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June 25, 2016


William McIlhagga

Another complaint they have is that he didn't mobilize labour supporters for remain. Ashcroft's exit poll shows that 63% of labour supporters were for remain (only slightly less than the 70% of lib-dems; greens got better but they are small).

That sounds like a pretty good mobilization to me.


The most common complaint about Corbyn at the moment seems to run something like this:

"Labour didn't convince enough of its traditional supporters to vote Remain because it had lost touch with their concerns about immigration. If it had pivoted towards UKIP on immigration and echoed their concerns, it could have persuaded these people to vote to stay in the EU."

I would love it if someone could explain to me how that works.


If the net benefits of mass immigration are contentious once we thrown in all the costs and benefits and not just the facile Welfare payment versus taxes trope, what is not contentious is that some parts of native British society are net losers and some parts are net winners from the arrangement. Young metropolitans get their skinny latte from a Greek barista who'd be unemployed in her own country and the elite get cheap labour for their businesses without the grief of trying to motivate the native lumpenproletariat to do the same jobs. But out in the English and Welsh regions the native working class sees far fewer benefits to offset the very real pressures that mass immigration adds to and arguing that natives should cough up more rapidly scale services to meet the demands of unprecedented net immigration is not an easy sell.

The EU political elite have deluded themselves that because they are doing well out of it there is no need reform. The EU privileged have convinced themselves that the benefits they get are outweighed by the costs others bear. Unfortunately those who were left out and therefore had nothing to lose have outvoted them on this occasion. I suspect it will happen elsewhere because even if the EU elite could see beyond its own interests that wouldn't mean it would be prepared to take the hit.


M - even if we concede your premise that some are net losers from immigration (which is more plausible if we look beyond economics to psychic costs such as a discomforth with social change), there's a problem here.
It's this. Since the 1970s, the "native working class" has been a relative loser from deindustrialization, globalization, skill/power-biased technical change, financialization etc. During these processes many of the political class didn't give a shit about these relative losses. When it comes to immigration, however, they suddenly become solitious of workers' interests. There's a stink of opportunistic hypocrisy here.

Peter K.

As an American, in the media discussion I witnessed about Corbyn, just seemed like an opportunistic move by Blairites to get rid of him. Remain lost, so he must go which doesn't seem right to me as Chris explains. Cameron called the referendum. It was Cameron's show.

But still how does the Left counter the scapegoating of immigrants effectively? Lecturing ordinary people like an accountant that immigrants benefit the economy doesn't appear to work. They don't see immigrants benefiting the economy; they see them taking jobs and lowering wages. Plus they talk funny.

I see it more as a problem for the neoliberal center-left than the left (which is why Corbyn wasn't that enthusiastic. He was asked to defend an establishment he didn't really agree with).

New Labour and the Blairites helped build the establishment order which working people are unhappy with and so they are susceptible to UKIP and euroskepticism. Hillary Clinton can't just attack Trump and fearmonger about a Trump Presidency. She needs to provide a positive program that actually works.

One hopeful note is that the youth voted for Remain just as they voted for Corbyn and overwhelming voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary.


How does percentage immigration and percentage Leave vote correlate with each other? Also, other than 'purblind stupidity', can someone explain why Sunderland voted as it did?

Bill Bedford

Percent of the population born abroad - 13% Percent of eligible voters voting Leave - 21%

Bill Bedford

Sorry, that should read:

Percent of eligible voters voting Leave - 36%


Are you sure?

Giving Corbyn a pass because he was vaguely honest?

How about he couldn't persuade Labour heartland voters that voting leave would likely bring in an even more extreme right wing Tory government?

How is it that Scotland appears to be able to overcome the immigration issue amongst traditional working class voters? I don't get the impression Scotland is a multicultural nirvana there either.


Chris, I don't don't doubt that the elite hasn't given a **** about the traditional working class for a long time, it's simply that on this occasion they had a chance to to change things (though not necessarily for the better). In a few weeks when clowns like Juncker have been put back in their boxes and the markets have stopped acting like Chicken Licken there's a chance here for the EU elite to consider whether it has become too greedy and selfish and whether it can address reforms and make a sensible settlement with the UK and the rest of Europe's disaffected native populations. I don't expect this chance to be taken, but it's there.

