A rapid succession of electoral events in the UK has led to an early and polarizing General Election; whilst May risks all for a ‘hard-Brexit’ mandate, Labour promise to “rip up the tory-Brexit white paper”. North of The Wall1 the SNP-Government has had INDY22 approved by the Scottish Parliament in order to pursue its own relationship with Europe, once the terms of Brexit become clear.
May’s gamble seems to be either an attempt to prevent a collapse of her majority due to fraud convictions or a belief in the utter weakness of her main opponent, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. However, now that the consistent media reports of Labour Party infighting has been replaced with Labour Party policies, polls have swung dramatically.
Both the UK’s participation in the post-war Franco-German driven Union known as ‘the EU’ and the 300-year-old Union of England and Scotland are jeopardized by a Tory Majority, even as Irish Unification is back on the agenda and the future of the Labour Party itself very much up in the air.
The Tories can still presumably count on the complicity of the Lib Dem Party (as in 2015) as well as an exodus of potentially one hundred Blairite MPs from the Labour Party in their efforts to form a new government, although given the terrible campaign May has ran and the plunge in her favorability it now looks like she will be replaced should she not increase her majority.
UK Electoral Events 2014-17:
- Summer 2014: Scottish Independence Referendum (45% Yes v 55% No).
- Summer 2015: General Election (Tories secure small Majority).
- Autumn 2015: Labour Leadership Contest (Corbyn wins with historic 59%).
- May 2016: Election Combo: Local, Mayoral, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly (Labour win key mayoralties and do well in local elections, but are beaten to second place by the Tories in the Scottish Parliament).
- June 2016: Brexit (52% Leave v 48% Remain UK-wide but N. lreland and Scotland back Remain convincingly).
- Autumn 2016: Another Labour Leadership contest (Corbyn wins with 62% and another huge boost to membership, as well as finance).
- May 5th 2017: Local and Mayoral Elections England, and Local in Wales, Scotland (In Scotland the SNP gain Glasgow and several other cities whilst the Tories beat Labour to second place; in Wales Labour remain the dominant force; in England the Tories win at the expense of UKIP and Labour).
- June 8th 2017: UK General Election.
In September of 2014 the Scottish Independence Referendum was held: INDY lost but gained a respectable 45%, and immediately provoked a surge in membership applications to the SNP, as well as the Scottish Greens (both pro-INDY), which made the SNP comfortably the third biggest party in the UK, despite contesting constituencies making up less than 10% of the population.
During the referendum campaign, Labour had visibly shared a platform with the Tories for a solid 18 months; whilst at the UK level the Lib. Dems. had been partners to the Tories oppressive austerity for 5 years. The Tories won the 2015 General Election through a collapse in Lib. Dem. support (helped by well-targeted fraudulent spending) against a Labour Party running on a platform of ‘austerity-lite’. North of The Wall, The SNP won historic 56/59 Scottish Westminster seats.
Milliband promptly resigned, triggering a Labour leadership contest which Jeremy Corbyn won resoundingly, amidst a surge in Labour Party membership. Meanwhile the SNP took up the privileged Westminster offices formerly occupied by the Lib. Dems.
Then, on May 5th 2016, there was a combination of various elections including local and mayoral, in which Labour performed well across the board (South of The Wall). This denied Corbyn’s opponents within the Labour Party a pretext for a leadership challenge, so they waited.
Three weeks later, the infamous Brexit referendum was held; despite lack of clear rationale the loss of the Remain vote was blamed on Corbyn and the abortive ‘chicken coup’ was launched. Corbyn easily defeated his leadership challengers and swelled the ranks and coffers of the Labour Party in the process. (He then brought new blood to the front benches, and promoted those already there that backed him throughout.)
