Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The British Election

These are tough days for progressives. But things are looking up in Britain -- just when it looked like the left was dead. Tom Walkom writes:

While Labour didn’t win the election, it did place a strong second, capturing 261 seats and denying Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives a majority in the Commons.

For Corbyn, it was a feat that just a few weeks ago was routinely dismissed as impossible.
At the beginning of the campaign, Labour appeared to be in shambles. Corbyn, a classic democratic socialist, who still promotes public ownership, was pronounced unelectable.

The 68-year-old trade unionist was said to be too old and too old-fashioned for modern Britain. Even his election as Labour leader in 2015 was widely viewed as a fluke, the result of the party’s too-hasty decision to democratize its voting process.

But Corbyn's win was no fluke:

The reasons for May’s dismal showing in Thursday’s snap election are many. She ran a disastrous campaign marked by policy flip-flops. Her main claim — that only she could safely negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union — never caught on. Indeed, the so-called Brexit issue was not discussed much at all during the campaign.

Theoretically, the Manchester and London terror attacks should have helped her. Voters tend to move rightward when their safety is threatened.

But in this case, the attacks merely reminded voters that, in a previous Tory government, May had overseen savage manpower cuts to Britain’s police forces.

And what Corbyn advocated were classic progressive policies:

Corbyn campaigned unashamedly for public ownership. A Labour government, he said, would re-nationalize both the railways and the energy grid.

It would reintroduce free tuition for university students and reregulate the financial sector. It would build more public housing, raise taxes on the wealthiest 5 per cent of Britons and bring back rent controls.

While pronouncing itself in favour of free-trade and investment deals generally, Corbyn’s Labour came out strongly against those that allow private companies to override the public interest.
Most of all, however, she paled beside Corbyn. He shone during the campaign.

Corbyn is no pacifist. He endorsed Britain's nuclear strike force. But he stood for policies which used to be anathema. Like Bernie Sanders, he put a progressive agenda back on the table. Time will tell if the public will buy it. 



Toby said...


The Mound of Sound said...

There was a time, Owen, when Canada's Liberals didn't consider "progressive" a pejorative. In the States Lincoln and both Roosevelts were progressive and who would call any of them socialist? As Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently observed, progressivism is focused on leveling the playing field so that citizens of low or modest means can better themselves, care for their families and contribute to their communities, and thereby improve the health, cohesiveness and prosperity of the nation itself. There's nothing in that idea that should be unattractive to Liberals or even Conservatives for that matter.

Neoliberalism seeks to purge such notions and, in the result, fosters inequality, social division and a fractured, diminished state. The only way our governments, Conservative and Liberal, can avoid these realities is to turn their backs and instead focus on GDP.

Owen Gray said...

The world is being flipped, Toby.

Owen Gray said...

Parties from the left and right used to adopt progressive policies, Mound. Even Nixon admitted that "we are all Keynesians" -- until a generation of politicians read Hayek and Rand and took them seriously.

John B. said...

I thought you meant something else, Owen, by the "world is being flipped" comment until I checked out the link. In either case it's a good one. If it's okay with you I'm going to appropriate it.

Owen Gray said...

Absolutely, John. Be my guest.