Sunday 15 December 2019


by Richey Edwards

Following their election defeat many Labour supporters immediately began repeating exactly the same mistakes that led them to such a heavy defeat.  It was the same response that followed the EU referendum and fed growing resentment over the following three and a half years.  If Labour thought they could get away with talking down to the people in their heartlands, those who elected them without fail for a century, taking them for granted and trying to reverse their 2016 decision - they were sorely mistaken.  Yes, the election humiliation was about more than just Brexit, they lost seats across the south of England too, including even in their new heartland of London.  But primarily, above all else they were hammered by working class voters in the north of England.

BTLP's #PartyOfLondon hashtag was not understood by everyone.  That didn't matter, it wasn't for everyone.  Its target was the Labour heartlands - the old heartlands of the north of England and south Wales, places that were also the Brexit heartlands.  We tapped into the perception that Labour had abandoned its working class northern roots in favour of a metropolitan London elite.  Its activist base was increasingly being drawn from the middle classes and pro-Brexit voices were slowly being stamped out and excommunicated.  All of the top people on Labour's front bench represented London seats, including all four of those who would occupy the Great Offices of State - Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott and Thornberry.  With the exception of Corbyn, they all indicated they would back 'Remain' in Labour's People's Vote con, in itself an infuriating insult to those who had voted Leave.  Just behind those four was a London barrister and anointed knight Sir Keir Starmer.  His whiny voice was anathema to those northern Leave voters and the fact he'd been appointed Shadow Brexit Secretary whilst consistently opposed to Brexit just made it all the more nauseating.  That he is one of the favourites to succeed Corbyn goes to show that Labour still doesn't get it, even now.

Imagine how the election of Starmer would go down with those northern working class voters who have just ditched Labour and astonishingly crossed straight over to the Tories because of decades of being taken for granted by London elites?  It would only reinforce that 'Party of London' perception.

It also didn't go unnoticed that after the election was called the London-based leadership did everything it could to parachute London candidates into northern seats vacated by those that had been driven out or retired.  Islington councillors popped up in places like Liverpool, Leicester and Coventry as potential Westminster candidates.  In West Bromwich Tom Watson's replacement was a Lambeth councillor who prints anti-Brexit messages on the receipts at his London kebab shops.  West Bromwich voted overwhelmingly to Leave.  The imposition of such candidates sparked huge resentment in local constituency parties that was reported in various local news media outlets.  Again, the perception that Labour had abandoned the Midlands and the north was strengthened.

One of the only decent remaining Labour MPs to make it to this election was Caroline Flint.  A Londoner herself, she represented a Yorkshire seat and had backed Remain in 2016.  However, rather than lie through gritted teeth like many of her colleagues did following the result, she fought to get Brexit done.  Cynics might suggest that she did so to placate her Leave-voting constituents and therefore survive the onslaught that was to come.  The fact she saw it coming actually put her head and shoulders above her Yorkshire colleagues in Westminster.  The likes of Yvette Cooper, Ed Miliband and the hideous Mary Creagh thought they could continue to bash Brexit and their dopey constituents would continue to slavishly cross their boxes on the ballot paper.  Flint knew there would be consequences and she knew the reasons why.

On election night it was tragically Flint herself that paid the price for the actions of others.  Miliband and Cooper survived, but only just, and saw their majorities slashed so fine that their once safe Labour seats are now marginals.  Creagh departed Westminster, but at her election count used her speech to attack Brexit one last time and in doing so further alienate her former Wakefield constituents.  She was still in denial, something Flint had never been.  She explained to Sophy Ridge on Sky this morning what led to so many seat losses in the north, including her own. Flint namedropped Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry as prime examples of the London elitist snobbery that had taken the north for granted.

Labour is now in serious trouble going forward from this election defeat.  The perception that it is a party of London is no longer a theory, it is fact.  Labour gained one seat at this election - one.  An astonishing fact in itself, but if you were told this at any point in Labour's history your mind would immediately have drifted to the north, Midlands, Wales or Scotland as to where that seat was won.  It was actually won in Putney, a leafy well-to-do heavily Remain voting seat in south-west London.

Labour is far from its roots and is in a state of denial.  Elect Keir Starmer or Lady Nugee as leader by all means.  Then watch what remains of your so-called 'red wall' in the north crumble into dust at the next election.  That's why I'm backing either of those for the leadership.