Leading members of Labour’s left-wing met on Thursday evening to rally the troops and reflect on what went wrong in the election.
‘I’m sure we’ve all had a good time to mourn and analyse what went wrong and why we didn’t win the election,’ uttered the chair opening the event.
‘I think there were many factors that led to the defeat but I think there is one thing we should be absolutely clear about and that is that there was nothing wrong with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.’
The hall erupted into applause. Her comments set the tone for the rest of the evening: whoever was to blame, it wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn.
So, beyond the irreproachable leadership, what was responsible for Labour’s worst defeat in almost a century? ‘It was the media lies’, the chair reassured the crowd. Mr S wishes that he could indeed take credit for the Corbyn collapse.
Novara media bore Dr Aaron Bastani was first to take to the stage. He told the crowd:
‘Despite the Daily Mail, despite the Sun, despite the barrage of misinformation from the media, half a million Labour members knocking on doors, canvassing sessions, day in day out, in rain, in wind, was effective.
‘It wasn’t effective enough to win, it wasn’t effective enough to even be competitive – but where we started it did make a difference. And what matters is that we don’t dispense with that mode of politics. We don’t say, “actually that doesn’t work.” Because from where we were starting, it was a decent result.’
Tory strategists will be beside themselves with joy. But if anyone doubted Bastani’s credentials to comment on the election, he was keen to reassure the naysayers. ‘I’ve got a PhD,’ he told the crowd. And what of the future of Labour?
‘Is it a party that is just about London? Just about the chattering classes? And just about selling just enough books at the book festivals in the summer and at Hay-on-Wye? I’ve written a book. Let me be honest with you, I don’t give a fuck about any of that stuff.’
Bastani closed his speech by suggesting a bold new strategy. Labour must, he insisted, answer the following questions:
‘What do you stand for? Who are you? Who are you taking on? Who’s the enemy?
‘Any campaign in politics always has to start with targeting – this is going to sound terrible – targeting an individual. Any grassroots campaign – a rogue landlord, a dodgy boss.’
Mr S isn’t convinced this approach worked out too well for Labour at the last election. Perhaps it’s a case of second time lucky?
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) January 16, 2020
Former MP Laura Pidcock also took to the stage to explain exactly who the enemy was. Pidcock made a name for herself shortly after her 2017 election when she told Skwawkbox she had no interest in being friends with Tories. This time Pidcock went further:
‘We lost the argument and we have to understand why. But parliament really is a strange place… I don’t miss people opening the door for me and calling me ma’am. I don’t miss that. I don’t miss having to look, in the same room, at the Tories every single day.’
How does Pidcock expect to win over these awful Tories if she finds it that difficult to breathe the same air as them?
The ex-representative for North West Durham concluded her speech by saying that in order to win the argument, Labour must be seen to be ‘moving beyond that call-out culture and seeing it as our responsibility to improve one another rather than destroy one another’. But does Pidcock practice what she preaches?
The event also gave Corbynistas an opportunity to grieve for what unfolded on 12 December. Long-standing Corbyn ally Tariq Ali recalled his emotions on election night:
‘I was pleased to see an ashen-faced John McDonnell come on the television screen and accept defeat and say it was his fault – it was [applause]. It was his fault and it was the fault of all those who suddenly began to dream of power.’
Instead, Ali argued:
‘Labour, next time, should consider setting up even an online daily newspaper to challenge all this rubbish. And the failure to respond to anti-Semitism, I think, was a huge mistake. Because we had the arguments, we had books, we had pamphlets to destroy these absurd charges that Labour is an anti-Semitic party.’
Oh dear. It seems that Labour’s leading lights still have some way to go in their quest to work out why they were defeated so resoundingly at the general election.