British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for national elections for June 8. This takes place at a time when she is negotiating the terms for Britain to leave the European Union. In addition, left leader Jeremy Corbyn is still facing opposition from the right wing of the Labour Party. Below, Roger Silverman reports from London some quick impressions of the coming election:
- Theresa May has called the election in the hope that it will crush Labour and guarantee the Tories a free hand in pursuing their Brexit agenda before its disastrous consequences for the economy and living standards become obvious. (Her claim that a bigger parliamentary majority will strengthen her negotiating position with the EU is nonsense; on the contrary, the smaller her majority, the greater her bargaining leverage.
- Under Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s leadership, Labour is campaigning on its most radical election manifesto since 1945, including renationalisation of the railways and major utility companies; a massive public house-building programme; increased funding of health and social care and a reversal of NHS privatisation; abolition of student tuition fees and restoration of student maintenance grants; etc. – all to be paid for by higher taxes on the rich.
- The Labour right wing have reluctantly acquiesced in this leftward turn because they fear future recriminations from the rank and file, and because they are counting on the hope that electoral defeat will help them overthrow Corbyn later and reverse the left turn.
- There is an unprecedented and unremitting media campaign of personal abuse and denigration of Corbyn, together with systematic suppression of Labour’s programme and manipulation of opinion polling, which is predicting a Tory landslide victory.
- Nevertheless, for the first time in decades Labour has a mass membership and there is a surge of campaigning in the streets and on the doorsteps (largely by Momentum members). The initial Tory lead of 20% was halved within a week, as was shown in the local council elections, and Labour has won majority support among the youth (18-24), who are now registering in greater numbers than previously.
- An outright Labour win is almost ruled out, given the collapse of support in Scotland, but a minority Labour government resting on SNP support is not impossible.
- It’s hard to predict the outcome, but my personal guess would be a clear Tory win, though by a narrower margin than predicted by current polls. If so, what will happen to the Labour Party is more interesting. The right wing will be howling for Corbyn’s blood. Everything depends on the determination and stamina of the membership.