Friday, June 9, 2017

Michael Ellman on the UK Elections

Professor Michael Ellman, of Amsterdam University and an old colleague, co-author and friend, appears to have become our resident phsephologist. He promptly sent me his valuable comments on the UK elections, authorising me to publish them as a Guest Post on this Blog, which I am delighted to do at once. Here is Michael's assessment on the day after (DMN).

(1) Theresa May took a gamble and lost. She was misled by opinion polls that showed a huge lead for her party before the election was called and also by the fact that a majority of Labour MPs had no confidence in Corbyn.

(2) Nevertheless, the Conservatives can form a new government and carry on. The Conservatives will be the biggest party in the new House of Commons and have almost half the total number of MPs. Together with one of the Northern Ireland parties (the Democratic Unionists) the Conservatives will have a (small) majority and will be able to push their legislation through Parliament (provided that their own party remains united).

(3) May's own personal position has been seriously undermined and she will not be able to last five years as Prime Minister. Some other senior figures in the Conservative party (such as Boris Johnson) will seek to take over. Even for her to last 12 months will be very difficult.

(4) The Conservatives got 42% of the vote. That shows that there is a solid block of the population (private sector, professionals, business people, the elderly) who back them.

(5) The Labour party got 40% of the vote. Thuis shows that there is a solid block of the population (students, public sector employees such as teachers and nurses, tenants facing high rents, low-income groups, minority ethnic groups) that opposes austerity and cuts to the public sector. Allowing for the 3% gained by the SNP (Scotttish National Party) which has a similar economic outlook to the Labour party, this shows that slightly more people voted againt austerity than supported it.

(6) Jeremy Corbyn ran a very successful campaign. That shows that in the UK and USA a candidate to the Left of orthodox opinion, such as Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn can enthuse a large part of the population, especially the young. (Turnout rose a couple of percent compared with the last election.)

(7) The decline of the SNP in Scotland and the improved showing there of Unionist parties, notably the Conservatives, make the break-up of the UK less likely.

(8) As far as Brexit is concerned, about half the population (supporters of Labour, SNP and the Liberal Democrats) voted for parties that would prefer a so-called soft Brexit (e.g. membership of the European Economic Area à la Norway) to the complete break that Theresa May seems heading for.

We live in interesting times.


Stefania Jaconis said...

The last figure hides the unknown percentage of those who would reject Brexit altogether. As far as I know, there is no publshed data on the present-day extent of this share of population, but they do exist, and must be reckoned with. The same applies to those who voted for Sanders in the US, signalling that a large part of the electorate is made up of discontents. The increasing quota of young people in both groups deserves attention and, in my opinion, gives reasons for hope.

Gian Giacomo Migone said...

Not bad, but you forget two important fact. A new generation of British do not live in a fantasy country nourished by too many WW II movies.
Also the conservative vote is inflated by Reactionary Ukip fans.
Gian Giacomo Migoe

S,E, said...

We live in interesting times. Labour share up to 40%. But Tories at 43%! The young are finally voting, and the brexit vote is more or less reversed. I can't see anything but an election again within a year,

T.T. said...

From today's Financial Times on line:
Early on Sunday 11 June the Democratic Unionist Party denied that it had finalised a deal to support the Conservatives in the UK Parliament… Mrs May had spoken with the DUP on Saturday night to “discuss finalising a confidence and supply deal when parliament returns next week”.

Not yet a done deal, then, and what will the DUP, this sectarian, homophobic, anti-abortion, no-gay-marriages, climate-change-denial party will demand in return?
In the same FT George Osborn is reported to have claimed that Theresa May is "a dead woman walking".

S.S. said...

What a shambles - the English certainly seem to be displaying their usual sensitivity about Northern Ireland.

Tonino Lettieri said...

About Corbyn:

1. There is an effort by media worldwide to hide or diminish the meaning of Corbyn's success. Labour’s electoral result is not only of extraordinary importance for the U.K. . It is stunning when compared with the general collapse of European leftwing parties. Noone forecasted the British exceptional political swing.

