So what happened? Where does it leave me and my allies? I have been doing a lot of reading much of which I have bookmarked on my diigo feed, tagged GE2019. I wanted to write something deep, insightful and original, but others got there first. The result has two highlights, the loss of seats in the East Midands, North East, East Coast, primarily leave seats, primarily seats that have voted Labour forever but secondly an overall loss of votes to “Remain” parties. Labour’s so-called Lexiters were quick out the gate blaming Labour’s promise for a second referendum as the core cause of the loss of these seats. Reality requires a deeper look; it also requires the recognition that some of those seats will have been lost because remain supporting labour voters chose to vote elsewhere. Would the result have been better or worse if we had not promised the second referendum? How many of these seats did we lose by less than the Green/LibDem vote? How many of the seats in the Leave voting majorities that we held, might we have lost if remain supporters had been less committed to us? It could have been worse! For a more detailed insight I need to wait for the Electoral Commission spreadsheet. I say more below/overleaf … 

Labour had been losing presumably Remain support since May 2019 when the NEC decided to campaign in the European elections on, an “I don’t know what” position. It’s the problem with the leadership position, it was clearly anti-Tory deal but too many surrounding the Leadership either wanted to leave on any undefined terms and were not prepared to offer a “final say” choice to the people who issued the mandate. In the European elections, Labour lost four times more votes to remain parties than to the Lexit parties a vote share we never recovered. The chart below shows Labour’s loss of poll share over the year.

Labour’s move to where they were, was too slow and too grudging; its opponents legitimised voting Tory by making the issue existential. It certainly doesn’t make the idea of an election rather than a referendum look too smart and Labour’s Lexiters need to say what terms of departure were acceptable or unacceptable. (We now need to address the aftermath of agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement’s citizenship clauses which we must oppose.)

The facts suggest it wasn’t just Brexit that caused these losses. DataPraxis published their analysis in a report called Tory Landslide, Progressives split and present evidence that the key causes were Jeremy Corbyn, although this can be difficult to unwind from Brexit, that this time the manifesto didn’t cut through, there remain those for whom Brexit was the key issue and these sit on both sides of the remain/leave debate. Labour fell into the trap that “soft brexit” satisfied neither side of a split society. Corbyn and Labour were no longer the insurgent.

It should be noted, often around the other two issues, that Tory remainers stayed with the Tories despite the extreme terms of departure being offered by the Tories.

The loss of the Leaver’s loyalty has been a long time coming and is documented by Phil Burton Cartledge, in his blog article “The working class politics of Brexit“, and by much of Paul Mason’s writings, but most recently in “AFTER CORBYNISM, WHERE NEXT FOR LABOUR?“. The working class fantasised of by the Labour Party no longer exists, and much of what it’s become is no longer loyal to Labour, nor can be won via an economic offering. In 2017, the manifesto was key in winning votes to Labour; this time it was not believed. Too much was added as an afterthought, if rectifying WASPI injustice, free railway travel and free broadband were so important, why weren’t they in the initial launch. For too many, it became seen to be unaffordable, the message against anti-austerity was lost as were other crucial parts of the promise although Mason argues, much of the “traditional working class” are no longer listening to these i.e. economic promises.

These three factors suggest to me that 2017 was the anomaly.

Another factor to be considered was Labour’s organisation and campaigning. The seat prioritisation was plainly wrong, polling data was ignored, the data in many of these seats/constituencies was dreadful because they hadn’t been worked and their membership as a proportion of vote is also low; Labour’s famed ½ million members didn’t and don’t reach to these places. We have been losing members since 2017 yet ignoring this. We must recognise that one of the reasons that people are leaving and those that stay have stopped listening to the “Left” is because the Left’s political culture is so unattractive.

In summary,

  1. The second referendum promise did not lose this election for Labour; without it, we’d have done worse in the North as well as in the Cities.
  2. The collapse of Labour’s votes has been decades in the making; 2017 was the anomaly.
  3. Labour lost more votes to remain parties than they did to the Tories
  4. The manifesto’s vote winning power was dissipated by late promises and failed to cut through; it was a disincentive this time.
  5. Corbyn lost us votes, much of it due to his personal history and some of it a failure to take sides on the Brexit debate.
What happened?
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3 thoughts on “What happened?

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