Corbyn can’t win in England – the only path to socialism is more powers for Wales

Picture: Chatham House (CC BY 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Polls over the weekend painted a grim picture for the Labour Party. An Opinium research poll showed the Tories closing the gap on Labour by two points (38% to 39%), and a YouGov poll showed the Tories taking a four-point lead (40% to 36%).

This was after the worst week for a UK government in my lifetime. Theresa May had pulled a vote on her Brexit deal, scraped through a vote of confidence and then returned from another round of talks with the EU empty handed.

Voters are telling pollsters that they prefer a dysfunctional government at war with itself, run by a lame duck Prime Minister, to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

Even if Labour got their wish and a General Election was called, they would need something like an eight point lead over the Conservatives to get even a tiny majority in the House of Commons.

This is because FPTP means not just winning votes but where you win them. And Labour’s problem at the moment is that they’re failing to crack middle England.

Winning any kind of majority – even a tiny one – would mean Labour cracking seats such as Erewash in Derbyshire, Gloucester, Nuneaton in Warwickshire, Sherwood in (you guessed it) Nottinghamshire, and Wimbledon.

This is on top of the easier wins in seats such as Aberconwy, and Pembrokeshire South and Preseli Pembrokeshire in Wales. These are leafy, semi-rural seats with an older population. Not people who are crying out for a socialist revolution.

It’s clear from the polls that Corbyn has hit a brick wall in constituancies such as these. He is not going to win over ‘middle England’ however bad a job the Tory government do.

Tony Blair’s New Labour did win these constituancies, but did so by tacking to the right. When he became the leader, the first thing Blair did was to dump Clause 4, Labour’s commitment to socialism.

What Corbyn’s failure to crack middle England shows us in that a solidly left of centre party can’t win there.

And since there are 533 constituencies in England, compared to just 40 in Wales, 59 in Scotland and 18 in Northern Ireland, we’re largely stuck without them.

A socialist party not being able to win in England means a socialist party not being able to become the UK Government.

Benefit

In contrast, we know that a socialist party can win in Wales. At the last Assembly election, Labour and Plaid Cymru together made up an unassaible 52% of the vote.

And Labour have just elected a Welsh Labour leader, Mark Drakeford, who says that he is a socialist and is a big supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.

However, Mark Drakeford has indicated that he has a cautious approach to devolving new powers, such as powers over tax and benefits:

“The tax and the benefit system are an essential part of what makes the United Kingdom worth having, in that, that is the great engine of redistribution and I’m not in favour of breaking it up,” he told Nation.Cymru.

He also emphasised throughout his campaign that his ultimate aim will be to help elect a Corbyn government at Westminster. That, he stressed, is how socialism would be delivered to Wales.

But what if Corbyn is unelectable at an UK-level? Where does Wales turn next?

What if supporting the status quo of Wales’ relationship with the UK ultimately means supporting being run by a right of centre government in perpetuity – one that actually has little interest in redistributing wealth?

Mark Drakeford stressed throughout the campaign that he was a ‘socialist not a nationalist’. This was a dig at Plaid Cymru but it could be turned on his head.

If the only way socialism can be brough to Wales is to devolve further powers over tax and benefits, will his loyalty to Britain as a whole – a British nationalism – trump his desire to bring socialism to Wales?

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