Labour's extraordinary result was down to a bold, enthusiastic campaign from Corbyn and his teamby Ellie Mae O'Hagan / June 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
I’ve enjoyed watching pundits this morning engaging in intellectual acrobatics in order to justify Labour’s astonishing performance in any way other than the fact that a lot of people like left wing ideas and will vote for them. Perhaps the only reason no one ever realised that before is because this is the first time voters have actually been offered leftwing ideas in nearly 35 years.
So yes, that’s what happened: people liked Labour’s plans, and they voted for them in droves. It’s true that there was an exceptionally high youth turnout, but that hardly invalidates the hypothesis. There’s no cardinal rule that says elections must be decided by the over-65s.
And while we’re at it, I’d like to take on the fatuous argument that Labour would have been romping home to a landslide victory if only it had been led by someone like Dan Jarvis. Only Corbyn had the bravery, and some might say stubbornness, to propose such a transformative programme, and not be sucked into defunct ideas about triangulation and “electability.”
This isn’t to say Corbyn is perfect—he is not—but a leader that focused more on presentation would have undoubtedly watered down the manifesto, and the energetic and positive campaign, that enabled Labour to take its biggest share of the vote since 1997. Instead of getting misty eyed about the possibility of this (non-existent) perfect leader who will somehow defy the trend of social democracy collapsing across Western Europe, certain commentators should presently be soul searching.
Having said that, I can’t pretend I predicted a hung parliament. Corbyn was the most unpopular Labour leader ever before the snap election was called: all the signs pointed to a landslide victory for the Tories. This extraordinary turn of events was so unexpected because it was all down to Labour’s campaign (remember those disastrous local election results in May?). This was the political equivalent of Liverpool FC winning the Champions League final in 2005. It was the biggest comeback of all time, and it happened in fewer than six weeks.
On the other hand, the Tories’ campaign was one of the most turgid spectacles a political party has ever inflicted on us. As soon as Labour started talking about hope and a positive future, “strong and stable” was bound to appear robotic, unambitious and deadening in contrast. Above all, this election demonstrates that campaigns do matter—particularly when politics are in flux and none of the old assumptions can be relied upon.
Early reactions from Labour MPs suggest the Party might now go through a period of unity. That is welcome indeed, and all factions within Labour should concentrate on looking to the future and building on the extraordinary results of this election. Labour should attempt to capture the volunteers who turned out to campaign over the last week and turn them into members active in their community.
The party now owes nothing to the tabloid press, rich donors or big business. It can achieve the highest share of the vote since 1997 and make extraordinary gains in seats from the grassroots. This must now be expanded and built upon because there is everything to play for. The left can win.