With its bedrock smashed to pieces, UK Labour cannot win

With its bedrock smashed to pieces, UK Labour cannot win, by Aditya Chakrabortty.

Roger Scully at Cardiff University … called Brexit right, and by his projections, May’s party is well on course to win the general election in Wales. …

No part of the UK has been more faithful to Labour than Wales. The party has won almost every general election in nearly 100 years. In the south Welsh valleys, “Tory” is less of an affiliation than an insult. …

This is not an election that the Conservatives are winning, it’s one Labour is losing …

The most telling comment I heard was from Ben, a thirtysomething who worked at the local Ford plant. He reeled off the Labour leaders he’d lived under: Blair, Brown, Miliband, Corbyn. “These people couldn’t be further from what I am. They don’t represent me.” He saw the divide not as ideological but cultural. Never mind the nuances in policy, what he heard was the same breed of professional politician. And while his dad and granddad had “always voted Labour”, he wouldn’t.

You hear versions of that story all over south Wales. An entire region has now lost the habit of voting Labour – even if there isn’t an obvious alternative, like the Scots now have with the SNP. For some, the break came during the Brexit battles when Ukip started scooping up seats in the Cardiff assembly. A family that previously always been red went purple and are now going blue, as May morphs into Nigel Farage, complete with promises to slash immigration (which plays brilliantly in an area almost completely white British). …

In its heartlands, Labour was always a working-class party, and what’s changed is that the working class has been smashed up. The physical traces of that are evident all over south Wales. … Few other parts of Britain rival south Wales for its sense of economic tragedy: the area that gave the world the first iron rails, exploited for its mineral wealth and then rendered surplus to the requirements of capital. We talk of people thrown on the scrapheap; here’s an entire tranche of the UK now post-growth and post-democracy. …

Under Blair and Brown, the UK’s richest households – concentrated in London and the south-east – took an even greater share of national income than they did under Thatcher. Under the devolved Labour administration in Cardiff, hundreds of millions were thrown at the likes of LG, Amazon and Ford for jobs that have either gone or are now going. For all his leftwing rhetoric, Corbyn doesn’t offer much more than the same failed Keynesianism.