labour party

What next for the Labour Party?

Few of us had any sense how comprehensively the Labour Party would be defeated in the 2019 election. Or how well Johnson would connect with a Brexit-fatigued electorate. One thing is for sure, politics has become more unpredictable than ever. So, after this crushing loss, I ponder the reasons behind Labour’s failure, and what’s next?

The reasons

Jeremy Corbyn and his team have been blaming Labour’s defeat, its fourth in a row, on the defection of Leave voters. They refuse to acknowledge the real problem was Corbyn himself. However:

Labour was out-of-touch, too absorbed in its own wrangling to listen to vote concerns. Even after ten years of Tory austerity people still thought the Tories a better bet. Yes, this was a leadership failure: as former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson put it, Corbyn “couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag”.

But long before Corbyn took over, the party had begun to alienate its working-class heartlands. With Brexit, it had a chance to reconnect with its traditional base: it blew it.

The return of Blair

Then Blair waded in:

He (Corbyn) personified politically an idea, a brand of quasi-revolutionary socialism, mixing far-left economic policy with deep hostility to western foreign policy,” he said.

[This] never has appealed to traditional Labour voters, never will appeal to them, and represented for them a combination of misguided ideology and terminal ineptitude that they found insulting.

Whatever you think of Blair, he makes some valid points as:

… it took Tony Blair – who all but the most stubborn critics will concede was an uncommonly gifted political operator – to become the only Labour leader born in the last 100 years to win a general election.

And:

This poll backs up Blair’s point. Here 46% cited Corbyn’s leadership as the main reason for not voting Labour. Only 17% cited Brexit.

So:

Corbyn was a poor performer. Time and again he had chances to nail Boris Johnson for his lies and duplicity, but he refused to do so.

The Labour Party manifesto

The manifesto didn’t help either:

if you’re going to promise something that ambitious, you have to first of all prepare people politically for it and then reassure them you can actually do it. Labour did neither effectively, instead promising more things each day, displaying a lack of message discipline

Further:

When Corbyn was elected Labour leader four years ago, he was often compared to Michael Foot, who led the party to a crushing defeat in 1983 against Margaret Thatcher. Back then, Foot’s left-wing manifesto was described as “the longest suicide note in history.” Corbyn’s manifesto was nearly three times as long, and even less successful: he has led Labour to its worst showing since 1935.

Who’s next?

The big question now for Labour is who should follow Corbyn. The centre-left favourite is shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer:

If Labour is ever to recover, it is essential that all factions set aside their differences and actually listen to voter concerns. One consolation is that Tories gained borrowed votes:

In fact:

Johnson knows he is not much trusted by his new, borrowed voters. He has a two-part strategy to convert them for good. First, get them out of the EU quickly. Second, spend money where they live. Brexit will be done, crumbling public services will be restored, local economies will be buoyed with new infrastructure. The problem is that doing the first part of the plan makes it much harder to do the second.

In summary

Unless Labour can recast itself as a modern, credible social democratic party, it could find itself out of power for the next 15 years.

What do you think? Why not leave a comment below:

Photo by Franz Wender on Unsplash

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