While chaos unfolds in Westminster, on social media there has been merry carnival of mea culping, told-you-soing and book-eating in the wake of the sensational general election result last week. No, Labour did not win a majority or become largest party, but they did effectively bring down a government, leave an apparently unassailable Prime Minister utterly toothless and quite possibly revolutionised British politics for a generation to come.
Central to this there has been a lot of talk about who has been proven right or wrong. Someone kindly intervened in one of my own mini Twitter spats to describe me as “someone who was right all along.”
It’s never my style to wave away a compliment, so I let it ride, but it didn’t feel true. I’m not someone who was right all along, at least not in the most basic sense. Over recent months there were literally a few handfuls of furiously loyal Corbyn supporters who insisted that the polls were wrong, that Corbyn would storm an election campaign, and if the Tories called an election they would get stuffed. Those people were very few in number and I was not among them. Most of Corbyn’s people were not among them, truth be told. If I’m honest, when the election was called my best guess was that Labour would get trounced and the best foreseeable outcome would be if Jeremy Corbyn put up a good enough showing to survive and fight another day. So simply on cold hard numbers psephology, I was just as wrong as the most ardent Corbyn critic.
However, there is another reading of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ on which I am proud to have landed jammy-side up, while Corbyn’s critics have faceplanted into the proverbial from a grand height. It is about the very rules of the game that I’m describing – the psephology, the electoral calculation, the punditry, the prediction, the polls-chasing.
Here is a grand truth which lies at the heart of Corbyn’s success, which the mainstream political media class entirely failed to understand and – based on the comment pieces and social media mutterings of the weekend – still entirely fails to understand. It comes down to a dictum which in my view could reasonably be called the central premise of Corbynism:
We do not say what we say because it plays well in the polls and we do not cynically advocate policies for electoral advantage. We do what do because we believe it is the right thing to do.