Election produces a breakthrough for left socialist Jeremy Corbyn, something only weeks ago was considered impossible – with Thomas Barlow and Kam Sandhu of Real Media and Aaron Bastani of Novara Media
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AARON BASTANI: Hello, and welcome. My name’s Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. We’re coming to you from London, England. We’re talking I believe to the Real News Network, most of which their followers are in the United States, is that right? THOMAS BARLOW: Indeed. AARON BASTANI: I’m joined by Kam and Thomas from Real Media. We are talking about what else, of course, tonight’s incredible, sensational, and broadly unexpected general election results here in Britain. Thomas, I’m going to start with you. THOMAS BARLOW: Yeah. AARON BASTANI: For people who are interested but not necessarily all that up to date with what’s going on stateside, a brief overview of what’s happened this evening. THOMAS BARLOW: Labor have confounded all expectations. We were beginning the night thinking they would lose quite a lot of seats, that the Conservatives would increase their majority, the incumbent prime minister would be taking us into a hard Brexit with an increased majority and be bringing in a lot of draconian measures. What we have instead seen is the insurgent campaign of a rejuvenated Labor Party with lots of young people bringing out 12 million people to vote, the largest vote since 1997 in possibly the biggest electoral shock, not only since the Second World War since 1945, but possibly ever in electoral history in Britain, certainly as far as we can decipher. This has been astounding. We are here at six in the morning trying to make sure that we sound coherent and cogent, but I think for everyone at home, what you need to know in the States is that a progressive leader, an insurgent, someone who’s on the fringes of the party, someone not dissimilar to Bernie Sanders, has not only taken control of the Labor Party but within two years taken it to an electoral result that could have never been expected. This has been despite a coup attempt, a Brexit referendum, a hostile press that makes the American press look unbiased, and unbelievable slurs against his name consistently. He’s mobilized an army of 600,000 people who have gone out door-knocking in all the key places and have turned something around. That was, it hasn’t delivered a victory in terms of seats. It has delivered one of the most astounding results in living history. AARON BASTANI: It’s not a knockout blow. They’ve put the Tories on their ass. THOMAS BARLOW: Absolutely. Now we’re talking about whether Theresa May’s going to stay prime minister. The home secretary, who was looking like that she would be the next prime minister, had to have seven recounts. She almost her seat. This is a member of the Cabinet. Another Cabinet member lost their seat. Labor decapitated people left, right, and center. If it wasn’t for the Scottish National Party collapsing and losing a lot of seats to the Conservatives, we might have had- AARON BASTANI: And Labor. THOMAS BARLOW: And Labor. AARON BASTANI: In Scotland. THOMAS BARLOW: And Labor in Scotland, we might have had a completely different result. It has absolutely put the Conservatives on their bottoms, and it has given absolute credence to the fact that the British public are behind a progressive agenda. AARON BASTANI: Great. Kam? Did we expect this? We didn’t, did we? KAM SANDHU: My God. AARON BASTANI: Try and convey to the audience just how unexpected it is, because there aren’t any precedents in UK history that I know of. THOMAS BARLOW: No. KAM SANDHU: I think we can safely say now there has been a massive suppression by the state, by the media, and by the governing party of a movement that has happened and is happening. That comes from the point at which Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader, then had to defend that leadership, then we became the largest left party in Europe. We were still told, “It’s just your members, though. It’s not the rest of the UK.” At all points, yeah, as you say, we had the press against us as well. To now come through with this, it’s clear that everything was working against these progressive ideas to exist. In 2015, when Ed Miliband lost, they were saying he wasn’t right-wing enough and that the left was almost finished, and that Theresa May had called this election to end the left and Labor and Jeremy Corbyn. It couldn’t have turned out worse for her, because now she’s not going to be able to maintain her position. AARON BASTANI: It really couldn’t have turned out much worse for her, really, because for people, okay, they will say, “Labor [inaudible 00:04:25] the most seats. They’re not the largest party. They’re not going to form a government. How is that this historic thing?” What you have to understand is that just six weeks ago, Labor were polling in the mid 20s. In local elections just a month ago, they got 27 I believe, 28. They’ve just got over 40, and they haven’t got over 40 for 16 years in a general election. No, more. 1997. 