by Martin Odoni

I was never very confident going into this General Election. Oh, I often tried to project as positive a mood as I could, to do my bit for morale, but I never quite got the sense of the Labour Party closing the gap on the Tories as I got in 2017.

Even so, the shock of the Exit Poll suggesting Labour were down to below 200 seats was absolutely horrible, worse than the one in 2015. In the end, Labour were twelve seats up on the Exit Poll, but that is scant consolation. It is a disaster, and Labour are now in a weaker position in the House of Commons than they have been at any time since the end of World War II.

The right wing of the party, and the media, have been quick to push a message that Labour have moved too far left under Jeremy Corbyn, and need to start moving in a Blairite direction once more. Nick Robinson and Laura Kuenssberg – whose imprisonable offence from the other day should not become forgotten in all the electoral fall-out – of the BBC were particularly fast to try and contend that there was far more to Labour’s defeat than just a loss of pro-Brexit supporters. Through the night, they repeatedly pointed to anecdotal evidence from Labour campaigners that Corbyn was often spoken of as a “problem” for voters. Therefore, Robinson, almost obscene in his haste to announce that the ‘Corbyn Project’ was over even before Corbyn had said anything public about the results, concluded that it was time for a switch to the right.

This is, and I make no apology for the foul language here, bullshit.

Utter bullshit.

It is absolutely self-evident, and was even so as the results were unfolding, that the biggest factor in the outcome by a country mile was Brexit. At almost every turn where Labour’s support had slumped, a similar number of votes had been claimed by the Brexit Party, by the Tories, or by a combination of the two – the two parties that are most rigorously pursuing British departure from the European Union. Most of Labour’s lost support was in traditional working class territory in the north of England, the north of Wales, and the Midlands, and most particularly in areas where there was a high Leave vote in the 2016 Referendum.

Now, I have no doubt Corbyn was a factor in some voters’ rejection of Labour – no politician will be everybody’s cup of tea. And given how brutally and relentlessly he has been smeared by the media, including many supposedly ‘left-leaning’ periodicals, there can be no doubt that the wider public’s view of Corbyn has been unfairly coloured. But the general results do not offer any specific evidence of a rejection of Labour’s policy platform as a whole. The shift was very definitely Leavers, with their maddening tunnel-visioned obsession with Brexit, moving to parties boasting their determination to ‘Get Brexit done’.

Either way, a personal objection to Corbyn does not constitute an objection to his policies. When discussing the Labour Manifesto, people were usually very enthused – Labour’s polling numbers did improve substantially rather than deteriorate after it was launched – just as they had been in 2017. On that occasion, Labour scored forty per cent of the vote, and it seems unlikely that huge numbers have suddenly reversed that position.

The real issue appears to be that Labour’s position on Brexit over the last couple of years was a little difficult to follow. It did make sense if you took the time to study it, but there was never time enough for the short attention spans of the modern British public. By adopting a cautious pro-Remain position, Labour alienated a substantial number of ‘Lexiteers’, without drawing in all that many Remainers.

My own position on Brexit, by the way, has not changed. I still think it is a phenomenally stupid national endeavour when it is so disorganised and so ill-planned, hence the chaos of the last three years. But at the same time, I did accept that it should go ahead on democratic grounds. As did the Labour Party initially. The key mistake probably lay in trying to please Remainers within the party by allowing an option in the party policy to seek a new referendum.

In all this opportunistic scummery from the right wing of the Labour Party, there is also outright deceit; they know better than anyone that what has consistently brought their party’s chances of winning under Corbyn has been themselves, not Corbyn. Their endless and unnecessary rebellions, their cynically-timed public tantrums, their obvious and over-orchestrated charades of opposition to their own side, have done far more harm to Labour’s hopes than any Tory move. That has always been the point of course. The Labour Right may sound angry and disgusted about last night, but in truth, they are happy, because they would rather endure another five years out of power and with Boris Johnson in Downing Street than have a proper leftist leading their party into Government.  They were as much a part of the character-assassination of a man who owns an allotment, makes his own jam, and does not want a nuclear war, as the tabloids who caricatured him every day for years. And they were as much what skewered Labour’s own chances of success as the media too.

The infuriating irony is that, if I had a single pound for each time in my life I had heard members of the public complain about the sordid, cut-throat nature of politics, about how deceitful and treacherous politicians are, and how desperate they are to see some honour and integrity in the nation’s highest office, I would probably be rich enough to buy the Conservative Party. And yet, in Jeremy Corbyn, the nation had the perfect opportunity to get a real standard of honour and integrity in its Prime Minister. However, when it came to the crunch, the people ultimately rejected him, and instead sided with a bludgeoning, buffoonish, money-loving, pathological liar in his place.

People who try to defend such decisions on the grounds of ‘realism’ are being fatuous in the extreme. By definition, there is no ‘realism’ in putting one’s trust in a pathological liar, or in being taken in by smear campaigns, and other very obvious theatrics; and let us be honest, theatrics are the defining characteristic of what is called ‘New Labour’. What realism is there in calling a man who has fought racism his whole life a racist? What realism is there in calling a man of peace who has consistently opposed unnecessary wars a threat to national security? What realism is there in a narrative that says that anti-Semitism in a party’s membership is rife when its actual rate of anti-Semitic incidents is below 0.1% per head?

No, opposing Corbyn is not about realism, it is about defeatism, and it is a sign of very dark and unhappy times that so few people seem able to see any distinction.

The end for Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn is beaten, and has announced he will step down as Labour leader before the next General Election.

So, what next? Well, Corbyn has already made clear that he will not lead the Labour Party into the next General Election, whenever that is. This is not exactly a resignation, as it could mean he is still leader as late as 2024. But it is clearly an acceptance that he will never lead the country, and that means the opportunity that opened to the British left four years ago has been missed. There are not enough leftists still in the Parliamentary Party to be sure of enough nominations for a left-wing successor.

The Tories, red and blue, have broken the spirits of many tens of thousands of good, honest, Labour idealists, usually through the foulest of foul play. Cheating has triumphed, and for the third time, cheating appears to have won a Labour Party civil war for its right wing.