Interestingly I was talking to my neighbour, who's in his late 70's. He was angry about the unaccountability of the EU, it's democratic deficit, the missing billions from the accounts that nobody had ever got to the bottom of (something that was morally wrong to him), the sovereign powers that just slowly and quietly slipped away whilst the people weren't watching. He said it wasn't what he'd spent his years in the Army for. Then he told me about his recent visit to the war cemeteries in Belgium and France and explained to me that those hundreds of thousands of young men didn't die so that a foreign bureaucratic elite could do as they thought best. I didn't have smart arse answer for that, because I'd never really thought about it that way. I despise the EU for corruption and unaccountability, but I voted remain as the lesser of two evils, but then I'd never had to make a sacrifice to preserve my country from some distant power with it's own interests at heart.

Luis Enrique

Nah, he may have reservations about EU but this was a binary choice where the other option was Boris and everyone worse off, he needed to be much more forceful. That aside yes reasons for ousting him mostly bad, I don't share his views but think Labour should give it a proper go with him.


The facts speak for themselves and he did too little to stop it and shows little ability to be a leader of HM opposition at this dangerous time as the further Right backed by the press achieves power over our land. If it were done best done quickly ...


William at the top of the posts above confuses two different points; of course in total percentages our urban, city and uni seats middle class educated and possibly younger Labour especially came out for remain but the actual figures from places like the North East, Wales and Midlands were alarming such as Sunderland, Merthyl or Mansfield ( 70% Brexit) - these traditional Labour seats had not heard any messages from Corbyn which contested the Tabloids', Boris or Farage. I am with Poly Toynbee "Dismal, Lifeless, Spineless Corbyn let us down" Any one thinking that JC is waiting to go to the palace as a new UK PM at any upcoming election with Boris or Theresa knows nothing of sociology, psephology , politics or economics. Simply put Jeremy Corbyn has the lowest recorded voter ratings of any post war leader including Howard, IDS and Miliband. The UK is desperate for a middle ground centre Left leader not one nationally lampooned.


@ Everyone - I have a dilemma. We should distinguish between policy and campaigning skills. I take the points that Corbyn is weak on the latter. My fear is that getting rid of him for this good reason will mean a retreat from good economic policies, and an accommodation to anti-immigrationism. If you offered me current Labour policy thinking with a more energetic leader, I'd take it. But that's not on offer.


«explained to me that those hundreds of thousands of young men didn't die so that a foreign bureaucratic elite could do as they thought best.»

Well, your neighbour seems to me purely delusional, as in gone in the head: everybody knows that the UK government has an absolute veto on every EU decision that is even remotely important, and for unimportant decisions it has a heavily weighted voting power.

Therefore it is *impossible* that a «foreign bureaucratic elite could do as they thought best» against the will of the UK. There are no polish or french tanks parked in Westminster square (or Syntagma square...).

Indeed IIRC the UK government has voted *for* 93% of EU decisions and rules.

I could understand "Leave" and wildly delusional neighbours if the UK governments of the past 30-40 years in the EU had been constantly outvoted by majorities bent on doing whatever they wanted ignoring the UK and the UK did not have a right of veto.

Luis Enrique

What do coup leaders think will happen next? I think any new centrist leader will be unpopular and also fail at GE, big Corbyn base angry, centrism further discredited. Party in tatters. Better to let Corbyn have a good go, if / when he fails let his supporters decide for themselves he has to go, invest time in developing stonger centrist proposition, wait for people to want it more.

Objection this hands country to Tories is misplaced. Thats happening either way.

Meanwhile let's start one of those petitions for Obama to replace Corbyn in December. Offer him Gloucestershire or something.


Usually the topics set up for discussion by our blogger are interesting, and comments too, but sometimes I despair of the level of hypochrisy and/or absurdity.

In the case of our good J Corbyn he is damn well aware of a big problem that apparently has been largely forgotten here:

Labour was in power 1997-2010, and anyhow even before that it completely underwrote the policy of expanding the EU to the poorest countries of eastern Europe (as demanded by the USA and the UK), and of encouraging immigration from them, even instructing consulates abroad to advertise jobs in the UK, or help UK companies offshore abroad.

