It was Corbyn who brought down May

Anindya Bhattacharya reminds us where it all started to go wrong for Theresa May…

Theresa May’s meeting party when she visited Ealing, west London in the run-up to the 2017 elections. Photo: Steve Eason

None of this weekend’s political obituaries have mentioned this, so I might as well: May has finally dropped dead from mortal wounds inflicted on her two years ago by Corbyn. She was doing just fine until she called that general election and had her majority snatched away.

And why did May call that election? Because she uncritically bought into the near-universal consensus among politicos and journalists at the time, namely that a Corbyn-led Labour Party would get utterly smashed at the ballot box. Of course what actually happened was rather different. Labour’s unexpectedly left-wing manifesto caught a popular mood, leading to the party’s best general election result since 2005. And May has been a propped-up corpse ever since.

It’s also taken two years for the pundits that wrote off Labour to come up with an explanation of the 2017 election. This explanation says nothing about class politics or austerity. It studiously avoids acknowledging that Corbyn’s politics might actually appeal to anyone. Instead, like so much of what passes for political analysis these days, it starts from a desired conclusion – ‘Brexit must be destroyed’ – and works backwards to construct some sort of narrative from the data that justifies the end.

So now we’re told the 2017 result was actually a Remain vote, that it was all about Remainers reluctantly voting Labour to stop Brexit – despite the fact that all prominent Remain voices manifestly loathed Corbyn and loudly insisted he was as culpable as the Tories on this issue. The thing about this analysis is that it’s only plausible in retrospect. If someone had advanced this explanation at the time, when memories of the campaign were fresh, it would have been greeted with bewilderment.

Which brings us to the heart of the issue. May has gone, finally, and good riddance to her. But she’s gone because her goverment is paralysed, and no amount of parliamentary manoeuvring can break the deadlock. A new Tory leader won’t change the arithmetic, and so it won’t help matters.

So a fresh general election is the only thing that makes sense in this situation. And if it wasn’t for the possibility that this might put Corbyn into Number 10, the great and the good would all be saying so. Instead we get silence from them – so let’s hear some noise from us.



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