I have been struggling, and failing, to keep up with all the convolutions generated by the Brexit negotiations and the turbulent politics accompanying it. Polly Toynbee, a columnist for the Guardian, writes that despite the factional fighting at the recent Labour party conference, when compared to what is going on with the Conservatives, the chances for the Labour party to do well in the next UK election (which she thinks will be very soon) are good. I have no way of gauging if this surprisingly optimistic (to me at least) view is justified and hope that some of the readers who are more familiar with UK politics will chime in.
Against these no dealers, Jeremy Corbyn and his party are united and authentically passionate, in a way they haven’t been for years. Corbyn can convincingly admit he was never an EU enthusiast, but like many who saw the options unfold, he stands unequivocally against the great no-deal disaster. Vote for us, and we give you the final say: remain, or a deal that keeps us in the customs union – as near as damn it in the single market – with no border in Ireland. Vote Tory and it’s no deal. Vote Liberal Democrat and it’s an undemocratic revoke.
She thinks that the unequivocal rejection by the Liberal party leader Jo Swinson of any possibility of supporting Corbyn as prime minister is not due to her deep hostility to the idea but a necessary political strategy that will benefit both Labour and the Liberals by creating an implicit strategic alliance targeting vulnerable Conservative seats.
The danger is in splitting the remain vote. Everything depends on remainers and progressives voting tactically with rigid discipline in each of 150 target seats to keep Johnson out, opting for the best-chance Labour, Lib Dem, Green, SNP or Plaid Cymru candidate.
Labour people may jibe at Jo Swinson’s behaviour. Why is she so rudely adamant that she would never back a Corbyn-led government, not even as interim? For the good reason that grown-up Labour supporters need to understand: the seats she can win are virtually all Tory ones and the soft Tory remainers she needs to woo would be frightened off if voting Lib Dem looked like a proxy Corbyn vote. She needs to be as brutally aggressive towards Labour as possible – and Labour people just have to suck it up: the only hope of Labour being the bigger party is for Swinson to win every Tory seat she can.
[Boris Johnson] pretends to want to talk about the NHS, the police and hospitals – but so will the people and he won’t like what he hears after a decade of stricken services. Nor will voters trust his airy promises of more money when all around everything appears to be getting worse – NHS waiting times lengthening as local authorities set their threadbare budgets for even deeper cuts.
Corbyn, on the other hand, campaigns well. He needs a better speechwriter to frame the Brexit debate beyond repetitive mantras on environmental and workers rights. But on both Brexit and state-of-the-nation policies, he has the strongest platform.
I am doubtful that political parties are capable of long maintaining the level of sophisticated strategy that Toynbee seems to think is in play, and that in the end, it is conceivable that it will be the Conservatives who are better able to exploit that stated antagonism between Labour and Liberals.
I hope I am proven wrong and that Toynbee is right.