You’ve no doubt seen the news, the unelectable socialist Jeremy Corbyn has given the Conservatives the thrashing of a lifetime. Of course, Corbyn would not approve of the word ‘thrashing’. But the point is Corbyn’s Labour Party has deprived Theresa May of the super-majority she craved. Finally, the Labour left has won its legitimacy.
Amazingly, May has refused to give up the Prime Minister’s office. Instead May has sought a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in a first since John Major’s brief pact with the loyalists. She has moved quickly to try and appear in control, but the reality is the Tory backbenchers will move to oust her unless she can perform a miracle.
Ordinarily, a Prime Minister would step down after losing a majority. However, these are not ordinary times. Since the EU referendum put the country on track for Brexit the body politic has been wracked with instability. May called the snap election looking for a quick way to expand her majority before Brexit it impossible to win an election.
Now the Conservatives face the prospect of taking full credit for Brexit with a weak mandate. The DUP are rarely discussed in mainland Britain and once the British public gets a good, hard look at these Ulstermen it’s doubtful they will find much to like: anti-abortion fanatics, religious nutbaggery, corruption, mismanagement and past ties to loyalist paramilitary groups.
This isn’t necessarily bad for the left. Theresa May is left weak both within and without the Conservative Party. If she stays she’ll only be reminding people of her own incapacities and failings, and if she’s toppled the public will still view the party as an unstable wreck. At the same time, the pact with the DUP opens up the government to new levels of dysfunction.
The opposition now faces a rickety minority government with a discredited leader and all of it depends on the support of creationists and other assorted weirdos in Stormont. This is what a real coalition of chaos looks like. May thinks she can use Brexit as a shield as she runs towards her foes. It didn’t secure her victory in the election, and it’s unlikely to save her in the end.
There is a certain amount of irony in the Conservatives falling back on the Ulster Unionists for support. Especially as the UK is heading into Brexit negotiations. The Unionist settlement in Northern Ireland emerges out of the cycle of settler-colonialism by the British state. It’s the DUP that embodies the reactionary side of oppression in Ireland, particularly the cultivation of an Anglo-Irish Protestant identity, which itself helped to constitute the development of white identity in Britain.
The renegade forces of Protestant loyalism stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the thugs of British nationalism. Together with the loyalists, so-called for their absolute fidelity to the crown and the cross, rather than the decaying institutions of the UK, far-right groups like Britain First see themselves at war with ‘foreigners’ and the Left. So Ulster is just one front in a cultural struggle.
You can learn a lot from history. The colonial and racial oppression of the Irish provided the impetus to presuppose a ‘common interest’ among English people that may circumvent class antagonism and even render it harmonious. This is why Karl Marx was right to situate the struggle for Irish national liberation against the English ruling-class, as a space to shake off the chains of class oppression.
Although May is perfectly happy to court loyalists, Corbyn was regularly slammed for having shaken hands with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (while the British government was doing the same in private). Sinn Fein and its links to the IRA is a step too far, but not the DUP with its ties to Ulster loyalist death squads. But you won’t hear a peep against May for working with such people.
Fortunately, the slanders against Jeremy Corbyn failed. He has been left with a stronger hand, in fact. No longer can it be said that the left’s agenda is doomed to electoral failure. No longer can the mainstream media pretend that the people who support Corbyn are just a hard left cabal of Trot sectaries. The more the public saw of JC the more they liked the man and not just his policies.
Many people didn’t believe it was possible for Corbyn to break past the low bar set by Miliband. Even with the poll rise in recent weeks, it was conventional wisdom that the Labour Party was heading into certain defeat. Yet it was not so, the impossible can happen when voter turnout (particularly among the youth vote) explodes. The last Conservative majority, itself a very flimsy achievement, was based on the demobilisation of the electorate.
So we should give some credit to Theresa May and the Tories for uniting the Labour base and making the public so susceptible to the left in the first place. A combination of destructive policies and arrogant complacency is what left May’s strategy wide open for a decisive counteroffensive. The Conservatives set the conditions and Team Corbyn rose to the challenge.
The Labour campaign has been so successful that even Blairites like Alistair Campbell have come out to praise Corbyn and hurl clumps of dirt at the Tories. It’s going to be difficult for the PLP to pretend that the Labour leader represents a small few and will never reach beyond it. It’s clear that Corbyn poses a viable challenge to the status quo.
What this means practically is that the leadership could focus on uniting the parliamentary party around its own policy agenda. Though this would lead to difficulties in the long term, it wouldn’t be a bloody purge which may cause more harm to the Corbyn brand than it’s worth. The hung Parliament really has changed the fortunes of the Corbyn project for the better.
Photograph courtesy of Teacher Dude. Published under a Creative Commons license.