Some thoughts on the stunning General Election result
Back in 2015, I watched aghast as the exit poll that forecast Ed Miliband’s downfall came true. I voted Labour that year too despite the party’s policies feeling like nothing more than Austerity-lite (not to mention the ‘Ed Stone’ debacle).
The election before as a young, naive student I voted LibDem because of their promises to students and Gordon Brown’s dull campaign. That was a mistake, one many people my age made, one I’ll never make again.
But in the wake of Miliband’s resignation the leadership campaign got my attention when someone I’d never heard of, an old-left, London MP just managed to scrape into the race. I thought ‘who is this and why does he think he can beat Andy Burnham?’
The more I head from Corbyn, the more I liked him, then his campaign for leader picked up momentum and I decided to join as a £1 supporter and have my say. I voted for Corbyn and thought he might have an outside chance. I was elated when he won, but I wasn’t expecting or prepared for the torrent of abuse aimed at him almost immediately.
The first year of his leadership he struggled, he wasn’t used to being on the front bench and his team around him were inexperienced. I was angry to see centrist Labour MP’s refuse to support their democratically elected(with a clear majority!) leader. I was even more angry after the failed coup and Angela Eagle’s laughable attempt to trigger a leadership contest.
The vote of no confidence and Owen Smith’s pathetic ‘faux socialist’ leadership challenge were a distraction just as Corbyn and his team had begun to attack the Tories and gain modestly in the polls. I worried that the interest in the new leadership battle wouldn’t be there but the members (by which point I was one of them) AGAIN gave Corbyn a majority — an even larger one.
The shock of Brexit and the media’s continued hounding of Corbyn (apparently for not campaigning to remain hard enough — he did almost 100 events, he rightly refused to be seen with Cameron, after all that is what killed Labour in Scotland when Miliband campaigned alongside Cameron). I was disappointed by the Brexit result, I still am, and I’ll admit my faith in Labour and Corbyn’s leadership has been shaken a couple of times. I’m not what you’d call a blind Corbynista, but I believe in the power of left-wing politics.
When May called for a snap election, I knew it was coming but it was still a dreaded moment. Labour so far behind in the polls it looked hopeless. Worse still when Labour shed over 400 council seats in the local elections it looked bad. I’d already decided to get out and campaign on the ground locally and had been out for the local elections when the General Election was called.
I was active, like so many others, throughout the whole campaign, leafleting, canvassing and door knocking almost every weeknight and some weekends. I spoke to people with genuine concerns, I spoke to police officers and NHS staff and carers who all described how difficult things were becoming. When Corbyn’s campaign got into full swing I was impressed with what he was outlining, his performances were strong and it quickly became clear that he was up for the fight. He isn’t the strongest or most polished speaker but he is passionate and genuine.
As the weeks went on this began to show on the doorstep and the leaked manifesto was stunning. It offered something for everyone. People began talking about it when we canvassed, they liked it. I’ve talked about this in posts before. But I felt hopeful when I spoke to lifelong Tory voters who were saying they liked Corbyn and they were going to vote Labour for the first time! This was definitely helped by May’s frankly appalling, poorly thought out campaign, her shockingly bad manifesto that arrogantly stabbed at her core voter demographic and her lack of personality and contempt for interacting with voters and her opponents. She was told to run the campaign on personality but it quickly became clear that she had none.
I campaigned locally in rain and shine, got told to ‘fuck off’, got given cups of tea but members of the public, got slobbered on by dogs, and got my fingers caught in letterboxes posting leaflets. We were always worried about the UKIP vote going Tory and the resurgence of shy Tories but thankfully, as was the case nationally, this didn’t eat too much into my local candidate’s vote. I thought the horrid terrorist attacks might undermine Labour but the leadership team’s response was measured, insightful, sympathetic and importantly — statesmanlike.
So, I’m a long time Corbyn supporter, been there from the beginning like half a million other Labour Party members. And I’m proud of how the campaign was ran, offering bold, brave plans for fairness, unity and hope. May’s campaign floundered and Labour were able to overturn a 20 point Tory lead to gain seats in EVERY region of the country, even Scotland. The swing to Labour hasn’t been this big since 1945, we cut Boris Johnson’s huge majority in half, Amber Rudd clung onto her seat and Labour even got 11,000 votes in May’s own constituency.
It’s a not an outright victory, but it’s a stunning moral victory. It has broken the Tories, wrecked May’s supposedly ‘strong and stable’ leadership and shifted British politics towards the left. After a generation of neoliberalism left wing politics are again winning votes. Hope and the promise of fairness and egality have captured people’s mood. Most importantly the under 30 vote mobilised like never before, an estimated 72% turn out. Absolutely unprecedented.
There is so much more I could say, there were so many facets to the election campaign and so many amazing things happened. This post has already gotten too long, so I will conclude by saying…
May’s days are numbered, the Tories are now propped up by the right-wing DUP with no majority and without the mandate they craved to deliver a hard Brexit only a minority wanted. Corbyn may not have won outright but they can no longer be called an ineffective opposition — they are a government in waiting!