James – Year 12 Student
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in The GSAL Journal/Humanities Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Grammar School at Leeds. Mei (Year 12), Chief Editor of the Humanities Journal
The range of moods experienced on the 12th of December could not have been more starkly contrasted.
In the aftermath of the exit poll, a shell-shocked John McDonnell had to face Andrew McNeil, who for once didn’t seek to humiliate his interviewee; Labour leadership had to face up to the worst election performance in living memory.
On the other side of the aisle, Boris Johnson rightly celebrated a landslide election victory having secured 365/650 parliamentary seats.
Although this sentiment brings me great sadness, Labour really did mess up. Electing a wonky glasses, extreme left – wing would not give Labour the appeal it needed to allure the British public. After nine years of Tory austerity, the opportunity was for the taking and yet with a fudged Brexit policy, unlikeable leader and incredulous manifesto promises, the chance was missed.
In particular, the collapse of the ‘red wall’ is due to Labour’s Brexit positon. The majority of the North voted to leave the European Union, meaning that the populace wanted a party that would ‘get Brexit done’ – not some neither here nor there ‘credible Brexit deal’ and ‘confirmatory election’. The Tories offered the traditional Labour heartlands what they desired, and in response made major gains taking Northern strongholds such a Blythe Valley, Wakefield and Bolsover to list just a few.
It is fairly evident that there is something rank bad when the political party founded to represent the working man, can no longer earn his vote. Keir Hardie would be ashamed. Leadership candidate Lisa Nandy articulated this when she said the party would never return to power without “what were once [their] Labour heartlands” – a political party without a secure voter base is powerless. Labour is in danger of becoming the home of millennials and cosmopolitan lefties, and if it does then it is finished. The buzz of social media gave this illusion of a growing tide of support, but the majority of the populace don’t utilise social media for politics – it tends to be merely the small voter bloc I’ve just mentioned, and hence the misleading false optimism was generated. Labour needs to reflect on how to reconnect with its base.
In addition to a botched Brexit plan, flawed policies drew media attention and stole the limelight from sound proposals. Unfeasible ideas such as nationalising BT were thrown in among excitingly radical policies, such as the ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ which would facilitate the UK’s transition towards being carbon neutral. Global warming is an existential threat to all human life and yet it barely featured in political dialogue. The Green Industrial Revolution should have been emphasised more. It would have highlighted a disparity between Labour and the Tories on their desire for mitigating carbon emissions, and would have gained votes.
And ultimately, blame must also be placed upon the failure of the Corbyn-Mcdonell experiment. They could have brought radical change to our country and tackled the immorally prominent inequalities in our society – which the economist Joseph Stiglitz has proven to be detrimental for long-term economic growth. Alas, the British public has had little taste for the radical change that was being offered, but it is catastrophically naïve to enter an election without judging if the public will stomach your political agenda. The manifesto was too left wing – it should have been diluted like the 2017 manifesto (which was Neo-Keynesian and not fully socialist) – for a British public that by nature ‘socialist’ in the sense of social security, the NHS and a progressive tax system. Labour also seem to have shown a blatant ignorance of history. The last time a doggedly left wing candidate stood against a free-market fundamentalist was Michael Foot vs Margaret Thatcher, and that resulted in an even worse disaster than this election.
A serious mistrust of Corbyn also hampered the campaign. His sympathies for the IRA and Hamas aroused questions about his character, damaging his credibility to the public. An Ipsos Mori poll confirmed this indicating the lowest net satisfaction ratings of an opposition leader since the seventies.
Spending the evening of the 12th among a throng of middle-aged Conservative voters, poignantly brought home the missed opportunity to precipitate the end of Tory governance and realise needed change in the UK. 4.5 million children live in poverty, homelessness is on the rise and the megacorporations continue to flout tax regulations and pay their fair share. From my perspective in any case, an effective Labour government couldn’t come sooner.
Fingers crossed a competent, and crucially electable, new leader is chosen.