Friday, November 13, 2015

Schadenfreude corner: Hopi Sen on Corbyn

I thought I was depressed when my party elected IDS as leader ...

It is far from unknown for parties which have been thrown out of power to pay too much attention to their core support at the expense of reaching out to the people they have lost, and suffer a worse defeat.

As Alan Milburn said a few days after the May election

"The ghastly experiment of a core vote strategy didn't even deliver the core vote,”

Plenty of Conservatives said similar things after the 2001 election. They were not listened to either.

Even more surprisingly, it is not unknown for a party which was thrown out of power two to five years before and is not making a breakthrough to decide that the answer is to abandon centrism and go full throttle for a full blooded version of whatever their party is considered to stand for. Often this happens even after a second defeat.

Hence you have the election as leaders of their respective parties of Michael Foot in 1981, Iain Duncan Smith in 2001 and Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

Just over ten years ago, after the Conservatives had just had our third consecutive defeat in the election which followed IDS's elevation to the leadership (and that was even after the party had sacked him before he could lead us over a cliff) I published on this blog an article called Find A Winner, which quoted some thoughts by Mark Shields, an American journalist, on the pattern followed by parties which lose elections.

He was thinking of the American Democrats (who he usually supports) after George W Bush's re-election, but the comment was at the time every bit as applicable to British Conservatives

His suggestion is that parties which lose elections go through four phases:

1) We woz robbed

2) Blame the communications

3) Blame the leader/candidate

4) Find a Winner

I wrote at the time

"I've had a bellyful of phases one, two and three. Whether there is any justice in them or not, they don't work."

Hopi Sen has some similar thoughts from a moderate Labour perspective, in an Policy Network  article called "the Corbyn charade continues" in which he analyses why Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour party is proving to be a "disaster."

To Conservatives who want to indulge in Schadenfreude this article may be entertaining. I'm linking to it, however, for a different reason. No political hegemony lasts for ever and the current Conservative majority, while being very lucky in opponents who are doing their best to cement the party in power, is more fragile than most.

Sooner or later it will be the Conservatives in opposition again. When that happens there will be people, seductive lunatics with siren voices as far divorced from reality as the Corbynistas are today, who call for "clear blue water" and no compromise with the electorate.

When that happens it will greatly lessen the damage to our country if Conservatives avoid those voices, remember the lessons from what happened to the Conservative party after 2001 and is happening in the Labour party now, and avoid the mistakes Labour is currently making.

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