An example from a very influential Labour minister, Work and Pensions secretary J Hutton:

«He said that benefit claimants needed to compete for jobs with migrant workers, many from Eastern Europe. He went on: “We cannot reasonably ask hard-working families to pay for the unwillingness of some to take responsibility to engage in the labour market.”»

The current immigration situation and the impulse to vote Leave has been created by the Labour party (with the more than enthusiastic support of the Conservative and Unionist party of course).

What can J Corbyn do given this record of several decades? The best he can do is to keep on the side mumbling something vague, and hope the conservatives lose the election by themselves, because for the past several decades it has been clear that voters stop voting for incumbent parties only when they screw up (house prices), regardless of whatever the opposition says.


«voters stop voting for incumbent parties only when they screw up»

As to this, can someone say in which elections in the past decades the incumbent government did not screw up but voters gave a majority to the opposition because it looked like doing even better?

I can only think of 1945...


«UK governments of the past 30-40 years in the EU had been constantly outvoted by majorities bent on doing whatever they wanted ignoring the UK and the UK did not have a right of veto.»

Which, translated, is how many (ex-labour!) voters in Scotland see their relationship to what they think is the english government.

Chris E

"How about he couldn't persuade Labour heartland voters "

He persuaded actual Labour voters in roughly the same proportion as Sturgeon persuaded actual SNP voters (63 vs 64%).

Or by 'Labour heartland voters' do you actually mean "people who don’t support the Labour Party, don’t vote Labour, often don’t vote at all, but live in areas where the people who do vote are Labour, and so when they’re motivated, seemingly by anti-immigrant prejudice, to vote UKIP it’s somehow the Labour leader’s fault” (ht dsquared).

Luis Enrique

Blissex good points but is the magnitude by which incumbent needs to screw up not to do with appeal of alternative?


Corbyn carried out an intelligent campaign to remain in the EU, but for some strange reason this simple, clear position was beyond the grasp of the media who day in day out claimed Corbyn's message was confused. No! It was the media who were confused, and for the life of me I don't know why.

The idea that if only Corbyn had tried harder the vote would have gone a different way is a typical insult to the voters (which isn't without reason!).

Scotland has always traditionally been more pro EU than England. Why? I suspect it it because the Scots are not taken in by the absurd national myths, such as Britannia rules the waves etc or that our boys in Iraq are any kind of heroes.

The EU vote was made over decades by politicians pandering to the racists and bigots. The attack on Muslims and the wars which saw an increase of militarism - military wives, national armed forces day, one fucking military parade after another contributed to this also. The lousy media played their part.

Those attempting to oust Corbyn are the real guilty party in all of this. The fact that these people blame Corbyn just shows how utterly contemptible they are.


" these traditional Labour seats had not heard any messages from Corbyn which contested the Tabloids', Boris or Farage. ". How do we know this - perhaps the voters simply disagreed with Corbyn ?

As for Boris, surely the Conservative Parliamentary Party are perfectly well aware of his deficiencies - are they (particularly Remainers) really going to risk having him as PM ?


leslie48: I'm not confused, I fully realize that the 63% is an aggregate figure. But Labour is a party of both urban and "traditional" areas, and the referendum result isn't FPTP so aggregate is what matters. I also put in a comparison with the Lib Dems - the most pro-EU mainstream (ex-mainstream?) party couldn't do much better, so I think the rebel's claim, in this regard at least, is void.

I noticed that the Tristrams and Hilarys are not very good at getting out the vote either*. Their solution to the problem, prior to Corbyn, was to be tory-lite. It appears that they are now interested in being UKIP-lite. They don't have any ideas of their own.

* seriously, you have only to listen to them to know they don't really - and can't ever - speak for "traditional" Labour voters.

Dave Timoney

On the question of WTF happened in Sunderland ...

Across the 3 parliamentary consituencies grouped in the referendum as Sunderland, Labour got 62,655 votes in the 2015 General Election. Assuming the national opinion poll splits were representative, e.g. Labour votes broke 60% for Remain while Tories broke 65% for Leave, this would predict a total Remain vote of 51,598. The actual vote was 51,930.

