Labour was predicted to suffer its greatest-ever election defeat on May 5th – enough, some hoped, to ‘justify’ a coup against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
But these predictions were way out and a coup now seems most unlikely. In reality, Jeremy’s leadership is unassailable (a recent poll has him more popular now than when first elected). A survey of Labour supporters after the election revealed that over 55% thought Labour had done “moderately well” and a further 17% said “very well”.
Although Jeremy himself has warned that Labour is “not yet doing enough” to win the 2020 general election, these election results demonstrate that Labour, under Jeremy’s leadership, is definitely not unelectable.
That much is uncontroversial. But the differing results on May 5th for England, Scotland and Wales suggest further lessons from the voting.
It was predicted that Labour could lose upwards of 200 Councillors compared with its 2012 high point. In the event, Labour lost only 18 Councillors (whilst the Tories lost 48 seats without a squeak from the media). Labour also won every Mayoral election and several Police Commissioner elections.
If 2012 was a great result for Labour, so must be 2016. Compared with the May 2015 General Election this was a huge improvement for the newly Corbyn-led Labour and, based solely on these results, Labour would be on course to win in 2020
Labour’s vote plummeted in 2015 (due to the mistakes of the previous decade and the Independence Referendum) and no-one expected a recovery this soon. In the event, Labour still won more votes than the Tories in Scotland – a fact ignored by the media who, instead, preferred to trumpet that the Tories won more seats.
I’m no expert on Scotland but I would have been astonished if the long-term decline in Labour’s vote had been reversed. Scotland provides no credible evidence that Jeremy’s election as leader affected these results adversely.
Before May 5th pundits predicted that Labour would fare better in Wales than England – because Corbyn is supposedly unpopular here (with Welsh Labour). In the event, Labour did improve on the 2015 General Election results – but it’s constituency votes fell catastrophically from 42% to 35%.
I would not claim – with the complication of UKIP votes to explain – this as a positive rejection of Welsh Labour’s efforts to distance itself from UK Labour – but it is fair to conclude that there is no evidence that this reaped a dividend.
Enough of punditry – my own experience of “campaigning” (in Torfaen) was both heartening and dispiriting. In practice we were we simply checking where our excellent candidate Lynne Neagle had assured support – but we did not campaign to persuade people to vote Labour by discussing issues on the doorstep.
But, if Labour is to win in 2020, the Party has to welcome in the hundreds of thousands of new members inspired by Jeremy’s politics and must campaign for these policies – not simply rely on historic Labour loyalty.
Hopefully the encouraging (English) results of May 5th will see off further attempts to undermine Jeremy’s leadership. What we now need to do is recapture the spirit of 1945 – when hundreds of thousands of Labour supporters argued for Labour’s policies at doorsteps and workplaces. We were not reliant then on a friendly media and there’s no reason suppose than 2020 will be different.