In the recent local elections of May 2017, Labour lost less council seats than the conservatives and won mayoral elections in the only major urban areas contested (Liverpool and Manchester) and thus it was far from the rout the media predicted like always). Furthermore, most Tory gains were to a UKIP wipeout and the lib. dem. comeback failed to materialize, making a mockery of their absurd claim that they were the “only ones who could prevent a tory Brexit”.
If there is one thing the Conservatives do well its cling to power, and forgoing three years at the helm reeks of desperation, especially when you consider the boundary review will give them a 20-MP boost after 2018. However, since taking power, in the aftermath of the Brexit Referendum, May has been sinking deeper and deeper in a constitution crisis; caught as she is between negotiations with the EU27 and the Brexit implications for both Scottish and Irish membership of the UK.
If May’s rationale was first and foremost to win a ‘fraud-proof majority’ the recent dropping of said allegations leaves this whole election looking a little unnecessary. In their absence, it seems that this election is an attempt to undo Corbyn before he manages to secure his position and reform the Labour Party, as well as somehow prevent INDY2 happening hard on the heels of an unpopular Brexit.
Corbyn: Enemy No. 1
A bloody nose for the Labour Party is sure to provoke a challenge to Corbyn’s leadership but it’s an open question whether this would prove effective; Corbyn has emerged unscathed or stronger from every electoral challenge faced so far. But, by calling a snap election May has denied Corbyn and the Labour Party the time needed to deselect the ‘Blairite-scum’, meaning Corbyn fights this general election without the backing of many of his own MPs (whether explicit or otherwise), including his Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, and the leader of the Scottish Branch, Kezia Dugdale.
Furthermore, many reforms currently in the pipeline for the Labour Party have not yet been implemented, most importantly the one to allow far-left candidates on ballots for future leadership contests by lowering the nomination bar. Once this is changed, McDonnell or any other of his Shadow Cabinet could replace Corbyn should ‘anything happen to him’. By striking now, the threat Corbyn poses to the establishment may be eliminated, through bringing the Labour Party to heel once more. This seems increasingly unlikely however.
Labour’s share in the general election is sure to be higher the recent (May 2017) council elections considering the massive registration of voters, especially younger voters, which has taken place. His new policies are popular, his reception around the country arousing and Labour closed up to 10% points in the polls after a week of campaigning for the upcoming General Election, and have now closed it to 5-6% points, down from 21% when the election was called. Current Polls and predictions are beginning to show a reduced Tory majority and even a hung parliament, something which should force the Queen to accept Corbyn as the next PM, due to passive support of the SNP being a given.
However, it is unfortunately conceivable that Blairite MPs would leave the Party en mass as described below in order to prevent this happening. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that the Lib. Dems. will act in any way that would help Corbyn become PM.
Scottish Independence: Enemy No. 2
Sturgeon and the INDY2 cause already have a triple mandate for INDY2, although you’re not likely to hear that in the MSM. (Firstly because the SNP won 56/59 Westminster seats in 2015 with the explicit intention of holding a second referendum “if there was a significant material change in circumstances”, which there has now been, secondly because Holyrood’s two pro-INDY parties together represent on outright majority of ballots cast in the Holyrood Elections of May 2016 and thirdly because an outright majority of MSPs are from the two pro-INDY2 parties which is of course why Nicola Sturgeon sought and received permission from the Scottish Parliament to hold INDY2.)
Nevertheless, eating into the SNP’s utter dominance of the Scotland’s Westminster seats is likely due primarily to Corbyn. If the SNP’s percentage share of vote or number of MPs falls, it will be used to attack the mandate for INDY2 (albeit disingenuously).
Post-election Establishment ‘ploys’: the Blairite Rats & the Yellow Tories.
Tories, as the establishment party, have two important post-election ‘ploys’ at their disposal, whether they win, lose or draw:
- An exodus of ‘Blairite rats’ from a Corbyn-lead Labour at a moment designed to inflict maximum damage on Corbyn and make the Tories seem relatively ‘strong and stable’.
