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Why Did Labour Get Stronger Where I Live But Lose the Country?
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I live in Canterbury, where the Labour MP Rosie Duffield increased her slim majority tenfold in the general election. Given Labour’s defeat in almost all of the rest of the UK, it’s worth considering why this happened,.

A prime reason Duffield retained her seat is that that Labour had the support of a rickety but effective anti-Tory common front that counter-balanced the negative factors which were sinking its hopes elsewhere. The Lib Dem candidate unilaterally stood down and endorsed Duffield so as not to split the Remain vote, though he was promptly replaced by the Lib Dem leadership.

The Greens, meanwhile, did not stand – and a booth in Canterbury high street was selling blue badges with the message “Tories for Rosie.”

When Duffield, a former assistant teacher and single mother, first won the seat by 187 votes in 2017, ending no less than 185 years of uninterrupted Tory representation, the Tories and the media blamed the student vote.

But while the city does have two big universities and the campus of a third, this has been true for decades, during most of which the constituency routinely returned Sir Julian Brazier, a right-wing pro-Leave MP.

Canterbury and nearby Whitstable may look prosperous to visitors walking down their high streets, but the constituency contains deprived housing estates where people on the minimum wage struggle to feed their families.

In this the city is certainly not unique. One of the most extraordinary and contradictory developments in modern English political history is that people living in such “left-behind” and “left out” places decided to retaliate against a British establishment that had long ignored them by scapegoating the EU, even though it was often the only governmental institution that did anything to help them.

On the outskirts of Canterbury, for instance, is the estate of Thanington, which, because of its reputation for violence and crime, used to be nicknamed “Little Beirut” – that is, until 20 years ago, when it received a £2.5 million EU grant to refurbish it.

Even so, locals say that most of its population voted Leave in the referendum, and as happened in much of England and Wales, might have voted Tory last week.

I asked Mike Bland, campaign coordinator for Duffield, why she had won when so many of her fellow Labour MPs had lost. He said that Labour had lost support in the Leave-voting estates, but “voters stayed home and did not switch to the Tories.”

Duffield is popular and had distanced herself from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership – distanced herself so far as to attract furious denunciations from some leaders of the local party.

Labour could never out-Brexit a Brexiteer-led Tory party in Canterbury or anywhere else, but it could compensate for losing Leavers by winning enough Remain votes to make up for these losses.

In the constituency there had been a small Remain majority in the referendum, and Duffield was vocally pro-Remain. This was important because in other constituencies, Labour’s suicidal policy of being somewhere in the middle between Leave and Remain managed to alienate both sides, as it was always likely to do.

More Labour voters switched to the other Remain parties – often in Leave majority areas – than Labour Leave voters switched to the Tories. For all Boris Johnson’s triumphalism, the overall Tory share of the vote only increased by two per cent.

The Red Wall, much-loved by the media, was something of a myth, made up of traditional marginals and de-industrialised constituencies that had shifted unsteadily towards the Tories since the 1970s.

Of course, it’s easy to say what the Labour party should have done if it was less divided. Its ambivalent Brexit policy was a compromise between factions, however toxic it was likely to prove to the electorate as a whole. But the divisions were real, so the only real solution for Labour was to avoid a general election until Brexit was decided one way or another.

Numerous Labour and Lib Dem leaders are now saying how much they opposed a general election, but their opposition, if it existed at the time, was largely invisible.

Yet a speech by Tony Blair on 2 September accurately predicted all the political disasters that would follow if Labour and the Lib Dems chose to jump into what he termed the ‘elephant trap’ of a general election. Blair said that if Johnson “mixes up the Brexit question with the Corbyn question in a general election, he could succeed”. And succeed he did.

Obvious though this was from a glance at the opinion polls, Blair noted that the Labour leadership had been “inoculated” against political reality by its unexpectedly strong showing in the 2017 election.

Everything turned out precisely as Blair had forecast. Both Corbyn and Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, proved equally delusional about their prospects.

