Could Britain Turn Socialist?

Three weeks on from our last posting, Labour appears to be closing the gap with the Tories who are losing some momentum. Much as we expected, working class voters seem to have started moving back to the Party on welfare issues - even before the embarrassing confusion today over social care policy and May's subsequent climb-down. This is now not down just to the collapse of smaller parties but a genuine shift in some older working class sentiment albeit still tentative. Welfare has now trumped Brexit and a lot of this seems to be down to a liking for a Socialist manifesto over a Tory one.

The Liberal Democrats have lost a quarter of their appeal and UKIP has crashed to half. Corbyn is campaigning well, unafraid to get out and argue his stuff against the odds. He looked like the certain loser but the British can root instinctively for underdogs. However, before getting too excited, the gap between the parties remains large. Socialism still frightens the middle classes. A rough 17% gap at the beginning of the month has merely been lowered to around 12-12.5% which simply reduces her majority if ensuring that Labour is well represented as the largest opposition party by far.

The gap might reduce further on elderly and family worries if May does not clarify her position more effectively than she has done today. She and her inner circle are trying to persuade us that our economy is stuffed and cooked if we do not 'face facts' about welfare costs but, in an election, brute self interest will ensure that many anxious voters will protect their backsides and sacrifice little ground for others (in this case, the old will continue to want implicitly to immolate the young). May may struggle to claw back her lead in these circumstances albeit with our usual caveats about polling.

The 12% gap could be reduced by another 3-5% in the next two and a half weeks, maybe even 6% or 7% with a fair wind, but it is hard to see the Tories not being returned on the day so we can expect some truly brutal anti-Corbyn and nationalist and migration-related Brexit campaigning if it really does look as if Labour is getting some momentum of its own. The significance of all this to the future is that the Labour Right now have a serious problem. Their tiny little minds had probably assumed that Corbyn would crash and burn with a hard line Socialist manifesto. Er, no, it seems not.

No matter that it looks like national economic suicide without some sort of class war on the upper middle classes. No matter that it places populist current spending ahead of infrastructural investment for the future - more Peron than Lenin. No matter that all other areas of policy are left vague and fluffy, vaguely peacenik and vaguely euro-socialist. The truth is that large sections of an anxious population used to a welfare system that holds things together for their families and themselves and with no interest in anything other than short term survival actually like all these promises.

If Corbyn can do better than Milliband with a Socialist programme and can then point to doing this despite the constant undermining of his team by his own Right in the two years before the election, then he has an argument for purging the Party and demanding loyalty to refine his platform. Over the next fiive years he can harry a Government with a majority that may be decent but contains quite a lot of simmering discontent at May's attempts to bounce it into social market policies that a right-wing Brexit was intended to make impossible. Socialism may yet be back on the agenda.

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