After a long night, here are my thoughts on last night’s General Election.
I am heartbroken. I am devastated for the families that will descend further into destitution. I am sorrowful for the victims of Grenfell Tower Fire that will not receive justice. I am fearful for migrants and minorities that this far-right government will scapegoat for its own austere economic decisions. And I am sorry for not being able to deliver the radical, transformative programme that this country so desperately needs.
We must now enter a period of solidarity, reflection and resistance.
There are some who wish to blame yesterday’s loss on those of us who have fought for truly radical change, on those of us who campaigned every day in the rain for a Labour government. To some, we are the real source of Boris Johnson’s success, because we failed to present a moderate, credible alternative.
This narrative is extremely misguided. We opposed exploitation. We opposed fascism. We opposed barbarism. And we did so in the strongest possible terms. I will not apologise for refusing to meet exploitation, fascism and barbarism half-way.
It is undeniable that Brexit played a significant role in yesterday’s loss. In 2017, we fought on a platform to respect the referendum result. And we achieved the largest increase in the share of the vote by a Labour leader since 1945. This year, we fought on a platform to secure a second referendum, a platform that I supported because I wanted to remain in the EU. On reflection, looking at the scale and geographical distribution of our losses, there is no doubt that this cost us dearly. The Tories re-energised Leave voters. Our pledge for a second referendum turned them away.
There will be fierce disagreement over what kind of Brexit policy we should have adopted. I don’t have the answer. We would have likely faced losses in remain areas had we not got behind a second referendum, the scale of which we cannot determine. But we can rule one thing out pretty confidently: and that’s the notion that we would have won the election had we simply adopted an unequivocal remain stance. Becoming a remain party would not have proven to be the silver bullet some were hoping it would be. Just ask Jo Swinson.
Of course, it’s not all about Brexit. To reduce it to that is as facile as reducing it to the leader. While certain key policies in our manifesto were incredibly popular among the public, we lacked a succinct or sharp story that anchored these ideas into people’s realities. This doesn’t mean that we need to abandon socialism. We need to rebrand Labour’s version of it. Radically.
This election does not legitimise a reactionary retreat to the centre-ground. If so, the Lib Dems would not have performed as poorly as they did, neither would all those defectors who lost their seats.
We must not lose sight of our long-term goal to radically transform this country via democratic socialism. Part of this requires, over the next 5 years, collectively dismantling certain structures that inhibit socialism’s appeal. Remember, politics does not exist exclusively within the electoral arena.
Of course, we need to win elections. But I will never stop fighting to win them on a platform that I’m proud to stand on. Jeremy Corbyn, you gave me the belief that I could stand in a general election on a radical, transformative podium. You encouraged me to join the eternal struggle for socialism. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.