UK: Labour “should have won”

There are lessons from similarities and differences between the UK snap election and New Zealand’s general election.

There has been a lot of left wing rejoicing after Jeremy Corbyn led the UK Labour Party from a predicted drubbing to a respectable loss.

Here in New Zealand some at The Standard have been ecstatic :

Labour excels in the UK

Labour’s performance in the United Kingdom is phenomenal compared to expectations from even three weeks ago. What are the lessons for New Zealand Labour?

Lessons for NZ Labour?

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour just reshaped the political landscape of the UK.

Lessons for NZ?

Lesson 1 – in politics, as in sport, a loss is a loss. In sport “four more years” is a common retort to a losing world cup team. In the UK Labour could face five more years in opposition if the Conservatives manage to survive.

While Corbyn deserves some credit it’s fair to ask whether Labour there could have one the election with a less left wing and unliked (until the victorious election loss) leader than Corbyn. They started a long way behind due to turmoil in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership.

The Guardian:  Labour should have won against May’s ‘open goal’, says MP

NZ Labour ‘should’ win against a nine year Government whose popular leader resigned. But they are still a long way behind National.

Labour missed an “open goal” to beat Theresa May and should not pretend it achieved a famous victory, a former shadow chancellor has said.

Chris Leslie, who was Labour shadow chancellor during 2015, labelled it an “OK result” after Jeremy Corbyn’s party secured a higher-than-expected 262 seats and significantly boosted its vote share.

He added that Labour still lost the election, leaving his Nottingham East constituency, which he held in the election, with a Conservative government “they do not need”, and the party with questions about how to convince voters it can move from “protesting about a government into being the government”.

NZ Labour has similar questions to answer (as do NZ Greens and NZ First).

“We shouldn’t pretend that this is a famous victory. It is good, as far as it’s gone, but it’s not going to be good enough.

“Five years of Conservative government: I just can’t, I’m afraid, be a cheerleader for that particular outcome because this was an open goal for all of us. We should have been getting in there.”

Corbyn has been widely praised for running a good campaign and closing the gap between Labour and the Conservatives, but a loss is a loss.

Challenged if Labour could have won under another leader, Leslie said: “I’ve never known a more beatable prime minister than Theresa May – brittle, I think, very, very wobbly and shaky indeed.”

And at a very shaky time for the UK, which is in the process of exiting from the European Union after a close referendum result supporting ‘Brexit’.

Leslie said a lot of people see Corbyn as a credible prime minister, though stopped short of giving his endorsement.

He said: “We’re in an era of open, honest politics. I’m not going to pretend that I have suddenly changed my views about this.

“You know that I’ve got disagreements with Jeremy on particular issues, whether it’s security, economy. I think we’re past the period where we should be asking people to pretend they’ve got different views.”

So UK Labour does not appear to be exactly united in defeat.

On whether he would join Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, Leslie said: “My worry is, if I was to serve in the shadow cabinet there would come a moment where something would come up which I would disagree with, and these are my principles, whether it is to do with security or the running of the economy.

“I might have to then resign. Who knows what happens?”

Labour united during the \campaign to try to defeat a common enemy, the Conservative government.

But the enemies within the party, or at least significant differences within, haven’t disappeared with a sort of successful election loss.

NZ Labour could learn from this, and especially those to the left of the left who may be convinced that staunchly swinging left is the way to victory.

New Zealand doesn’t have Brexit to deal with, we don’t have anything like Britain’s immigration issues and don’t have their terrorism tensions. And we don’t have Theresa May as Prime Minister. And we don’t have a snap election, we have a routine general election coming up.

We have had 9 years of a national led government, we have a less charismatic Prime Minister after John Key’s resignation last year, we have growing signs of arrogance, and we have a lack of progress on housing issues and Auckland infrastructure (Auckland City Council is at least as responsible for that as the Government).

NZ Labour ‘should’ be in a good position to win this election. However they conceded last year they would require the support of at least one other sizeable party after joining campaign forces with the Greens. And going by recent polls they are still well short of beating National.

Recent elections and referendums around the world suggest that polls and campaigns and election results are increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

UK voters punished May’s Conservatives for an arrogant power play calling a snap election, and an arrogant and poor election campaign – but they were well short of dumping them altogether.

Under MMP New Zealand voters have never given one party a clear majority, they have always chosen to require support from other parties to govern – this is probably partly by voter design and partly by accident.

That’s the most likely outcome of our September election – either National or Labour+Greens will require at least one other party to be able to form the next government.

When National ‘won’ (with the help of some minor parties) the election in 2008 one could have presumed that Labour ‘should’ win back power by 2017, but at best for them it looks like being at least Labour+NZ First or Labour+Greens, and while an Opposition coalition ‘should’ be in a prime position to win they are not, yet at least.

Some Labour in the UK are rejoicing their improvement in an election defeat, and some here in New Zealand applaud that also and hope that it is a good sign for their chances here.

But there are also signs that the Greens in particular and to a lesser extent Labour are resigned to a loss this year and are simply trying rebuild enough now so they can launch a real bid for power in 2020.

Corbyn and UK Labour probably went into their election with a similar longer term view, but reacted well to a pathetic Conservative campaign offering a virtual ‘open goal’. But they didn’t do well enough.

Labour here can’t bank on National stuffing up their campaign as badly as May – National should have also learned from the UK experience.

Labour supporters also can’t bank on their ability to score if presented with an open goal, some of their pre-campaign strategies have been questionable and unsuccessful – several ‘game changers’ have been left floundering at half way at best and have not got anywhere near the goal.