A minority Tory government in a hung parliament under an unpopular leader should have been seen by them as being good as it gets for opposition parties. Instead, propelled by wishful thinking, they obligingly consented to an election dominated by the twin issues of Brexit and Corbyn and which they would inevitably lose.

What will life in the “elephant trap” be like for the rest of us?

We can get some idea of the strength of the social and economic forces underpinning last week’s general election result by looking abroad. Similar revolts in non-metropolitan de-industrialised towns and city outskirts gave birth to the gilets jaunes in France and propelled Donald Trump into the White House in 2016.

Jeremy Corbyn is not often compared to Hillary Clinton, but some of their mistakes were similar. Both wasted the energies of enthusiastic supporters trying to win opposition-held constituencies and states when they should have been fighting desperately to defend their own political bases.

Populist nationalist leaders are popping up all over the world. Johnson is only the British iteration of this global trend. All have authoritarian instincts to which they give rein as far as political circumstances allow. Opposition to their rule is divided, intimidated or both.

Ominously for Britain, the populist nationalist wave is not receding. And once they’ve won it, few, if any, of these leaders have lost their grip on power.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Boris Johnson, Brexit, Britain, Jeremy Corbyn 
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  1. Stogumber says:

    So Patrick Corbyn went to bed as member of the Labour movement and woke up as a Blairite. Neocon bellicism and dishonesty are forgotten – “we” must overrule the subjective decisions of the working class for the sake of its “objective interests” (as did a good Bolshevist between 1917 and 1970). He has discovered the “authoritarian danger”, a so muched loved trope by the Neocon propaganda, will he help to prepare the next Neocon war?
    Politics makes strange bedfellows.

  2. Most of the country doesn’t live in a bubble.

    • Agree: Gordo
  3. “estate of Thanington, which, because of its reputation for violence and crime, used to be nicknamed “Little Beirut” – that is, until 20 years ago, when it received a £2.5 million EU grant to refurbish it”

    Did they refurbish the people?

    It wasn’t the buildings that were criminally inclined.

    Anyway, a quick news search seems to imply the refurb didn’t completely take, this story’s from last week.

    https://www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/drug-addict-at-14-behind-bars-with-40-convictions-by-19-218473/

    “A teenager addicted to drugs at 14 has been branded a “one-man crimewave” after racking up 40 convictions before his 20th birthday.

    Robbie Murray, 19, from Thanington, Canterbury, has been locked up for two years following a four-month spree of offences in which he threatened to stab a child, was chased by police on a stolen motorbike and lied to probation officers to get cash.”

  4. djm says:

    Poor Patrick doesn’t understand the election result.

    Bless.

    Given his poor analysis, it’s hardly surprising.

    • Agree: Cortes
  5. The fact that Canterbury is located right on the corner of England closest to the channel crossings to Europe might have something to do with it as residents can practically commute to Europe.

  6. Because Corbyn is an unbelievable wuss. Where do the English get these chinless non-entities?

  7. The real reason Corbyn lost is that, while presenting himself as a throwback, he is really a Blair-lite. His contempt for the working class is only less than the typical Blairite. Being a teacher, Duffield is not threatened by low wage immigration or other job killing trade deals, rather she, and her ilk gain from immigration. The Blairites, of whom Duffield is one, are the quintessential “White wine socialists”. They look down their noses at real people, particularly if they are old stock Britons.

  8. Delusional.

    Having lost Scotland to the SNP, the Labour Party would actually be doing worse without third world voters in certain towns and cities who specialize in welfare fraud, female genital mutilation, cousin marriages, honor killings, pimping out English girls, acid attacks, muggings and knife crime.

    Many of these people were imported by the above referenced war criminal, a trend continued by the Conservatives.

  9. A123 says:

    The UK has comparatively small single member districts, ~60K voters per seat. A great candidate can beat a mediocre one in any district at any time. Retail politics, while difficult, is still achievable.

    — How good was the Labour candidate?
    — How bad was the Tory candidate?
    ______

    The U.S. has 500,000+ eligible voters per competitive House Seat. Retail politics are effectively dead. A good candidate cannot get their message out without a huge media machine.