The projected Leave figure on the same basis was 65,901. The actual vote was 82,727. The difference is essentially turnout, up from 56% in 2015 to 65% in the referendum (the combined pop is 209k so 9% is 19k). The reasons Leave won in Sunderland are that a) the opinion poll "undecideds" appear to have broken largely for Leave, and b) the increased turnout overwhelmingly benefited Leave in net terms.

In other words, Labour successfully got out its core vote. The real "Sunderland problem" (replicated nationwide) is that Labour's vote across the 3 constituencies dropped from 85,187 in 1997 to 63,234 in 2001, reflecting a decline in turnout from 60% to 49%. This 22k appears to have initially abstained and then gradually drifted to the Tories and UKIP over the 00s (the non-Labour vote grew from 35k in 1997 to 55k in 2015).

Even without the benefit of a higher turnout skewed to Leave, the Sunderland area was due to deliver an "out" vote. To pin the blame for this on Jeremy Corbyn is bizarre, particularly when the claim is that he failed to energise "core voters". The evidence is that Labour's post-2000 core held firm and that the defeat was due to voters disillusioned after 1997 who headed elsewhere or who abstained until the referendum.


«but is the magnitude by which incumbent needs to screw up not to do with appeal of alternative?»

Well, so far my impression is that when the government party screws up the opposition party (or parties) has *always* been given a majority, regardless of how untried or uninspiring the leadership of the opposition were. There are margins of arguability about this when parties have been force to work in coalition or in minority but plurality situations.

But in relatively recent decades the centrality of the house price as to "screwing up" seems to me to have been overwhelming: as another commenter once remarked, and I think that was correct, every time property prices have gone up the government party have kept their majority (even if reduced), and every time property prices have gone down the opposition party has won.

In the 2010 election the southern english voters punished severely Labour for letting property prices fall, and gave the opposition parties a big win, even if it was split three ways, in part because the Conservative leadership and policies were not well liked.


«The current immigration situation and the impulse to vote Leave has been created by the Labour party»

Pedantic, since I used the full name for the cons: "created by the Labour and Cooperative parties".



«The EU vote was made over decades by politicians pandering to the racists and bigots.»

It was made by "New Labour" politicians, with bipartisan support by Tories and Liberals, who were eager to cut government and business costs by putting the northern underclass in competition with most of the east european populations for southern english jobs.

Or much worse, consider this report from a comment in the Guardian:

«I once saw a business spot on the BBC World News in Germany where they showed the British embassy in Vietnam hosting visits for UK business leaders to see how they could improve profitability by outsourcing to Vietnam».

Or the J Hutton quote above, or the repeated claims by New Labour people then and Remainers now that wages of NHSand care home low level employees and contractors would have to rise and thus taxes would have to rise, if immigrants weren't keeping costs down by "taking jobs no english worker wants".
An outburst in The Guardian comment section from an affluent voter, a classic member of the "conservatory building classes":

«People voting for Brexit are essentially saying that they want to be able to charge me MORE money to get my already over priced extension done?!!! So, if my plumbers wages are going to go up then MY husband and my wages need to go up. And if our wages are going to go up then the NHS is going to have to find A LOT more money from somewhere!»


A particularly ironic article from the Telegraph:

«Downing Street's claim that "if we don't have immigration, we won't have economic growth" has been stated over and over again since Labour took office in 1997»
«The economy becomes dependent on a constant influx of immigrants who are willing to accept low pay and poor working conditions. That is what Labour ministers mean when they insist that "public services would collapse without immigrants".»
«It is bizarre that the Labour Party, which still continues to insist that it is the party of the poor and vulnerable, should endorse a policy the purpose of which is the creation of what Marx called "a reserve army of labour": a pool of workers whose presence ensures that rates of pay for cleaners and ancillary staff in the NHS can be kept as low as possible.»
«"We have have always been completely open about our case for migration," said Downing Street last week. That is simply not true. Labour has never formally announced that it is committed to increasing immigration indefinitely: the closest any minister came to it was David Blunkett, who, as Home Secretary, announced that he thought there was "no natural limit" to the number of immigrants Britain could absorb.»

