Sunday, 24 December 2017

Year End Review 2017 - Part 3

The third prediction was,

“UKIP disintegrates. The much hyped threat to Labour from UKIP will be shown to be a pipe-dream.”

Again, that prediction has been fully confirmed. UKIP continued its succession of leaders as Paul Nuttall sank into the dustbin of history, and his replacement is even less known to anyone, even a couple of months after his election. The party's membership seems in terminal decline, as it sinks either back into apathy, or returns to the Tory Party from whence it came, and its voter base has followed the same trajectory. It is the return of that voter base to its origins, along with the attraction of Labour's traditional voter base out of apathy, that explains the polarisation of the electorate once more into Labour and Tory voters, and the simultaneous demise of the minor parties. That polarisation is, in fact, yet again a manifestation of the underlying material shift in the economic conjuncture.

The delusion that UKIP could have stolen Labour votes was exposed. The hypothesis I have set out, in the last few years, that around 30% of the electorate are bigots has been repeatedly upheld. Not only was the extent of that bigotry, as the core of the Brexit vote confirmed, but other surveys showed the extent of the overlap of those voting for Brexit, with the holding of a whole series of bigoted views, on feminism, homosexuality, environmentalism, immigration and so on. Moreover, further surveys showed that, amongst the British population, around 25% self defined themselves as holding racist views in relation to immigrants, and on the basis that this was a self-definition, the actual percentage is likely to be higher than that.

Indeed, it was on the basis of a recognition of that reality, that I predicted that the referendum result would be in favour of Leave. But, the research done by John Curtice and the British Electoral Survey, showed the fallacy of confusing the holding of these bigoted views with opposition to Labour. It has always been the case that large numbers of workers have held these bigoted views, whilst still being tribally affiliated to Labour. That 30% of the population that hold these bigoted views breaks down into those who, in any case, are reactionary petit-bourgeois, in the ranks of the small business people, the backward elements of workers who aspire to the middle-class, and who are then generally Tory voters; those who are declassed elements, who are normally apathetic, or drawn to various forms of populism; and finally those amongst the working-class who hold these bigoted views, but whose main concern is with the economic agenda provided by Labour.

As I argued previously, give people a vote on a specific issue such as immigration, capital punishment, the EU etc., and it emphasises the importance of this bigotry way above the importance is ever occupies in voters minds when they come to vote in a General Election. The same phenomenon can be seen in societies with deep cross cutting cleavages, where divisions along lines of ethnicity or religion, for example, are significant, and lead to elections being divisive events that divide workers into their contending sectarian bear pits.  Brexit, was always, therefore, going to be an issue that drew most of its support from the ranks of Tory voters, and from other reactionaries than it was from amongst the ranks of Labour voters. As John Curtice demonstrated, not only was it the case that two-thirds of Labour voters voted Remain, but even in those parts of the country that voted Leave, a majority of Labour voters still voted Remain, and in only slightly smaller numbers.

Consequently, as I had predicted, as large numbers of voters who opposed Brexit voted Labour as the best hope of avoiding a Tory hard Brexit, the Liberal, Green and Plaid votes got squeezed, especially as Corbyn's Labour Party won back large chunks of its traditional base, and won over a whole cohort of new younger voters. That meant that, in some of the most unlikely constituencies, Labour was able to win, and directly beat the Tories. In other parts of the country, that had voted Leave, Labour still won, and in many places considerably increased its majority, as the peripheral issue of the EU, once again played second fiddle to workers main concerns over the NHS, jobs, pay and so on, and as Corbyn's Labour offered a real choice, once again, to workers in those areas.

As I also forecast, a year or so ago, the trajectory of Corbyn's Labour is that the first impact will be to consolidate the position in core Labour areas, which has happened, whilst in Tory areas, it might initially go backwards, as the process of polarisation takes effect. But, now, in a whole series of constituencies, Corbyn's Labour has so increased its vote that, at the next election it will be more than capable of overwhelming the Tories. The opinion polls totally understate this effect, in terms of Labour's chances of winning the next election.

Moreover, as the Tories have shown themselves totally incompetent in the Brexit negotiations, and all of the lies told by UKIP and the Tory Brexiters are gradually exposed, so the tide against Brexit will inevitably rise. Despite the constant claims by the Brextremists that the voters will flock into the streets to protest any turning back on Brexit, there is no indication whatsoever of any great groundswell of opinion in that direction. As Theresa May is led to capitulate, and abandon one red line after another, none of the whining from Farage, has led to any resurgence of support for UKIP in the polls, and none of the huffing and puffing from the Mail and Express over Tory Traitors abandoning Brexit is doing them any good in trying to whip up any kind of popular frenzy in that direction. The reality is that the EU never was a major concern for voters, and time has now moved on further. The likelihood is that Labour can only enhance its chances of winning the next election – certainly in Scotland – by coming out clearly against Brexit.

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