    Offsetting U.S. House elections, so they coincide with Presidency years 1 and 3, so candidates have better lines of communication would vastly improved the House. Realistically, chances of that happening are near 0%.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @davidgmillsatty
  10. Altai says:

    In this the city is certainly not unique. One of the most extraordinary and contradictory developments in modern English political history is that people living in such “left-behind” and “left out” places decided to retaliate against a British establishment that had long ignored them by scapegoating the EU, even though it was often the only governmental institution that did anything to help them.

    Did a different 15 years happen to everybody else? While the EU didn’t force the UK not to sign on to postpone right to work for 5 years for the 2004 accession countries (A mistake it didn’t repeat with Romania and Bulgaria), it was still the vehicle through which the greatest migration ever took place. And unlike asylum seekers who may either be prevented from working or are relatively uncompetitive in the labour market, EU migration is solely undertaken with work in mind and highly utilised. Worst of all, it never ends since the right to work is never revoked and the EU constantly threatens (Albeit with the UK being a bigger booster than the other members) to expand to countries with even bigger income gaps and even larger populations. Mass EU migration has even expanded to include places like Spain and Italy who have had their economies crushed by the IMF/ECB and have exported large numbers with no recovery of their economies outside leaving the ERM insight. Maybe you don’t live in those areas but in some places the impact has been massive, dwarfing anything seen in previous waves of immigration.

    Johnsons new line about a points based immigration system won’t help help all the other problems of immigration and may make them worse long-term through giving more influential portions of the population an ‘immigration background’, but it will at least help shift the burden away from the most vulnerable. Having to go through at least some rigamarole to get immigrant labour will help to discourage it’s use in the lower skilled sectors. (Though I am sure low skilled immigrants will still be imported and labour sourced far away now that certain sectors have become addicted and entitled to it, it will be harder and profits lower.) The cheap labour from the post-Soviet states was also crucial to starting the housing bubble.

    The left may advance that the EU has, far from the suspicions of the hard left in the 70s, been a force for more progressivism in the UK rather than the reverse but that has been less true the longer time goes on and has also come to be another vector to further remove individual politicians from direct responsibility and to think of themselves as managers of a preordained neoliberal cant and their country as an economy with a people rather than a people with an economy. And let’s not forget the Common Fisheries policy, which the UK has now escaped.

    You yourself are scapegoating the problems by saying the only issue for these people was Brexit and the EU, that isn’t true, it’s just the only one they were really able to vote for.

    The reality is this has all been a proxy debate on globalisation and immigration and has taken a distinct class war narrative not through the people in these marginalised areas doing (Nobody listens to them) but through the histrionic response of the media class in London and the upper middle classes throughout the land who don’t see the destruction and displacement of those communities as a bug but a feature.

    Instead of engaging you’re angry that they didn’t do things the way you would want them. But how long were they supposed to wait? They took a chance to fire a warning shot at the British establishment (Yes, this was about them not the EU, the EU was also a proxy for them) and no lessons seem to have been learned by the old guard, sad.

  11. Populist nationalist leaders are popping up all over the world. Johnson is only the British iteration of this global trend. All have authoritarian instincts to which they give rein as far as political circumstances allow. Opposition to their rule is divided, intimidated or both.

    Populist leaders are popping up because the internet is bypassing the media and tearing apart your leftist egalitarian narratives. The left would have been smashed decades ago if not for our obstinate media that refuses to tell the public the truth out of a fear that they will correctly assess the left to be based on wishful thinking and deceit.

    Ominously for Britain, the populist nationalist wave is not receding. And once they’ve won it, few, if any, of these leaders have lost their grip on power.

    You make it sound like this is undeserved. Is London the Labour model for Britain? Mass surveillance, knife control and suppressing rape statistics? What a utopia. US has the same problem where the liberals arrogantly assume they have the best model and yet don’t walk to talk about how they haven’t been able to fix Detroit or Baltimore even with their half trillion dollar war on poverty.

