England is not Scotland. Apologies for stating the bleeding obvious but the differences should not be forgotten when trying to weigh up the scale of disaster facing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
We know the similarities and dire narrative. In Scotland, amidst a surge of nationalism in the wake of their independence referendum, Labour were swept away. Losing all but one of their Scottish MPs, the party of the Scottish working-class was displaced by the SNP. Now, the English will do the same to a divided party who were on the wrong side of the EU referendum. As in Greece, Spain, Holland and France, the mainstream centre-left will be reduced to rubble.
While nobody is predicting they will be reduced to one MP, the betting signals increasingly point to an electoral massacre. Never mind any question of winning the election, it is now rated highly unlikely that they even get close to the disastrous 1983 result. Then, Labour won only 209 seats as Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives racked up a majority of 144. Now, the market gives them only a 25% chance of getting Over 177.5 Seats.
Almost all the seats projected to change hands would go to the Tories, and this is where the specifics of English politics are important. The right-wing brand and English nationalism of the Tories and UKIP are worlds apart from the SNP’s outlook. Nicola Sturgeon’s party are pro-immigration, anti-Brexit and effectively stole the clothes of the liberal-left, then wrapped them in a flag. With Labour declining and mute when it came to nationalism, transferring to the SNP was an easy call for their supporters.
British politics is definitely in the middle of a process of massive re-alignment, but we should not ignore historic truths. There has always been deep-rooted opposition towards the Tories, based on real political substance. In recent decades, they virtually disappeared from numerous major towns, cities and regions. In Labour’s heartlands in the North and Midlands – the core seats they are defending – the Tories presented no challenge. If an opposition was competitive, it was likelier to be UKIP.
Many of those Tory-free communities formed the backbone of the Brexit vote, but it requires a leap of faith to assume they will now suddenly elect a Tory when it would have been unimaginable just a year ago. Brexit may be big but it is not the sole issue that defines a person or an area’s politics. It is one thing for an ex-mining community to vote UKIP or for Brexit, but quite another to support the party that shut the mines.