Labour: Things have to get better if we are to win again

Earlier this year I wrote a piece arguing that Jeremy Corbyn was the wrong person to lead the Labour Party.

At the start of this unexpected General Election campaign I thought Jeremy Corbyn would lead us to a terrible defeat.

And at the conclusion of the poll, I still think Jeremy Corbyn is the wrong person to lead our party.

Good night

Yes, Labour had a better night than anyone predicted, or dared to dream.

Kez Dugdale led our campaign in Scotland with energy and panache. We won six more seats, and only a few hundred votes stood between us and another half dozen.

We gained seats from the Tories in the south of England.

And our share of the vote – 40 per cent – is the best we have had since 1997.

But the Tory campaign was woeful.

Theresa May was woeful.

The SNP overplayed their indyref hand.

And Ruth Davidson is a bloody good politician. The force of her opposition to a second referendum was a powerful attraction to Labour and Tories alike.

So I fear that once the euphoria of Labour coming a good second wears off, reality will bite.

The real world

Theresa May is still Prime Minister.

The Labour Party is still divided.

And Jeremy Corbyn is still the same old, unreconstructed leftie, albeit the Snapchat version.

It is also worth reflecting on our manifesto, which, according to the respected thinktank the IFS, was as shameful as the Tories’ programme in its lack of honesty.

The IFS deputy director said: “The shame of the two big parties’ manifestos is that neither sets out an honest set of choices. Neither addresses the long-term challenges we face. For Labour, we can have pretty much everything – free higher education, free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure,” he said.

“And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and ‘the rich’. The case [for higher taxes] needs to be made with honesty about what it would mean for tax payments, not pretending that everything can be paid for by ‘someone else’.”

Personally, I believe the multi-billion-pound bribe to young voters to abolish tuition fees and pay off their student debt was retail politics of the worse kind.

It was unaffordable. Worse still, it redistributed wealth to young graduates instead of those in much more pressing need – working families who are just about managing.

We offered nothing, nothing, to overturn, or even mitigate the Tories’ disgraceful benefit cuts that continue to destroy lives.

And our supine acceptance of Brexit makes me weep.

For the many

So unlike many of Corbyn’s former critics, who have suddenly been converted to his campaign for ‘real’ socialism, I stand by my view that is he is the wrong person to lead the party I love.

The next few weeks will be a tough test of his leadership.

There is a very real possibility of another general election later this year.

If we are to win this election we need to do what we did in 1997, and that is to win over Tory voters.

Yesterday we won 262 seats. We won 418 in 1997.

We need to show we can be a government for everyone – grumpy old women as well as idealistic undergraduates.

Data from Sky News shows that while 63 per cent of 18-34 year olds voted Labour, the squeezed middle, people aged 35-54, voted equally for the Tories and Labour (43 per cent each), while the Tories won 59 per cent of the grey vote (55+).

The country needs an opposition front bench full of talent and experience, not just the North London friends of Jeremy.

And we need a set of realistic policies, a programme which brings an end to austerity and offers a 21st century welfare state, but also shows how Labour will rebuild a strong economy, one where enterprise and hard work is rewarded.

This is the big challenge facing Corbyn, and his representative on TV, John McDonnell.

I hope they are up to it…

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