Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: 2015 UK Election

The Left in Britain: Debating the Merits of Corbyn and Smith

The British Labour Party is having another leadership contest, just one year after current leader Jeremy Corbyn defeated three rivals, 59.5% of the vote. Corbyn’s opponents have rallied behind a single challenger, Owen Smith. Smith’s supporters claim that Labour cannot win an election under Corbyn while Corbyn’s supporters claim that Smith is a Trojan horse for a Tory-lite party establishment. As the campaign has unfolded, Corbyn has sought to reassure supporters that he has a credible electoral strategy while Smith has sought to persuade Labour voters that he is a strong advocate for the left. Who is right and what is going on? Let’s have a think.

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The 4 Strategies Available to the British Left

After getting thrashed in the election, Britain’s Labour Party is gearing up for a leadership contest. This provides us with an opportunity to talk about the different strategies open to the left and the potential consequences of each. There are four that stick out to me:

  1. The Miliband Strategy–concede that the Tories are right that austerity is needed, but accuse the Tories of being too cruel and indifferent to the welfare state to be trusted with it.
  2. The Blair Strategy–enthusiastically embrace the Tory position on economic issues to demonstrate economic competence and political seriousness to voters.
  3. The Corbyn Strategy–mount a vigorous intellectual attack on austerity presenting a clear ideological alternative to the Tories.
  4. The Brand Strategy–attack the structure of the political system itself for being unable to produce good political outcomes.

Let’s talk about each one.

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Misinformation: How the Tories Won

The Tories have absolutely demolished Labour, winning an absolute majority in the House of Commons:

2015 UK election results

The Conservatives (aka the Tories) are blue, Labour is red, the SNP (Scottish National Party) is yellow, the Liberal Democrats (Lib-Dems) are orange, UKIP (UK Independence Party) is purple, the other colors belong to various regional Irish and Welsh parties. The situation would have been even worse for the left under proportional representation–UKIP won 13% of the vote, but only 1 MP as it was unable to win majorities in constituencies. Combined, UKIP and the Tories won about 50% of the vote, while Labour and the SNP won around 35%. The left was thoroughly trashed, and this raises a lot of questions going forward–can the union be preserved when Scotland is dominated by a party to the left of Labour while England goes to the Tories? Will British conservatives embrace electoral reform to make it harder for the left to prevail? Who will replace Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party? But these questions are for another time. Today, all I want to talk about is why this happened to the UK, and why it has been happening to countries on both sides of the Atlantic for decades.

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