Labour have 3 key problems heading into this general election; and none of them are its leader. But there is a more important issue at stake: the prospect of ‘hard’ Brexit.
The Labour Party has three main difficulties confronting it, this general election:
1) Brexit put them in an impossible position. However they responded to the EU referendum, it would alienate many voters. This situation was borne-out when a number of loyal Shadow Cabinet Ministers had to step down over the Article 50 vote.
2) The coup/leadership-challenge of last year damaged the party badly in terms of wider public confidence.
3) Ukip’s dissipation has led to a significant number of voters boosting the Conservatives.
Contrary to the media narrative about Ukip’s electorate being former Labour-supporters, who became disaffected with Labour because it wasn’t sufficiently hostile towards migrants; the bulwark of Ukip’s vote-base were ex-conservatives.
A fourth point could be added to this list: namely, the way that the issue of Independence-Unionism has distorted the political landscape in Scotland; a former stronghold of Labour’s. Labour suffered heavy losses in the recent council elections – and predictably, it was cast as being Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. This demonstrates a particularly woeful misunderstanding – if not a willful one – of the political situation which currently applies in Scotland.
There is a simple question that could have been asked by any commentator venturing their tuppence-worth here: why did Labour lose so many seats to the Conservatives, rather than to the SNP? Or, for that matter, to Ukip – the supposed beneficiaries of disaffection among Labour voters; who were themselves wiped out in Scotland. Why did the much-vaunted ‘Lib Dem revival’ fail to materialise? Because it’s the same journalists and publications who have pushed these three narratives persistently during recent years, who suddenly decided that actually none of it applied. No, it was all Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. Presumably it was also his fault that Labour’s MPs were wiped out in Scotland during the General Election of 2015? He must also have been the cause of Scottish Labour losing its governing majority in 2007.
Either Labour have been in long-term continuous decline within Scotland, for over a decade; or their problems only materialised the moment Corbyn was elected to lead them – and began travelling back through time to wreak his havoc. It cannot be had both ways. It is fairly clear which reading is supported by evidence; and which one is not. Perhaps when people feel like being honest about any of this, they might begin to offer some constructive input into remedying it.
There is another issue which requires more immediate attention, however. Journalists have spent the past fortnight bemoaning an inability to ask questions of the Prime Minister; but they could question her nonetheless, by asking why we are having a General Election now, rather than in 2020. They could also ask why the Conservative Party’s election campaign is so idiosyncratic – why is it being advertised as ‘Theresa May’s team’? Why are the press events so tightly-controlled? Why do the public seminars exclude members of the general public?
The fulcrum of May’s campaign – which is being so circumspectly avoided via the choreographed electioneering – is that she intends to commit Britain to a position of ‘hard’ Brexit. Her administration lost two court cases in an attempt at preventing Article 50 being put before Parliament. When forced to do so by law, May again tried to ratify the most extreme version of Brexit – and failed once more; due to the amendments that Parliament secured. Sufficient evidence indicates that this is precisely what May intends to undertake – and it will require a strong Parliamentary majority to deliver it: not merely to overcome external opposition, but to override any internal rebellions. This course will not end well for Britain.
Brexit is not the only issue which matters in this General Election – but it will affect every area of public life and social policy; and thereby determine the future of our country for many years to come. It is important for honesty, now, about where we are headed, and why.