The Wikipedia entry on the author says «Rowthorn has been described by Susan Strange as being one of the few Marxists (another being Stephen Hymer) who is read in business schools».


T Blair in a speech to the CBI, 2004-04-27:

«There are half a million vacancies in our job market and our strong and growing economy needs migration to fill these vacancies [ ... ] some are for unskilled jobs which people living here are not prepared to do [ ... ] a quarter of all health professionals are overseas born [ ...] our public services would be close to collapse without their contribution»

«A number of witnesses argued that raising wages for workers employed to provide services in or for the public sector is severely limited by cost pressures in the public sector. Lesley Rimmer of the UK Home Care Association told us that "two thirds of employers say it is difficult or impossible to recruit locally at current rates of pay and these pay rates are primarily a reflection of what councils are willing to pay since they make up 80% of the purchasers of care services" (Q 300). Dr Anderson argued that increasing wages to attract local workers would require a reform of the UK's social care system. "If there were no immigration, there really would have to be a big re-think about how social care and care of the elderly was organized; really big, back-to-first premises"»

J Corbyn knows all this very well, obviously.

But it is as long standing policy...

«By 1955 there were official nursing recruitment programmes across 16 British colonies and former colonies. Over the next two decades, the British colonies and former colonies provided a constant supply of cheap labour to meet staffing shortages in the NHS, and the number of women from the African Caribbean entering Britain to work in the NHS grew steadily until the early 1970s.»
«Nursing's popularity as a career choice among school leavers had declined markedly. Changing social expectations and financial constraints meant that young people were now seeking better-paid job opportunities in other sectors of the economy.
The abolition of work permits for overseas nurses in 1983 added to the difficulties. Meanwhile, an estimated 30,000 nurses were leaving the NHS every year; their departure blamed on long-standing problems associated with low salary levels and the pressures of the job.
By 1998, there were reports that the shortages in newly qualified nurses were approximating 8,000 a year. Problems intensified with the expansion of the NHS in 2000 which created additional demand for nurses that were met by recruiting workers from India.»

Note the very different attitude of New Labour to one of their core constituencies, highly paid english citizen GPs and medical consultants:

«The output from UK medical schools was increased in 2000 and this brought a change in attitude towards overseas doctors. By 2005 the government feared that the recruitment of overseas doctors would deny employment to a large number of home-grown medical graduates, especially as International Medical Graduates (IMGs), who were often highly skilled, and with several years' experience in their chosen field, remained an attractive prospect for the NHS.
In a bid to keep junior posts open for graduates who were British or EEA nationals, in April 2006 the Department of Health retrospectively sought to debar IMGs from applying for training posts in the NHS. Under new rules, hospitals were told they must prove they could not recruit a junior doctor from the UK or the EU before shortlisting candidates from other countries.»

Churm Rincewind

"This, of course, misses the facts. Immigration is not responsible for low wages, job insecurity and the difficulty of seeing a GP."

These facts are true, though only partially so. However, it seems to me fatuous to claim that immigration on the scale that Britain has seen over the past ten years or so - more immigrants per year than in all the nine hundred years between 1066 and 1950 - has had no negative impacts.

These impacts are primarily social and cultural, and not susceptible to the economic analysis on which commentators such as CD and Simon Wren-Lewis rely. So they simply disregard them.

Cognitive dissonance, anyone?


BTW excellent if harsh article from a realistic USA blogger in support of J Corbyn:


Some of the harsh words:

«As bad as the EU is, they needed the EU to protect them from themselves: from the governments they kept electing.
Now, upset that Corbyn did not save them from themselves, they want to get rid of their only prospect for a better future.
One cannot help such people. [ ... ] The British people will have made their choice, again and again and having been given a light out of the darkness, having extinguished it, while I wish them well, it will be time for sensible people to find other things to do than concern themselves with England’s fate.»

A sad comment on the various variants of "Blow you! I am alright Jack."

BTW as "I am all right Jack" I hope everybody has seen that movie, because it is so relevant even today (with P Sellers and friends).


