I am sure when they write about June 2017 General Election and the period immediately following, political historians will note some key defining issues, trends and events.
First: Labour with its radical and fully costed and funded manifesto caught the public mood and together with Jeremy Corbyn’s energetic and enthusiastic campaign it shifted voting intentions. I believe that had the campaign continued for another couple of weeks the result could well have been a majority Labour Government. Labour had its biggest increase in its share of the votes from one election to the next since 1945.
As we witnessed in Mid Bedfordshire and everywhere, Labour appealed to voters across the social-economic classes and across the age groups though with a phenomenal level of support amongst younger voters. As our wins in Kensington and Chelsea, and Canterbury demonstrated there are no ‘no go’ places for Labour. Our policies resonated with people’s personal and family needs and with there values.
Labour and Jeremy Corbyn have proved that the British people want change, desire fairness and equality, support progressive taxation and investment in public services and the public realm, and want a more inclusive and open politics.
Second: the Conservative campaign was one of the most chaotic in modern times. The screeching u-turn on social care – one of the core manifesto policies – within days of the manifesto being launched was unprecedented. And the failure or more accurately the refusal to cost the manifesto showed a deep contempt for the electorate. This contempt was only matched by Theresa May’s refusal to debate with Jeremy Corbyn, to meet the real public, to fight the election using the term ‘I’ rather than ‘we’ or ‘the Conservative Party’ and to have called an election for cynical reasons.
This election told us much about the contemporary Conservative Party and Mrs. May. Its personal and negative attacks on Labour politicians were further inflamed by some of the tabloid media but they simply did not alter the increasing support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. They may even have had the opposite effect.
Mrs. May sought a landslide majority allegedly to provide her with a mandate for the Brexit negotiations. By 8th June it was clear that her ‘strong and stable’ leadership was in reality a ‘weak and wobbly’ evasion of democratic engagement.
Third: in a desperate attempt to stay in office the Government is seeking to reach a deal with DUP despite that Party’s policies and that such an agreement is not compliant with the Government’s obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. This tells us much about the Conservative Party.
The details of any deal should have been made public before today’s Queen’s Speech and before Brexit negotiations commenced. Ironically given the Conservative election slogan there is now no sense of stable government; the Prime Minister is in office but out of power. She cannot and should not remain as Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, every day Labour is looking more and more like a government and Jeremy more and more like a prime minister. There should not be another non-elected Conservative prime minister.
Fourth: The general election was interrupted by some heinous terrorist crimes in Manchester and London. These were appalling. However, they did not stop the democratic process. They showed a community resilience and determination. Of course, they also exposed the Conservative cuts to policing.
Within a week of polling day there was the terrible Grenfell Tower Fire. This incident, which may well result in criminal charges, has told us a great deal about contemporary politics.
Mrs. May again has been unable or unwilling to show empathy with those affected and to capture the national mood. By contrast Jeremy Corbyn has acted like a leader – a Prime Minister in waiting.
This fire has already drawn attention to the very serious and damaging impact of years of austerity, cuts to public services and social housing, de-regulation, poor procurement and irresponsible outsourcing, and above all deep social class divisions. Kensington is a ‘tale of two cities’.
People need homes whilst hundreds of privately owned properties stand empty across the Borough. A Government that cared would have empowered the Council to reacquisition these with immediate effect.
Much of the response to the fire and its aftermath has been led by community social activists. Donations have also been sent collection points in Bushmead, Flitwick, and throughout Mid Bedfordshire too.
Where was the principal leadership and response which should have come from the Government and the Conservative led Borough Council? We now need a very radical shift in public policy and Government action. We need to evoke the spirit of 1945 in a modern setting not that of 1979. We need confront inequality, unfairness and systematic injustice. We need a government for the many not the few.
During the general election we campaigned for Labour’s programme for fairness, greater equality, investment in public services and democratic renewal. We campaigned nationally and locally in a positive fashion. We avoided personal attacks. We made the case for our socialist values, policies and behaviours. We argued as ‘we’ and for ‘us’ – for the ‘many not the few’ unlike the Conservatives who campaigned as they seek to govern for the few wealthiest and most privileged in our divided society.
Along with my Labour Party comrades and our communities we will continue to advocate change, listen and support people across Mid Bedfordshire and across our country. Labour is ready.