In our second report from Britain, Nick Bradley writes on the mood and other developments in the London/Essex region:
It seems an amazingly low key election so far – I live and work in Essex/London and the world is not bursting with political discussions. I am certain the both the US and the French presidential elections involved much wider sections of the population in thinking and talking politics. So with TV and media talking about the election out in the real world there is no real sign of an election taking place! There is fatigue and to a degree despair.
Corbyn: Popular but Under Attack
Its certainly an odd experience. On a positive note the Campaign led by Jeremy Corbyn is genuinely engaging with people and not just activists. Some huge crowds turning up to hear him speak or just to meet him.
The media and establishment ( especially the BBC and daily press ) is full of absolute vitriol and daily attacks on Jeremy in particular. There are signs that this is rebounding with people beginning to think that so many people attacking him must mean there is something there to support. The current opinion polls ( and I agree with Roger Silverman we have to be especially careful that they may actually be being deliberately rigged ) are showing a small increase in support. Labour currently exceeding the numbers who supported Labour under Ed Milliband at the last general election.
Brexit: Background of Nationalism and Xenophobia
What is both frustrating and sad is that the election is taking place about a background of nationalism and xenophobia ( especially in England) stirred up by the EU referendum last year. Strangely it reminds me of the nationalism stirred up by the Falklands invasion and Thatcher sending in the boats and armed forces. It is generally recognised and accepted that the nationalist fervour stirred up in the Falkland’s cut across class politics in the 1983 election. There are echoes of that again.
Whilst the reasons underlying people supporting nationalists, xenophobes or demagogues are complicated but also simple. It is easy to accept a narrative that suggests that an evil Empire EU is allowing millions of foreigners to come into Britain taking jobs and houses . In many ways that is the line of least resistance that was pursued by many voting to leave the EU. Of course behind that is that people wages and jobs were being squeezed and there is a huge housing crisis – that of course due to capitalism and no the EU per se. Claiming that the Brexit vote was a vote against austerity is the claim led by the sects to the left of the Labour Party. If only there was real substance and truth in that !
Of course jobs, wages and housing are all being squeezed along with living standards generally. In that sense suffering because of austerity was behind the Brexit vote. But it was consciously driven by racism , an attack on foreigners as being the cause of their plight and most deliberately stirred up and fuelled by a right wing media. This election is being cut across by these views still holding very high prevalence making it likely that the election will result in a Tory government being re elected – Britain against the world, against the European empire, a Britain that can survive and prosper independently.
Supporters of Momentum are the driving force of activism in this election. The right wing establishment of Labour are mainly biding their time and their tongues until the day after the election when they can start again their attack on Corbyn and the left generally. I don’t think we have seen anything yet and the attacks will be orchestrated and planned ready for the election results.
The battle for Labour as a possible mass party of workers is far from over . Exactly how this battle will unfold is hard to predict in my view. The Labour manifesto is in comparison to most others from the past a genuinely left reformist platform full of specific demands and commitments. Certainly in post 1945 Britain this manifesto is the most left one ever agreed. Previous so called left manifestos have been littered with very vague and general left sounding phrases – this one has very specific commitments.
What is interesting is that these views are proving very popular ( on all polling) – establishing as we have all argued for several decades that the ordinary people in Britain can be won to a left programme. Its just that this is being undermined and cut across by Xenophobia and petty nationalism.
Future of Labour
The battle within Labour itself after the election will I believe this time round be fought to the end – with either a rabid right wing ( pro capitalist liberal ) winning out and establishing yet again control of the Labour party or the left holding on to support for a left leader and left policies forcing the right to move to establish a new political movement ( like Macron in France). What has held back these developments in British politics has been the first past the post electoral system which makes new movements and groupings harder to set up than in the rest of Europe say. But I don’t think it is possible to rule out anything being possible.