- The complicity of the Lib. Dems. who will ostensibly form a coalition with the Tories in order to ‘restrain’ them, but will in practice be shoring up the establishment party and making them look relatively ‘strong and stable’.
Ploy A would mean that the current battle for control of the Labour Party has been won by the membership; that reforms will be carried out to improve internal democracy of the party, and that the MPs remaining will be largely loyal to Corbyn and the members. It is therefore expected that the establishment will not trigger this exodus lightly, preferring instead to hold it in reserve.
Ploy B is probable (whether it be the Lib. Dems. or a new centrist party) should May fail: we have seen it in the recent past, paltry concessions enabling Tory rule. A likely ‘paltry concession’ is an ‘A50 referendum’ which has two obvious (establishment) advantages 1) potentially enabling the Tories to weasel out of ‘no deal’ Brexit or shirk responsibility for its consequences and 2) complicate the holding of INDY2 in Scotland (which is effectively a UK-Brexit v EU-Scotland referendum).
A combination of these ploys would involve the Blairite Rats swelling the ranks of the Lib Dems (or/and another party) who will then make a show of ‘negotiating’ to ‘retrain’ a hard-tory Brexit, and put together a ‘unity government’ which will pledge to hold a UK referendum on the outcome of the A50 negotiations. This scenario would have the added bonus (for the establishment) that the SNP are kicked out of their privileged third-party offices in Westminster.
Scenarios: 2020 2017.
Now that the Scottish INDY2 referendum will not take place until after the next general election, and bearing in mind that Corbyn is a genuine threat to the establishment and thus ploys described above are possible, we have various scenarios to contemplate.
- Tory ‘Fraud-proof majority’= Hard Tory Brexit + Scottish INY2
- Tories Biggest Party: Tory-lib ‘unity coalition’= A50 Referendum.
- Labour Biggest Party: Blairite Rats leave Labour for Lib. Dems.4 and then form a ‘Tory-Lib. Unity Coalition’= A50 Referendum.
- Corbyn Victory= ‘Lite & Fluffy Brexit’ + Scottish Devo-Max + full-spectrum sabotage from all establishment factions.
Notice the absence of anything resembling a ‘strong and stable’ government in the above anticipated scenarios. It therefore seems probable that the next government will not last its full term, for one reason or another.
I: A fraud-proof Majority for May, would mean ‘hard-tory Brexit’, with another 5 years of austerity at least, despite it having added to UK debt so far. This would play into the hands of the INDY movement in Scotland, and almost certainly precipitate a final dissolution of the UK. (N. Ireland would also be likely to hold a referendum of its own in this scenario.)
II: Tory – Lib. Dem. ‘Unity Coalition’
The Lib. Dems. shoring up the Tories once again, being complicit in both austerity at home and an unethical foreign policy, whilst demanding paltry concessions is highly likely should May fail to increase her majority. A possible goal of such a coalition is the holding of an ‘A50 referendum’ which would complicate INDY2 and conceivably give the Tories room to wiggle out of a Brexit ‘no deal’ situation. (What makes this scenario less and less likely, however, is the plummet in the favorability of May personally due to the appalling campaign she has ran; it now looks like she will have to resign in such a scenario, meaning the Tories would have to hold a leadership contest sharpish.)
III: Tory – Lib. Dem. ‘Unity Coalition’+ Blairite Rats
As II above, but with an even stronger polarization of English politics as Labour throw-off the millstone of entrenched Blairism and truly become (part of) an anti-establishment movement behind Corbyn, organizing demonstrations that challenge Tory rule whilst raising the battered shield in key Labour controlled urban areas such as London, Manchester, and Liverpool. (Again, a Conservative leadership contest would complicate this scenario.)
