Socialist Worker

It's anger that fuels votes for an alternative

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2566

Corbyn supporters during the election. People voted Labour because they thought Corbyns radical alternative could win

Corbyn supporters during the election. People voted Labour because they thought Corbyn's radical alternative could win (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The whole political establishment and the British mass media told us Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable.

So it’s not surprising to learn that more voters thought he wasn’t electable. Believing the Labour leader couldn’t win the general election also made people less inclined to vote for his party.

These are just two points drawn from the largest survey of voter opinion, the 30,000-sample British Election Study (BES).

An equally unsurprising fact was that people were more likely to back Corbyn and Labour when the party seemed more likely to win.

This was the shift identified during the campaign in one of the BES analysis papers.

It said that “when people’s perceptions of Labour’s chances of winning a majority increased, they were more likely to switch to Labour if they were not previously a Labour voter, and were more likely to stay loyal to Labour if they were previously”.

This backs the argument that Corbyn’s mass rallies encouraged confidence. It also undermines the Labour right which desperately seeks to downplay the enthusiasm for a left wing manifesto. Some have even suggested that people voted for Corbyn because they didn’t think he was likely to become prime minister.

It’s almost ten years since the beginning of the financial crash. The ruling class exploited that crash to enrich themselves at the expense of working class living standards and our public services.

Is it really any wonder that people backed a manifesto that sought to reverse some of the worst effects of that crusade for the richest in society?

Deep dissatisfaction with the system can find an electoral expression when people feel that a radical alternative could make a real difference to their lives.

That’s what fuelled the surge for independence in Scotland in 2014. That gave Britain’s rulers the fright of their lives and transformed the fortunes of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

As the nationalist party has put its left face to the fore, its “Tartan Tory” support has dwindled

The tremors from that earthquake continue to significantly shape the political landscape and complicate the fallout from the European Union (EU) referendum last summer.

Another BES paper analyses the interaction of the two referendums to try and explain the outcome of the general election in Scotland.

It found that 40 percent of “Yes/Leave” voters who backed the SNP in the 2015 general election switched to other parties in 2017. Most switched to the Tories or Labour in roughly equal proportions.

The argument is that “just as Labour’s position on the independence referendum lost them votes to the SNP, many 2015 SNP voters were driven away by the party’s strong pro-remain stance”.

The sight of the Tories returning 13 MPs not only shocked people but also punctured the myth that Scotland is more progressive than England.

In mainland Scotland there were six council areas with higher than average votes to both reject independence and leave the EU.

These are all generally more rural and wealthy areas that the Tories have held in the past and, particularly in the north east, have been the SNP’s traditional base.

But as the nationalist party has put its left face to the fore, its “Tartan Tory” support has dwindled.

The Scottish local elections foretold the Tories’ Westminster gains, again particularly in the north east where the SNP suffered heavy losses.

The paper argues that the Tories’ ability to capture almost as many Remain voters—who also rejected independence—as Labour was key to boosting their vote share.

It found that “a large number of No/Remain voters more closely identified with ‘No’ than with ‘Remain’”.

It’s yet more ammunition against Labour’s Scottish party leader Kezia Dugdale.

She encouraged votes for “better placed” parties to land a blow on the SNP rather than fight for Corbyn’s left wing manifesto.


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