Obviously incompetent, utterly corrupt and packed with outright liars, it seems astonishing that this Conservative Government would gain seats in local elections and win a by-election on the biggest pro-government swing effectively ever. Yet that is what has happened. Why?
Well, honestly, I don’t know. In fact, the only thing I am certain of is that those of us who do not like obviously incompetent, utterly corrupt and outright lying governments, we should probably start there – we don’t know.
So, what do we know?
Well, we do know that when someone has switched their political affiliation, you will rarely get them to switch it back by mocking them on Twitter. So there is a starting point.
We also do know that trying to argue it is “not actually that bad” when you are well behind will not win you elections; nor is quibbling about the electoral system when you would need to win under it in order to change it. We do know, in other words, you need to convert people who are not voting for you into people who are voting for you – and again, that is hard work through hours of pounding the streets to earn trust, not yelling at the already converted on social media.
We also do know, even if we don’t like it and don’t really care to admit it, that 52% of the UK population (and in fact around 57% in England outside London) voted to leave the European Union.
We also do know that the only place in England which is largely escaping a swing to the Conservatives is London, which voted 60% Remain (and even there there is a clear division in the rightward swing in more Leave-leaning outer London versus leftward in inner London). So it is not hard to recognise the re-alignment that is going on, as pro-Remain London stays left but the pro-Leave north and midlands shift right.
We also do know that in areas in Council elections which previously had sizeable UKIP interventions, typically the Conservatives benefitted from UKIP no longer standing. Put this another way, the Leave vote – a comfortable majority in England outside London, remember – is coalescing behind the Conservatives.
However, the final thing we do know is that Labour did not just lose seats to the Conservatives; in places like Sunderland it lost to the Liberal Democrats; even in fairly rural areas it contrived to lose seats to the Greens. The clue is in the name, but Labour has in fact – for both political and broad social reasons – lost its affiliation with the workers. Or, put another way, the Remain vote – a minority anyway, remember – is divided all over the place.
To win elections, you need to appeal to people as they are, not as you would like them to be; you need to appeal to their priorities, not yours. Does the “Left” in England know how to do that?