The third way is dead in Britain. Parties running to the hard-left captured a total of 306 seats in the 650 seat UK House of Commons last night (counting Sinn Fein seats which will not be filled as the party as usual will NOT take their seats in the Commons). The revitalized Labour Party picked up 261 seats and had its largest vote share (40%) since the Blair years. Controversial Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, rejected en masse by many of his party’s MP’s and political operatives who sought moderation and a return to Blairite politics after a devastating string of electoral losses ran a brilliant campaign running against an arrogant government, a hostile media and the skepticism of his own party (Corbyn had been elected by Labour Party members two years ago as leader after the 2015 electoral debacle but never had the support or faith of the political class) engaging young people and winning back white working class voters that had defected to the UK Independence Party and even the governing Conservative Party in recent years. The moderately leftist and Euro-obsessed Liberal Democrats are a fading force in UK politics capturing just 11 seats and seeing many of their voters in the south of country defect to Corbyn and Labour. The shift of votes in the south of England appear to be the harbinger of a trend toward Labour in the region of England that has traditionally been most hostile to the party.
At 40% of the national vote (and 42% in England) Labour under Corbyn beat party performances in the 2010 and 2015 General Elections by a wide margin and almost beat Blair 2002 & 2005 %’s. The 42% in England beats Blair’s 2002 and 2005 numbers, making it the second best Labour performance in England since 1951 and Clement Atlee. Corbyn was per the public line generated by the party establishment, repeated by the media and fawned by the governing Tories as the “death knell for Labour.” We can say the Tories, who under Prime Minister Theresa May were seeking a “super majority” in the Commons not only for Brexit but for their absolutely delusional election manifesto which continued the party’s unnecessary privatization of services in the name of austerity, are losers but the biggest loser in this election was the media. May may soon be gone as her Premiership is hanging by a thread, counting on an alliance with Unionists in Ulster and newly elected Tories from Scotland (who benefited from strategic voting among Unionist parties against the independence-minded Scottish Nationalist Party) and the conservatives will have trouble governing without a clear majority (The Tories took just 319 seats leaving them a handful short of an outright majority and the party was already having issues with some back-benchers thus necessitating in May’s mind the need for a snap election) leaving the party likely to oust May at some point.
But it was the media, which bought into the Labour establishment narrative of third way politics, moderation, Blairism and the indifference of young people who come off as the biggest losers in this election. For two years the media has ridiculed and marginalized Jeremy Corbyn. The media like in the United States where Corbyn’s ideological soulmate Bernie Sanders was seen as a protest candidate who could not win disregarded Corbyn’s populist appeal with core Labour voters, his ability to build a coalition between the working class and younger millennials and his artful ability to steer clear of Brexit and focus on core issues as articulated in this year’s brilliant Labour Manifesto, which can be derided as Keynesian Socialism by critics but was seen by many voters as the least that one of the world’s wealthiest societies can do for its citizens.
The elite media has in the last few years on both sides of the Atlantic lacked a basic empathy and class consciousness as well as an ability to understand what motivates white working class voters or young millennials. The two years of anti-Corbyn and pro-establishment media stories regarding Labour was from the get-go and dependent on lazy narratives and tired old stereotypes. They fundamentally misunderstood the electorate and have misread political shifts – not much different from the US media’s complete misreading of Sanders and Trump. May’s misreading of the electorate which precipitated her desire to call this election may have in fact been driven by the media’s misunderstanding of Corbyn. The expected Tory landslide of just three weeks ago proved to be something completely different. The 2017 election could be the start of some shifts in the electorate that bring Labour and the left back to majority status with a new coalition of the industrial north, Wales, London, smaller southern cities and young voters in university towns (who in the past have in many cases gone LibDem).
All the elites who attacked Corbyn for not forcefully backing “Remain” campaign in Brexit last year learned last night that Labour might have won back some working class folks because Corbyn has been fair on Brexit and it is a CLOSED ISSUE. DONE. FINISHED. The national referendum spoke for the people and Corbyn unlike many of the elites in the Labour political class understood this and pivoted back to issues that matter everyday to working people and youngsters.
Corbyn’s victory relative to expectations in the face of a hostile media is the beginning of the end of third way politics. Let’s hope the elites on this side of the Atlantic got the message.