On 8 June, the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn won 12,874,985 votes. This is only about 600,000 less than Labour won in Tony Blair’s landslide 1997 victory. Apart from that, it is the highest Labour vote since Harold Wilson’s very big victory in 1966.
40pc is the highest percentage of the vote Labour has won since 2001 (Blair’s second landslide, on 1pc higher) and not that far below 1997 (43pc). Apart from 1997 and 2001 it is the highest vote share Labour has won since 1970.
It is the first time Labour has gained seats since 1997. Labour got more seats than it did in 2015 under Ed Miliband or in 2010 under Gordon Brown.
This was the largest proportional increase in the Labour vote between two elections (one third) since 1918-22 (when the relatively new Labour Party increased its vote by about half). In terms of percentage points, this time Labour gained 9.6pc – compared to the 10.4pc Clement Attlee’s Labour gained in its 1945 landslide.
Labour won something like two thirds of 18-24 year old voters (compared to about 50pc for Blair in 1997) on a very substantially increased youth turnout.
All this in the context of sections of the Parliamentary Party and the party machine waging relentless war on the leader and a violently hostile press – in contrast to Blair, who had major press backing (the Sun!) and ran the Labour Party as a virtual dictator.
In addition to the obvious fact that the Tories got more votes and seats, there were major weaknesses in the vote. Although the party substantially increased its vote share among what the polling industry classifies as “skilled manual workers” (“C2”), the Tories gained more and narrowly won this category. On the other hand Labour defied many polls and won by a bigger margin among “semi-skilled and unskilled workers” and the unemployed (“DE”), etc – though the Tories also gained ground.
Conservatives gains in Northern “Labour heartland” areas that voted for Brexit were nowhere near the scale predicted, but there were half a dozen, along with a swing to the Tories more generally.
A lot to do, on many levels. Still, this vote is a huge achievement. In addition to the Tories’ arrogance and over-reach, the turning point was obviously the manifesto, with Corbyn and McDonnell breaking out of the cautiousness and quietness about policy which they had maintained since being elected.
Compare this achievement, on the basis of left-wing policies and mass mobilisation, to what has happened to Labour’s sister social democratic parties in France and the Netherlands, both committed fully to neo-liberalism – both have collapsed to about 6pc of the vote in recent elections and are in total disarray. There are many other similar examples.
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