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Everything you wanted to know about GE 2024 but were afraid to ask

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That the July 4th general election was an historic moment is now a commonplace in media commentary.  But what exactly is ‘historic’ about it is being consciously blurred.

Now the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is publishing a statistical review of the election – The 2024 General Election Fact File – a draft report prepared by the TUSC national election agent Clive Heemskerk for the first post-election meeting of the TUSC all-Britain steering committee taking place on July 17th.

Including the TUSC candidates’ results, after discussion at the steering committee it will be published on the website’s Candidates Page as a public record – as has been TUSC practice for every election we have stood candidates in since 2011.

The battle of narratives

In December 2019 the capitalist media immediately established the narrative – continued to this day – that Labour’s result under Jeremy Corbyn was ‘the worst since 1935’.  In terms of seats won – 154 in 1935 and 202 in 2019 – the argument appeared irrefutable.  The narrative now is that Starmer has achieved ‘the best ever’ result by his break with Corbynism’s policies and personnel. 

Both narratives serve the same purpose.  To try and undermine the idea, given promise by the possibilities that Corbyn’s period as Labour leader raised, that the working class could have its own party to represent it in its struggle with the interests of capitalism and that system’s political agents.

But both narratives are profoundly false.  Factually, by making seat numbers the only metric; in assessing the balance of social forces revealed by the two elections – 2019 and today; and in understanding what July’s outcome will mean for the events ahead, including the struggle for a new, mass, workers’ party.

Key election statistics

That is why this report is structured in the way that it is.  The first section comprises of tables showing, firstly, the shallow social base of the new government.  And, more widely, the political institutions of capitalism, in a secular trend of growing alienation since the 1990s creation of New Labour and the removal of the element of working class political representation that existed within the Labour Party previously. 

The turnout projected for July 4th was the only the second time, after 2001, that participation in a general election had fallen to below 60% of registered voters since December 1918, when soldiers were demobilising from the trenches of world war one.  (‘Projected’ turnout, as the final verified figures will not be released by the House of Commons Library until mid-July).

Of those who did turn out the combined share of the vote won by the two main parties of the capitalist establishment – the Conservatives and Sir Keir’s Tony Blair-style New Labour – was 57.4%.  Never before, since the Labour Party first contested a majority of seats in the 1918 election, has the combined share for Labour and the Tories been so low.

Labour’s share of the vote rose (by 1.6% to 33.7%) over the figure (32.1%) recorded under Jeremy Corbyn in the 2019 election – ‘hurrah!’ says The Guardian, the Blairite Newsnight ‘experts’, and other unserious defenders of capitalism.  But the absolute number of people who voted for Starmer’s Labour fell, to 9.7 million, even from the 2019 figure of 10.27 million; never mind the 12.88 million people who voted for Corbyn’s manifesto in 2017. 

And Starmer’s Labour won the support of just 20.1% of registered voters on July 4th.  No administration since the introduction of universal (male) suffrage in 1918 has ever governed with the support of a lower share of the total electorate. 

All these factors, illuminated in the first four tables in the report, raise the central question.  Can this be a stable social base for the coming second age of austerity, privatisation, war and climate crisis retreats that the Starmer government will attempt to impose on us?

Building a workers’ alternative

Other tables in the first section put the vote for Reform on July 4th in its context – a portentous development but one that also needs to be put in perspective – and record the historic shift away from Labour by workers and others from a Muslim background. 

As stated Labour’s absolute vote was down on July 4th to 9.7 million, from the 10.27 million won under Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, a fall of five percent.  But in the 92 constituencies where more than a tenth of the population identified as Muslim, Labour’s vote fell from 2.41 million to 1.59 million, a drop of 821,466, or 34%.  If that had been a uniform trend, that would have meant a fall in Labour’s vote of well over three million.

But that is the point.  As the acquiescence with Israel’s war on the Palestinians shows, following the lead of the US administration, Starmer’s Labour serves completely the interests of the capitalist system, in this case the requirements of the international power relations that keep the system in place.  It isn’t just Muslims who have protested over Gaza and nor is the discontent with Starmer’s Labour of workers from a Muslim background limited to that.  But at this moment they are ahead of other sections of the working class in their majority, which explains the differential in the overall vote, the victory of the four independents in Dewsbury & Batley, Birmingham, Leicester and Blackburn – alongside Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North – and the disproportion in the votes won by Workers Party of Britain candidates (ranging from 29.3% to 0.2%) between the different constituencies in which they stood. 

But this situation will not continue indefinitely, as the experience of Starmer’s Labour in power unfolds and discontent grows amongst ever-wider layers.  And it is for that period that we need to prepare, to step up the efforts to build a new, mass workers party that can unite all sections of our class.  And that provides the context for the discussion of the role that TUSC could play in that truly historic process. ■

The draft TUSC 2024 General Election Fact File is available at https://www.tusc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/2024-GE-The-Fact-File.pdf  

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