People often talk of the General Election of 1983 in comparing Corbyn to Foot. They claim that Labour is heading for a similar outcome in 2020, and that the failure of a left leaning party then means that the failure of a left leaning party now is inevitable.
So let us look at that claim.
The picture below shows votes cast in every election since 1918.
As can be seen, Labour's vote from 1979-1983 fell by 3.05m. A massive fall by any stretch of the imagination. But then let us see where those votes went….did they flood as is commonly believed to the Conservatives (with a Tory landslide and increased majority from 43 to 144)? No. They went almost exclusively to the new Liberal/SDP alliance, who increased their vote by 3.47m.
Where did this new alliance come from? Well, mainly from the Labour right. The SDP being formed of disgruntled Labour MP's at a real socialist agenda put forward. They then managed to spin this out within Labour ranks as showing the desire within the country at large for a less socialist agenda.
But does this hold true? Surely if people wanted a more right wing view they would have flocked to the Tories, but they didn't. The Tory vote actually decreased by 0.69m.
And how did Labour do in 1987 with a more centrist Labour Party under Kinnock? We managed to add 2.57m votes….But where did this increase come from? Did we pull voters from the Tories? No, their vote increased by 0.73m. Or from the Alliance, well some of it as their vote fell by 0.44m. So it can be seen that the majority of the increased vote came from an increase in voter numbers.
So did taking a more right wing approach pull back in millions of Labour voters from the Tories and the Alliance. No. In fact the scary thing is that more people voted Tory. As tends to happen and happened again in 2010/2015, if you offer people the option of Tory vs ToryLite they tend to say well we may as well take the full fat version.
In my final analysis, I would say that the thing that lost Labour so many votes in 1983, and meant that people of my generation were lost to a childhood of Thatcher and her ideology was not as alleged the "longest suicide note in history", but the Limehouse declaration of 1981(wherein 4 former ministers and Labour MP's signaled their intention to resign from Labour and form a Council for social democracy which became the basis of the SDP). The failure of the hard-right of Labour to see and understand that in a time of ideologies not consensus, that you need to unite on the left, and offer a real alternative that gives the electorate a choice between distributing this countries wealth up and up to the strong and the privileged or down to the weak and downtrodden. Then as now we HAVE to unite. This time we NEED the hard-right to listen, to heed the warnings of history, or consign another generation to the dark days of Tory rule. The running down of our services, our NHS and our hopes for the future. Because for sure if we don't unite we will be destroyed and history will not look at Corbyn's failure but at Labour's failure.
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