Notes from the front – of 22/6/2016

Tooting result confirms Labour’s advance under Corbyn

Since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour Leader the electoral tests that have taken place have established a clear pattern of rising support for Labour in England. The 5 May local elections and three parliamentary by-elections have all recorded significant Labour advances, including most recently in Tooting on 16 June.

In the Tooting by-election Labour’s candidate Rosena Allin-Khan secured 55.9 per cent of the vote, an 8.7 per cent increase on the 2015 result in the same seat. Tory support fell by 5.8 per cent (to 36.1 per cent), Lib Dem support fell by 1.4 per cent (to 2.6 per cent), Green support fell by 1.5 per cent (to 2.6 per cent) and UKIP support fell by 1.3 per cent (to 1.6 per cent).

Labour’s vote share in the other two English by-elections under Corbyn rose by 5.9 per cent (to 62.4 per cent) in Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough on 5 May and rose by 7.3 per cent (to 62.1 per cent) in Oldham West and Royton on 3 December 2015.

As previously noted, Labour’s overall support (National Equivalent Vote) at the 5 May English local elections rose by 3 per cent (to 33 per cent).

So far under Corbyn the pattern is of a consistent rise of Labour support in England.

This however is not the case in the other nations of Britain. In Scotland this May Labour even fell below its 24 per cent 2015 vote share to 21 per cent, behind the Tories in votes and seats in the Scottish Parliament.

In Wales likewise Labour’s vote share fell below its 37 per cent 2015 level to 33 per cent at this year’s Assembly election. Plus in the Ogmore by-election on 5 May, Labour won, but its vote declined by 0.3 per cent (to 52.6 per cent).

These continuing reversals are due to the positioning of Scottish and Welsh Labour, which both have local leaderships at odds with Corbyn’s anti-austerity framework. That framework requires an explicit struggle against the Tories’ public sector cuts. These cuts are supported by the Lib Dems.

Both the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru take a public stance of opposing austerity. Both also have left-oriented bases, but support pro-capitalist economic policies. In both nations Labour should have a hegemonic approach and be attempting to lead a united fight against the Tories slashing public services. Instead, Scottish Labour’s framework saw it join with the Tories in the Independence referendum and in Wales Labour has now formed a coalition with the Lib Dems.

Instead of exerting pressure on the nationalist parties from the left, Scottish and Welsh Labour, to different degrees, attack these opponents from the right, with electoral consequences that are plain to see.

With clear policies to improve living standards Corbyn’s Labour can win the next general election. This would be significantly assisted if the Scotland and Wales parties shifted to a similar agenda.