    Polls have shown that Britains want less immigration and yet Labour ignores them. Why?

    Your vacuous mainstream analysis is part of the reason why the left will continue to lose. Instead of facing the facts and picking a side you hold out for the most deluded view which is that the Western left has a viable plan and is interested in serving the needs of native workers. This view gets absolutely torn apart here at UNZ. The mainstream left is a total joke. Go back to arguing about how many genders there are while the rest of try to think critically about how we can fix this mess, if it is even possible at this point.

    • Replies: @Gordo
  12. So, labour did everything right and just suffered a massive defeat. Sads. Well, just keep doing the same ol’ same ol’ and it will work out next time.

    Of course, Labour could’ve done something completely crazy, like keeping its 2017 promise and supported Brexit. In that case, this election would NOT have been about brexit and Labour might have won. But you know, that’s just crazy, because obviously losing 80 seats to the Tories was just inevitable. Nothing could be done – except follow Jo Swinton’s lead in a dishonest fashion.

    Yeah.

  13. Vote-fixing, what else. Who knows who “won” or “lost”? The fix is so in nobody even understands it.

    Oh, I forgot. You people on here believe anything the MSM tells you. So you don’t believe in vote-fixing.

    Well, what can I say. You are stupid, and so your opinions are stupid about sums it up.

  14. @A123

    In 1790, there were about 50 representatives for 3.3 million people. Today there are about 9 times as many representatives for 100 times as many people.

  15. Ah,Unz left the punchline til the end:

    “Reprinted from The Independent…”

    • Replies: @John Johnson
  16. @Maple Curtain

    Why are his articles reprinted on Unz? He doesn’t appear to respond to the comments.

    • Replies: @Maple Curtain
  17. Sean says:

    Why Did Labour Get Stronger Where I Live But Lose the Country?

    Because by comparison with the rest of the country Canterbury is relatively prosperous and the people who are in direct competition with Poles and other EU freedom of movement immigrants for jobs and had got sick of having their wages kept down by the immense and unending inflow of Poles and other EU freedom of movement immigrants, are not as numerous in Canterbury.

    Blair said that if Johnson “mixes up the Brexit question with the Corbyn question in a general election, he could succeed”. And succeed he did.

    Excuse me? Corbyn was proposing to hold a new referendum on EU membership and let the Poles and other EU freedom of movement immigrants vote in it . You could not get more pro Remain than what Labour stood on and lost.

    Yet a speech by Tony Blair on 2 September accurately predicted all the political disasters that would follow if Labour and the Lib Dems chose to jump into what he termed the ‘elephant trap’ of a general election.

    Bliar’s immigration policies lost the British working class for Labour. Except in certain places south and east of Watford.

    https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/local-brain-drain/

    Abdel Abdellaoui and colleagues recent put out a paper on genetics and social stratification in Great Britain. Among other things, they found that polygenic scores of educational attainment were lower in seriously economically depressed areas, such as coal mining towns – and that this depression has increased with time. The smarter people are going where the better paying jobs are. Surely the same thing has been happening in West Virginia. […] To a true anti-hereditarian, every day is fresh & new & surprising, because hardly anything happens as they expect.

    And what did Cockburn’s father do for a living?

    I can see how one might surmise Corbyn would lose marginals but the fact is he can hardly be to blame for loosing solid and even hard Left seats.

    WHEN Tony Blair led the Labour Party to a landslide victory in 1997, he did so from his County Durham constituency of Sedgefield. But after 77 years of Labour rule (not including the seven years when the constituency was briefly abolished), last night Sedgefield became a Tory seat.