2. It is no coincidence that up to two weeks before the election deadline, Labour was considered in the process of going bankrupt. Even a few days before the elections, an exponent of the Labour parliamentary wing had declared to the Financial Times: It will be a "massacre", and of course he was referring to his own party. Not only have we not witnessed the massacre but, earning 40 percent of the popular vote, Labour achieved one of the best electoral results in its history. Only two years ago, in the 2015 elections, Labour led by Ed Miliband had got ten points less. The First-past-the-post voting system limited to 262 the seats gained by Labour, but this can’t hide Corbyn's success – the seats being in any case some thirty more than those earned by Labour in 2010 and 2015.

3. This success is connected to two combined strategic features.
First, Corbyn had overturned the Labour Party’s traditional stance on the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union. He had supported, although not effectively convinced, the Remain side in the 2016 referendum, in line with the great majority of the party's parliamentary wing. But after the referendum’s defeat of the Rermainers, and after that Theresa May had suddenly called early elections, he didn’t hesitate: The majority of the British electorate had democratically chosen to go ahead with Brexit, and Labour had to acknowledge it. As the Labour electoral Manifesto wrote: “Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will…build a close new relationship with the EU,… build a close co-operative future relationship with the EU, not as members but as partners”.
Second, we have seen a radical new approach of the electoral platform: It was no coincidence that 80 per cent of the parliamentarian wing ferociously attacked Corbyn's program, judging it as a lingering ideological stance of an old socialist, who had always been in opposition to Blair’s New Labour. Someone has remembered Tony Benn and Michael Foot to find a remote trace of a leftwing stance in Labour's modern history.

(more to follow)

Tonino Lettieri said...

About Corbyn (continued)

4. In the electoral Manifesto you could read about some forgotten goals of the left, such as: - the commitment to public investment; - nationalization of a number of public utilities, including the railways privatized by Margaret Thatcher, - increase of hourly minimum wage to 10 pounds; - repeal of the Trade Union Act introduced in 1999 by Tony Blair limiting the rights to workers’ representation and negotiation; and so on. By and large. a rebuke of the austerity policy, and of the ill-famed structural reforms underpinned by EU market fundamentalism.

Summing up, Labour has given a leftwing perspective to Brexit, making a bold difference from the typical opposition toward the EU politics coming from the rightwing parties, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, or Salvini's League in Italy. I consider of great importance that, trough the success of Corbyn's Labour, Brexit and the criticism toward the EU policies take on an unmistakable left-wing meaning.

5. Labour had never got almost 13 million vote except once for Blair's first mandate in 1997; and, in any case, never approached the current membership of over half million. All this strikingly contrasts with the debacle of the European center-left parties: from Austria to Netherlands not to mention the devastation of French socialist party, the literal disappearance of Greek Pasok, or the PSOE reduced to support in Spain the shaky minority of Rajoy's government.

May we say that Corbyn's unexpected great success defies the claim of the fatal end of the left (when it doesn’t choose suicide) as a mystic branch of the last century? I think we may reasonably answer positively.

D. Mario Nuti said...

I leave it to Michael to decide whether he wishes to responds to comments to date.

On Corbyn, Michael had recognised that socialists like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn attract young electors. For my part I believe that Corbyn bears much of the (ir)responsibility for Brexit’s victory in the June 2016 Referendum, and I do not see any reason to celebrate his alleged success in the 8 May elections, in view of his resounding defeat and the lack of any prospect of being able to form a government even in case of Theresa May’s failure or resignation. Corbyn’s economic programme would have been financially ruinuous without raising employment or reversing austerity. The most innovative of Corbyn’s proposals was the creation of four additional national holidays. Theresa May’s so-called “Dementia Tax”, though revoked from the Conservative Manifesto and a major factor in her loss of traditional conservative support, was much more radical and socially re-distributive than any part of Corbyn’s programme.

I regard myself as an incurable left-winger, and I have the deepest contempt for Tony Blair, whom I consider a warmonger and a class traitor, but I would have never voted for Corbyn, the friend of terrorists like the Provisional IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah, and defender of Islamic jihadists’ civil rights. A luminous example for the European Left to follow? Certainly not. Back to the Drawing Board, Tonino!