THE BLOG

Jeremy Corbyn Is Wrong To Write Off A Progressive Alliance

20/04/2017 16:43 | Updated 21 April 2017
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Let's just get this out of the way: there is no way Labour is going to win the next election. Damn, that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Look, I don't like this anymore than you do. The best the party can hope for is to stem the bleeding and maybe wind up on life support with a cute doctor nursing us back to health. I don't say this lightly - I endorsed Jeremy Corbyn for leader in 2015 and I desperately wanted him to succeed - but the writing is on the wall. 8 June will be a day of ruin for Labour. Be prepared for your hangover on 9 June.

This is the hard truth that Labour activists and strategists, and indeed leadership, need to grapple with. We're not going to win this. Six weeks is not enough time to turn around a 20 + point deficit. I know this. You know this. I reckon Jeremy Corbyn knows this too.

So imagine my surprise when he issued a statement refusing to even consider an alliance with the Scottish National Party. "The SNP may talk left at Westminster, but in government in Scotland it acts rights," he said in a statement. "Only Labour or the Tories can win this election and voting Labour is the only way to remove Theresa May from office."

No Jeremy, only the Tories can win this election. The best you, and the country, can hope for is a cobbled-together coalition.

I know this sounds bonkers. After all, no less than Lynton Crosby, George Osborne, and even Ed Balls have suggested that Ed Miliband's refusal to rule out a coalition with the SNP cost him the 2015 election. And you know what? They're probably right.

But two years is a lifetime in politics. 2017 finds a very different country than the one that voted in 2015. This is down to two things: Corbyn and Brexit

Corbyn isn't popular enough to win a karaoke contest down the local, let alone a general election. Corbyn has had a net negative popularity rating since the middle of August 2016. It's trending in the right direction, but not fast enough - and certainly not once the Tories start slinging the mud they've undoubtedly been saving for an election. Theresa May's popularity rating is also a net negative, but in a YouGov poll published Sunday, 44% of voters surveyed still intend to cast their ballot for the Conservatives - indicating that while they don't like her, they really viscerally loathe him.

There are many reasons for Jeremy Corbyn's unpopularity, and not all of them are his fault. He has been pilloried in the press, caricatured as an aloof, terrorist-sympathising buffoon. I'm not here to litigate the hows and whys of Corbyn's approval ratings, though. The time for that has passed and we are now where we are. The people don't want Corbynism, but they do want progressivism.

You needn't look any further than a recent ComRes poll: 71% agree with Labour on raising the minimum wage, 62% agree on raising the top rate of income tax to 50p for those making over £150,000, and 53% support paying for free school meals for all state school pupils by means of a VAT on private school tuition. The public is hungry for progressive policies, yet only 25% plan on voting for Labour.

Labour is not going to win Scotland back. A Panelbase/Sunday Times poll from last month shows the SNP up by 19 points, 47% to 28% - for the Tories. Labour pulled in a measly 14% of expected voters. Kelvin MacKenzie has a better chance of surviving in Scotland than the Labour Party currently has.

Meanwhile, south of the border the Liberal Democrats look poised to make something of a comeback. Constituencies like Richmond Park, which flipped back to Lib Dem in a December by-election (you know, the one where Zach Goldsmith was trounced once and for all), and neighbouring Twickenham - where Vince Cable was defeated in 2015 and is set to stand again - are in play. So is the West Country, where they were totally wiped out two years ago. The Lib Dems are being buoyed by their staunch opposition to Brexit and insistence on a second referendum once the deal is done.

Jeremy Corbyn and much of the Labour leadership were lukewarm on remaining in the UK, at best, and the 48% of Brits who voted to remain know it. They see in the Lib Dems the last, best chance to stop or mitigate Brexit, and they're paying attention. Those 48% are energized after being so demonized for the past ten months, and they're a demographic waiting to be mined for votes.

Of course, this may all be an exercise in futility. As Nicola Sturgeon said today, "I'm not sure there are many people who think Labour are going to be in a position on their own or with anybody else, to form a government." She's probably right. If the forecasts are correct, there's no way Jeremy Corbyn could form a government even if every MP who isn't a Tory backed him - and there's every chance many of them, especially the Lib Dems, wouldn't.

Still, a progressive alliance with tactical voting in key constituencies is the single best hope of preventing a Tory government - which at this crucial moment in British history should be every progressive's patriotic concern. Far from ruling it out, Jeremy Corbyn should be figuring out how to make it work.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS