Jeremy Corbyn confounds his critics: explaining the Labour party’s remarkable resurgence in the 2017 election

Abstract

The result of the 2017 general election was widely expected to be a foregone conclusion, namely a comfortable, probably landslide, re-election for Theresa May’s Conservative Party, and an electoral disaster for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party which would irrevocably prove the futility of campaigning on a radical Left-wing programme in Britain: it would be like 1983 all over again. Yet when the Exit Poll was announced at 22.00 on 8 June 2017, it was apparent that the election had produced one of the biggest shocks in British electoral history. The Conservatives had actually lost their previous narrow parliamentary majority, while the Labour Party had made significant and wholly unexpected advances. Most of the opinion polls had entirely failed to predict this outcome. This article examines Labour’s performance in one of the most astonishing British general elections ever, and explains how the Party confounded expectations, and stunned Corbyn’s many vociferous critics in the process. In so doing, it will examine the critical importance of the election campaign itself, the extent to which Labour voters prioritised different issues to their Conservative counterparts, the scale of Labour’s support not only among younger voters, but more surprisingly among professions in the AB socioeconomic category, and the way in which the Labour leader’s television and social media appearances seemed to counteract some of the negative press coverage he received.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    With 650 seats in the House of Common, a party technically needs to win 326 seats to secure a bare majority, but in practice, the refusal of Sinn Fein MPs to sit in the Commons (due to their refusal to take the Oath of Allegiance when MPs are ‘sworn-in’), and The Speaker's non-participation in parliamentary Divisions, means that 322 seats would probably suffice. However, such narrow majorities will assume or require that absolutely all of the governing party’s MPs support it in every parliamentary Division, otherwise the combined votes of the Opposition parties will be sufficient to inflict a narrow defeat.

  2. 2.

    While the dominant discourse has been about the expansion of the middle class and embourgeoisement and thus the increasing obsolescence of the working class, the reality seems to have been that the middle class and professions are actually undergoing a process of proletarianisation, as they are compelled to become ever more productive and profitable, and complete their tasks either more quickly, or with fewer resources—do more with less—yet without any corresponding increase in rewards and remuneration; the latter are reserved for CEOs, senior managers and shareholders.

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Dorey, P. Jeremy Corbyn confounds his critics: explaining the Labour party’s remarkable resurgence in the 2017 election. Br Polit 12, 308–334 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41293-017-0058-4

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Keywords

  • Jeremy Corbyn
  • Labour/Labour Party
  • Brexit
  • General election 2017
  • Campaign
  • Left politics