We had our lowest number of seats since 1935. We lost 59 seats; the Tories gained 66 new seats. 63 of which were leave voting seats. The Labour heartlands are no more. Our vote share fell by 8 points. Boris Johnson will now be in power for the next ten years. He has 106 new MPs at his call (new seats plus replacing old ones).
Labour’s decision to have a second referendum was the underlying cancer of this campaign. It was only detected, by the majority, after we lost. Many voices shouted that we were wrong to back a second referendum, myself included. However, the indecisiveness of the leadership’s office on brexit and conference (people seem to forget this) all led to Labour backing a second referendum. Labour activists, many of who are middle class, and Labour voters who come from all backgrounds and places in the UK, were at odds without knowing it. The membership has to think of others instead of themselves in the future. We are all on the left after all.
If you compare the 2017 and 2019 manifestos there is one glaring difference: the Brexit policy. The majority of Labour members are remainers. They voted and pushed for the second referendum. But as we found out at the election, and should have talked about more before, a lot of traditional Labour (obviously not all) voters backed leave. If a larger section of the Labour membership at conference had been leavers, then the second referendum may not have become policy.
If the leadership or unions had tried to keep it off the agenda at the 2019 conference, then the media would have had a field day. We may have had a leadership challenge and many of the shadow cabinet would have been in full revolt mode. If party democracy is what we want, then we have to stand by those decisions.
Labour could never please everybody. If we had stuck with leave, then who knows, maybe we would have lost seats in the cities. However, and this is really guessing, we would have probably lost them to the Lib Dems. So, we would have been forced to hold on a second referendum in a coalition. Anyway, that is besides the point as we now have a Boris Johnson led government for the next 10 years. The above types of predictions, and if’s and but’s were the problem for Labour from the start of the EU referendum campaign. It based its decisions on electoral calculations rather than who we are as a party.
We say we are for the many. That has to become a reality. Who we are as a party has changed as the make up of the economy and class has. Labour needs to reflect its voters, all of them, not just its members and its new London heartlands. A black teacher in London or transvestite from Manchester is as important as a white ex-miner or Asian business owner in the north. It need not be ‘either/or’ as many potential leaders are shouting. But did it need to be for brexit.
Obviously, a choice needed to be made, and we chose wrongly and too late. I’m happy to admit that in the end, after the conference, I supported our brexit policy, and I was wrong. Hopefully, other members can do the same. And anyone saying that they thought it was a bad idea then you should have said it louder. This is a problem with a conference, the middle-class political degree owning members can afford to go whilst taking time off work. They were more likely to vote remain. This is a problem with our party democracy. We gave Corbyn the rope to hang himself with.
Johnson is going nowhere
Whilst we are all looking inside. Johnson and his one-nation conservatives are planning to wipe Labour out for a decade. In several of his speeches Johnson has continuously mentioned one-nation conservatism. Apparently, it means to be socially conservative, but a little more liberal economically. Asking millionaires to part with some of their cash to provide for the rest. This was also said by Cameron and May. We all know Johnson is a lier, but another thing about him is that he will do what is best for him. He doesn’t just want to beat school chum Cameron. He wants to be bigger than Churchill. He wants a legacy as a PM. If that means splashing the cash then he will.
After 10 years of austerity. Anyone spending money is going to seem generous. Even dictators have spent money. In Spain, Franco is still admired by some delusional people because of the Spanish economic miracle. Johnson will spread the money around. Whether that be in the right places or for the right reasons, nobody knows. He will invest, which most of his cabinet agree with, if he wants to survive the oncoming political storms.
They include: The Scottish, Northern Ireland and Welsh independence struggles growing and demanding more, keeping the northern vote, managing brexit and all the trade deals, keeping the economy from tanking post-brexit, trying not to appear to be Trumps lapdog whilst keeping him happy and finally the Queen dying and Prince Charles becoming king. Good luck, Boris!
The Conservatives will be hard on immigration and it will be easy to do now that we will be leaving the EU. The points-based system will be put in place. Whether it will actually succeed and lower immigration is difficult to know because we have had freedom of movement for years. That will also keep his new socially conservative ex-labour voters. He may have just extended the conservative revolution of Margaret Thatcher. We haven’t even noticed it because we’ve been too busy arguing amongst ourselves. This could be one of the long-term repercussions of ignoring the EU referendum.
Ending austerity could be something that Johnson does. Throwing money around will take the wind out of the new Labour leader’s sails and remove a battle line from Labour. This would make the party enter full soul-searching mode as it is one thing that united many parts of the party. He could put the money in the right places to allow services to improve, back to 2010 levels, and help businesses make money at the same time. A trick from Blair. This probably involves back-door privatisation of the NHS.
