Pat McFadden Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East Pat McFadden MP for Wolverhampton South East
My piece in The Times.
If success is a bad teacher then Labour should have learnt a big lesson on Thursday night because failure doesn’t come much more complete than the worst result since 1935. It was the ultimate failure of a strategy based on rejecting as betrayal every lesson Labour learnt in order to win three times in the 1990s and 2000s.
It was the failure of the anti-western world view that the public rightly saw as taking sides with the regimes hostile to the UK and making excuses for terrorism. Failure of the definition of radicalism as being a nostalgic rewinding of every significant economic change of the past 40 years. Failure of the toxic culture of factionalism and the personality cult that the party has fostered in recent years. Failure of the hubristic cries of “bring it on” from those giving Boris Johnson the election at the timing and on the terms he wanted when most Labour MPs could see what was coming.
It all failed and failed utterly. And in the ruins lie the shattered hopes of those who need a Labour government to fight for them but who instead have a Tory government with a huge majority for the next five years. Let us be clear, Jeremy Corbyn and his most vocal backers had complete command of the Labour agenda. They controlled the national executive, the policymaking process, the manifesto and the campaign. Nobody got in their way. Nobody stopped them. Mr Corbyn acknowledged this when at the launch of the manifesto he said this was the kind of programme that for years had been blocked by elites. But it wasn’t blocked by elites. It was rejected by the voters.
Jeremy Corbyn will now go but will Corbynism go with him? That is the question now facing Labour. Can it — does it even want to — face up to the scale of the voters’ rejection and the hard work necessary to even begin to win back voters’ trust? Or will it seek refuge in suicidal bromides of denial: it was all the media’s fault; it was all Brexit’s fault; or the most mind-numbing one of all — “we won the argument”.
People ask who should replace Jeremy Corbyn. It’s a fair question but it is also incomplete. The question has to also be what should replace Jeremy Corbyn. Because anyone taking false comfort in the idea that all we need is continuity Corbynism with a different face and voice was not hearing voters on working-class doorsteps in recent weeks.
Labour has lost big before, most notably in 1983. But at that time, Michael Foot departed with dignity and there was an almost universal acceptance that the approach had been wrong and the party needed fundamental change. That hard work was begun by Neil Kinnock and carried through by Tony Blair resulting in victories that now seem a distant memory. The worrying signs in many comments from leadership figures and their cheerleaders this time is that there is a determined effort to deny the reality of what happened and to face up to the scale of change needed.
If that effort succeeds this will have been a worse defeat than 1983 because not only will we have lost but we will have learnt nothing in the process.
Labour will have learnt nothing if Corbynism stays. Pat McFadden