After the local elections we wrote a piece arguing that the local election results meant that Jeremy Corbyn should be given a fair opportunity to address his shortcomings. We believed this would be beneficial for both Corbyn’s supporters and detractors, as he would be allowed to succeed or fail on his own terms.
It now seems clear to us that Jeremy is not capable of leading the Labour Party. His leadership is on the brink of precipitating significant losses amongst working class communities. A general election victory is off the cards, for amongst traditional Labour voters and much of the general public he is toxic.
37% of 2015 Labour voters are projected to have voted Leave – that’s 3.5m Labour voters. It seems more than possible that in the upcoming general election Labour could see the unapologetic exodus of over half of these largely working class voters to UKIP. These are, yes, voters concerned about inequality and their public services, but they’re also very worried about their social identity and immigration.
We cannot treat people concerned about identity and immigration as mere victims of false consciousness. Ignorant voters reading the wrong paper who can be ignored, patronised or worse abused. That is largely what has led to such disillusion with the Labour Party in many working class communities. Yes, addressing inequality and providing an alternative economy are key to being Labour and is what working class communities across Britain need, but they also need to be listened to and valued.
I understand many people’s concerns when they read articles such as this. The narrative of a binary choice between Corbyn and Blair, with us or against us, runs deep in our party. Many people felt betrayed in the Blair years, that they had lost their party. Now they feel at home again and criticisms of Jeremy’s prospects, policies or approach can often feel personal.
It’s often suggested that being critical fundamentally means one wants a swing to the right. To take the party away from people who felt lost after Iraq. But that is not the case. The choice is not binary.
To criticise where the party currently fails isn’t to call for a return of New Labour – that, I do not want – it is merely to say that we can do better. It is to say we must listen to, and value, every voter’s views. It is not to emulate UKIP or the Tories – but to be in touch and willing to listen.
And listen we must to prevent the exodus. Labour’s Northern heartlands will not remain heartlands for long. We have to listen to people – real people. Not a minority of ideological purists and not just our own party members, but every person in Britain because if we don’t address their concerns we will not be capable of achieving anything.
We must change, quickly. In the upcoming general election the voters we are losing now will be instrumental in turning our heartlands purple. It is these voters, concerned about their future and patronised by a metropolitan elite, who oppose Jeremy the most. I believe Jeremy is incapable of changing their minds.
For every person who needs a Labour government, we must be constantly self-critical. We have to improve day upon day, for they need us in power and we can’t let them down. It is in this spirit that I look at Jeremy, a man I admire, and say that he must go.