2017, Principle Before Power and All That

Screenshot_20200307-164902~2I’ve noticed a trend lately by some in the Labour Party who think or are saying that the 2017 Election was a fluke or freak result and that if it wasn’t it doesn’t matter because we still lost. That it can be explained by a large amount of  remain voters going to Labour to keep the Tories out. What they mean is they can’t accept we did better than expected because it doesn’t fit in with how they see things. Another thing I’ve always seen flying around is that the people won’t vote for a left leader and Manifesto. The 2019 result is what they thought would happen in 2017 so now it’s being written off as freak result rather than admitting we nearly won with one.

I really think that shows the narrative they want to push but the reality is it doesn’t explain the actual results. There’s no doubt there’s regional and local differences across the country there always is but we had a 9.6% swing in 2017 nationally from 2015. That is massive and let’s not forget just over a month earlier we had suffered large losses in the local Elections. When the Conservatives called the Election we mustn’t ever forget too we were about 21 points behind in the opinion polls which is of course why they called it because they thought they would stroll to victory. We gave them a hell of a battle and I truly believe as many have said too if the Election had been a week later we would have won. Of course I can’t prove that and we’ll never know for sure but the momentum was definitely with us.

So I believe there’s a bit of revisionism here because some can’t accept and don’t want it admitted that it had anything to do with  Jeremy Corbyn. It didn’t then and it certainly doesn’t now paint the story of what they want to say happened in 2017. Because of last December’s disastrous result the right wingers in the party who lets be honest were never happy about Corbyn being leader in the first place can say we told you this would happen and that 17 could be written off as a freak result.

I take a very different view of it. The truth is no Election results should be written off they all have their own story to tell. It’s easy to now try and sweep the 17 result under the carpet because you want to push the 19 result because that’s the angle you want to have as your narrative. That Corbyn was a disaster most people hated him and that our Manifesto was a gigantic wish list that people didn’t believe we could do.

Of course some of that is true to an extent. I heard myself on the doorstep that some couldn’t stand Jeremy. But this is ignoring the biggest issue by far the elephant in the room if you like. Yes of course it’s Brexit. More than that in our heartlands our vote had been going down for years long before Corbyn was ever leader. So I think we need to take lessons from the last few elections and not just cherry pick the ones that suit us because that’s the only way we are going to understand what’s been going on and why we have lost 4 of the last 5 Elections.

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So to my way of thinking I would turn things completely around and say surely the most logical thing to do would be to find out why 17 bucked the trend of recent Elections and learn what we did right and better then. And what was different about it. Well undoubtedly the Tories under May had an disaster of a campaign. For the party that was supposedly ready for it they were unbelievably bad. But let’s not take anything from our campaign either I thought ours was the best it had been for many years. One key factor that was even grudgingly admitted by some in other parts of the party after was that Corbyn had a superb campaign and was totally in his element. Slowly from having absolutely no chance whatsoever our campaign picked up pace and our message began to resonate with massive amounts of people especially the young. Yes we didn’t win but we came so so close and 9.6% swing to us was truly historic.

To write all this off would be a totally foolhardy thing to. Our Manifesto was transformative in it’s aims and Socialist in it’s principles. Vast amounts of people were excited by it’s vision and nearly 13 million people voted for it. So what was different between 17 and 19 when we got smashed? Our Manifesto was still transformative and Socialist but maybe one criticism of it now was there was too much in it. It wasn’t a plan for one Parliament more like for at least 2 and that wasn’t made as clear as it should have been. We still had the same leader but Corbyn had been subjected to another 2 and half years of relentless battering by the media. I’m sure these 2 factors were elements in our defeat but we lost 2 half million votes in 2 years. There’s more to it than that so of course I have to come back to our Brexit position.

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In 2017 we accepted the referendum result but in 2019 we said would negotiate a sensible deal and put that deal to a public vote alongside an remain option. This along with that it looked like to many that we were stopping the will of the people in Parliament I believe was the biggest thing that killed us by far at the ballot box last year. The sooner we can accept that we got this massively wrong and own it the better because until then no matter who becomes leader we are going to struggle to win back votes. I think one of the biggest faults of the last 25 years is we have become too London centric and disappointedly that carried on to a large degree under Corbyn’s leadership. We are seen to be too removed from a lot of ordinary people and this has to change.

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There’s another related point I wanted to talk about. How well we did in 17 flies in the face already of the conventional wisdom which is why some like I said at the beginning want to see it as a freak result. You see I never seen it like that because I always had faith that people could vote for a Socialist leader and manifesto. This is I think a key difference between those on different wings of the party. A lot of the right wing not only don’t believe in a Socialist vision of society they don’t believe we can win elections with it. They always maintain that Elections can only be won from the centre which is why they cite 1997 as an example so much. That ignores 1945 and 1974 when we won with Socialist Manifestos however. This is why I believe 2017 is so important and an inconvenient truth to many.

Why should we be timid and cautious and in being so letting the Tories set the agenda? This is why I was so enthused by Corbyn as leader because we set the agenda again and any fall back to  pre 2015 like positions would be a gigantic error. We aren’t taking notice of what the country is telling us if that is what we do. The vote for leave in the referendum was itself a massive vote against the establishment  because there is a massive appetite for that and that is how we looked in 2017. By 19 we again looked like an establishment party who had been blocking Brexit. To win in 2024 we need to tap again into that anti establishment feeling and excite and inspire the young. After all it’s their future and I believe we will fail even after 5 years of this right wing reactionary Tory Government unless we can claim the narrative that we are an anti establishment party who will look after the people. It’s all in our hands which is why this period is vital.

It’s not Socialism that people don’t like or in itself a vote loser unlike what some say and 2017 proves that. It was Brexit that ultimately scuttled us. I’ve seen it sometimes said that it’s the left who don’t want to win that we would rather lose with the right policies than win with the wrong ones. Apart from being insulting it’s also very wrong. What we do have is faith that we can win people over to our ideas. Politics is a 2 way street we listen and engage with our own message, all too often in the last 20 years we haven’t listened and not properly engaged either. To dictate down from on top of the party isn’t going to cut it or win us elections.

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So this is why I believe out of all the elections in the last 15 years it’s 2017 that is the one to build on and look to see what we can learn from. No we didn’t quite win but we were so very close and we did this without compromising our principles or vision. It proves to me what I always believed that we don’t have to sacrifice our principles to get into power. Some will always tell us otherwise that there is an easier way to get into Government that we have to dumb down in some sort of race to the centre. I don’t and have never believed that and now more than ever we don’t need the bland centre but a radical left agenda to deal with Climate Change and rampant Capitalism with it’s gross inequalities that we all face. This is a crunch time and we have to learn from our recent past which is why I think we can still win with Socialism. It’s time to keep the faith there’s simply to much at stake to lose it.

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