I’ve waited a few days to talk about the General Election. An election where the residents of our country said very clearly that they trusted someone who has proven form in being untrustworthy and making promises they can’t keep. Why did we do that? Fundamentally because we believed that Boris Johnson was better than any alternative. Specifically, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats were not trusted, believed or seen as a viable choice.
I have to admit that this election caused me a lot of grief and soul searching. Every General Election I have voted in, I have always voted Labour. If it was just on the local MP, then it was an easy choice because I think Nia Griffith is a fantastic local MP and she has managed the shadow defence portfolio, which I think has to have been the most difficult one to balance given the situation within the Labour Party. However, it is no secret that I left the Labour Party earlier this year because of two main things, the bullying (including racism) and the lackluster position on Brexit.
Fundamentally, its well known that I have never been on-board with the leadership, but in the end it was a case of how many red lines did I ignore and still be able to look at myself in the mirror. So, this election, did “hold my nose” and vote for Corbyn, or did I do what many in the Labour Party had been telling me to do, IE “F*** off and join the Tories”.
In the end, it had to come down to personal values. And I still believe in Labour Values. So I voted for Nia. I voted for Nia because we need good Labour MPs even if the leadership is a bag of spanners. But I have to say, its one of the hardest marks I have made.
Regardless of anything else, I was very sad to see Labour get the kicking it did get. Its ironic, because the logical part of me said that Labour needed to lose badly to enable it to reform. Corbynism needed the opportunity to be tested on the public, and it did, 4 times, and failed every time. But the other side of me was sickened to see the party that I had spent almost a quarter of my life with, campaigning for, representing and promoting, come to such a low. Seeing good people lose their jobs, good representatives being out on their ear. I was particularly gutted to see that the hard work we had done in 2017 to lower Richard Grahams majority in Gloucester had been thrown away, despite having a candidate in place for 2 years.
So lets address the obvious. There is no one simple reason why Labour got the kicking it did. But the top two were pretty much consistent. Brexit and Corbyn. And they are both largely the same issue – that of Leadership. Corbyn didn’t lead, he tried to be clever. He tried to secure his ideology over what what the county needed. But its not just about the man, or what he stood for, but what he enabled. So many actions were taken in his name, so much was done on his example. Antisemitism was just one aspect of the nastiness that he empowered. Fundamentally, he should have resigned already, he should have had the decency for the first words out of his mouth to be “I’m sorry”. He got there eventually, but even in defeat, he had no statesmanship.
I’m not going to say that much about the manifesto, it was very much on the right lines. A few things I didn’t agree with, but much I did. What went wrong was the thinking that we can spend 10 years in austerity, and suddenly then be promised everything for free. The old adage, “if its too good to be true, it usually is” really applied here. People just didn’t believe that all this was possible. Also to just target the more well off was also a bad move. At the end of the day, everyone wants to believe they could become rich, regardless of if it is actually possible, so everyone sees the cross hairs on the rich and they think that is going to happen to them in the future, or their children etc. So it was lacking a huge dose of strategic thinking.
That said, whilst its easy to point the finger, everyone else is doing the same, at the media, at the Green Party (really), at Laura Kuenssberg, at the Moderates etc etc. And everyone is making up their own narrative to suit their own belief. And that is understandable, who wants to admit they were wrong.
The key thing for the Labour Party is now to renew. It has to take a long hard look and be honest about what went wrong. And where it goes next. Corbynism has tried and failed, but a great many people joined to support Labour values and ideas, so they need to have a reason to stay. But they need to get the moderates who left to rejoin, or if they are still members, to reengage in order to rebuild the broad church. I have seen calls for David Miliband to come back, but that would be a mistake (in my humble opinion), we are not in 1997, or 2010 anymore and going backwards isn’t helpful in moving forwards.
By the same token, it seems like the current leadership is already trying to ensure continuity of their ideology, and that also, wouldn’t help because there is five years to get the party to be something that the public will trust and believe in. That is not a long period of time, there is a lot to do.
So, there needs to be a candidate that will yolk the strengths of everyone and metaphorically rebuild the church. To build a party based on the Labour Principles, not on the say so of Len McClusky. To build a movement based on communities, not a cult. To make a Government in waiting that people know will keep them safe, be there for all of them, all of the time.
Within 24 hours (ish) of the election result, I had a large number of people asking me to rejoin the party. I did put a Facebook post up highlighting the quandary. Do I rejoin and help shape the future, or wait to see what the future looks like and if it is good, then support it? That, as they say, is the question! I have to say, part of me is rather excited that we could get something to believe in again, but part of me still smarts over my last experience.