Labour are far from being in a position to win the election here. At best under our MMP system they may be able to put together a multi-party coalition despite the likelihood they will have fewer seats than National.

Labour and the Greens and NZ First are trying to defend three disparate goals, while National has to defend just one, patched up with a few bit players.

The outcome of our election will end up being determined by who voters think are most deserving of and capable of running New Zealand.

Unless voters effectively decide ‘a pox on both their houses’ as they have done in the US and the UK.

A sad indication of the sorry state of Western democracies is that voters are left trying to decide the least worst rather than the best.

That’s certainly how it looks to me in the US and the UK.

Will it be any different here in three months time?


  1. Blazer

     /  June 11, 2017

    ‘In sport “four more years” is a common retort to a losing world cup team’….is it really?I am aware of only one instance…George Gregan to a hopelessly coached AB…side.

  2. David

     /  June 11, 2017

    May was a woeful campaigner and she seems to have no friends in her party and couldnt connect with voters either, English is quite a likeable person. May was ineffectual as home secretary and the 3 terrorist attacks should have been stopped under her watch, English is a very succesful finance minister and is driving through some pretty impressive social policies. May,s manifesto was quickly reversed, straight after her budget was, and she called an unnecessary election after saying she wouldnt and then campaigned as “strong and stable”. She sidelined her Chancellor while dropping hints he would be fired instead of getting him out there letting voters know their taxes were being used wisely and Corbyn would send them broke.
    I am not sure there are any lessons for us, going there in 2 weeks right after rammadan madness has stopped.

  3. Corbyn could not win against May. What does that tell me? Answer as long as Corbyn stays as the leader of UK Labour, they will never be the Government. His Marxist Socialist Union-based poison is a killer for the UK. Who was it that stuffed up the global authority of Great Britain? The USA during the Suez Crisis! Not a good friend for the parts of the World who want to work together. The politics of national dominance will never succeed. Ask Xi and Putin!

    • Blazer

       /  June 11, 2017

      a scrambled mess …is your post Col.’This is one of the most sensational political upsets of our time. Theresa May – a wretched dishonest excuse of a politician, don’t pity her – launched a general election with the sole purpose of crushing opposition in Britain. It was brazen opportunism, a naked power grab: privately, I’m told, her team wanted the precious “bauble” of going down in history as the gravediggers of the British Labour party. Instead, she has destroyed herself. She is toast.

      She has just usurped the title of “worst prime minister on their own terms” since David Cameron, who himself took it from Lord North in the 18th century. Look at the political capital she had: the phenomenal polling lead, almost the entire support of the British press, the most effective electoral machine on earth behind her. Her allies presented the Labour opposition as an amusing, eccentric joke which could be squashed like a fly which had already had its wings ripped off. ‘(O.Jones Guardian)….the tide is turning ..big time…people,ordinary people know what is fair and what is…not..austerity and inequality…fuel the …revolution.

      • PDB

         /  June 11, 2017

        ‘This is one of the most sensational political upsets of our time’

        Losing isn’t a political upset……….maybe the Blazer prize for getting 2nd then?

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 11, 2017

    The main lesson from the UK election is that youthful ignorance is dangerous. It has fuelled innumerable wars and destroyed civilisations. At present it is feeding terrorism with conscripts and gave votes to a Lefty fantasist in the UK.

    Treat it with the concern it demands.

    • Blazer

       /  June 11, 2017

      expand on this..come on..’. It has fuelled innumerable wars and destroyed civilisations.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 11, 2017

        When education and parental guidance fails to instill moral virtue and technical skill, civilisation collapses.

        • Blazer

           /  June 11, 2017

          ‘moral virtue’…explain it…today.

    • Gezza

       /  June 11, 2017

      Bismarck, Adolf, Hirohito, Kennedy, big Bush, Little Bush, Obama – these people were all ignorant when it came to wars but not youthful, Al.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 11, 2017

        But they relied on the ignorance of youth to fight for them and keep them in power, G.

        • Gezza

           /  June 11, 2017

          It wasn’t them that :

          “fuelled innumerable wars and destroyed civilisations” it was the gentlemen I named above, and their ignorance was not youthful. Sir Alan

          My game, I’m afraid, Sir.

          I remain, competitively priced, as always
          Sir Geoffrey

          • Gezza

             /  June 11, 2017

            Temporary loss of equilibrium – probably the G&Ts. Reading law, got confused.
            Sir GERALD

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 11, 2017

            You overlooked my careful choice of words. The ignorance of youth was the fuel not the driver of the disasters. My game, set and match.

            • Gezza

               /  June 11, 2017

              Incorrect. They were the both the match & the fuel. The fire they started themselves then spread & consumed all that were sucked in to the firestorm. I accept your graceful concession in the spirit in which you wrongly pretended you were not wrong.
              Hatefully yours, as always
              Sir Gerald

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 11, 2017

              No use trying to appeal – the umpire and referee have long gone. I won fair and square and will bring the trophy home.

            • Gezza

               /  June 11, 2017

              I have already left the field, Sir Alan.

              Posting from your Bentley, in which my man is currently driving me home to GeeBee Manor.

              Winningly yours, as reasonably frequently
              Sir Gerald

      • Gezza

         /  June 11, 2017

        Scratch Bissers, he knew what he was doing & won his, I meant Willhem II.

  1. UK: Labour “should have won” – NZ Conservative Coalition