Johnson is also turning full-on Trump taking mobiles from journalists, or hiding in fringes. The BBC is already in his pocket with most of the right-wing press. Let’s see how he manages when they push back after the first challenge to his premiership. This could just be the start of what will be the villainization of any press that don’t agree with Johnson. They take this straight out of Steve Bannon playbook. He already threatened to remove Channel 4’s licence because they replaced him with an ice sculpture at the climate debate.
There are the reforms to law that will stop for legal interference into political decisions. And, also, the reported restructuring of the civil service by Gollum lookalike Dominic Cummings. Will the press report on any mishaps here? I won’t hold my breath.
The NHS will still be sold out to America, in the form of drug companies and higher drug prices. This would also be an excuse to start charging for the NHS. Blaming foreigners and drunks to bring some sort of charges into the emergency department is my first bet. Many will see this as common sense. But this is where privatisation will start. This is why Labour not only need to find a new leader but also a new message.
We have to remember that people don’t fit into the camps of Metropolitan remainer, and industrial heartlands leavers. They keep throwing about labels of traditional working class saying that we need to reconnect with our roots. And there’s also other people saying that the young are the future. Whilst many people may not like Blair, or Johnson, they are proof that you do need to win over people from all classes in both the cities and the towns, whether they are leave or remain. That is if you want a majority.
Party of the People
We need to be talking to each other, and celebrating our differences, rather than blaming each other. We need to be in the working men’s clubs, in the food banks and in the churches. We need to be at music festivals, in the inner-city youth clubs and colleges. We need to be helping people. We need to build a left wing culture.
One criticism that I do believe to be true is that the Labour Party was being run by London-based intellectuals. This needs to change. Jeremy Corbyn surprisingly won the left-wing leadership. Normally if you were to take over a party, you would take it from the bottom-up. Taking it from the top-down is not ideal because you have to break through all the party structure. You must be ruthless to democratise the party. This was a failure of Corbynism, it failed to pass open selection. We cannot have a parliamentary party and not hold them to account.
What is more, if you take the party from the top-down, you automatically start with advisers galore and books start flying everywhere. We need people to do the groundwork and earn places in the party. Not just be flown in because they have studied economics and have been to private school.
Trying to be idologically pure is also a mistake. I was previously shouted down online by good comrades for questioning the Abolish Eton. I have also been told by people smarter than me what is right and wrong. This virtue signalling of the left needs to stop, it is putting voters off. That doesn’t mean not calling out racism or any other type of nasty abuse. Just stop thinking we know better. Yet again brexit is a good example.
We need to be working with others to ensure that we get influential left-wing views into the local councils, into the constituencies and into the branches. But that is not enough, we need practical left politics. We need groups like Preston council and Jamie Driscoll, Momentum backed mayor in North of Tyne. We need to show the people what left politics can do. We need to earn the respect of peoples vote. We need to prove we can do good in power. We need to get our heads out of books and get our hands dirty. Look who was right after the brexit election, was it John McDonnell’s economic advisors and Keir Starmer or Ian Lavery? PhDs don’t mean you write better policy or make better political choices. We can still be radical but we have to be practical at the same time.
By working in communities, we will find people that are working class, that are not ideological puritans and that don’t have a masters from LSE. This is how we grow are party. In numbers, diversity and in strength.
Let’s be a party, not a family that secretly hates each other.
Many right-wing career politicians, that liked to undermine us all, have left the party. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s move on from Tom Watson.
We shouldn’t be vilifying people for believing in touch-light social democracy. That doesn’t mean we have to suffer fools either. Internal debate about policy is one thing, using it to smear the party is another. MPs standing out of line need to fear the leader. They never feared Corbyn. I guarantee the new Tory intake fear Johnson. We need a Labour communication discipline line that is not crossed.
We cannot forget the media onslaught against Corbyn, members and MPs. This without a doubt influenced our vote, campaign and decisions made at head office. We need to stand up to the media. We are getting better at it, but we need to be the best.
We have a new batch of left-wing MPs in the party. Now that we’re comfortable. We need to start being comfortable in our debates, in sharing ideas, and challenging our own ideas to make sure that we continue to further this party as a democratic socialist party. So we can win.
We can’t disregard any of the many ‘working classes’. Whether it be the old or new version. As it is going to take us all to rebuild the Labour Party. A party that is part of all communities. Socialism can bring people together. Not choosing one type of politics over another but choosing to be the party of the Many. This is how we beat Boris Johnson.