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12:53am on Sunday, 15th December, 2019:
Every so often, some small religious group or other will announce that the world will end on a certain imminent date. Unfortunately for them, this date comes and goes without incident: the world does not end.
You might have thought that this turn of events would perhaps persuade members of the group that their belief is wrong, but that's not what happens at all. They're upset at first, sure, but then they double down on it. They respond in one of three ways:
1) If the end of the world is, in the group's view, a bad thing, they persuade themselves that they were right all along: the world was about to end, but was saved because of their faith. Therefore, they need to grow their faith to stop the world from ending next time.
2) If the end of the world is, in the group's view, a good thing, they persuade themselves that their faith wasn't strong enough: the reason the world didn't end was that some of them doubted their faith. Therefore, they need to grow their faith to bring the world to an end as desired.
3) If the failure of the prophecy is so profound that it's even obvious to group members, they say that they knew all along that it wouldn't happen. The signs were misunderstood, so the date was wrong. The prophecy will come true at a future date. Therefore, they need to grow their faith to be ready for it.
Instead of "the end of the world", how about "the end of ten years of Tory rule"?
It didn't come about, so how are Labour party activists responding?
Option 1) doesn't apply, because the end of ten years of Tory rule is not a bad thing if you want it to end.
Option 2) does apply. Activists persuade themselves that their policies are as righteous and popular as they believed they were, it's just that they failed to get their message across properly. They allowed themselves to be distracted. If they press the same message harder next time, people are sure to come round.
Option 3) also applies. Some supporters say they knew they were on a hiding to nothing, because the time wasn't right. Next time, it will be right, though.
Fortunately, such cognitive dissonance doesn't tend to survive a second failed prophecy. Labour might be able to get it out of its system following the next set of local elections, or at the next general election if that doesn't work out. The Conservatives had to go through a similar process after Blair's interpretation of socialism knocked them for six in the 1990s.
Option 1), by the way, applies when conviction politicians stay in power too long. Margaret Thatcher is the classic example: she thought the rest of the country shared her faith, so to keep in power she should press on with it relentlessly.
Hmm, I think I may have watched too many morning-after discussion round-tables on TV.
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