Your report on Tony Blair’s speech referred to the election result being Labour’s worst defeat since 1935 (Ditch Corbynism or Labour will soon be finished, Blair tells party, 19 December). This is true in terms of seats, but the vagaries of our electoral system mean that this is not an objective measure of support, which can only be realised by giving the proportion of those voting for the party. If that is done we get a radically different result.
Of all the general elections held since (and including) 1979, Labour performed worse in four than they did on 12 December, when they received 32%. In 2015, under Ed Miliband, this was 30.5%; in 2010, under Gordon Brown, 29%; in 1987, under Neil Kinnock, 31%; and in 1983, under Michael Foot, 28% (all percentages to the nearest 0.5%).
Moreover, the result for Labour in Corbyn’s other election in 2017 was the joint second best of these elections (it was similar to the 2001 result). Yes, 2019 was a bad result, and Labour must have a sensible discussion about how we go forward, but that will not be helped by asinine comments from Blair, dismissing Labour’s manifesto as “a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism” that “never has appealed to traditional Labour voters”. The Labour manifestos of 1945, 1966 and 1974 were well to the left of what Labour offered on 12 December, and were supported by a majority of voters.
• Tony Blair must bear a large part of the responsibility for Labour’s rout in the 2019 general election. In the last two Jeremy Corbyn has scored a higher total vote and a higher percentage of the vote than Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband in the two previous general elections. In 2017 he scored more votes and almost the same vote share as Blair did in 2001 when he won 413 seats.
The reason for a great deal of our current political predicament is our first-past-the-post voting system, which Blair could have changed when in office, but chose not to. Now it is doing for the Tories what it did for him, and giving them a large majority on a minority share of the vote. An example of the anomalies created by this is that the Liberal Democrats got half as many votes in Scotland as Labour, but have four MPs to Labour’s one.
Across the UK as a whole in this election, the Tories have one seat for around every 38,000 votes, Labour have one seat for more than 50,000 votes, and the Lib Dems one seat for about 330,000.
In this election there was a clear majority for parties supporting remain, or a second referendum, but about one-third of the electorate did not vote, maybe because they live in safe seats where their vote makes no difference. Who knows how people would have voted if they had been able to vote for their real preference and not to try to stop the party they didn’t want. This is not democracy.
Haddington, East Lothian
• Imagine a UK in which all utilities were nationalised, there was a massive social housing programme building up to 300,000 dwellings a year, top rate of tax was 90%, shipbuilding, railways, civil aviation, coal, cable and wireless were all in public ownership and free collective bargaining was the norm.
An extreme leftwing fantasy? No, the UK during the years of Tory rule in 1951-64. Tony Blair’s characterisation of current Labour policies as “quasi-revolutionary socialism” reveals the hitherto undiscovered socialist tendencies of Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Douglas-Home – or, more likely, how far to the right UK politics has travelled.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
• Tony Blair says ditch Corbynism or Labour will be finished. This from the prime minister whose government awarded railway franchises to Wales and the north of England that have resulted in us still having to travel in Pacer trains into 2020. This was how he treated the Labour heartlands. Give me Corbynism any day.
• Come back, Blair. All is forgiven.
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