Ten reasons why we lost the election and some thoughts about the future

14/12/2019 Comments Off on Ten reasons why we lost the election and some thoughts about the future

1. There are serious self-defeating political splits inside the Labour Party – with the different sides openly and publicly criticising and working against each other. People criticise each other endlessly on both the right and the left of the party, and form power-pushing membership groups. I think membership groups inside the party should be disbanded, and not permitted. They give some members far more power than others.

Disaffected party members, many but not all of whom have resigned in the past 1-2 years, have made it their mission to trash the party at every occasion. Some have led the calls for “tactical voting” against Labour. Here in the Two Cities, calls for tactical voting confused every Labour voter I met about what to do and it made us lose the seat, a seat our party turned into a marginal seat for the first time in 2017. And I can only presume this happened in other places too.

People who are party members who are publicly working against the party, especially from within, such as those who were on that awful Panorama programme several months ago, need to be politely invited to go elsewhere.

2. Jeremy Corbyn was turned into a cult hero by his supporters, which was a mistake, but he was also demonised by a long list of powerful forces across the rest of the political spectrum. Those forces included not only the right-wing political parties but all the forces who felt threatened by Labour’s policies if there was a Labour victory. For example, I would bet all the privatised companies that were threatened with re-nationalisation, all the companies who get away with paying almost no tax in spite of their income, all the companies that do not pay living wages or who give a zero hours contract, all the richer citizens who didn’t want to be taxed more. And all the people and companies who are more interested in protecting their own turf than in eliminating poverty, building social housing, protecting pensions, improving social services, increasing funding for education, and taking all the many privatised bits of a highly profitable NHS out of private hands. Not to mention doing what is needed to stop the climate emergency, which threatens a lot of powerful interests.

Yes, he must step down. But this man made Labour the largest political party in Western Europe. Remember? The worst thing is that so many Labour Party members bought into the demonisation, and when they heard it on the doorstep, they didn’t challenge it. But it is a lie that our defeat is his fault, every one of us is responsible and accountable, and the whole country was involved.

3. Everything conspired to turn this into a presidential election, in which the party leaders were the only candidates given public attention by the press and media, across the political spectrum. What a disastrous mistake and with a democratic deficit of huge proportions.

4. The extent of bias, lies and half-truths put about by the Tories and others was enormous. Journalists did not come off any better in far too many cases either, because they were so willing to report them. Many people bought into the lies too. People who saw this happening, many of them young people, identified the lies articulately, coherently and passionately, e.g. on every BBC Question Time during audience participation in the past weeks. But their voices were drowned out.

5. People I talked to on the doorstep had not read our manifesto. We didn’t make sure people knew what was in it or how good it was, e.g. as regards putting austerity behind us, providing housing, money back into education, and the NHS back on its feet. Because it was costed, the huge amounts of money involved were, with good intention, made the focus of Jeremy’s speeches. This backfired, as it was easy for our opponents to say the amounts were over the top, while the value of the changes proposed weren’t emphasised enough. Criticisms, such as by the IFS, were never properly answered, and support for the costings expressed by other financial institutions was not shared at all. The real problem, however, was that people have no idea what good government programmes cost, because no one ever tells them. And no one ever explains to them why every government maintains a deficit.

6. Most of our energy goes into canvassing on the doorstep. More of it should have been in very local public meetings with candidates present, every night. Our candidate was a new candidate. No one knew anything about him. More local meetings would have given people a chance to get to know him, express their concerns, listen to each other, and hear and share answers. Doing this with people only on a one-to-one basis is extremely time consuming and exhausting – and totally dependent on the ability of the people canvassing. Armies of (young) people went round the country to other constituencies door-knocking, but did they know anything about the local candidates, did they know anything about local conditions and have reasons rehearsed and ready to offer people about why that candidate was the best person for that constituency? The quality, as opposed to the quantity of canvassing, needs examining. I believe we should be campaigning only on our own home ground.

7. We blew it with Brexit. The party should have drafted a concrete, consensus-seeking Brexit plan that would have kept us as close as possible to the EU from the start. Jeremy came with one in the very end, but it was far too late and no one ever heard the details, let alone understood it. Even more importantly, and this was a failure of all of us who supported remaining in the EU, we never managed to come up with the facts showing why leaving the EU would be a gross error – and reasons to stay that would have answered the concerns of supporters of Brexit. Not only at national level but also at local level. With the influential tide of right-wing politics growing all around us, which has had massive media exposure and support, and in the absence of an effective challenge to it from the centre or the left ground, we were bound to lose. When people said we needed to take back control, not one of us ever said: But we’ve never lost control!

8. There is not one newspaper, mass media outlet or TV channel that without equivocation supports the policies of the Labour Party and other left-leaning policies. I believe it is necessary to create a new media outlet that does. We need to analyse Labour’s media strategy and study its strengths and weaknesses. And to examine the media at local level and how we work with them. Perhaps too much emphasis was put on social media to get the youth vote. Did we write enough opinion pieces about the issues, ensure all our candidates were regularly talking to journalists, ensure that local parties were giving press conferences that introduced local candidates to local press and raised local issues?

9. Religion has no ethical place in politics. Right-wing lies dressed up in religious clothing have severely damaged and destroyed progressive politics in the USA, Poland, Hungary, India, Brazil, across the Middle East, and in many other places. They have damaged us very badly in this election too. It was not possible to respond effectively to exaggerated accusations of anti-semitism in the party, despite the amount of work that has been done internally to identify it, quantify it (0.1% of half a million members) and remove those who are its sources. Yet racism, islamophobia, misogyny and anti-semitism expressed by others and in other parties is being ignored or brushed aside. Including in some cases from Boris himself.

Labour’s policy is for our membership to reflect the ethnic, racial and religious diversity in this country, and to support the increasing participation of women in politics. Supporting diversity may be an important reason why we won in London and other urban areas, and perhaps a critical reason why we lost in areas where being racist and anti-immigrant is becoming rife.

10. In my opinion, the only political parties to come out of this election with integrity are the Green Party, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Labour Party. The Labour Party ran a clean election, with a manifesto and candidates we can be proud of, and we should stand tall and say so.

But two-party politics is dead. Boris would not have won without the Brexit Party’s support and considerable number of votes. The Lib Dems had the chance of a middle-ground comeback, but they refused to work with us, did some underhanded things, and had a highly inflated idea of how well they could do on their own. They were punished, but we have all paid the price. Labour still has five clustered strongholds, looking at the colour map of all the seats, probably the biggest being in London. But the Tories surround us in all the rural areas.

Anyone who thinks the divisions in the country can now be put behind us is living in cloud cuckoo land. Devolved politics looks like the future, but the possibility of both Northern Ireland and Scotland leaving the union as a result of Brexit, and our now imminent loss of membership of the European Union, which is our main source of trade, economic and political support, support for the arts and for human rights, as well as effective climate change policies and security, are enormous threats.

The Labour Party should have made a pact with other parties early on to work together and support each other, not only in order to win seats, but also to work together in Parliament, as happened very effectively in the weeks leading up to Boris calling the election. He called the election precisely because he was being defeated at every turn. Anyone who accused us of being ineffective in opposition in 2019 must have been asleep. Still, with his back to the wall, Boris gambled and we lost. We urgently need to discuss internally & with other parties what to do going forward. Everything depends on it.

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