Ignore the nay-sayers—Jeremy's messages are getting throughby Richard Burgon / May 13, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Sadiq Kahn has won—but has he won well?
It’s twelve months from our General Election defeat which left us feeling devastated. Last May we were seven points behind the Conservative Party—having won 30 per cent of the vote—and in Scotland we were virtually wiped out. The result left the Parliamentary Labour Party 26 MPs smaller overall and in the local elections that took place on the same day we lost over 200 seats.
Last week, where elections took place Labour pulled ahead of the Conservatives. We won the London, Bristol, Liverpool and Salford Mayorlities and performed better than the Conservatives in the council elections.
The nay-sayers had said we were doomed. Some commentators had demanded clearly impossible targets of 400 and even 900 council seat gains, whilst other—more calculated—estimates predicted we were set to lose 150 or 200 council seats. A disaster on 5th May was predicted for months.
If “a week is a long time in politics,” then five years is almost an eternity. A worse result last Thursday wouldn’t have guaranteed defeat in 2020 just as a better result wouldn’t have guaranteed victory. History doesn’t work like that. The unusually good election results in 2012 showed that.
In the end, we were down 18 by Councillors overall. That is sad—as Labour losses always are—but our total was largely stable. The projected national share by John Curtice—a psephologist—and Stephen Fisher—a professor of political sociology—put us one point ahead of the Conservatives, as did the projection by experts Rallings and Thrasher. In England, it was calculated Labour polled 38.5 per cent in those wards contested.
And within those gains and losses, we achieved successes in the South of England where we had been doubted just days before. We held Southampton and Crawley, made gains in the South West in Bristol, Exeter and Swindon and made gains in East Anglia in Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich too. So there are real positives to build upon.
At the same time there are undoubtedly real causes for concern. Scottish Labour’s wipeout following the independence referendum campaign continued—we lost 13 seats in Holyrood. We also can’t let our successes in England and Wales mask the creeping rise in the vote of both UKIP in the north of England and Plaid Cymru in Wales.
So we’ve made a start. It’s as simple as that—no more, no less. And we have much to do. But we are moving in the right direction.
And people shouldn’t underestimate the positive impact of Jeremy Corbyn in the face of an incredible and unfair media storm. He has now surpassed David Cameron in personal popularity, he’s more trusted than the Prime Minister to tackle tax avoidance and voters say they find him “genuine.”
I believe that with a united Parliamentary Labour Party supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s advocacy of an alternative for Government, support for Labour will increase still further.
And that’s because his economic agenda is popular. A key priority for Jeremy has been to make clear that the Conservative Government’s harsh spending reductions are damaging our economy and to set out a different approach. Labour’s Shadow Treasury is being advised by world-class economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, David Blanchflower and Mariana Mazzucato. Our clear new fiscal rule of balancing day-to-day spending whilst also borrowing for long-term and productive investment in our economy has reassured voters.
What will come in the months and years ahead are new economic policy pledges setting out how a Labour Government will grow the economy.
Following the General Election, George Osborne announced “a new settlement” with the financial services sector. What that has meant in reality has been an irresponsible retreat from the initial post-crash regulations that sought to stabilise the City. Martin Wheatley—a robust regulator—has been removed. The Senior Bankers’ Conduct Regime has been weakened. The bank levy and corporate tax have been cut. And George Osborne has sold off the public’s shares in RBS as quickly as he can and at any price he can get—which has meant less money in the public purse. You know Osborne’s “long-term economic plan” has hit the rocks when growth figures are downgraded by the Office for National Statistics.
In sharp contrast to this government, that consistently fails even the economic tests it sets itself, Labour is committed to ensuring investment is directed to where it is required—boosting research and development, funding new affordable housing and supporting necessary infrastructure such as transport and new communications.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership, Labour has already exposed the contradictions in the Conservative’s Government ill-thought out and deeply unfair policies and has forced reversals on welfare cuts for people living with disabilites, forced academisation, cuts to policing and more. The task now facing Labour is to develop the policy pledges that continue to connect with voters. We must build a widening coalition of voters around a new economic strategy of public investment, enterprise and fair taxation. We have work to do—let’s get on with it.