Labour’s Flight from Democracy | Jake Scott
Well, there we have it. Despite the closing polls, the strategic voting, and the sheer dishonesty of the Conservatives, Boris Johnson secured the largest Conservative parliamentary majority since 1987. The pundits acted as if it would be a close call, to the extent that they probably convinced themselves (and many of us), but the reality on the ground was entirely different – a landslide. But what was it a landslide for? I find it difficult to say this was a victory for the Conservatives; it might be more accurate to talk of a defeat for Labour, and I think this defeat is because of a deep problem in Labour – it is entirely ambivalent towards democracy.
The most obvious expression of this is the Labour Party’s refusal to accept and respect the result of the 2016 Referendum, consistently placing themselves on the side of “maybe”, with heavy indications towards Remain. Their official stance (for lack of a better term) was to “negotiate a credible deal” within 3 months (which is a stance completely out-of-sync with reality), and then put the decision over the deal to the UK population with a second EU membership referendum. Mr. Corbyn said he would remain neutral in this campaign, but the (often explicit) assumption with the wider Labour Parliamentary Party was that Remain would be the default stance.
Not only that, but the membership of the Labour Party seems to have now doubled-down on its attitude that the electorate made a mistake. After all, who exactly are the protesters outside of Westminster protesting against? Ostensibly, the Tories, but the act of “resistance” is only partly concerned with the outcome (i.e. the election of the Conservative Party); the other focus of concern is the procedure that resulted in that outcome. In other words, the protesters might be chanting the name of Boris Johnson, but the real focus of their ire is the rebellious electorate that dared to put him in No. 10.
It doesn’t help that the leadership of the Labour Party has joined this idiocy hand-in-hand, claiming (with no small amount of mockery from the internet) that Labour “won the argument” but lost the election. Again, what does this even mean? The only thing I can liken this to is a bitter, spiteful class swot groaning through tears that he had “won the debate” because he had all the right answers, but the judge had incorrectly given the victory to his opponent. Who is the judge in Labour’s case? Simply, the electorate: as has always been the case with the Left, the attitude they have taken to the electorate is, not only are they too stupid to see that Labour is right, but they are too stupid to understand why.
To top it all off, Mr. Corbyn has pretended that the only valid outcome from the Election is a “period of reflection“, and not the abdication that any other leader would recognise as essential. What does this period of reflection look like, though? Unsurprisingly, Mr. Corbyn insists on staying on to guide the party’s policies – which any sane person would recognise as counter-intuitive, given the policies’ absolutely catastrophic failures. The other consequence of this strange delayed abdication is inevitably that Mr. Corbyn will do all he can to influence the outcome of any leadership contest in his favour.
Given all of this, it is not difficult to see how far Labour has fled from democracy: a failure to respect the single largest democratic vote in British history; a dismissive attitude to the very electorate that has rejected them; and a perversion of internal party democracy, that Ed Miliband fought so hard to improve. But what goes deeper than this is the ambivalence the Labour Party has to the very workings of democracy themselves: an underlying consensus must exist for democracy to work, and that consensus is broadly respect for and acceptance of a divergence of thought. In other words, you must be prepared to accept that people disagree with you. But the disturbing trend I have noticed across social media (and, by all rights, I am not alone in this) is the moralisation of voting, wherein the claim that you can only be moral by voting “the right way” increasingly comes from the Left; not only is this a furtherance of the patronising attitude towards the electorate, but reflective of a deep belief in the possibility for there to even be a “right answer” in the question of an election.
If Labour is to come back from this, they need to do more than just accept the shift in the population’s values (or, as some have said, recognise that the governing elite has shifted away from the population’s values); they need to respect the values of those they disagree with.