    Labour’s Phil Wilson – who took over from Blair when he stepped down in 2007 – was pushed out by Tory candidate Paul Howell, who received almost half of all votes (47.2%) in the constituency. […] Perhaps one of the most shocking moments of the night was the news that Dennis Skinner – who has been the MP for Bolsover for 49 years – had been unseated by the Tory Party. The 87-year-old former miner – nicknamed the “beast of Bolsover” finished more than 5,000 votes behind his Conservative challenger Nick Fletcher. Since it was created in 1970, the seat of Bolsover has been represented by just two MPs – Skinner and his predecessor, Labour MP Harold Wilson

    Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, proved equally delusional about their prospects.

    Swinson has what sounds like an RP English accent. The head of Scottish Labour with his very noticeable regional English accent was a great choice to fight off the SNP among a people who are united in joy when England gets knocked out the World Cup. The Scottish Conservatives suddenly started spending relatively vast sums on advertising in parts of Scotland that had never seen Tory election literature through the letterbox, in a three way race that was a victory in the greater scheme of of things even if it aided what Labour once called the ‘Tartan Tories’ to win seats. The SNP are a (regional) Left-internationalist pro EU and immensely pro immigration party, not mationalist in relation to anyone but England.

    Corbyn was an Internationalist like Blair before him. But when people are not doing so well they look from help from family religion and country. There are parts of Britain where people do not see themselves as doing well and want to hold on to their country. Of course those people are in a sense voting against their class interests, but that is not because they are less intelligent that poor people in Canterbury, its because Labour abandoned the working class, the real working class who have to scramble for decent jobs north of Watford where they are scarce enough without competition and downward pressure on wages from the endless entry of myriad EU freedom of movement immigrants to the market.

    • Agree: iffen
  18. 22pp22 says:

    Canterbury is a luvvie town these days. Luvvies do things like telling you their pronouns and boasting that their four-year-old wants to change gender. That is why the Labour vote grew. Of course Canterbury has council estates. Where doesn’t? It is even the centre of the Chrch of England, which said goodbye to Christ ten years ago and said hello to woke.

    Labour also held on to all its seats in London which is no longer a British city. Immigrants and Luvvies are now the Labour base.

  19. @John Johnson

    So the rest of us can get a glimpse of Clown Wold though the mind of one of the clowns

  20. @davidgmillsatty

    The number of people represented by the representatives has not increased hundredfold.

    The number of people represented back then was lower than the number of inhsbitants, as it is today.

  21. Labour did relatively well in 2017 under Corbyn because the Dear Leader promised to honour the referendum result.

    He then did a volte-face under the influence of the Bliarites in his party, and lost in 2019.

    George Galloway stated the obvious when he said Brexit lost Labour votes in Labour heartlands. He should know, since he was out knocking on doors to try to win a seat in West Bromwich East. But Galloway also said something else. Traditional Labour voters, he argued, have realised that the Labour leadership regard them as “thick” and traditioanl Labour voters also see that Metropolitan Labour leaders from London are waging a sort of culture war on them, focusing on weird issues of gender and sexuality, issues which have no relevance to how they get to pay the bills.

    Of course, Cockburn lives in a bubble in his university city, and would probably be repelled by a working class voter if he ever met one.

  22. Gordo says:
    @John Johnson

    Polls have shown that Britains want less immigration and yet Labour ignores them. Why?

    Because the Labour Party hates the White working class.

    Simple as that.

    • Agree: anonymous1963
  23. This article confirms my long-term impression that Patrick Cockburn is a traitor.

    There was the possibility that he had degenerated into an Irishman, but he now we learn lives in Canterbury. He’s English, despite the bizarre decision of his communist parents to raise him in County Cork.

    Yet he worships papist bog monsters.

  24. I’m guessing you live in a snooty town populated by professionals who look at EU regulations and mass immigration as a means of growing their wallets. Plus what self respecting person doesn’t have foreign born nanny and housecleaner. Anyone in trades or production is soooo beneath your community of woke brethren. How could they not listen to their betters? Maybe a Muslim grooming gang in your neighborhood would show some solidarity with the working class?

