By Neil Clark
14 Dec, 2019
The Jeremy Corbyn project has ended in tears with an utterly demoralising general election defeat for Labour, but it could – and should – have been very different if only Corbyn had trusted his own instincts.
There is a distinctly Shakespearean air to the political demise of UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which took place, appropriately enough, on Friday the 13th of December 2019 (or you could say 15 March would have been even more appropriate).
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries,” the great bard wrote in ‘Julius Caesar’.
Jeremy Corbyn was never in a stronger position than on the morning of the day after the general election of June 2017. Against all the odds and punditocracy predictions, he had taken Labour to the brink of a stunning victory. The 40 percent of the vote Labour attained in that election represented the biggest increase in the share of the popular vote the party had achieved in over 70 years. But fatally, Corbyn didn’t take the tide at the flood. He should have used the moment to move swiftly and decisively against his ‘centrist’ enemies in the party who had done so much to undermine him. Instead, he held out an olive branch to them. They repaid his magnanimity by plotting the downfall which came to a head so spectacularly this week.
52% of voters—17.4 million people— voted to leave the EU in 2016, many of them Labour voters.
They had absolutely no idea why they were being asked by Labour to vote again. And they were right.
2nd ref was always an establishment stitch up to reverse a result they didn’t like.
— Matt Kennard (@DCKennard) December 13, 2019
Phase One of the plan was to get Labour to sign up to an electorally suicidal shift on Brexit. Labour did so well in 2017 largely because it gave a clear manifesto commitment to respect the result of the 2016 referendum. But great pressure was exerted on Corbyn to agree to a change in policy and pledge Labour to support a second referendum. Years earlier, Corbyn had, quite rightly, attacked the EU for making the Irish vote again after they had rejected the Lisbon Treaty. But asking Labour Leavers to vote again on whether to leave the EU is precisely what Corbyn was doing in the 2019 general election. It’s true that others were constructing his political coffin, but it’s also true that Corbyn handed them the nails.