Like many political progressive observers I felt angry and disillusioned on Friday morning and took to social media to point out where I thought the blame lay – Corbyn, Brexit and an inept Labour campaign.
Although I knew all these were massive problems for Labour and called them out during the election in these articles I didn’t see the massive Tory majority coming. By the time we got near to Polling day I had them down in my mind for a 20+ majority territory. Sadly the Polls got it largely right.
I don’t like to rush to judgement normally but I had seen that the Corbyn outriders had already gone into overdrive as soon as the Exit Poll was announced trying to frame this disastrous result being solely down to Brexit and nothing to do with their beloved Leader. I think a little silence from the usual suspects like Owen Jones would be helpful! But I get why they were doing it. Their entire project could and should fail with this Poll disaster but they want to fight a rearguard action. A little humility from them wouldn’t go amiss. I haven’t heard much contrition from Corbyn – just his usual moaning about the Media.
But then over the last 36 hours I decided it was necessary to slow down and reflect and in a much deeper way. Yes Corbyn was the disaster I expected of him from the start and yes Brexit and Labour’s Position was another major factor. Yes the wish list manifesto with its wild spending spree was a further factor alongside the campaign that had no focus. ( I will return to the book – Don’t Think of An Elephant again and again!) But. And it is a big BUT. There are numerous and long standing trends that also underpin this defeat and not all the fault of Corbyn & Momentum. They are the same issues that helped us end up with a Leave vote in 2016 in many of our so called heartland seats. Politics and the economy isn’t working for so many voters across the country and particularly in the seats represented by the heavy losses on Friday morning. Post-industrial society has created too many losers and their needs have not been met. They took this out on Europe but in reality this is a domestic failing.
So I have started to read analysis from across the political spectrum. One of the biggest problems in this election has been more and more people bouncing around in their own echo chambers hearing only what they want to. I regularly drop into the Loughborough Labour Party Facebook group. It might be great therapy but my eyes just roll as I see more of the same half truths being peddled as truth. I gave up trying to be helpful and commenting a couple of years ago because of being shouted down and abused. The ears were closed to anything that looked like criticism of the beloved leader. Many of us just went quiet and others left the Party. But social media growth has just increased our selective hearing.
I always recommend people to read writers and articles they don’t agree with in all walks of life, not just politics. I always used to read the Daily Mail as an MP because I needed to understand their vile politics, and more importantly how voters were seeing the world. It was invaluable to see the alternate world views that I didn’t agree with but had to understand. The same is true now. I read a wide range of political views across the spectrum. I don’t have to agree but I need to see where people are coming from.
For example under the title Is This the End of Labour this short essay from Blue Labour makes uncomfortable reading. I have never been a proponent of the Blue Labour approach, but there are strong elements of this thinking that need to be understood. I have long argued with many of my middle class labour friends that they have to understand the patriotism of our traditional working class vote, not sneer at it. This is why so many of them disliked Corbyn. Many metropolitan liberal Labour (like myself) find this hard to grasp. But until they do we won’t be able to win back these voters. It is one of many things the Corbyn leadership team of his public schooled advisors don’t get.
There will be much more to be said over the coming days and weeks. That’s why I had already joined the Fabians and will look to be part of much wider political discussions in this next phase of my life!
Listening Comes First
But first there has to be much more listening. I intend to spend much more time getting further away from my own bubble (although to be fair I have wide network of bubbles – sport, politics, faith, work and some surprisingly good social mix with them all!) I’d like to spend the next 12 months revisiting parts of my old Loughboough constituency and just listening to people, their hopes and dreams and fears about their futures. No agenda. Just listening. The place has changed dramatically since 1997. For too many its not been for the better.
Not Just Shouting from the Sidelines
As we are probably stuck with a Tory government for at least the next 5 years then I will be committing myself to making the best of what will come our way into our local communities from government. I will call out injustice and inequality and campaign for an alternative progressive future. But in the meantime I will help practically with local projects and on building our local economy through my LLEP role and in building a stronger local economy in the face of Brexit.
The Next Labour Leader?
Quite rightly people are curious about who should lead Labour into the next General Election. I think this is the wrong question at this time. One of the problems with 2015 and 2017 is the Party didn’t properly reflect on how and why it lost. In fact so many Corbyniyes still seem to think we won 2017 so they never even wanted to hear about learning from failure! Hopefully this time they will listen. But rushing to pick a leader before understanding the deep structural problems Labour has and what the path to victory looks like would be a massive mistake. It’s also the case that at present none of the names mentioned fill me with any excitement about their leadership qualities and their ability to reach out into the country to form the electoral coalition you need to build to get 350 seats in 2024. So I will return to this when there is formally a list of candidates.