Those who backed Corbyn from the start feel they have been vindicated—but if they were right, they were right by accident. That won't doby Alex Dean / June 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
Those who study philosophy are often accused of having their heads in the clouds, happier pondering arcane points of logic than thinking about the world as we actually experience it. There is some truth to this. But reflecting on the shock general election result a week or so ago, it occurs to me that one particular philosophical argument can shed light on an actual, real-world event. It is an argument found in epistemology, or the study of knowledge, and concerns something called “justified, true belief.” As far as I can make out it is, unusually for a philosophical argument, erm, useful.
First, the politics. Jeremy Corbyn, we must admit, delivered a breathtaking result on 8th June. He can, as veteran psephologist David Butler put it to me last week, “take great heart” from his party’s performance. Under Corbyn’s stewardship, the Labour Party improved on its 2015 result on almost every measure: it gained 30 seats, winning 262 in total, and won 40 per cent of the vote—that’s up 10 per cent on the last time, its biggest increase in one go since Attlee.
Corbyn’s success appears most remarkable when set against the low expectations held for him, but even in absolute terms his party has come out in exceptional shape.
Those in Labour’s ranks who backed Corbyn from the start—when he ran for the leadership in 2015—are, predictably, jubilant. We can permit them this: all the think pieces which argued the Labour leader was wholly unelectable (and I am guilty of writing a few of those) have been disproved. As understandable as this Corbynite jubilation are the apologies from Labour’s moderate commentators, who have conceded defeat.
Understandable is one thing; justified is another. Corbynites who maintained their leader’s relative electability were right; Corbynsceptics who disagreed were wrong. Yet this is only half the picture: just as important are the reasons that these respective beliefs were held by each camp. The latter had plenty of good ones, the former had few. (This is where the philosophy will come in.)