to vote on an amendment which guaranteed EU workers rights in Britain.

The hardest person on the stage to get a feel for was the SNPs Angus Robertson. Unlike the others taking part in the debate here was a man who was either incredibly sincere, understanding and straightforward or none other than a male Theresa May who’s robotic and scripted responses were auto tuned to perfection. The only difference being that he was on the opposing side of the arguments to May. In line with other progressives he attacked the cruel and callous Conservative cuts to the public sector under austerity, denounced the state of the Brexit negotiation deals and promoting the positive of immigration. Again similar to Leanne he would bring the argument back to Scotland, hammering home the ideals of the SNP, showing the Scottish people why they should continue to vote for the party.

Unfortunately for Nuttall he was forced to fill a considerable gap left by his predecessor Nigel Farage (technically Diane James). Most likely he will never be able to fill the void of teflon Nigel, whose charisma and determinism helped build up UKIP to a potentially threatening anti-Establishment force as the debate, as well as the ITV debate, proved. Focusing on immigration and a right wing taxation policy it was incredibly difficult for Paul to garner any sympathies, and when challenged by Jeremy on corporation tax his argument simply faltered. The only positive reception that Paul received on any UKIP policy was on the subject of Jihadis returning from combat in Syria/Iraq.  Other than this is was a poor showing, potentially a symbolic milestone of things to come for the party. Attacking the size of the foreign aid budget he tried his best to put a positive spin on using the money to fund the NHS and other public services, but was hounded down by the progressive parties for attacking the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world.

Some leaders fared quite well in this debate and either defied expectations or stood their ground in the face of stern hostility. Such as Amber Rudd who faced an incredibly hostile environment but managed to hold her precarious position. Even Tim Farron, having to return from oblivion thanks to his predecessor, managed to give a good debate performance, showing some of the causes the Liberal Democrats care about such as social care, the NHS and unsurprisingly his stance on the Brexit negotiations. Others meanwhile simply faltered and proved to be worse than expected. Specifically Nuttall, who while he had a rough time, failed to really get the message across of what UKIP really stands for, other than to mention the problems created by immigration and making some good points on issues around security. It’s not always easy to garner who won the debate, but with ease you can always determine who lost.

Shock Conservative Victory and Labour Troubles

The morning of friday the 23rd was that of any other, I rose early to use the shower before congestion kicked in, indulged in my morning bowl of beautiful chocolate flavoured wheat cereal and booted up the old PC. Loading up my facebook newsfeed it could have just been another friday morning except this followed two important by-elections for MP’s. Above their usual importance of seeing how well the government and opposition is fairing with the electorate, these followed one of the most momentous decisions made by the British public for over 40 years in the Brexit vote as well as bring the first electoral benchmark in opposition held constituencies for Theresa May in her tenure as Prime Minister.

The results were in, Labour had held onto Stoke-on-Trent Central while the Conservatives managed to steal a shock victory in Copeland. Copeland was by no means a safe Labour seat however the party has controlled it since the 1930’s which only deepened the sense of loss in defeat. On the other hand Stoke was pretty a safe Labour seat so their success in defending it requires less recognition.

For most of the campaigning the media focused firmly on Stoke as that’s where UKIP’s Paul Nuttall was standing in his first electoral attempt since assuming the leadership. A baptism by fire certainly, it would prove whether UKIP would remain as a domestic force or would be destroyed in defeat as their party slackens its hold on the minds of the electorate. After all for over 20 years since its inception their main focus has always being on getting Britain out the European Union and now they’ve achieved that would the party still serve a purpose? Would their anti-establishment stance allow them to sustain a foothold? I will make another post for this contentious issue. For now I will focus on Labour.

No where near as much media focus was on Copeland.  This only helped to magnify the surprise emphasized by the fact the Conservatives were never really portrayed as the main enemy for Labour in these elections, always UKIP and their working class appeal. So with the Conservative victory it does raise some concerns about Labour, its current internal conflict and its potentially worrying outlook for the future. Though the troubles have been speculated for some time, Copeland has brought them to the forefront.

Firstly we will examine the numbers. There were around 8,000 less people who turned out to vote as opposed to the 39,000 at the General Election 2015. This shows itself in the downturn in the Labour vote, down 5,000 as a result, for 11,600 in total. The Conservative vote however only decreased around 500 votes for a total of  13,700. While the traditionally lower turnouts for by-elections could be to blame, it could be interpreted as a symptom of something deeper with the Labour Party.

A symptom which manifests itself in the age old struggle of left, right and center. The change from embedding themselves in the centre left under Ed-Miliband to the more left wing policy platform of Corbyn has had consequences, which have shown themselves today and Labour have paid the price. Falling short in appealing to the broad masses through the prism of the left the opposing Conservatives, who while they’ve moved further to the right still keep a foot in the centre, allowed them selves to appeal to a broader base. Thus achieving a vital victory . If Labour continuously fails to mobilize the masses under socialist policies or manages to regain centrist voters then dark times are ahead. Any replication of these results in marginal seats up and down the country would lead an onslaught at the ballot box, culminating in a brutal bloodbath of Labour MP’s.

Another point, one which cannot be dismissed, glossed over or swept under the rug is the complete collapse of unity with the Party. Right now Labour is in a horrendously chaotic state to which it seems there is no end in sight. Ever since Corbyns election as leader there has developed the political equivalent of trench warfare. On one side are Corbyn and his supporters, emboldened by his successful bid for leader, gaining new strength as well as renewed faith that the left can not only succeed but is required to fight against the ruthless Conservative government. On the other hand are the Blairites who started this, representing the right wing of the party they see the left as unelectable, untamed and out of date; harking back to the 1980’s when Labour failed to combat their arch nemesis Margaret Thatcher, assuming that if they go back they will be crushed even more. Unabated continuously for almost two years they are deeply entrenched in their ideals, both sides show no sign of budging. Until they reconcile their differences the country will suffer. Failing to provide a real substantial opposition to the Conservative government, allowing them to implement more right wing policies then they would otherwise. Those who are not embedded in the party see the ruckus on the Labour benches as a embarrassment, all the while the Tories seem to be a bit more united(as much as they can be since their backbenches are notorious for being rebellious) which converts itself to electability.

While I may like Corbyn as a breath of fresh air from the usual robot it does feel he suffers from a severe lack of passion and enthusiasm. Which translates itself into a rather loose grip on the party further fueling the insurrection. To rectify the leadership problems he faces are momentous, rather than acting as merely a moderator for the party he needs to clamp his fist and bang it on the table. Whipping the revolting members into line and engaging in an aggressive series of offensives on the Conservative government and its brutal attacks on the state. Failing to do this will only fuel Labours slide into descent into limbo, a great shame for a once proud working class movement. The policies aren’t the problem, nether is the party, the farcical leadership and MPs are.

Copeland and Stoke might not have been the first by-elections during Corbyns tenure as leader but they certainly wont be the last, and if these are a sign of what is to come then dark tidings lie ahead. After all winning in safeseats is one thing, but losing in a previously Labour held marginal seat? disastrous.