Blissex, I don't think my neighbour is deluded, he simply doesn't realise that one way or another, most of Europe' political elite, both national and local have been co-opted in via the widening and deepening strategy. I suspect this has probably gone under your radar too. Most people are aware of has been politicians like Patten, Mandelson, Kinnock (& his wife) getting one last pay day, but they don't realise that everyone from ministers down to local government leaders usually have a foot in some "EU funded" (a popular euphemism for "getting some of your own money back") body or other organisation, that usually brings at least prestige and often financial reward. And it's all in the open, it's just not the sort of stuff people notice unless they are looking. Of course these people could veto EU decisions, it's a good job they were well rewarded not to up until someone made the stupid mistake of involving the general public!


The profile of the Labour Party leader that some of those opposed to Corbyn have put forward is "a centrist who understands the voters' concerns about immigration".

However centrists in the UK have traditionally been firmly in favour of the EU and its predecessors, which means being in favour of labour mobility, which means accepting immigration. They may understand concerns about immigration but are completely disinclined to do anything about it (except meaningless slogans on mugs).

And I wonder if they still think that Blair would be a credible PM.

derrida derider

"And I wonder if they still think that Blair would be a credible PM"
Iraq alone destroyed Blair's credibility - absent that he'd probably still be PM. And only a truly woeful defence of Labour's fiscal record by Milliband allowed a Tory rewrite of history to destroy Brown's.

Now for Tony that's a bit of a "with notable exceptions..." statement - in a just world he'd be before a court in the Hague - but the point is that, like it or not, Blairism (but not Blair) is popular. The professional judgement of those Labour MPs that it is infinitely more electable than Corbynism is almost certainly right.

If you want to get rid of Boris (and given circumstances that is eminently doable), then you have to get rid of Jeremy first. It's true his campaign performance for Remain was no worse than any other of his - but that is exactly the point.


«most people are aware of has been politicians like Patten, Mandelson, Kinnock (& his wife) getting one last pay day,[ ... ] everyone from ministers down to local government leaders usually have a foot in some "EU funded" [ ... ] could veto EU decisions, it's a good job they were well rewarded not to»

This is the argument that it is cheap and easy to bribe UK politicians, which would be a domestic politics problem, not in any way like the wild delusion from your neighbour that:

«a foreign bureaucratic elite could do as they thought best»

The idea that the «foreign bureaucratic elite» of the EU are bribing with the prospect of quite modest retirement sinecures the prime ministers of the EU member countries to do their bidding is laughable.

Also your argument seems quite strange to me because you seem to think that the pretty modest "arrangements" you mentions can have such a large effect, but the rewards available to politicians from "consultancy" with the City of London or the Sheikh of Kuwait (e.g. T Blair), or from the CIA/USA Embassy/DOD are immensely larger, or even just those for "lobbying" or helping "arrange" contracts.


"Iraq alone destroyed Blair's credibility - absent that he'd probably still be PM."

The solution for the Labour Party would therefore seem to be to cast Blair into outer darkness because of the invasion of Iraq (as the Tories did with Eden and Suez)and never mention his name again. There is a very noticeable reluctance to do that.


«Iraq alone destroyed Blair's credibility - absent that he'd probably still be PM»

T Blair was very well briefed and he was a master of the brief, so we can be confident that he was quite well informed.

So I suspect these are not coincidences:

* He resigned when signs of the impending implosion of the property bubble were already quite evident.

* He resigned more or less in the month in which the Scottish oilfield decline meant that the UK became a net oil importer.

The usual links:



The day he resigned he proved false that all political careers end in failure: he resigned after a record of almost only big victories with some small defeats.

It is his *reputation*, not his record, that has been damaged by his major "misjudgement", and the subsequent revenues he has collected as private entrepreneur.


"Therefore it is *impossible* that a «foreign bureaucratic elite could do as they thought best» against the will of the UK. There are no polish or french tanks parked in Westminster square (or Syntagma square...)."

Agreed. That is not the actual problem. The problem of the EU is that is impossible to reverse decisions without leaving the EU. Essentially there is no Parliament Act.

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