For many in Labour, ‘Centrism’ and the Bliar years seem like comfort food, a nostalgia for a greatness that never existed for those who can’t move on from the late 20th century.
In 2017 Labour stood on a manifesto making serious, revolutionary reforms to the British economy and political structures. It was a manifesto of hope that would channel the constitutional change of Brexit into the driving force needed to change Britain for the better in the 21st Century, as the revolutionary government of Clement Attlee & Nye Bevan did in the 20th.
The voters trusted that manifesto because it made a vital promise – to respect democracy. Labour, against all the odds, came within a few hundred votes in a handful of seats of forming the next government, gaining dozens of seats and depriving Theresa May’s tories of a governing majority.
Fast forward to 2019. Same leader. Same manifesto. One difference. A 2nd referendum. Labour lost more than 60 seats, all in Leave areas. They lost Bolsover. They lost Skinner.
All because Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer, along with a majority of Labour members, wanted to stop Brexit.
“In 2015, I was devasted over Labour’s general election defeat, but that quickly turned to hope when I realised my analysis of the causes behind this loss were shared by the majority of party members.
While the Parliamentary Labour Party was desperately framing it as a defeat of the left (it’s almost laughable looking back now to think they considered Ed Miliband to be too left wing), the members had correctly pinned the blame on a wishy-washy, uninspiring and incongruent manifesto.
Miliband, who inspired a lot of affection among the members, was less red and more a jarring shade of fuschia.
It was at this time when myself and another Labour member, Beck Barnes, who I “met” on a Facebook page devoted to Labour members grappling with our second defeat in five years, started a petition calling for an anti-austerity candidate to stand for Labour leader.
Jeremy Corbyn heeded our call, much to the anguish of the implacably hostile PLP which spent the next year expending all its energy and focus on breaking him as a man and leader.
Our polling plummeted after the coup attempt in June 2016, and stayed in the low 20s until Theresa May decided to capitalise on our weak polling by calling a snap general election.
Everyone, bar a prescient few, predicted a huge majority for the Tories and the demise of Corbyn. But then something amazing happened.
Our policies got a hearing, Corbyn got a hearing and the polling, both of the party and Corbyn’s personal ratings, narrowed rapidly.
May wanted it to be a Brexit election, but her claims that Labour was blocking Brexit fell flat because it simply wasn’t true.
We had voted to trigger Article 50 and we were pledging to implement Brexit ourselves, just a slightly softer version which would protect jobs, while still giving us the freedom to control immigration, a strong driver for the Brexit vote.”
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