20 years. It’s a startling turnaround. I really can’t think of any. People talk about the Canadian Liberals under Trudeau coming from nowhere to winning. This is bigger. THOMAS BARLOW: This is a lot bigger, and I think actually again, if there’s any lessons for our American audience, it’s this. You’ll probably see in the Democratic party, establishment Democrats, corporate Democrats trying to fight against and undercut Bernie Sanders and the movement that’s putting him there. We saw that nonstop, from before he was even elected. During the leadership campaign, the first leadership campaign for Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Blair, the former leader of the Labor Party, who had been astoundingly popular for a particular period of time until after Iraq and other horrendous things that he did, come out three times, get front pages in the leading liberal paper of the UK, the Guardian, and attack Corbyn. It had been nonstop not only from him but members of his own party ever since that point. Every attempt was made to discredit him and undermine him by his own party, and in fact, one can only ask the question: If they hadn’t been doing that, if they had thought about their own jobs purely selfishly, even if they didn’t have the morals to support a proper progressive agenda, if they just thought about their own jobs, got behind him, would we have seen the most historic history in British political history? I think that’s quite likely. The lesson to be learned is, remember the Democratic establishment don’t know what they’re doing. You know that from the losses that they’ve had. We know it from the Labor establishment, that they didn’t know what they were doing. It was a good job they were replaced, because quite frankly Labor could have been a non-entity by this point. Jeremy Corbyn saved the Labor Party but also pushed forward with an army of volunteers and members a progressive agenda that will shape British politics for generations. AARON BASTANI: Again, it’s an American audience and we have to make it personal to them. Do the events of tonight perhaps compound the idea that Bernie would have won? KAM SANDHU: I don’t know. I don’t know if I can answer that. THOMAS BARLOW: I think clearly polling said that Bernie would have won in a landslide. He had a 12% lead on the average of polls. Even if he got viciously attacked over the course of the campaign, there’s no way to have eroded that. Because of the presidential system as well, it would have been more likely that Bernie would have done well. I think he’d absolutely have won. Certainly him or someone like him has a great opportunity in 2020 to change the face of American politics. I think you’ve got to learn that from the British experience here. The most important thing is learning I think what we learned this time. We didn’t learn it during the referendum, but what was learned by the membership is go out, knock on doors, go to the swing states, go to the marginal constituencies, go to the places you don’t usually go to, talk to the people you don’t usually talk to. Do that en masse, do it in an organized way, and continue doing it until you win people around, and you will get astounding results. We won places that were Conservative for 150 years. Canterbury. AARON BASTANI: The Labor Party hasn’t existed that long. THOMAS BARLOW: No. AARON BASTANI: 150 years. Again, for viewers, 1867 was the first time the franchise was extended to people who weren’t incredibly affluent, but there was no such thing as the Labor Party when Canterbury didn’t vote Tory. It voted for the Liberals, a whole different ballgame in 1867. Kam, what can our viewers take from tonight’s events in terms of domestic political activism and how they can shape the future of the U.S.? KAM SANDHU: Like Tom’s just said, it is about getting out there and speaking to people face to face. We’ve had a huge [inaudible 00:08:35] of volunteers on the streets in the last few days, and those are the people that have really brought home this kind of result. Also, Corbyn’s strategy, the way that he played out his campaign over those six weeks and even just slightly before that, was going after the youth vote and representing them. That has really, really turned up some wonderful things for him. He’s now energized a whole group of young people who have been screwed over in the last few years by political figures who use their votes and then trash them. I’m thinking of the Liberal Democrats here. The thing to learn is that you can infuse this movement. There are a bunch of young people who are not being served, and it can happen quite quickly. I don’t think anyone sitting here … I wouldn’t have thought- AARON BASTANI: Six weeks. KAM SANDHU: Two years ago, the idea that the Labor Party could be this kind of vehicle wouldn’t have crossed my mind. THOMAS BARLOW: Yeah. This really happened within six weeks, as was said. Six weeks, low 20s in the polls, a demoralized movement. AARON BASTANI: Mid 20s, be fair. THOMAS BARLOW: Mid 20s. 24% at one point, I think, but yeah, struggling with the idea of the leadership and so forth. Actually, once galvanized and given an objective, people turned out. Given the manifesto, that was the other thing, the offer, what Americans call the platform. That manifesto, leaked early, set the agenda, energized people, and said, “Do you know what? Actually for the first time I can ever remember, we could actually hope for something that’s actually going to make our lives better, all of our lives better, young, old, middle class, working class, working poor, disabled, homeless.” Everyone was going to do better, and the slogan, “For the many, not the few,” that encapsulated the campaign, which I think will go down history. I think that’s a good point to leave it on, but I do think yes, check out what comes out in the next few days, but certainly this has been an historic time. AARON BASTANI: If those watching want to keep up with events in the UK over the coming days and weeks, who do they need to follow? THOMAS BARLOW: They need to follow Real Media, our good friends and allies at Novara Media, and of course Real News Network. Check them out. They do outstanding coverage of all kinds of issues. AARON BASTANI: On that note, Thomas, Kam, you’ve been great all night. We’ve been here since 9 p.m. It’s now gone 6 a.m. You know what? It was absolutely worth it, one of the best nights of my life. We’ll see you soon, and if we’ve got more good news coming your way from the UK, you know that we’ll bring it to you. See you later.