General Election 2019

Kinnock myths

There’s a meme going around that Jeremy Corbyn is somehow being obstructive by staying on as Labour Party leader while we get on with electing a new leader and deputy. So we get uninformed people like this pop up on Twitter.

Lloyd’s entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts. I’m older than him and remember the 1992 election painfully well. The election was Thursday 9th April; Kinnock didn’t even announce his resignation until Tuesday 13th April so Jeremy’s already quicker off the marks. Kinnock then remained leader until John Smith won on Saturday 18th July, exactly 100 days later.

It made sense for Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband to step down immediately because they both had a deputy who was willing and able to hold the fort during the leadership election. Now, the deputy post is vacant so if Jeremy did want to walk away now the NEC would have to meet to put one of the Shadow Cabinet in as acting leader. That could not be one of the leadership contenders as that would be unfair and who else would want that thankless job?

Facing a triumphal Boris Johnson at the dispatch box for Queen’s Speech and weekly PMQs will be awful for Corbyn to deal with, we should be thankful to him for performing this last service to the Labour Party.

General Election 2019

What do we do now?

For some reason, I’m attending three meetings looking at what should the Labour movement do from here. We should be having a proper period of reflection but life doesn’t stop and neither can we. I’ll post considered thoughts from all three over the weekend but first thanks to Red Pepper for organising the first, attended by Zarah Sultana, newly elected Labour MP for Coventry South, Hilary Wainwright, Brian Eno and Dawn Foster.

General Election 2019

The morning after the night before

It is clear now that Britain has spoken and they want the Conservatives in power for the next five years. As a believer in democracy I respect that decision and because I have to live in this country I hope that Boris Johnson doesn’t make as much a pig’s ear of running the United Kingdom as I currently fear.

History will judge Jeremy Corbyn kindly. His solutions for fixing Britain are the right ones and eventually we’ll get there. It will just take us longer to get to a society where everyone is valued, everyone plays their part and everyone shares in the rewards. That’s the socialism in my heart and the socialism that I will always fight for. It’s the socialism that Jeremy believes in too, that’s why I voted for him as leader in 2015 and 2016. It’s not a job or a game, it’s something he needs to do, to help people achieve more together than they are able to do individuals.

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, I was involved in a local election in Scotland and tasked on election day with knocking up in a couple of council estates. Surprisingly I wasn’t given a list of which households to go to, “Just do every house, they all vote Labour there” was the message from the old-timer running the committee room. And they did, both wards returned Labour councillors with well over 70% of the vote. Maybe they moved to more modern campaigning but eventually in 2015, those estates stopped voting Labour and it came as a shock.

In 2013, the tale being told about the South Shields by-election was that David Miliband had bequeathed his successor in the seat a contact rate of 1%. Such a pitiful connection to the constituents didn’t stop Emma Lewell-Buck winning the seat, but it allowed the rot to set into the floorboards. All across the country (not just in the Midlands and North) good working class people realised that Labour wasn’t speaking for them anymore. Even that was okay in terms of Labour getting elected because the Tories didn’t seem to speak for them either. But then Boris came along with his simple message, “Get Brexit Done”.

It didn’t matter that the “Get Brexit Done” slogan didn’t mean anything. It was like the Underpants theory from South Park, the promise is that everything will be okay once the UK Brexits. It’s hope and it’s hope that can be distilled into a soundbite on the news and repeated to every interviewer’s question. Labour’s manifesto was well thought out, ambitious but the scale of the country’s problems demand that, but as the length of this piece shows it can’t be distilled into an easy explanation of how voting Labour would mean a better life for the 99%. Four years before the SNP had done the same trick by claiming that independence would be the panacea of all ills. Theresa May tried to sell the same message in 2017 but wasn’t convincing enough to do it as she was at heart a Remainer. Boris led the Leave campaign, he was better at his lines.

Overall I don’t think this is Jeremy’s fault. No Labour leader would have got an easier ride from the press. Remember how much bad press Ed Miliband got? And I don’t think it’s the manifesto, the individual policies are popular. Maybe the fact we had so many of them crowded each other out. I can blame the lying Tory spin machine and the unwillingness of our state broadcaster to call them out on it but that’s like a sailor moaning about the sea. I admire Jeremy’s insistence of running a positive campaign. It probably wouldn’t have been effective running an equally dishonest one. But it did feel like a boxing match where one guy can punch below the belt while the other one isn’t allowed to punch back at all.

But that’s not all past. What now then? Now Boris owns Brexit, he’s got a huge majority in the Commons, he can pass any Brexit he likes. There’s no-one he can blame if it all goes wrong although I’m sure that he’ll try. I want the Labour Party to stay united and be an effective, harrying opposition and not do what the Conservatives would love and become a circular firing squad. I have a couple of favourites for the soon to be vacant leadership but am genuinely open-minded. Even MPs from the pragmatic centre would be fine if they have integrity and positive ideas on Labour being a governing party of the left.

There will be around 200 Labour MPs on the green benches by the looks of it, they must work together in the spirit of socialism. There is still half a million Labour members that will support them every step of the way if they do.

The next general election is less than five years away, we can win it.