This was not the disaster for Labour that many feared

The party has not suffered a 1983-style wipeout.

With 46 seats left to declare, the Conservatives have conceded that there is now no chance of David Cameron emerging with an overall majority from this election. At best, the Tories hope to win roughly 310 seats, leaving them 16 short of a majority.

Labour must now do all it can to win over the Lib Dems, most obviously by offering Nick Clegg's party a referendum on proportional representation. Its attempt to do so has been helped by the fact that its losses have been nowhere near as severe as some feared.

As things stand, Labour has 241 seats. That's more than the party won in 1983 and 1987 and significantly more than the Tories won in 1997, 2001 and 2005. The electoral wipeout that some feared did not come to pass.

Meanwhile, although big names such as Charles Clarke, Jacqui Smith and Tony McNulty have fallen, not a single cabinet minister has lost his or her seat. Neither Alistair Darling nor Ed Balls provided the "Portillo moment" that so many hoped for.

Finally, after weeks of level-pegging with the Lib Dems in the opinion polls, Labour has reaffirmed its position as the dominant centre-left party. Clegg's claim that the election had turned into a "two-horse race" between the Tories and the Lib Dems now looks astonishingly hubristic.

The newly humbled Lib Dems may well be tempted to form a partnership of principle with Labour, rather than an alliance of convenience with the Tories. But Clegg's desire to avoid forming "an alliance of the defeated" is still likely to prove fatal for Brown.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.