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Corbyn’s Labour and the general election: is it to be Heaven or Hell?

Written by Steven Fielding.

When Theresa May called a snap election she did so for two reasons. The early summer is her last chance to hold a contest before the start of Brexit negotiations. And the Conservatives’ commanding lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party meant May was confident she could win a big Commons majority that would see her through the tricky Brexit process and beyond.

Labour could do nothing about the timing of Brexit negotiations but has only itself to blame for the weakened state in which it currently finds itself.  The 2015 election was devastating for Labour: the polls had incorrectly predicted a hung Parliament. But the silver lining was that David Cameron’s unexpected Conservative government had a majority of just 12 seats and was about to hold a referendum on the EU about which it was seriously divided. If Labour members had elected a more adept leader to replace Ed Miliband, one with greater credibility in key voters’ eyes, the party had some hope of rebuilding itself during the new Parliament. For while Miliband’s leadership was flawed, his talk of the ‘squeezed middle’ and ‘One Nation’ resonated with the public. Continue reading Corbyn’s Labour and the general election: is it to be Heaven or Hell?

Theresa May and the art of political forgetting: a special way to use and abuse history

Written by Oliver Daddow.

The only thing more overtly political than the production of history is the instrumental and often cynical use and abuse of history by politicians. They are forever legitimising their actions by co-opting history to their side.

Depending on requirement, politicians sometimes construct their actions as moving with the tides of history. At other times, they set out to drive a wedge between “then” and “now”. Creating a rupture with the past opens new narrative spaces which elites can fill with fresh information more in line with their current interests. Continue reading Theresa May and the art of political forgetting: a special way to use and abuse history

The truth is, voters crave a strong and stable leader

Written by Steven Fielding.

As he made his journey from conventional politician to radical hero, Tony Benn became increasingly critical of how the Labour party did politics. Benn’s diary records Harold Wilson, who had just won a landslide victory in 1966, claiming that the public wanted him to be their “doctor who looked after the difficulties so that it could go on playing tennis”.

Benn saw this attitude as incompatible with a government that wanted to transform society. By the early 1980s he looked to another kind of leadership. He often cited the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, to whom is attributed the view that the best leader operates unnoticed and that when their work is done the people believe they did it by themselves. Continue reading The truth is, voters crave a strong and stable leader

A Stooshie or a Stramash? Will the Scottish Conservatives stage a revival on 8 June?

Written by Mark Stuart.

First, a couple of translations for non Scots. A ‘stooshie’ is a minor commotion whereas a ‘stramash’ is an uproar or a tumult. The great unknown of the UK General Election fought North of the Border is will we see a minor change in seats (a ‘stooshie’), or will the Scottish Conservatives be able to create a ‘stramash’ by making major gains at the expense of the Scottish National Party (SNP)? Continue reading A Stooshie or a Stramash? Will the Scottish Conservatives stage a revival on 8 June?

SNP victory in Scottish council elections starts to crack when you look closely

Written by John Curtice.

At first glance the SNP scored another remarkable success in the Scottish local elections on May 4. The party won 431 seats, 155 more than their nearest rivals, the Conservatives. Meanwhile, Labour, who once dominated local government in Scotland, were even further behind.

Equally, the official tally of the parties’ share of the first preference vote across Scotland as a whole, which has just been published, confirms that the party was well ahead of the rest of the pack. The SNP won 32.3% of the vote, while the Conservatives secured 25.2% and Labour 20.2%. Both the Liberal Democrats (6.8%) and the Greens (4.1%) were even further behind. Continue reading SNP victory in Scottish council elections starts to crack when you look closely

Delusions and meddling: 30 years of Tory Euroscepticism are coming to the fore

Written by Oliver Daddow.

Playing to domestic galleries has always been the default setting for UK politicians when it comes to European policy. In this process, a largely EU-hostile UK press market has played a significant role in both feeding political negativity about the EU and having it reflected back in political discourse. Historically, this has not gone down well with the UK’s European partners. Even notionally pro-European governments have struggled to break the mould. The content of the Brexit negotiations, combined with a febrile election atmosphere, was never going to be conducive to cool, studied diplomacy. Continue reading Delusions and meddling: 30 years of Tory Euroscepticism are coming to the fore

From wannabe to president: how Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen to win the French election

Written by Paul Smith.

After a tense and often antagonistic election campaign, Emmanuel Macron is to become the next president of France. The result is, of course, in all sorts of ways extraordinary. In a little over a year, the 39-year-old former finance minister has gone from being a wannabe to the future tenant of the Elysée Palace. He struck out alone to form his own political movement and while much of the froth surrounding the election has focused on his opponent, the enormity of his achievement needs to be acknowledged and cannot be underestimated.

Even before the first round, all the polls had Macron pegged to win the second round 60/40. But then, between the rounds, Le Pen seemed to be nibbling away at Macron’s lead – not by much, but by enough to cause some butterflies among her opponents. Macron appeared lacklustre at a crucial time. Fears of a low turnout and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s refusal to formally endorse Macron also threw a number of unknowns into the mix. Continue reading From wannabe to president: how Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen to win the French election

What’s Left of the Left?

Written by Simon Toubeau. 

The paradox of the contemporary European left is that while many of the burning issues defining political debates- growing economic inequality, employment precariousness, the sustainability of health spending or pension entitlements- are traditional left-wing concerns, Social Democratic parties seem incapable of credibly addressing them either in office or in opposition.

So, what’s left of the left? The origins of the paradox stems from the mis-match in the architecture of authority between democracy and capitalism, rendering the notion of democratic capitalism ever more hollow. This tension has compounded broader demographic and economic transformations to divide the electoral base of the left. In France, the UK, the USA and elsewhere- there is a split between those in favour of regulated openness and those in favour of nationalist closure. Continue reading What’s Left of the Left?

New Labour 20 years on: assessing the legacy of the Tony Blair years

Written by Steven Fielding.

On the 20th anniversary of one of Labour’s greatest victories, party members are, to say the least, conflicted about the governments made possible by the election held on May 1 1997. The virtues of Labour’s longest uninterrupted period in office, based on an unprecedented three back-to-back victories (two of which produced its biggest ever House of Commons majorities) are not exactly being shouted from the rooftops.

For Jeremy Corbyn, 1997 is the stuff of nightmares: and those members who re-elected him leader in 2016 clearly agree. To them, the election is a morality tale, a political version of the Faustian legend. It represents the moment Tony Blair sold Labour’s socialist soul for the sake of a few votes. “Blairite”, to them, is a term of abuse, and Corbyn the ultimate anti-Blairite – a figure who remained true to his principles during the dark days of New Labour. Continue reading New Labour 20 years on: assessing the legacy of the Tony Blair years