Labour leadership has lessons to learn
Brexit was the key issue that lost the Labour Party the 2019 election, but why and what is there to learn?
Many commentators suggest that it was because the party came out towards the end of the campaign as supporting a second referendum but also with a near-Remain Brexit plan to be negotiated over six months on winning the election.
This was deemed to be a) confusing, elections are generally perceived to give the voter clear and unambiguous options and solutions; and b) risky, as people felt they were offering a weak leader and a divided party a blank cheque.
This distrust and confusion was reinforced by an overwhelmingly ‘anti-Corbyn’ hostile press.
It was evident before the referendum in 2016 that the Labour leadership was out of sync with the overwhelming majority of pro-Remain members and supporters. Politically it should have been crystal clear in the binary ‘In or Out’ referendum which way to jump to as there was only one vacancy available; Remain.
Please don’t forget the Remain camp won 48 per cent of the vote in that referendum but they could never ‘out-Brexit’ the Tories competing in the same camp, this would have been the worse of all options to have taken. So instead of saying that the ‘advisory’ referendum was a wake up call, that needed to be taken on board but not put in their manifesto, they copped out and swallowed the line that it would be undemocratic to not ‘honour the decision’.
If you lose an election you don’t say ‘as the voters didn’t support our policies, we should adopt the opposition’s manifesto’.
The brave and astute move would have been to reject Article 50 in their 2017 election manifesto, work with all the other Pro Remain parties campaigning for a reformed EU; one that addressed many of the legitimate criticisms of their voting base.
Then, and only when they had a minimum 55 per cent public support, they could have forced the government to recognise the clear change in public opinion and call for a people’s vote.
So lessons for the new Labour Party leadership are a) Campaign not just for power but for ideas. Politics is about convincing the public with your ideas, b) stick to your principles and don’t yield to ‘Fake News’ and cynical agendas of your opponents and c) understand that tribalism is so 20th century and you can only win now by co-operating with other progressive parties.
You never know you might learn something and even enjoy the experience.
Patrick McCarthy, Telford & Wrekin Green Party Co-ordinator
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