Some elections are hard to call. Tony Blair was guaranteed a victory in 1997 against the exhausted Major government and Margaret Thatcher had little chance of losing in 1983 against a divided Labour Party. Other elections are much more difficult to call. I was astonished when John Major beat Neil Kinnock back in 1992 and I think both David Cameron and the Scottish Nazi Party were surprised by the results of the 2015 election. However predictable the result, the losers always pretend they are in with a chance; Ian Duncan-Smith, the most inept party leader of recent times, used to boast that he was going to spend “several years” as Prime Minister – even his own party didn’t believe him and threw him out before he could lead them to defeat.
I’m not sure that the Labour Party are really in this election to win. It’s clear that both the Corbynite left and the Blairite right of the party have both eyes on the civil war that will follow their inevitable defeat on June 8th. John McDonnell in particular appears to be obsessed with changing the rules to ensure that someone from his wing of the party will always be in any future leadership contest. The lesson of Corbyn’s two leadership victories seems to be that the membership of the Labour Party is significantly to the left of the parliamentary party. Whether this is going to help Labour win the elections of 2022, 2027 or, goodness knows, 2032 is anyone’s guess. But then predicting politics so far into the future is a mug’s game. Who would have predicted that the next Conservative Prime Minister after John Major would be Norman Lamont’s bag carrier?
The Labour Party does not look like an alternative government in this election. In 1979, the Conservatives had Margaret Thatcher, Francis Pym, Geoffrey Howe and Willie Whitelaw shadowing the four great offices of state; in 1997, Labour had Tony Blair, Robin Cook, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw. Whatever you think of these individuals, they were serious politicians who could be imagined taking over from the incumbents. Who does Labour offer in 2017? Most people, even Labour voters, cannot imagine Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. I agree with almost everything Corbyn says about economics but he is never going to be Prime Minister. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell seems more interested in internal party feuds and must surely have known what the right-wing press would do with the pictures of him appearing in front of banners of Stalin. Diane Abbott is ludicrously over promoted as Shadow Home Secretary and her car crash interviews and inability to add up have demonstrated her ineptitude. I’m surprised she didn’t say mathematics is racist and sexist. And Emily Thornberry as a candidate for Foreign Secretary is the punchline to a very bad joke.
If Corbyn’s problems with his chosen team weren’t already bad enough, Tony Blair, the most hated person in modern Britain, has decided to stick his oar into this election. (Actually I’m not sure Blair is the most hated person in the UK; Victoria Beckham probably beats him). Blair seems to believe he is the King Arthur of British politics and he gives the impression that he will return to save the Labour Party after the election and lead the UK back into the promised land (AKA, the EU). Anyone with half a brain could make Blair’s life hell on the hustings; all they would have to do would be to mention Iraq, David Kelly or his (deliberate?) underestimation of the numbers of Eastern Europeans who would come to work in the UK after 2004. Blair’s tetchiness would get the better of him and his Messiah-complex would be quickly undermined.
If Blair and his insane Europhilia weren’t enough to handicap Corbyn’s Labour, the incompetent and corrupt apparatchiks of Brussels are also winning votes for Theresa May. Most people have moved on from June 2016 and simply want to get on with the process of leaving the EU. Blair and EU fanatics like Gina Miller and Tim “gay sex is/isn’t a sin depending on who I’m talking to” Farron are a tiny and unrepresentative minority of the 16 million people who voted Remain. Every time some unelected EU President (how many are there for god’s sake? At least five by my count) demands £50billion as the price of leaving, a few more votes leak to the Conservatives. And doesn’t that £50billion sound like a suspiciously round number? Perhaps the UK should tell the EU to take their £50billion from the net contribution (£8.6billion in 2016) that has been paid in every year (except 1975) since joining.
I’m not happy about much of what I’ve written here. I would like Corbyn’s economics without the childish identity politics. I would like the European Union to be a force for the people not a neoliberal tool of the Establishment. Unfortunately, neither of those things is likely. I stick by my original prediction that Labour is heading for a big defeat in this election, an unnecessary defeat that could so easily be avoided.