- Other Apps
To properly treat any malfunction of the body we have to diagnose it properly. The same applies to organisations and even nations. The question about the future of Labour can be answered properly only if we properly understand the reason for that loss.
The mandate of Thursday was clear: ‘get Brexit done’. To pretend that the election was about anything else other than Brexit is extremely dangerous. Moreover, it was ‘remain’ that was resoundingly defeated, not Corbynism. Boris Johnson wanted the election to be entirely about Brexit. Ever since David Cameron called for the referendum and leave won in 2016 that is the only issue dominating British politics and particularly affecting the conservatives, who have been ruling the country.
The latest election was also the result of internal bickering within the conservative party. Theresa May repeatedly lost in Parliament and could not make any of her agreements pass. Her resignation led to internal elections within the conservative party. Boris Johnson became Prime Minister after winning the internal elections. When his own Brexit deal with the EU stumbled because of rebel MPs, he purged them from the party leading to a minority government. Only then did he call for elections, with the entire party and in particular all the MP candidates, rallying behind his agreement with the EU. He wanted a clear mandate from the people with a large enough majority so that he can bulldoze his Brexit deal through parliament.
It was Labour under Corbyn that wanted the election not to be entirely about Brexit. Labour was caught in a tight spot because the overwhelming majority of Labour voters also voted remain in the 2016 referendum. We should not forget that just a few months ago it looked like the Liberal Democrats, who adopted a stance of remain, promising to completely stop the Brexit process, were going to overtake Labour. So Corbyn was forced to adapt their new Brexit policy, which tried to appeal to both sides of the debate, by promising a second referendum on the issue if they win power.
If you are a Brexit supporter what would you want? More haggling with EU by a new Labour government and the prospect of another referendum or just trying to get over with Brexit by supporting Borish Johnson? Labour Brexiteers just sat out instead of voting in many places it appears. So it is crystal clear that remain has been defeated resoundingly in this election. The Liberal Democrats and the Greens are nowhere to be seen and the Conservatives, the only party promising an immediate Brexit, won a resounding mandate.
Let us come to Corbynism, or socialism as Corbyn calls it. These are just moderate social democrat policies, already adopted across Europe, and many like higher corporate taxes and ending universal credit just take the UK back to 2010, that are popular amongst the populace. How can we be sure that this election is not a rejection of Corbynism?
Look at Europe where all the social democratic parties that ruled after the war have been destroyed completely post the 2008 recession. France, Germany, Greece. Everywhere it is the same story. Cling to “centrism”, neoliberalism, whatever you call it. All those parties left of centre have been decimated. But Labour survived in Britain. This is an anomaly that has to be explained. Labour got 30% of the votes in 2015 with “Centrist” policies after 5 years in opposition.
If their voters actually supported “Centrism” – which only means more austerity, less worker’s rights, less civil rights, more deregulation of the financial and speculating sectors, more draconian restrictions on human rights in the name of “terror”, more budget deficits, not to invest but to bail out private companies and tax cuts for the oligarchs – they would’ve thoroughly defeated Labour in 2017. That was when Labour was under Corbyn for the first time and launched a progressive manifesto. In-fact Theresa May called for snap elections hoping for exactly that.
The Liberal Democrats should’ve taken the place of Labour by now. That is not happening. Labour is the largest political party in Europe, Corbyn is heading a massive political movement. Labour got 32.5% of the votes in this election, which only means that they are not in danger of collapsing and not in danger of staying in opposition “forever” as those against Corbyn and his policies would like to threaten. In fact, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are promising to expand the NHS and are espousing anti-austerity rhetoric. This shifting of the Overton window would not be possible without Corbyn’s rise. Thus, Labour’s rhetoric is winning when the Conservatives have to promise to expand the NHS, hire more police and end austerity.
Once we realise that it is ‘remain’ that lost and not Corbynism, we can conclude what the path forward for Labour is, no need for another pivot to the “centre”. No need to betray the ideas of half a million members, who pay money AND work for the party. No need to destroy the new NEC, new CLPs and so on, full of members with new hope and leading a new political movement. It is ridiculous that a few elites get to decide what the party’s policies are and the cadre should blindly campaign for them. An organization like that is not called a political party. There are other suitable names for that.
This applies both to the general election, where voters chose Brexit, and the process within Labour where the members chose Corbynism, or socialism as he calls it. Not respecting the people's mandate and calling for remain even after the referendum has led to the present state of Labour in the Parliament.
Any political or social movement will take time to succeed. What should the chartist and suffragists have thought about temporary setbacks in their century-long struggle? What is the purpose of achieving power if not to implement policies that you think are good for society? Even Nigel Farage did not win any election, not even any seats in the Parliament but he succeeded in bringing about Brexit. This is the fatal flaw in the argument of “centrists”, destroyed across Europe now seek to destroy Labour in the UK. They say that they believe in all the good things but they do not want to pursue them right now, as they want to stay in power. These pretensions of compromise did nothing for decades except shift the political spectrum in the favour of a few elite and the people are sick of it. This “centrism” is responsible for the rise of both Corbyn and Johnson.
Labour should dump these distractions and also dump talk of remain, respecting the people’s mandate. The focus should not be on obstructing the Tories in Parliament over Brexit but to build a grassroots political movement as Corbyn has been doing over the economic and social issues.
Remember that the Centrists’ biggest fear is not that Labour will lose another election pursuing Corbynism, but in fact, it is that Labour will actually win an election with these policies. Every attempt to blame this loss on Labour’s policies, other than Brexit, must be resisted.
Corbyn should not resign right now. As leader, he is representative of certain ideas. Sudden exit right now will demoralize the cadre, give fuel to attacks against Labour’s policies, and lead to unnecessary bickering. He should continue until emotions calm down, the next conference is due in September and by that time, the conservatives should pass some kind of Brexit agreement into law. Corbyn should stay on as leader until the Brexit issue reaches an end.
It is truly sad that Britain is not ready for a kind and compassionate leader, traits that are sorely lacking in most people in positions of power. As for Corbyn, he will continue to fight for peace, reconciliation, democracy and justice, as he was fighting all his life. More importantly, he tried doing this within Labour and successfully shifted the narrative in Britain. His tenure is a grand success considering the circumstances of Brexit and the decimation of Centre-left parties across Europe. The pendulum is swinging back; it will take some time to gather momentum. The duty for Labour is to build it in the coming years.