Maybe, the problem is you

I wondered if I might feel vindicated, but I don’t.

Some of us had been warning since 2015 that the Corbyn Project was always going to end this way, in electoral annihilation. It gives me absolutely no comfort to be proved right.

Not when the Labour Party — the greatest vehicle for change this country has ever known — has become so utterly broken.

Electorally destroyed, yes, of course. The “red wall” that came crashing down last night in many senses was the Labour Party. The historic bases from which the movement grew, which turned against the party like never before. Whenever the hard left have gained a foothold in the party, the country has shown its disapproval, and last night was no different.

Morally, Labour is no less corrupted. A party I joined in part because of its commitment to fight racism has become polluted by antisemitism. This is not just an issue that Jeremy Corbyn has handled badly, as cowardly leaders tried to pretend; it is a problem he has had a significant part in creating.

This is a time for reflection and introspection. To paraphrase a wise political correspondent’s address to Progress last year:

Ultimately, the one thing that Boris Johnson has shown he can beat reliably is you. You need to be honest about that, and think very seriously about what that means.

I have zero expectation that any such introspection will happen. None. My social media feeds today are full of people upset about the racist liar Boris Johnson winning a majority. I agree with them; I found yesterday devastating, and I believe Johnson is both a racist and a liar, and completely unfit to be PM.

But if we’re using these words, we should remember that Jeremy Corbyn lied when he said in the ITV debate that every single case of antisemitism in the party had been investigated; the Chief Rabbi called this a “mendacious fiction”. John McDonnell said Labour had done everything they could possibly do on the issue, which was another lie. The statement that only the top 5% of earners would pay extra tax under Labour’s spending plans? A lie.

And as for racism, well, just look at the submissions made by Jewish groups to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Watch the videos of Corbyn supporters intimidating Jewish demonstrators outside the final campaign rally. The idea that a vote for Labour in this election was a vote against racism is patently absurd.

Antisemitism is the main reason I refused to support Labour in this election. It is an enduring stain upon the party, and those people who have been enthusiastically cheering Corbyn on whilst simultaneously emoting to the Jewish community to show that they really do care, honest, should be ashamed. They have sold their souls for a promise of free broadband and a crushing defeat. The EHRC report will be damning.

Corbyn leaving and antisemitism being properly dealt with are certainly prerequisites for bringing Labour back to some sort of decency, but even that isn’t enough at this point. Labour activists and left-wingers really need to think about the way they interact with the world and their modes of engagement (note: not all activists, obviously).

During the campaign, and all day today, I’ve seen people complaining that the people of this country are thick, racist, selfish, xenophobes. A brief sample:

For as long as you carry on like this, you are going to lose.

So for every person who wants to see a Labour government again in their lifetime, the next thing they have to do is shut up.

Seriously. Shut the fuck up.

Your default modes of engagement are horrendous. It is to assert that your politics, your party, is unquestionably the best, smartest and kindest, and then to scream in the faces of anyone who dares to disagree. It is to emotionally blackmail people into voting for a racist party.

So shut up.

Listen to people. You need to understand that you really have very little idea as to how most people live their lives or the things they value. It is no surprise to find that Labour and Remain voters are far more likely to feel negatively towards people who disagree with them. Stop acting like you know everything, because you don’t. Stop saying people voted against their interests when you have no clue what their interests are or what motivates them. Show some fucking humility. Stop bullying everyone who disagrees with you.

And if you think you don’t do this; trust me, this is how you come across to people outside your bubble. It absolutely is. Hectoring, strident, shrill. It is a horrible way to behave, but also it’s completely counterproductive. You are alienating the people you need, when you need urgently to build bridges to them.

There is no great love for Boris Johnson in the country. He is profoundly unpopular. But the one thing that Boris Johnson has shown he can beat reliably is you. People don’t like Jeremy Corbyn, they don’t believe the manifesto, and they don’t respond well to the way you tell them they’re wrong about everything.

You can wash this away by saying the country is full of racists, but then in that case, how will you ever win? Why would you even want to? Displaying open contempt for the country you want to govern is what the left increasingly do, and amazingly it just isn’t working out.

For what it’s worth, I believe the next Labour leader needs to represent a non-London constituency, and they will need to approach politics from the point of view of somebody who lives in one of the “red wall” constituencies. Otherwise Labour will increasingly retreat to the capital and the university cities, and cease to be a genuinely national party. But I have no faith in the party membership to choose sensibly.

The message Labour members and supporters need to hear and understand is: maybe this isn’t the fault of the British public. Maybe the media isn’t to blame. Maybe, the problem is with you. You’ve just been resoundingly rejected, and you really ought to think carefully about what that means.



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Rob Francis

I write blogs about the Labour Party, in an attempt to stop myself from screaming.