Those of us on the British left can't wait until the next election—or long-term demographic shifts—to create changeby Penny Andrews / January 6, 2020 / Leave a comment
When those of us on the left look back on the end of 2019, we will remember one thing: it wasn’t the blue dawn that broke us, but, inevitably, the exit poll. Then, as it turned out, things could only get worse. Blyth Valley went, Bolsover went, and we knew it was true.
Most of us on the left knew we weren’t going to win, but there was still a tiny bit of hope that there would be wiggle room. Some fragility to the majority, if not a hung parliament. Instead, there was shock, numbness, flipping-channel from the BBC as soon as Priti Patel emerged, grinning, onto our screens. Gawping as Alan Johnson and Ed Balls laid into Jon Lansman on ITV’s surprisingly superior coverage, then flipping back over when Gove came on.
Those of us who live with anxiety all the time felt sick as hell when the morning came. The arrival of listicles explaining how to manage our mental health via the usual tips—eat! talk to friends! sleep! exercise!—and post-mortem articles explaining that it was decolonisation and support for trans people that lost us our heartlands couldn’t help but make me angry and depressed.
A majority of 80 gives the government carte blanche to do whatever they want, and the executive will have learned from Blair and Cameron that you need to push through all your public sector reforms as early as possible in order to avoid scrutiny. We will leave the EU by the 31st of January and the mess that follows will be ignored in the rush to Get Brexit Done. Fresh mandate, fresh hell.
Beyond the grief and anger—and the warning to try not to fall out with people who are actually on the same side as you—what does the left do next? Opting out of trying to win isn’t helpful, but if all we have is electoral politics, nothing will ever change. Local elections are coming up again in May, and left parties must fight them strategically, but the Labour Party isn’t embedded in people’s lives and workplaces anymore and the Lib Dems have been routed. That takes work to fix. Despite optimistic tweets about the 18-24 vote, we can’t just wait for demographic change to take its course. Nothing ever got better from being sad and…