Martin Edobor, previous PPC for the Labour Party, gives his take on how the Fabian movement is where the future thinkers of the Labour movement will develop.
I still struggle to shake off the numb feeling of devastation I experienced on election night. I recall the gut-wrenching images of Labour’s red-wall crumbling, with historic majorities overturned and majorities significantly reduced. Within a heartbeat of the exit poll, explanations for Labour loss were launched.
One take lay blame on Labour position in favor of a second referendum, with some arguing that our Brexit policy alienated Labour voters in northern constituencies, others took the view that a hostile media made it impossible for us to put forward our message. Another perspective was that Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopularity was the biggest factor.
The above arguments provide a simple answer to what is a very complex question. Yes, Jeremy Corbyn was historically unpopular, poll after poll over the last two years indicated this. The question of Corbyn’s leadership coupled with his indecisiveness on the Brexit and inability to root out antisemitism was a toxic combination and played a large role in our election loss.
The question of whether our second referendum position lost us the election seems easy to answer at first glance. Many would point to the fact a majority of seats Labour loss voted for leave. I would challenge that response, with the view that yes our remain position did lose us votes, however, if we had not adopted a referendum position or embraced leave we would have alienated our remain base and hemorrhage votes to the Liberal democrats. Our party was in a lose-lose situation no matter which position we held.
The hostile media environment was not helpful, however, a negative media environment for the Labour party has always existed, and it is the job of the leader of the Labour party to navigate this. To blame our loss largely on the media is insulting to voters, and indicates an abdication of responsibility.
Labour’s issues are deep-rooted, over the last decade we have seen our party become more culturally and physically detached from our base. We are viewed as unpatriotic, largely based in metropolitan cities and alien to the average voter. Our election loss is the result and fault of the Labour leadership and it is right that Jeremy Corbyn takes responsibility. However, we must view the results in terms of the overall trend which has seen support in our northern seats in particularly small towns and former industrial cities have fallen steadily since 2010.
Analysis by our General-Secretary, Andrew Harrop, highlighted the scale of the loss and the epic mountain to climb if Labour is to ever return to government. Many former safe Labour seats in the North are now marginals, 202 seats we now have may not necessarily be the floor. If our party does not select the right leader, it is not unthinkable that the Labour party could lose further seats.
That is why to renew as a party we must be willing to with a return to our geographical roots in the towns and communities where our Labour movement was birthed. This is why it is important that leadership candidates set out clearly how they will reconnect with our electoral base.
The Labour Party must move on from a detached world view, and refocus on the politics of aspiration. We do not need to go back to the past, however, we should praise and embrace the successes of the previous Labour governments.
The Fabian society remains the intellectual home of the Labour party and both the Fabians and Young Fabians will be centre stage in our fightback. In the coming weeks, I will be chairing a roundtable with the Young Fabians discussing how our party rebuilds, I hope you can join me.
Dr. Martin Edobor is an NHS GP, member of the Fabian executive and former Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Witham.