This essay examines the electoral failure of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party from one specific perspective. Assuming that, as the most thorough subsequent analysis has concluded, there was no way for Labour to hold together its electoral coalition during the 2017–19 Brexit negotiations, it argues that Corbyn’s one electoral chance came at the June 2017 election. Given Labour’s long history of electoral failure, and the specific limitations imposed by the UK electoral system, the essay posits that it was an irrational and catastrophic mistake for Corbyn to reject the offer of an alliance of left-of-center parties made by the Green and Scottish National Parties in April 2017. The essay seeks to explain the genesis of this decision with reference to the long history of “Bennism”: the political tendency and philosophy associated with the career and ideas of Corbyn’s mentor, the prominent British politician Tony Benn. It argues that the strategic and analytical prejudices and shortcomings of this tradition ultimately proved fatal to Corbynism’s electoral prospects.
Jeremy Gilbert; The End of the Road: From Bennism to Corbynism. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2021; 120 (4): 879–891. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-9443434
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