Was it Brexit, Jeremy or Antisemitism? There’s been an orgy of soul searching on the British left over recent days, so here’s my neutral quick take on Labour’s defeat – some of it picked up from stuff I’ve read or listened to over the last few days.
Labour tend to win when they talk about a bright future. For example, Clem Attlee’s 1945 campaign slogan Let Us Face the Future or Harold Wilson’s famous 1963 White Heat of Technology speech.
I felt the manifesto didn’t have this big idea, shared future or narrative. In fact, in some cases it could be seen to be harking back to the past. There were loads of ideas and policies – some of them appearing to be panic pledges in response to bad headlines – but no grand-arching theme and no hint of a progressive future.
Labour’s manifesto was written with the wrong audience in mind.
At times the party’s description of Britain appeared little short of apocalyptic. Most people don’t get groceries from food banks, live off a minimum wage, travel regularly on crowded trains or are employed on zero hour contracts. Making them suddenly care about the growing numbers that do is a tough ask.
It’s important for a progressive party to talk about that stuff, but I imagine a lot of ordinary people – the Just About Managing classes – were thinking “What about me?” And when there were universal consumer offers, like broadband, they seemed too good to be true.
I think getting a parliamentary majority is not that central to the Corbyn project.
What Corbynism is ultimately about is changing the balance of British politics and achieving a wholesale shift to the left. That’s where the whole – and deeply flawed – “We won the argument” stuff comes from and explains why neither Corbyn or McDonnell didn’t appear to share the devastation of many of the party’s followers on Friday the 13th.
Labour ultimately lost because elements in the party leadership see winning as a short term, secondary pursuit.