Get it right, BBC: Jeremy Corbyn's 2019 defeat was nowhere near Labour's worst

Get it right, BBC: Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 defeat was nowhere near Labour’s worst

Get it right, BBC: Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 defeat was nowhere near Labour’s worst performance since 1935!

This Writer has been involved in a revealing discussion on X, after I posted the following:

I thought the point I was making was fairly clear, but I had to clarify it subsequently, explaining that Corbyn’s version of the Labour Party was actually among the most popular in general elections.

(By “most popular”, I mean it was supported by more people than Labour under other leaders.)

It was one of my most popular recent posts, gaining 405 likes, even at a time when the social media platforms are trying to stamp out left-wing websites like Vox Political.

But it also attracted a few detractors who determinedly put forward the false assertion that Corbyn was a disaster for the Labour Party.

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Their arguments can be boiled down to the following:

  • Corbyn wasn’t as popular because he did not get as many votes as (for example) three-time election winner Tony Blair.
  • The UK’s population had grown between previous elections and that of 2019, and so had the electorate, so proportionately, Corbyn had fewer votes.
  • Winning Parliamentary seats is all that matters, and Corbyn lost dozens of them.

The first claim can be dismissed straight away. In the 2019 election, Corbyn’s Labour won 10,269,051 votes – around three-quarters of a million more than Tony Blair’s New Labour in 2005 (9,552,436). It also beat Gordon Brown’s Labour of 2010 (8,609,527) and Ed Miliband’s of 2015 (9,347,324).

So in terms of sheer numbers of voters, Jeremy Corbyn had more than any Labour leader since 2001.

The question of proportionality is a good one. I researched it, and came back with the following:

In 2019, 21.6 per cent of the registered electorate voted for Corbyn. That beats the 20.2 per cent who voted for Miliband in 2015 and the 18.9 per cent who voted for Brown in 2010.

It doesn’t beat the 21.6 per cent who voted for Blair in 2005, which came as a surprise to me. In fact, Blair shades it because, proportionately, 0.0015350300917549 more of the electorate voted for him. That’s equivalent to around 679 people in 2005.

But does that make Jeremy Corbyn the least popular Labour leader since 1935, just because he was slightly less popular than the leader who won a 66-seat majority with (proportionately) 679 votes more than him?

Of course it doesn’t. That would be ridiculous.

But Blair won 355 seats and Corbyn only won 202. How did that happen?

Clearly, there is an issue with the way Parliamentary seats are won.

Some might say the problem was simply that Corbyn’s Labour concentrated too much on keeping ‘safe’ seats in metropolitan areas and did not put enough resources into marginals it needed to keep and seats it needed to gain.

But evidence that has come to light since then suggests that, in the 2017 election, Corbyn had been keen for investment to go into these places but right-wing factionalists within the Labour Party had secretly diverted the funds to support their favoured candidates. We don’t have information about the 2019 election (do we?) but it seems likely that the same trick was pulled on him then.

And of course Keir Starmer pushed for a second referendum on Brexit, and this got into Labour’s manifesto, alienating many voters (most famously those in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ constituencies). After Labour lost the election, Starmer performed one of the amazing about-turns for which he is now justly famous, re-branding himself and Labour as Brexiters.

These decisions made a huge difference in constituencies where Brexit was an issue, and where Labour was not able to put out the campaigners needed to explain to enough voters what the party’s policies were.

And of course, constituency boundaries are constantly being changed, as ruling parties try to gerrymander elections in their favour by drawing the borders in such a way that more of their voters are in each voting area; Theresa May had to cancel boundary changes in 2018 because Tory MPs feared losing their seats.

If you think these things aren’t important, then allow me to remind you that, in 2005, Tony Blair won 92 more English seats than the Conservatives, with 50,000 fewer votes (some say 70,000).

The Electoral Reform Society’s report on the 2019 election addresses the issue of proportionality, examining how far the election result deviated from what it would look like if seats were proportional to votes gained by each party. In 2019, the UK’s DV score, as it is known, was 16 – almost twice as high as the nine it scored in 2017. In most English regions it was much higher.

So you can see that the number of seats won by the different parties in 2019 was not representative of their national popularity – and this has been an issue in elections for many years.

The number of seats earned in an election, therefore, cannot be used as an indicator of popularity.

In other words, all those whiners on X who have spent half a week bleating that Jeremy Corbyn was disastrous in comparison with other Labour leaders are full of drivel.

(For the record, Labour’s worst electoral disaster since 1935 happened in 1983, when the party led by Michael Foot polled 8,456,934 votes. Jeremy Corbyn’s worst result netted him nearly two million votes more than that!)

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One Comment

  1. Baz May 21, 2024 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Keep up the good work Mike, the liars have to be exposed for what they are. Tools for the establishment.

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