THERESA MAY entered the general election promising to be a strong and stable leader but is now reliant on the DUP to govern, after one of the biggest own goals in British political history. Her government will be deeply unstable and can be defeated.
The Tories expected to write a script for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour during this election campaign: incompetence and weakness. Yet as they review the wreckage of this week, it’s clear that it didn’t go to plan.
The Tories are now more out of touch with the majority of British people than ever, and have failed to get the mandate they desired for their plans to create a tax haven, bargain-basement Britain through a rigid and reckless Brexit.
Labour meanwhile has moved forward under Corbyn — a remarkable achievement considering what he has faced over the last two years since he declared he was running for Labour leader.
The 40.1 per cent national share of the vote for Labour under Corbyn on Thursday surpasses the levels secured by Tony Blair in 2005, the last time Labour won a majority at a general election, and the result is the thirdbest share of the vote for Labour since 1974.
Astonishingly, the increase of 9.7 per cent in Labour’s share of the vote since the 2015 election is the greatest such increase since 1945. Corbyn has added 3.45 million Labour votes since 2015.
The incredible turnout of young voters was astonishing — at 72 per cent — providing a great basis for building Labour’s support in the years ahead.
This was on the basis of a clear, positive programme centred around an economic alternative based on investing in Britain’s future, and an approach to Brexit negotiations of putting jobs and the economy first.
Polling suggested people loved the policies in Labour’s manifesto and democratic socialist policies such as renationalising rail and utilities, free education for all and cracking down on tax avoidance to fund our public services such as the NHS were all vote-winners.
It shows that you do not need to cede ground to win votes — principled politics can be popular. People in Britain want change, and Labour was able to win voters from not only the Liberal Democrats, Greens and SNP but also Ukip and the Tories by focusing on their plan to improve living standards for the many.
Corbyn can also take some credit for the Tories’ difficulties as well as Labour’s own gains.
Tory chaos over issues such as the “dementia tax” during this election did not happen by accident. It followed a pattern of retreats and U-turns that were forced on the Tories again and again since Corbyn became leader by his firm approach of resisting ideologically driven austerity at every stage, and elaborating an alternative based on investing in our future.
Corbyn’s two landslide victories in the Labour leadership showed people wanted a strong, principled opposition that was going to stand up to the Tories more clearly.
The successes of Corbyn’s leadership, and how this was reflected in Labour’s increased vote, is interesting not just for how he has given expression to the need for a strong opposition to austerity in parliamentary votes.
One of the reasons Labour has such a massive army on the doorstep is that for the first time in a generation Labour is now unafraid to connect with the mass movements and civil society that have formed our country’s wider opposition to the Conservatives since 2010.
Whether it be speaking at rallies for the NHS or welcoming refugees, Corbyn has linked Labour with millions of people who were disillusioned with Westminster politics but hate heightening injustice and inequality.
Linked to this, while Momentum’s formation out of the Jeremy4Leader campaign was attacked by much of the right-wing media and the political Establishment, it has clearly made a massive positive impact on British democracy and on our party, including by mobilising thousands of young voters and motivating activists to pile into key electoral battlegrounds.
Additionally, throughout the campaign it was refreshing that Labour refused to be caught in a mire of triangulation on immigration. This in itself was a welcome shift in approach from previous campaigns and undoubtedly boosted our vote in many areas.
Labour has also moved forward in both Scotland and Wales. Throughout his time as leader Corbyn has engaged with Scottish issues, breaking out of the damaging cycle of Labour leaders being reluctant to even visit the country. Instead he has made visits to Scotland a regular part of his activities, and Labour’s electoral gains show his clear anti-austerity position is a welcome contribution to Scottish political debate.
In Wales, much of the Westminster bubble was predicting massive reverses for Labour but, as in Britain as a whole, once the media balance guidelines for the general election kicked in, the positive coverage of Corbyn and his message of hope boosted Labour.
Now everyone across the labour and progressive movements must unite behind Corbyn’s leadership and this manifesto can provide the basis for further advances for Labour.
Corbyn has only been the leader of the Labour Party for less than two years, and has faced both incredible levels of media hostility, and sadly parts of his own party even admitting to trying to undermine his leadership every day, but he has delivered significant change in how politics is conducted and transformed the Labour Party for the better.
This change is already profound, but has only just begun — now more than ever we must take the fight to the Tories and work for a transformative Labour government, led by Jeremy Corbyn.
First published in the Morning Star