Labour Isn’t Working

Getting rid of Keir won’t solve the party’s structural, cultural and existential problems.

By Paul Embery and cross-posted from Unherd.

It has long been evident to me, as someone involved in the Labour movement for over a quarter of a century, that many of my colleagues on the Left have no comprehension of what is going on. They have no idea about the extent to which traditional political tribalism has broken down in our country and the old certainties no longer apply.

This conviction struck me most forcibly during a pivotal debate on Brexit at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Liverpool in 2018. Before the discussion, I had wandered around the city’s pubs and conference fringe speaking to delegates and visitors. There was an undue chirpiness in the air. Labour was now the largest political party in western Europe, people would remind me. The glorious leader was playing to packed houses everywhere. Ergo, we stood every chance of forming the next government.

Then, during the Brexit debate itself, the conference rallied enthusiastically behind a motion explicitly putting a second EU referendum on the table. I remember gazing around the hall in despair as speaker after speaker pledged support for the motion, each drawing wild cheers and applause from delegates. That the adoption of this policy was almost certain to result in electoral oblivion seemed lost on virtually everyone present.

At that moment, I tweeted that the conference was effectively handing a P45 to every Labour MP in the North and Midlands. I knew then that this self-inflicted wound would take years — possibly a generation — to heal. Images from the debate would that evening be beamed into the homes of loyal Labour voters across the party’s pro-Brexit heartlands, and millions among them would perceive the outcome as the ultimate kick in the teeth. Labour had betrayed its already-diminishing traditional working-class base and would pay a heavy price.

Nearly three years and one general election annihilation later, and the relationship remains in a serious state of disrepair. That point is proved by what we know so far of Thursday’s election results, and what we may reasonably predict will unfold in the coming days. That Labour, in a set of ballots two years into a parliament, appears to have lost so much ground in working-class communities against a Tory Party that has been in power for over a decade — and during that time imposed a programme of economic austerity which inflicted financial adversity on many of the nation’s poorest — speaks to the magnitude of the former’s estrangement from its one-time core vote…

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