“I feel sick and bitter and angry at the election result. And not just at the Tories. At the fuckers who are already smugly giving the lessons about how we need more of the very things that led to this disaster. We need to look reality in the face.
Labour’s problem wasn’t that it wasn’t Remain enough, it was too Remain. It wasn’t a lack of alliances with other parties, it was too much of them. It wasn’t that not enough had been done to address “antisemitism in the Labour Party”, it was that too much had been to inflame the outrageous libel that antisemitism is a Labour Party issue.
Labour’s problem wasn’t too much Corbyn, it was not enough Corbyn. And if your solution is to further de-Corbynise it, you will make matters worse.
Labour appears to have lost lots of votes in Leave-voting Northern constituencies. Corbyn’s original strategy of respecting the referendum result while emphasising what working class Leave and Remain parties had in common could have prevented this – as it did in 2017. But this was buried, until a last minute panic, under a tidal wave of People’s Vote bullshit.
There doesn’t appear to have been any Remain surge, either for Labour or the Lib Dems. Perhaps Johnson understood something the pro-EU ostriches and 2016 re-enactment societies didn’t: that most people are sick of this. “Get Brexit Done” didn’t just speak to Brexiters. It spoke to a lot of people who respect the referendum result and don’t want to spend their lives reliving it. It’s a pretty vacuous slogan, and could easily have been contested – but not when the opposition retreated into fantasies of Remain.
The worst moment was in the autumn when Labour got dragged into deals with the Lib Dems, its own Blairite defectors and even a load of ex-Tories to avoid a general election. This played right into Johnson’s hands. He got to pose as a government who wanted to get things done against a parliament of paralysis. It also tied Labour’s hands on the issues where it is strongest. How can you make anything of being anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-racism and pro-environment alongside the likes of former Tory business secretary Anna Soubry and Jo “nuclear button” Swinson?
And then the anti-semitism thing… It is absolutely false to claim that anti-semitism is more of an issue in Labour than in society as a whole, let alone than in the racist Tory Party. Corbyn and his allies have repeatedly defended Jewish people and other minorities within anti-racist struggles, while Johnson, Rees-Mogg and others have shamelessly used anti-semitic myths and slurs.
So why is the perception there? Because those in the media and on the right who are hostile to the Labour Party and the left have stirred it up, and too many of those in the firing line have refused to call them out on it. Left wing Jewish voices have been scrupulously ignored and right-wingers held up as disinterested representatives of the “community”. And those such as Chris Williamson who said so were thrown under the bus for it.
You don’t pacify your enemies by telling them they are right, by pretending a dirty lie is an unfortunate misunderstanding and a determined witch-hunt is a helpful and honest critique. Labour will never make this go away without confronting it. Get rid of Corbyn and the “hard left”, and the question will become “what was wrong with Labour that it even allowed these people to be members”? You will end up with a purge of anyone who has even said the word “Palestine”, and that will gut the left.
This election is horrific. But it isn’t the end. There are many battles still to be fought. Starting with the battle for interpretation. Because if you’re not careful, the fucking vultures who created this mess will seize the moment while you’re in mourning to strike, and ensure that Johnson doesn’t just get a majoirty but a hamstrung opposition too.”