British election results

Posted: June 9, 2017 by Admin in British politics, Capitalist ideology, England, Scotland, Wales

by Phil Duncan

Judging by the reaction from the Labour Party and some of the left here, you’d think Labour had won the British election.  In fact, the Conservative Party vote rose by 6 percentage points, to 43%, just one percent below that achieved by Tony Blair when he and Labour won a massive victory in 1997.

Labour’s vote, however, went up ten percent.

The Tories have lost about a dozen seats, while Labour has gone up by 29 seats.

It is perhaps a sign of Labour’s low horizons that an election in which the Tories have beaten them by nearly 60 seats is seen as a cause for great celebration.

Moreover, having been the dominant party in Scotland for decades and decades, Labour is now only the third party in Scotland.  Although the Scottish Nationalist Party lost 21 seats, it remains easily the biggest party in Scotland, followed by the Conservatives.

This election was the Tories to throw.  They screwed up on several things.

For instance, they assumed the terrorist attacks would help them, especially as they portrayed Corbyn as soft on terrorism.  But this backfired: Corbyn attacked them from the right, saying Labour would pour more money into the repressive forces of the state – the cops, ‘security’ and ‘intelligence’ services – and put 10,000 more cops on the street.  Labour was also able to point out that May had been home secretary when cuts were made to the repressive forces.

Corbyn declared that Britain would under Labour, after Brexit, continue to engage in police and ‘intelligence’ sharing with EU countries.

As well as strengthening the repressive apparatus of the imperialist state in Britain, Corbyn made clear that he supported the renewal of Trident (Britain’s nuclear weapons programme), would endorse wars waged under the auspices of the United Nations and control immigration more.

On the so-called “leaders’ debate” on Channel 4 on Monday, May 29, Corbyn declared there had to be “managed immigration” based on “the needs of our country”.  Labour “won’t allow companies to bring in low-paid workers to undermine the wages of our workforce”.

But the issue is not ‘protecting’ British workers from cheap competition or ‘protecting’ migrant workers from low wages – a socialist position involves supporting the free movement of workers and having laws which guarantee basic workers’ rights and protections.  A socialist position involves seeing the working class as a global class and starting from that point – ie starting from the interests of the working class globally, not some sectional interest, especially a sectional interest in the imperialist world.

By contrast, Corbyn’s position is a typical British nationalist one.  Every right-wing British nationalist could endorse his comments.

Corbyn was no doubt sincere about wanting to redistribute some wealth among British people.  But he was – and is – also sincere about defending British imperialism, the system that sucks a chunk of its wealth out of the Third World and then turns on and off the migration tap for Third World workers.  Corbyn wants some more equality in a country that occupies a privileged position within the world economy.

Corbyn also made clear that his ‘republicanism’ is a private affair.  For instance, when queried by Jeremy Paxman about why abolition of the monarchy wasn’t mentioned in the Labour Manifesto, Corbyn replied, because “we’re not going to do it” and “I had a very nice talk with the queen.”

And when queried about his alleged support for the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s and 1980s, Corbyn’s response was that he had been involved in “dialogue” and had been vindicated because the dialogue has led to the end of the armed conflict between the IRA and the British state.  In other words, he was selling his credentials as a useful politician to the British ruling class; he had helped bring an end to an armed challenge to their ‘right’ to hold six Irish counties.

May, meanwhile, rather shot herself in the foot by laying out a set of policies that would clearly increase inequality, while Corbyn put forward a mild policy of taxing big companies and the rich a bit more.

She also ran a campaign which was more anti-Labour than laying out any positive Tory vision for the future.

Another factor was that Labour voters who had deserted to UKIP in the past now returned to Labour, happy that the ‘United Kingdom’ is leaving the EU.

Corbyn also appealed to young people, with the turnout among the young being a couple of percentage points above the total percentage of people voting.  Many of these young people are genuinely concerned about inequality and Labour cynically tapped into their idealism.

May will be able to form a minority government, provided the Democratic Unionist Party, which won 10 seats, supports the Tories on supply and confidence.

Some commentators have noted this was a two-party election.  Labour and the Tories between them gained at least 84% of the vote.  However, political divisions within Labour and the Tories remain and British capital faces important challenges.

What is missing in Britain, as in New Zealand, is an alternative political movement.  Not just alternative to Labour and the Tories – but alternative to the parliamentary circus which the ruling class puts on in place of real democracy.



  1. John Kerr says:

    Best election result possible. Tories have to try and cobble together a coalition or minority govt with right wing hardline DUP ‘No Surrender’ prod nutters who are violently anti-Brexit if it involves “special status” for the Six Counties! Corbyn vindicated, Count Mandelsson and the Blairites get skewered with a stake. Tories have to try and govern while post Brexit shitstorm goes down, thereby copping blame. The youff feel empowered and acquire voting habit. And there is space to advance a neo- Marxist political project (‘Er…shurely shome mishtake?’ Ed).

  2. Peter says:

    I, for one, was encouraged by the result. Corbyn’s platform was certainly more social democrat than socialist, but there was some encouraging language in the Labour manifesto (particularly around public ownership) and wider campaign. Quite clearly a significant portion of the UK population felt itself ready for a socialism, even if they didn’t fully comprehend what that meant.

    Does that mean we are on the verge of radical social transformation? Probably not. But there are some green shoots in the form of a social movement that is searching for an alternative. It would be foolish to ignore or deride that reality.

    • Phil says:

      I think the past 12 months in Britain have shown there is some thirst for a left alternative, and such a tendency usually tries to utilise whatever material is at hand. It’s a comment on the main Brit left groups that they were incapable of attracting and radicalising this thirst. Instead it has ended up getting channeled into the British Labour Party, the graveyard of the British left.

      Whatever Corbyn might or might not have been 30 or 40 years ago, he’s very tame now. The key political questions in Britain are not whether one supports more money for the NHS (most people from the fascists to the Marxist left support that). The key questions are where people stand on the British state and British imperialism. And Corbyn not only supports the repressive institutions of the British state – something he made *absolutely clear* – he wants to *spend more money on them too*.