A brief look over the headlines this morning would have you believing that yesterday’s local elections all went very badly for Labour. The Times has two headlines on this. Firstly:
Labour fail to seize ground in biggest test since general election
And then, just to hammer the point home:
Corbyn never recovered from botched response to Salisbury spy poisoning
The Daily Mail, bastion of subtlety and common sense, simply went with:
CORBYN FALLS SHORT
Whilst Katy Balls, political correspondent for the Spectator headlined her Guardian opinion piece with:
The Tories are no longer scared. They now know Corbyn isn’t the messiah
…which is one of the most spectacular straw men I have ever seen. I don’t personally recall anyone calling Corbyn “the Messiah”, or what effect this supposed divinity would (or indeed should) have on the Peterborough council elections. As for the Tories being “afraid” of Corbyn, well that should be news to everyone…because all we’ve ever been told is how unelectable is.
The long and short of it is that the press all seem to be uniformly committed to pretending that this was a big Tory win.
The trouble is that the results don’t really show that to be the case. At all. As of 3pm on May 4th, these are the results:
Some pundits, even some Labours MPs (you can guess which ones) are spinning this as a disaster. Their argument is that the Tories are so incompetent that Labour should be wiping them off the map. A position with which there are two key problems:
Firstly, there’s the destroyed UKIP vote. They’ve lost over 120 seats, the vast majority of which will go over to the Tories. Even with this influx of UKIP seats, the Tories are running on a net loss.
Secondly, there’s media coverage. This is the most important point.
All of this happened whilst the press coverage of Corbyn, and Labour in general, has been nothing but relentlessly negative. In fact, the press coverage of Corbyn has ALWAYS been negative. The nicest language ever used about the man is to describe him as “principled but out of his depth”.
Incompetence is what Corbyn’s supposed SYMPATHISERS label him with. His enemies? Well they call him a communist, or a Leninist, or a traitor, or a racist.
For weeks before the elections the only Labour-related stories to regularly make the papers were about supposed “antisemitism”. Varying between stating the dishonest smears, slamming everyone who called them dishonest smears, and then pontificating about how the dishonest smears might “hurt labour in the local elections”. As if it were all just happenstance.
The final damage done?
Well, “antisemitism” may have cost Labour one council. Maybe. Some experts says.
This is a disaster, apparently. I’m not quite sure why, but people are definitely talking about it a lot.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that a lot of these editorials and headlines were written before the results were in, with the expectation that things would go much worse for Labour than they eventually did. One could assume the collective press assumed their “antisemitism” and “Russian bots” coverage hold more water with the public than is apparently the case.
The strength of the reaction certainly isn’t merited, given the results. It rather feels like political theatre. A pre-designed “election humiliation” that never really materialised, which was almost certainly meant to form an argument, a segue, for a new leadership challenge.
Maybe Hilary Benn would finally come out of the woodwork, or some other craven non-entity. In the end the name and face won’t matter, they will all speak with the same voice. And it won’t be ours.
For all the sound and fury, none of that can happen now. Calling for a leadership election, with a minority government in power and success in local elections, would be ridiculous.
This is just the latest example of Corbyn, and his public support, scuppering the well-laid plans of the PLP.
When Corbyn was first nominated for the leadership in 2015, he was meant to be as an “also ran”. A token lefty to make people think socialism was a dead-end in the Labour movement.
That didn’t work out so well. Corbyn got more votes than all the other candidates combined. It was the first election Corbyn won, which he was supposed to lose. The first time Corbyn didn’t do what he was told. They all found it very frustrating.
The PLP held a vote of no confidence in Corbyn after the Brexit referendum. 172 MPs demanded he step down. Corbyn refused. This was the second time Corbyn didn’t do what he was told.
David Cameron even called for his resignation during one of his final PMQs. Yelling “For heaven’s sake man, go!”.
The result of all of this was a second leadership election. Which Corbyn won with an increased majority.
The local elections in 2015 went well too. Labour candidates also won the Mayoral offices of London, Manchester and Liverpool. For an “unelectable man”, his party wins a lot of elections.
Even when he does lose, he doesn’t do it properly. The “greatest Tory landslide since Thatcher” crumbled to dust. Leaving us with an incompetent and corrupt minority government, desperately clawing at the vestiges of power it still holds.
All of this was achieved with nothing but relentless negativity in the vast majority of the press, and constant attempts at sabotage from his own back-benches. He is playing a rigged game, and refusing to lose. The increasing desperation of the establishment voices is becoming funny.
Epitomised by truly pathetic attempts to cast him as a Czech spy.
We were never supposed to be here. This was never supposed to happen. Corbyn keeps ruining plans and breaking rules and gaining votes and making sense. He says reasonable things, quietly, and people listen. This is not how politics is supposed to go.
The bottom line is that the establishment is getting more and more frustrated with Corbyn because he simply won’t do what he’s told. He won’t bang the war drums on command, betray the unions, sell off the NHS or resign in disgrace. He won’t even lose when he’s supposed to.
Katy Balls is right he’s not the Messiah.
But, from the establishment point of view, he is a VERY naughty boy.
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