Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election

From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

June 14, 2017
9 min read

Outperforming all of the pundits, Labour still did not do quite well enough to get a majority. But next time they could. As we gear up for another election that could possibly start before the end of the year, here’s a quick summary of why Labour should go in as the favourite.

1. High turnout changes everything for Labour

Turnout at this election was its highest since 1997 as many previous non-voters contributed to Labour’s resurgence.

There are a number of possible factors behind this. Labour had the right set of policies to create a clear alternative and inspire the British public that they could govern differently. Labour also used an ambitious, engaging communications strategy as #Grime4Corbyn and other movements reached out to previously underserved communities, and mass rallies, written off by critics as meaningless, showed it was acceptable to support an underdog.

Labour worked hard to engage young voters with a big registration drive and it paid off. In comparison, the Conservatives’ social media channels did not push out one single advert reminding people to register to vote.

While we await exact figures on how young people voted, the trauma of Brexit could have been the turning point that drove higher engagement amongst the young this time around. The EU referendum showed a huge split between the political views of the young and old – with over 65s twice as likely to vote as under 25s. With low youth turnout last summer allowing older generations to swing the vote for Leave, young people understood what was at stake if they continued to stay at home.

Whatever the reasons, if young people continue to show up at the ballot box and Labour continues to demonstrate a clear alternative, politics will look very different from now on.

2. Popular policy can turn around bad polling

With modern politics often overshadowed by personality, it was policy that made a surprise impact on this election. Capitalising on May’s then-high popularity, the Tories ran a presidential campaign based squarely on her leadership. But it was the humble manifestos that broke the campaign wide open.

With over a twenty-point lead poll lead, the Tories assumed they could slot whatever they wanted into their manifesto. What they didn’t consider was that voters would actually read it. As plans to bring back fox-hunting seemed out of touch, cuts to winter fuel allowance aggravated older voters, and changes to social care with a new ‘dementia tax’ forced an embarrassing U-Turn that brought May’s authority into disrepute.

In comparison, Labour’s manifesto proved immensely popular with the electorate, adding much-needed substance to the Marmite-esque qualities of Jeremy Corbyn himself. Voters initially put off by Corbyn were won round on the doorstep by his policies as they helped breathe new life into Labour’s campaign. The launch also benefited hugely from a leak that, deliberate or not, ensured it received a wealth of extra coverage.

If young people continue to show up at the ballot box and Labour continues to demonstrate a clear alternative, politics will look very different from now on

Not only did the manifestos help Labour do better than expected by widening the debate, they also highlighted the hubris of the Conservative government.

3. The power of the right wing press is waning

Reportedly, as the exit poll was announced at a Times election party, Rupert Murdoch stormed out of the room. While they have taken credit for victory in many elections before, this time the right wing press like the Sun, Express and Mail could not deliver a Tory majority.

The day before the election, the Mail featured over 13 pages of pure anti-Corbyn ranting and the Sun ran the headline ‘Jezza’s jihadi comrades’. But large sections of the electorate showed they were immune to manipulation of the Murdoch press.

Accustomed to swinging elections, this time the ammo the press used against Corbyn for the last two years could not deliver a knockout blow. Instead many voters simply laughed in response to the Sun’s polling day headline ‘Don’t put Britain in the Cor-bin’ – ridiculing it on social media.

Tying this to point number one, much of it could be down to a new generation of voters who firstly don’t buy newspapers and secondly don’t take them at face value. Brought up to use multiple sources of digital news and social media, the Google generation is able to use to internet to think critically, check facts and make up their own mind. For the modern voter, the ring-wing tabloid press is beginning to show its age and lose its relevance.

4. Mass volunteer movements can beat big spending

While the Tories rely on money from a small set of wealthy donors, Labour mobilised its grassroots to raise small donations and run an effective ground campaign on the cheap.

Nationally, as the Conservative war chest was spent on hyper-targeted online adverts, Labour took their campaign to the streets, making the face-to-face contact necessary to win hearts and minds.

The marginal seat of Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, for example, was a tale of two campaigns. As the Conservatives used their funds to buy the cover sheet of the local Evening Herald, Labour volunteers pounded the streets for weeks encouraging their supporters to come out and vote. On the day, Labour took this seat with a 16 per cent increase in its vote.

It is estimated the Tories spent twice as much as Labour over the campaign and raised ten times as much in the last stages.

To compete, Labour and Momentum were tutored in the art of small donations by members of the Bernie Sanders team from the US, pulling in thousands of donations with an average value of £22. Labour also used new app technology, allowing volunteers from around the country to contact voters and volunteers in marginal seats. While they didn’t work perfectly, these methods will be essential for the campaigns to come.

Since Corbyn became leader, Labour’s membership has grown to over half a million, making it easily the largest democratic socialist party in Europe. Turning members into party funders and activists provides real hope for the left.

5. Scottish Nationalism has had its day

Theresa May was not the only party leader to make a big miscalculation in this election. Nicola’s Sturgeon’s call for a second Scottish independence referendum following Brexit seemed a stroke of genius only for it to horribly backfire.

With problems from health to education in Scotland, Sturgeon’s insistence on independence caused voters to lose trust in their once-mighty leader and unmasked the SNP as a single-issue party. Far from the perfect opportunity, calls for an Indyref2 only served to galvanise pro-unionists to vote Tory and Labour in protest, even booting the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons, Angus Robertson, out of his seat.

Given their poor polling at the start of this election, the national Labour party was running a ‘Hold and Retain’ strategy – therefore not providing much financial support to many of the seats in Scotland. Next time around, a confident Labour (ahead now in the post-election polls by 5 per cent) will position itself to win back the former Labour heartlands.

6. For better or worse, two-party politics is back

As Labour and the Conservatives stepped to the left and right respectively, Green, UKIP and Lib Dem votes were mopped up, seeing the return of two party politics in the UK.

No longer seen as ‘Tory lite’, Labour now attracts voters from other left-wing parties. While calls for a ‘progressive alliance’ were never officially realised, this election saw a surge of tactical voting against the Conservatives from other parties that mainly helped Labour.

On the right, it’s crucial to note the Tories benefited from some but not all of UKIP’s collapse, as many at the last minute swung home to Labour. This vindicated Labour’s stance on voting to trigger Article 50, which was much criticised earlier in the year. For those (myself included) who argued that Labour should represent the 48 per cent who voted Remain, the Lib Dems used this strategy and failed to make considerable gains, even in previously strong Remain areas.

That said this election continues to demonstrate the serious flaws with the First Past the Post system. Labour received 2.4 per cent less of the vote share and 56 fewer seats, while the Green Party’s vote share should have equated to around 11 seats in a fairer system.

7. Labour has beaten the smears on security

In a campaign that saw one cyberattack and two terror attacks in the UK, you might have forgiven the British public for staying at home or simply opting for the status-quo, but they voted for change and hope.

For all Corbyn’s baggage, smeared by opponents with accusations of having links to Hamas and the IRA, the UK failed to give into the politics of fear.

Following the Manchester attack, Corbyn’s thoughtful speech on the future of British foreign policy struck a chord with the electorate, and following London Bridge the party’s acute messaging around police cuts demonstrated tangibly the impact austerity is having on our security at home. Labour’s image on security was not one of weakness but that of a government in waiting.

So instead of the Labour wipeout we were expecting to wake up to, the UK voted for a man who has opposed war his entire life. They voted for a tolerant and open, over a divided and closed society.

While it did not do enough to win, Labour’s turnaround is one of the most remarkable achievements for the left in recent times. If Labour MPs now can put their troubled past behind them, unite and build on these achievements, there is no reason they should not end up in government.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite


54