  25. anon[360] • Disclaimer says:

    Patrick Cockburn is part of the wierd modern phenomenon of Left wing Rightists.
    He is anti war, so he is a Leftist. But because the Left is prosecuting all our wars, he is pro war.
    He is pro worker, so he is a Leftist. But because the Left hates workers he hates workers.
    He is anti Corporation, so he is a Leftist. But because the Left loves Corporations, he loves Corporations.

    The one consistent theme of his politics is that he hates Anglo Saxons, so he is a Leftist. The Left, created by Anglo Saxons, always hates Anglo Saxons.

    Politics doesn’t just make strange bedfellows. It makes retarded idiots like Cockburn.

  26. Labour only got stronger where non-white foreigners were allowed to live in Britain.

  27. Its an ‘im alright, jack’ constituency. Yes, i’m sure you can provide anecdotes of a few deprived roads in the area to convince yourself you havent fully geographically extricated yourself from the great unwashed…but facts are facts. In aggregate, it is one of the least deprived seats in the nation. And its the aggregate that votes. Where most residents have sufficient decadence to indulge in Ms Jellyby type virtual escapism, namely in the Palestinian question, safe in the knowledge their backyard will remain wealthy, white, insulated, privileged.

    It wasnt alone, or in anyway unique. Seats with a similar (2.7% swing in Canterburys case) to Labour, with similar racial demographics were; Maidenhead, Rushcliffe, Altrincham & Sale. Runnymede & Weybridge, Bath.

    Of course, the largest pro-labour swing was in majority muslim Bradford west, where Naz ‘White Girls who get raped should shut up for the sake of diversity’ Shah enjoyed a 13% swing in her favour…which ought to tell you something about the local electorate there.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  28. “authoritarian”

    It’s funny how lefties seem to think that all they have to do is call a right-winger “authoritarian” and they have made the argument.

    Hey lefties! Government is force. Elections are about what new stuff are we going to do by force.

    And what is more authoritarian than the one-size-fits-all NHS? Or the one-size-fits-all state school system? Or the one-size-fits-all national pension system?

    Really, “authoritarian” means: the other guys are in power and I don’t like it.

  29. “Ominously for Britain, the populist nationalist wave is not receding.”

    So the ascendancy of the British People ( What else is “populist nationalist”?) is ominous for Britain?

    So, is 70 the new 90?

    How’s that Alzheimer’s working for you?

    I thought it was working the other way.

  30. fnn says:

    Labour evolved to hate the British people even more than the Tories traditionally do. That’s why they lost so badly.

  31. The British working class hate Boris Johnson but we hate the EU more.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  32. Corbyn was proposing to hold a new referendum on EU membership and let the Poles and other EU freedom of movement immigrants vote in it . You could not get more pro Remain than what Labour stood on and lost.

    Yep Labour wasn’t just “Remain” they were Dishonest about it to boot. What contempt for the UK electorate! They seem to have thought that everyone would forget their 2017 pledge to respect the Brexit vote, or their constant votes to keep us in the EU, or how fraudulent their “lets have another vote” pledge was. Yes, lets have another vote, where the two alternatives are (1) staying in the EU and (2) staying in the EU with a little independence on the side. And of course, EU citizens in the UK would be allowed to vote on the “New Brexit” – wouldn’t want to be unfair and skew the results!

    And I’m sure if “New Brexit” had won in 2020 under Labour, Why Corbyn would’ve really, really, really fought hard to get the UK out of the EU. Really. One can just imagine his “victory speech” after the EU_UK negotiations. “We have victory my friends! In 2035, after the transition period is over, we shall be free of EU Immigration and Judicial decisions. Of course the customs union will continue”.

    What Liars!

    • Replies: @Sean
  33. Sean says:
    @Honesthughgrant

    As Princess Diana’s biological father noted, the EU charter did not merely say that free movement between the Single Market member countries was allowed, it specified that such migration should be encouraged.

  34. @Phil the Fluter

    And both Labour and Tories hate the British working class but the Tories more.

  35. @Roger CLIFTONVILLE Acton

    Mrs Jelby (? – I don’t think either of us is right) escapism. I so relate to that. Boori Al Ghabar is so exotic.

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