By Bridget Anderson
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership the Labour Party has consistently polled over 40 per cent for the past nine months since the general election, and held a narrow lead over the Tories.
According to the latest Electoral Calculus prediction Labour is on 41.1 per cent and the Conservatives are on 40.6 per cent – based on polling from 11 January to 23 January 2018. Due to the undemocratic and archaic character of Britain’s electoral system, despite trailing the Labour Party, Electoral Calculus predicts that the Conservatives would have the most seats in the House of Commons with 295 to 281 for the Labour Party in what would be another hung Parliament.
The right wing media alongside the Labour right wing criticise Corbyn for not achieving a greater polling lead given the chaos surrounding Theresa May’s Cabinet. The implication is that Labour would be in a much better position if only it had a Labour right or centre political leadership rather than being led by the left.
In reality it is a significant achievement that the Labour Party is consistently polling around 40 per cent, putting the Party neck and neck with the Tories. The pro-Tory propaganda from the media is equivalent to millions of pounds being spent every single day on campaigns that relentlessly attack Corbyn and Labour, to diminish the party’s support – yet with little tangible results in the last months nine months.
Labour of course does not have similar resources to counter this right wing assault. The only time that millions of pounds are spent campaigning in support of Labour is during the short campaign of a general election.
It is a sign of the continuing impact of Labour’s general election campaign, advanced in the ‘For the many, not the few’ manifesto, that Labour’s polling position is still around the 40 per cent vote share Labour secured in June 2017.
The Tory Party high command are perfectly aware how successful Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is and are thus intent on avoiding a general election. They, alongside the DUP which props them up, are determined to prevent what they regard as the disastrous and currently realistic prospect of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. There is, objectively, a high likelihood that Labour would again increase its support during the course of a general election campaign and win.
The idea that the Labour Party would be doing better under the leadership of the right wing pro austerity MPs who oppose Corbyn is ludicrous.
It is only necessary to compare Labour’s electoral and polling success to the turmoil and electoral oblivion confronting social democratic parties across Europe that have pro-austerity, right wing leaderships. A toxic combination of embracing austerity policies which lower living standards and alongside making concessions to racist and xenophobic narratives have left social democratic parties in Europe with ever decreasing support.
In the case of the Netherlands general election in March 2017 the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) secured only 5.7 per cent of the vote – down from 24.8 per cent in 2012. The French Socialist Party secured only 6.4 per cent of the vote in the first round of the April 2017 Presidential election – down from 28.6 per cent in the first round vote in the 2012 election.
In Germany, after five years of participating in a right wing ‘grand coalition’, propping up the conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) won their smallest share of the vote in the post 1945 era in the federal elections in September 2017 – with a 20.5 per cent of the vote.
The right wing leadership of the SDP are proposing that their party enters into another grand coalition with Merkel. This prospect has plunged the SDP’s support to new low of 15.5 per cent according to a recent opinion poll. The far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) have taken second place with 16 per cent and Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc is on 32 per cent. The Party Leader, Martin Schulz resigned last week – an indication of the growing crisis within the SDP.
The final decision as to whether the SDP should enter into government with the conservatives is to be decided by the 464,000 strong membership of the Party in an internal referendum taking place now. The result will be announced on 4 March.
An insurgent left opposition is growing within the ranks of the SDP in opposition to propping up the conservatives in another grand coalition.
The party’s youth wing, ‘Jusos’ (an abbreviation for Jungsozialisten – young socialists), is leading the fight for a ‘no grand coalition’ vote. Its leader Kevin Kühner, who is spearheading this ‘no’ campaign, recently cited Momentum and Corbyn as inspiration for the direction in which the German social democrats should go. He said: ‘What I would like to achieve is that the SDP returns as a strong party of people on the left which has options to build a majority a grand coalition, with other left-leaning parties.’
The British Labour Party has been saved from electoral oblivion and the turmoil currently experienced by social democratic parties in Europe precisely because of its left wing leadership. Corbyn’s opposition to austerity, racism and war has dramatically transformed Labour’s popularity amongst the electorate. Corbyn is pursuing an entirely different agenda to the Labour right wing. He is advocating left reforms to make people better off, and on other issues, such as opposing UK involvement in the US’ Middle East wars and rejecting the right’s attacks on immigration, he has also contributed to Labour’s rise in popularity.
A growing left in British politics is focused on making a success of Corbyn’s leadership of Labour – with organisations such as Momentum as well as others building support for an agenda that would benefit the majority of the population and secure victory for Labour.