When, on 7th May, the de-facto Deputy Prime Minister, David Liddington announced that, out of necessity, the elections to the European Parliament would take place, our two major parties did not want to know. The Mays and the Corbyns resembled a mutually antagonistic set of parents obliged to attend a wedding that both sides wished wasn’t taking place. Pretend it isn’t happening and get through the day in the hope that normal relations with everybody else could be restored afterwards. However, as the People’s Vote campaign argued in their final supporter’s mailing “With Farage’s Brexit Party moving ahead in the polls, it is vital for everyone to get out and vote for pro-People’s Vote parties tomorrow”.
People’s Vote were correct: the extent of the Remain versus Leave vote will prove to be of considerable importance. So also will the share of the vote across the competing parties.
Indeed, looking at the results, it may be that this unwanted poll will prove to be a significant milestone in reshaping our political landscape. The UK turnout at 37% was as high as could be expected. The woeful Conservative performance will have a major influence on the competition to succeed Theresa May as leader. Labour cannot pretend that ambiguity on the most important issue of our time is seen as anything other than a dereliction of duty. Labour’s share of the UK vote at under 15% puts us well behind the LibDems and only two percentage points above the Greens. In the North Norfolk District Labour polled just 1325 votes (a miserable 3.8%) and finished in sixth place, even behind the near extinct UKIP Party. Will our local party finally get the message, I wonder?
Worse still for Labour the European elections will go down as a massive missed opportunity to redefine ourselves: we will only survive as a progressive 21st century movement by adopting an international perspective. So many of the problems that matter to us and the voters we care for – combatting terrorism, climate change, regulation of the technology giants, economic opportunities for school-leavers – require committed international co-operation. Labour should have campaigned as an unequivocal ‘remain and reform’ party, to use Deputy Leader Tom Watson’s term.
The national Labour leaflet that was delivered to my doorstep could best be described can be dismissed as a desperate attempt to save a failing relationship: ‘please don’t leave me whatever you think of my behaviour’. At the local level our Party Chair adopted a more forthright tone: “The reality of a no deal Brexit would be for the wide boys of the city to make shed loads of money whilst life for working class people would get even harder than it is under the Tories now”.Using language like this, a hangover from the class war of the 1980s, will have limited appeal to successor generations.
Yes indeed Brexit will drag on and on. The Tory leadership election will be the focus of national attention but it will take us no further forward in the short term. Brexit’s resolution could be quicker, however, than reversing the Labour Party’s decline as our legacy vote disappears.
I have now decided to attend some local Labour Party meetings. I am curious to see if the bombast when Corbyn became leader has been replaced by a more reflective tone. I have incidentally been told that the local party will be raising my online behaviour with the Labour Party Eastern Region Office. It may be that they are nominating me for an award, but I doubt that this is the case. One way or another I would have thought that the Regional Office of the Labour Party would have other things to do and I await developments.
leftyoldman blogs will appear occasionally as the Brexit battle continues and the shape of post Brexit politics emerges. If you would like to receive email notification of future blogs, please press the ‘followleftyoldman’ button on the left hand side above. I continue to tweet at @eugrandparents.