Sometimes simply not losing can turn out to be an earthshaking triumph. In the trivial world of sports a wry American documentary entitled Harvard Beats Yale, 28-28 celebrated a tie by Harvard’s football team against heavily favoured Yale as just such a stirring achievement.
The British election result last month was a vastly more momentous event that goes on reverberating no matter how hard the badly bruised Tories strive to spin it as merely Labour’s third straight loss, which indeed it was.
Smug smiles were wiped from silly faces of pollsters, conservatives (including Blairites inside Labour) and well-paid pundits ~ the sort of folks still able to buy property in insanely overpriced London ~ when Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn outperformed their carefully orchestrated low expectations for him.
The night before the election, a poll for the British newspaper, The Independent, predicted a “landslide” 74-seat majority victory by Theresa May’s Tories. Instead the stunned Tories watched their solid majority go poof and scurried to make a slimy billion pound deal for the support of Northern Ireland’s ultra-right Democratic Unionist Party, which is encumbered by a sordid history of links to murderous Loyalist paramilitary groups.
So suddenly the Tories find it a trifle embarrassing to wag fingers at Corbyn for consorting with IRA members in the long gone past. It is also virtually impossible for comical opportunists like Tory cabinet members, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, to resist the public anti-austerity sentiment that Corbyn embodies.
A 90 per cent pro-Tory media, including the pliable BBC, toiled to discourage voters, especially young ones, by uniformly portraying a Tory win as a foregone conclusion.
Instead, Corbyn’s Labour Party vote surpassed all but Tony Blair’s first election in 1997 and exceeded Blair’s victories in 2001 and 2007. Corbyn now is favoured over Prime Minister Theresa May by seven points, and would win a Labour majority in the next election if that difference held, but what do clueless pollsters know anymore? Still, the ferocious anti-Corbyn campaign probably exerted enough discouraging effect to avert a Labour-led progressive coalition from emerging from the fray last month.
Corbyn was so rancorously mocked and demonized since he became Labour leader that many a Brit was astonished during the election to discover that this really quite genial fellow did not hobble around on cloven hooves. Moreover, the public rapidly warmed to Corbyn’s people-first progressive policies.
Going back to the Brexit vote, any sober analyst could detect a groundswell of frustration by hard-pressed citizens looking for someone to champion civilized values over sheer money-grubbing.
Theresa May’s Tory choir crooned the mantra that there was no “magic money tree” to pay for Labour’s proposals in education, housing, transport and health. Yet enough savvy Brits recalled all too well that Tories (and Blairite Labour) did not hesitate to conjure hundreds of billions to bail out reckless British banks after the 2008 crash, and pushed the blame and the costs on everyone else. For the well-connected a magic money tree is always in bloom.
The ironic predicament the Tories faced was that the Labour policies they scorned as fantasies only drove people to ask instead why it is utopian to enjoy a decent health service, secure jobs, cheaper transport, affordable housing, sound infrastructure, free university education and real pay rises in the public sector and for workers other than bloated CEOs in the private sector.
Far from being a daft leftist dream, the UK boasted all these things in the maligned 60s and 70s; so why not now when the nation was so much wealthier? The key difference between the 1960s and now clearly are the taxes that the rich and the corporations are no longer compelled to pay, and which could be restored with enough political will.
No wonder the Tories babbled about a “magic money tree” to distract the public from that unpleasant act. What Corbyn’s ascent signals is that the worldwide rightward shift since the 1980s is ending for a fed-up public, though not for elites. Greece heroically rejected the Troika’s crazy punitive terms but was failed by its weak leadership. Bernie Sanders’ campaign, despite all the devious internal Democratic Party efforts to sabotage it (and a virtual media blackout), came very close to success anyway.
Trump’s dangerous buffoonery is only fortifying opposition against him and the Republican Party. Corbyn, no longer a laughing stock, is positioned to take office if the shaky Tory-DUP accord crumbles and another election is forced.
The premeditated policy-driven funneling of wealth to the super rich over decades ~ so that one per cent now own half the world’s assets ~ cannot help but intensify social strains and, if unchecked, spur civil breakdowns. Exhibit A is the horrific fire in a tower block housing lower-income residents in central London, which, as Corbyn accused, was a case of institutional murder.
The local council turned over its management to a private company focused only on the cheapest way of running the place. The Council hired a safety consultant whose job really was to fend off fire inspection regulations, when a fraction of this consultant’s exorbitant fee easily would have purchased the fire-resistant cladding the tower block needed to avert disaster.
These kind of consequences mount and become visible. The rambunctious G20 protests in Hamburg this month attest that global opposition is burgeoning.
The authorities, instead of retreating inside security bubbles, ought to be gushing out thanks to demonstrators for doing their civic duty to warn against the establishment’s implacable pursuit of a dead-end economic strategy.
The writers are authors of No Clean Hands and Parables of Permanent War among many other books