I was wandering through social media when I came across a video of what the author describes as a “takedown” of Sadiq Khan. Now whether a commentary takes someone down is probably more for the observer than the commentator. So you can see for yourself as the video is available here.
One of the things that struck me was that the gentleman on the video was so exasperated by the fact that some people have the temerity to hold the view that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable. He was particularly aghast that Sadiq Khan would think so. I mean, so the video man says, hello! Jeremy has won every by-election that has happened since he has been leader so it is just, like, so stupid to suggest he is unelectable.
Taken down. Slam dunk. Game over.
But hang on a minute. Let’s just look at those four by-elections that Jeremy has won. What do they actually tell us?
The first by-election in his tenure was Oldham West and Royton in December 2015. This was won by Labour with 17,209, which was 62.1% of the turnout and an increase in the vote share. Corbyn had only been in place a couple of months and already he was changing Labour’s electoral fortunes. Except for the fact that Oldham West and Royton was already a Labout held seat. And has been since the constituency was formed in 1997. In fact the magnetic Corbyn factor had drawn 17,209 people out to vote as compared to the 23,630 that had voted Labour at the election in the May. This is a seat so safe that second place has never been within 8,000 votes of Labour.
The next by-election was Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough in May 2016. Again Jezza swept the board as Gill Furniss romped home with a majority of 9,590. Which was the lowest Labour majority since the constituency was formed in 2010. The previous two majorities had been over 13,000 in this safe Labout seat which had been David Blunkett’s constituency in 2010 and he had been the Labour MP for its forerunner since 1987. In fact it is an area or combination of areas that has returned a Labour MP since 1935.
Ogmore in South Wales. A Corbyn by-election triumph in May 2016. A glorious majority of 8,575. A magnificent 12,383 people turned out to vote Labour. Which is both the lowest majority and the lowest Labour turnout since the constituency was created….. in 1918. Ogmore has always been Labour, through and through. Just a little less so at the last by-election.
Corbyn’s latest triumph was in Tooting, the seat vacated by the treacherous Sadiq Khan. And here Labour increased their majority, albeit with something like 7,000 fewer people voting for the Labour candidate than had done in the General Election. And this after Corbyn has spent 8 months in office, drawing in new Labour supporters like moths to a public meeting with well lit banners. In fact the 17,894 people who voted Labour was the lowest number that had ever voted for a Labour candidate in this seat, a seat which has (you guessed it) always been Labout since 1974.
So in Corbyn’s time as Leader there have been four by-elections that a dog in a Labour rosette should have won. If Boris Johnson had suddenly become Leader of the Labour Party, these four candidates would still have won. Only Tooting falls outside of Labour’s safest 100 seats. There is as much chance of Labour losing these seats at a by-election during a Tory administration as there is of John McDonell winning in Esher.
Yet time and time again Corbyn’s supporters parrot these by-election results as proof that he is electable in the sense of leading the Labour Party to a win in the General Election. They do no such thing. And it is becoming vaguely embarrassing that they get trotted out to support their man.
The question of his electability or otherwise is a judgement. It is a judgement that I am entitled to make, it is a judgement Corbyn supporters are entitled to make. It is a judgement that Sadiq Khan is entitled to make. And to help me make my judgement, I want to hear from people like Sadiq Khan. I do not want “takedowns” that try to obscure my concerns about Corbyn with meaningless references to by-elections like I am some idiot for even questioning whether the current Labour Leader can win the next General Election. And I do not want proponents of either side who add to the debate being drowned out by a booing audience.
This is increasingly the style of debate in the UK. The debate that puts shouting “bollocks” ahead of actual analysis. The use of “evidence” that plays out like the misdirection of a magician rather than the thoughtful discussion of what the evidence shows. And a debate where someone with whom you disagree becomes your enemy, rather than someone to be persuaded.
“It’s a coup”, “you’re the elite” and “it’s a smear” is not persuading me of Corbyn’s cause. All it is doing is increasingly driving me back to ABC – Anyone But Corbyn.