On 12 December, the Labour Party suffered its worst electoral defeat since 1935. The Conservative Party now has a majority in the “red strongholds” of the North, Midlands and Wales and in many other regions where, in the referendum of 23 June 2016, the working-class majority voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union. Who is responsible for this defeat? We interviewed two Labour Party activists for their assessments. They spoke to us in a personal capacity only. — Workers Tribune
John Sweeney, Activist for Leaving the European Union
The Labour Party lost the election because it treated its members who wanted to leave the European Union as demented relatives, when in fact they were simply remaining loyal to the party’s origins. Once again, Labour shot itself in the foot. This allowed the Conservatives to win the election with a large majority, which will prove to be incredibly damaging for the working class.
Policy wise, Labour campaigned for a fairer Britain, one that would invest in the NHS [National Healthcare System], education and infrastructure. Labour committed to look after the poor, the elderly, and the most vulnerable. All this was very laudable and apparently very popular with the voters.
But Labour also needed to get the other side of the equation right. Its only clear path to victory was to oppose Britain’s remaining in the European Union. Had Labour Party held this belief and shown the conviction to take this route, it would have won; massive gains could have and would have been made.
As Newton’s Third Law states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Millions of Labour voters provided a perfect definition of that theory. The Labour Party leadership found out it was terribly mistaken in believing that the working class would take up the offer of a second referendum, when the decision to leave the European Union already had been made in 2016.
Labour lost the election because it portrayed the EU as some sort of progressive saviour, instead of the capitalist institution that it has always been. It traded the interests of the working class in return for a Trojan Horse.
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Stefan Cholewka, Manchester Trade Unionist
Labour paid a heavy price for its contemptuous betrayal of workers who had voted overwhelmingly for Brexit in 2016. It lost seat after seatall the constituencies in its northern bastion, where the vote for Brexit had been massive. In Rother Valley, Labour lost its oldest seat in Parliament (1918). It lost the constituencies of Don Valley and Leigh, which had been Labour seats for the past 97 years, and Wakefield, which had been Labour for 87 years. All of these Labour constituencies had voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, some by more than 60%.
Corbyn is responsible for refusing to fight his right wing — which advocated to remain in the European Union. He constantly gave ground to them. He made one compromise after another to the point of becoming a hostage. These events underline once again the responsibility of the current leadership of the workers’ movement. What remains on the agenda today is the need for a clean break by the leadership of the labour movement with the European Union and all its reactionary institutions.
It is up to the working class, starting from the grassroots, in the workplaces, in the trade union sections and in Labour, to organise the fight to take back our organisations. We refuse to hold those who abstained or did not vote for Labour responsible for what happened. It is the leaders of the party and of the trade unions who are responsible because they are committed to the European Union.
— Interviews conducted by Jean-Pierre Barrois