Labour needs to be on an election footing, ready to build on the unexpected successes of the 2017 campaign and win those marginal seats in regions like Cornwall, that are needed to secure a majority and return a Labour government to power.
When can losing an election still feel like a victory? In Cornwall, despite not winning any seats from the Tories, we saw some of the largest swings to Labour in the country. To some, this might not appear remarkable, but when you consider that in 2015 Labour came third or fourth in most constituencies, the fact that we came a close second this time around marks a turning point for Labour’s fortunes in Cornwall.
For members and campaigners on the ground, this result reflected the huge resurgence of support we’d received from the public after weeks of campaigning, and confirmed what we had long known: that Labour is the only real opposition to the Tories in Cornwall.
There has been a long-held myth in Cornwall that a Labour vote is a wasted vote and that in order to keep the Tories out you have to vote Lib Dem. This myth has long been exploited in Lib Dem campaign materials – even during the 2017 election campaign, despite the Lib Dem vote collapsing at the 2015 election. Going into the 2017 campaign, Labour activists on the ground knew this election would be different. There was a huge wave of support for Labour, especially around the manifesto and people were inspired by the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who drew voters back to Labour from other parties, including UKIP. Significantly in Cornwall, the UKIP vote collapsed (mirroring the national trend) and meant that many of these voters returned to Labour, despite the majority of Cornwall voting leave in the EU referendum.
This myth that Labour can’t win in Cornwall has now well and truly been busted. Throughout the county Labour saw huge swings, including 22.5% in Truro and Falmouth – one of the largest swings in the country. In Camborne and Redruth, Labour came a close second, only 1577 votes behind the Tory MP, the Labour vote boosted by a large swing of 19.3%. In St Austell & Newquay, Labour came from fourth place behind UKIP in 2015, to second place in 2017 – enjoying a swing of 18.8% and pushing the Lib Dems into third. These are momentous gains for Labour in Cornwall and show that Labour can (and should) win here. Moving forwards, Cornwall needs to be a key target area for Labour. We are within touching distance in many of the constituencies and need to build on these gains and the resurgence of support for Labour in Cornwall, to ensure we don’t lose ground ahead of another election.
With another general election likely to happen sooner rather than later, Labour campaigners in Cornwall can go into the next campaign knowing we are the only effective opposition to the Tories. Labour narrowly missed out on winning in several constituencies where the combined Labour and Lib Dem vote would have been enough to defeat the Tory candidate. Labour needs to turn the tactical voting myth on its head and use it against the Lib Dems. Labour is now the tactical vote in Cornwall; the Lib Dems can’t win here.
As Theresa May’s minority government attempts to limp on through the coming weeks and months, Labour needs to be on an election footing, ready to build on the unexpected successes of the 2017 campaign and win those marginal seats in regions like Cornwall, that are needed to secure a majority and return a Labour government to power. I can’t wait to see Cornwall turn red.
Chelsea Nelson is a Young Fabians member. Follow her on twitter at @ChelseaLNelson