A perfect storm
Henry Kinloch, former councillor and Treasurer of Edinburgh Pentlands CLP, sees Labour’s current woes as the result of a combination of factors, and cautions against repeating the same thing and expecting a different answer.
Three factors have variously been put forward to explain Labour’s General Election defeat; the Leader, the Media and Brexit. It seems to me that no one factor can explain the scale of the defeat, rather the three factors came together to create a “perfect storm”.
As far as I remember, every Labour and every Tory leader has resigned immediately following a defeat. The Tories in particular have been ruthless in getting rid of failing leaders. Jeremy Corbyn did not resign in 2017 following defeat by a pretty hopeless Teresa May and went on to lead the Labour Party to a defeat which is one of the worst in living memory. I have heard it said that repeating the same mistake and expecting a different outcome is a sign of madness.
Reports from around the UK seem to point to Jeremy Corbyn as being very unpopular on the doorstep. The idea that Labour won the argument but lost the election seems incredible. We may have had the best arguments but not enough people were listening.
This brings us to the media. The right wing press has generally attacked Labour leaders. I can remember in particular the attacks on Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband. There seems to have been something different about it this time in terms of the level of vilification addressed at Jeremy Corbyn. Even the BBC seems to have done Labour no favours.
A Guardian journalist, on the Andrew Marr Show, talked about secretive, Svengali-like figures in Tory HQ who seemed to be responsible for masterminding the Tory messaging. It seemed creepy to me. The Tories definitely won the dirty tricks prize. It is very worrying that so many former Labour supporters seem to have abandoned progressive, liberal policies to vote for a populist, right wing, Trump-lite, proven liar. London, home of the much derided liberal, metroplitan elite, seem to have largely stuck with Labour.
Brexit was a very difficult issue. Right from the beginning, before the referendum, I would have liked Jeremy Corbyn to have taken a more strong Remain position. Following the vote there was a clear choice: to continue to campaign for Remain, which may have not been successful (it wasn’t for Jo Swinson) or to accept the result and campaign for a good deal with the EU, retaining as close alignment as possible.
Labour’s policy was, however confused for a long time and only became reasonably clear near the election date. There were a number of questionable decisions along the way. Why vote to support Section 50? Why vote for Boris Johnson’s, so called deal, which was worse than Teresa May’s deal, and an election? Jeremy Corbyn seems to think that Johnson’s deal got rid of the possibility of “no deal” which now seems back as a possibility.
The future is very difficult, but, as I say above, making the same decisions and expecting a different result is not credible. At Edinburgh South West level, Labour was overwhelmed by the larger national picture and Sophie did not have the opportunity to make a better impact given the length of the campaign and the timing of the election.