IV: PM Corbyn= ‘Lite and Fluffy Brexit’ + Devo. Max
How the “Remain and Reform” agenda could meet with the (non-binding) Brexit plebiscite and the legalities of A50 clause activation is an open question. What is certain is Corbyn as PM turns the Brexit game on its head: his objectives are diametrically opposed to May’s. Unlike any Tory Prime Minister, Corbyn is under little pressure (from his own MPs at least) to severely limit immigration and therefore has a much freer hand in negotiating continued membership of the common market. Whilst May was a wrecker for the EU, Corbyn is an agitator; he is likely to seek allies amongst the left across Europe and challenge the lack of democracy at all levels as well as the subservience to US, and corporate, interests.
A diversity of possibilities are imaginable from EU27 v Corbyn negotiations, but the point being the things Corbyn would want to opt out of, if possible, are things like forced privatization of services, imperialist interference in our ‘near abroad’ (e.g. Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Israel/Palestine) and the bloated and harmful agricultural subsidies.
With several ongoing crises and the recent nose-dive in German – US relations, you’d think the EU27 would be open to salvaging what they can of UK-EU relations by cutting Corbyn a deal on market access. This is especially so if the Scottish Independence can be postponed (which is a potential nightmare for EU countries with strong secessionist movements like Spain) and Corbyn as PM could foreclose INDY2, simply because what the SNP and the independence movement are trying to achieve doesn’t significantly differ from Corbyn’s Labour whether you look at domestic policies (Keynesian investment in place of austerity), foreign policies (nuclear disarmament and no more illegal wars), further devolution for Scotland (Tories and big business having everything to lose, unlike Corbyn’s Labour) or even Brexit (which both would like to see watered down quite drastically, whilst remaining committed to workers’ rights, environmental commitments, ECJ, etc.).
Two steadily strengthening fronts of resistance against the British establishment in general and May’s Premiership specifically are apparent:
- Corbyn and a Membership-lead Labour Party.
- The SNP, and the Scottish Independence Movement behind it.
The nature of the snap election prevented the Labour Party from deselecting any anti-Corbyn MPs, however if May hoped to wrong-foot Corbyn on matters of policy she must be seriously disappointed.
If May thinks she can have her hard-Brexit cake and eat INDY2 she is mistaken; it seems, ironically, that the only thing capable of stopping INDY2 at this point is Jeremy Corbyn as PM. However, the holding ‘A50 referendum’3 would complicate the holding of INDY2 in Scotland, undermine its legitimacy, or could even win it for the unionists.
It seemed that the main purpose of this snap election was to neutralize the pending fraud charges against 20 Tory MPs, and then get on with a Brexit of May’s own design without a string of awkward by-elections. However, given that these investigations have born little fruit so far, it seems that May either misjudged their seriousness or was convinced of her ability to convincingly win this election regardless. Whether she still holds this belief is a matter of speculation.
It should be expected that the establishment has two ‘ploys’ ready to implement should May fail to achieve her coveted fraud-proof majority, or indeed if Labour do manage to win a majority of their own, against the odds; the Blairite Rats and Lib. Dem. complicity in a ‘unity government’.
Whatever the result of the election, Corbyn will come under attack from within his own party, either for losing the election or some other pretext. If he wins all establishment factions will begin a concerted effort to thwart his government, and the Blairite Rats will choose their moment to leave Labour and set up an alternative party. Popular mobilizations will be necessary to defend his Premiership should he win, or his Leadership should he lose.
1 The Wall= Hadrian’s Wall, a wall that divides the fundamentally divides the UK into two political spaces.
2 INDY2= A second Scottish independence referendum
3 A50 Referendum= a possible second Brexit referendum, this time on the results of negotiations with the EU27.
4 A new party could be formed by the Blairite Rats, especially if the lib dems have next to no MPs. This does not alter the fundamental nature of either of these ploys.
Previous commentary by the author:
Division of UK politics post-Brexit (July 29th 2016)
A succession of victories for Corbyn (July 14th 2016)
Brexit and Corbyn: establishment setbacks (July 9th 2016)