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Thursday, January 28, 2016 

The commentariat is always wrong. Probably.

Steve Richards is very good in the Political Quarterly on the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, but this part on the commentariat is worth reflecting on also:

Here is one other general observation before I explore why Corbyn rose to the top of his party and reflect on what might happen next. I find in British politics that what we think is happening is almost always the reverse of what is actually happening. That is my polite way of suggesting that the media consensus at any given time is nearly always wrong. So, for example, at the moment the orthodoxy in the media is that Cameron and Osborne are commanding and the Conservatives have already won the next election, while the rise of Corbyn is an unqualified catastrophe. My instinct is to assume these assumptions must be wrong, partly because the commentariat is always wrong.

To judge by the polls, which themselves are tarnished by last year's failure, the commentariat in this instance seem to be right: Corbyn is not doing well, and the Tories are doing far better than a party with a majority of 12, 5 years into government and with so many potential problems on the horizon should be. Point is, when the commentariat are so focused on Corbyn being a disaster, it's incredibly hard not to be drawn into thinking the same, as while there are "good" columnists and "bad" columnists they invariably reach the same conclusions. Besides, as we know, there is wisdom in crowds.

This is only multiplied when said commentariat is now asking whether Labour might split, with the no longer Pollyanna Toynbee urging it not to, Pol being older and wiser for having helped Thatcher into power in 83 with the SDP, although of course she doesn't put it like that. The New Statesman meanwhile, which seems to have decided to be critical of Labour at all times whether in government or not, poses the question on its front page, even if its conclusion is ultimately the same as Pol's.

Labour it barely needs saying isn't going to split.  You only need to look at the utter state of the Lib Dems to see that there is barely any room at the moment for a centrist party, let alone for two competing parties of the centre left.  Whom is going to lead this split anyway?  As Richards goes on to say, part of the reason Labour is in this mess is down to how Blair and Brown commanded the party for so long, without ordaining successors as either Thatcher tried to or as Cameron is now attempting with Osborne.  Say what you like about Burnham, Cooper or Kendall, all are tribally Labour.  Nor are any of the great white hopes, again whoever they are now, Dan Jarvis seeming the only name with the slightest lustre, going to do a Gang of Four, let alone take others in the party with them.

Things then we should also assume are wrong due to how they are being pushed, or probably wrong: firstly, that Labour will lose seats in the local elections.  I doubt it, and even if they do, Sadiq Khan is going to be the next London mayor, which despite the commentariat also assuming is a done deal, could be the exception that proves the rule.

Second: that whatever EU renegotiation Cameron comes up with, the remain campaign will win.  This seems to assume that the sheer rhetorical force of Dave and friends will win the day, and completely ignores that the same coalition the Tories put together that won the election, of older people, former Lib Dem voters outside of the cities and those put off/unconvinced by Miliband/Labour's record on the economy/not hating immigrants/benefit claimants enough are those most likely to be unfavourable towards the EU also.  Cameron would seem to be counting on the very people who haven't and will never vote for him to effectively do so on this occasion to take him over the edge.  Now it could happen, we might see a UK wide reprise of Project Fear from the Scottish independence referendum that convinces just enough people the risks of leaving aren't worth it, and there's the fact the most notable people involved with the leave campaigns are unpopular populists in an age when populism done properly is very popular.  Or we could end up in the worst of all worlds, outside the EU without any say in anything but with much the same obligations, and with Cameron having to resign, plus Osborne supremely damaged in turn.


Which would leave Corbyn and Labour where?  Not in quite as bad a place, if nothing else.

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