By William Hallowell | Editor
From blaming voters to resisting Brexit, Labour seems to be heading in the opposite direction to the "unity" and "winning strategy" Diane Abbot calls for.
The Tories are out of touch; the Tories don't care about you; the Tories work for the bankers; the Tories only represent the Etonian elite. This is the sort of monotonous Labour rhetoric that we are all well acquainted with. These were the sort of phrases banded around by the Labour Party throughout Corbyn's reign, and it seems the same can be said for Starmer. In the run up to the May elections the Labour leader ran the party campaign off the back of this idea of Tory sleaze and incompetency - a governing party 'out of touch' with the ordinary voter... oh how the tables turn!
In the wake of Labour's "crushing defeat", to use the former Shadow Home Secretary's own words, it seems not that the Conservatives are out of touch, but Labour. It is Labour that is led by a passionate Remainer, and that stood a Remainer candidate in the Hartlepool by-election - where a majority working-class constituency voted 70% for Brexit. Yet, after this disastrous defeat to the Tories, and in other local council and mayoral defeats across England, they cannot accept the dramatic reshaping of British politics whereby the working-class have turned on them - and what's worse is that they cannot see why.
There has been no grace, no dignity, in Labour's defeat. One disgruntled Derbyshire councillor blamed the voters. He said "the voters have let us down" and that he hopes they "don't live to regret it". This personifies all that is wrong with a party that is meant to represent 'The Many'. Moral elitism and self-righteous, self-entitlement is endemic within the Labour Party. It should come as no surprise that many working-class people felt compelled to vote against 'their' party by defecting to the Tories. There are probably other Labour councillors and MPs across England who too, felt 'their' voters let them down. The truth however, is that Labour let them down.
Diane Abbot has also been stirring the pot; whilst calling for unity and for Keir Starmer to put forward a "winning strategy" she declared that the party leader should begin campaigning for the reintroduction of freedom of movement, despite EU immigration being a fundamental concern among Brexit voters - and specifically the working-class. It's genuinely difficult to determine whether this is a wind-up - a deliberate attempt by a Corbynite to sabotage Starmer, or whether she is merely echoing the voices of the insufferable, bourgeois, self-appointed moral elites that have hijacked the Labour Party and who make the most noise - especially when it comes to talking down to the morally inferior whilst up on their high horses, on the topics of identity politics and how all Brexiteers are racists. Is it really any wonder that these traditionally Red, northern communities were deterred from voting Labour?
Even Angela Rayner seems to be causing far more harm than good to the party's reputation, writing in a comment piece for the Guardian that "Labour is, and always will be, the party of workers and our trade union movement." Yet, almost a week later, absolutely nothing has been done to attempt to rectify the party's catastrophic defeat - to reconcile with the working-class. Whilst she also declares that Labour must learn the lessons from the local elections she continues to talk down to the voters that she and her colleagues let down. Rayner tells the working-class that the Labour Party, and only the Labour Party, represent them, rather than offering a sincere apology, or making promises to win back their lost votes.
It is Labour that are out of touch. It is Labour that ardently stand against the policies that their traditional voters favour. Brexit was almost certainly a major factor in explaining why the people of Hartlepool voted Blue, yet they are not willing to accept it. These next few weeks and months are vital for the survival of Keir Starmer's leadership and the redemption of the party. Otherwise, a leadership challenge is only imminent.
Jeremy Corbyn is right when he says that it will take far more than a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle to win back northern support.
Image credit: Sophie Brown