From the moment Rebecca Long Bailey touched on the elusive concept of what it means to be a progressive patriot, it’s been widely debated in the media. Suddenly, all the voices who were previously openly hostile toward Corbyn have latched onto this notion that the reason why the Labour Party lost the recent general election was because the party, under Corbyn, simply wasn’t patriotic enough. It’s an unchallenged monologue that Labour centrists and even pro-remainers (who some in this country might consider the least patriotic amongst us) have comfortably slipped into. Why?
While there has been a fair amount of naval gazing by the Labour Party, there’s been no deep probing analysis of why Labour lost the election and yet people (MPs, news media) freely offer opinions and some of these opinions start to look enticing to like minded individuals and even helps rally support. Often, these theories do not hold water but we’ve all seen how easy it is to take a story and make it sound credible.
Of course, there could be another reason why so many people have been happy to fuel the debate on ‘progressive patriotism’. While everyone’s busy discussing whether or not the Labour Party were patriotic enough, hardly anyone’s asking questions about what other factors might have contributed. That said, Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips both just announced that they’d be standing for leadership on a ticket to regain the trust and confidence of voters who couldn’t bring themselves to believe that Labour could actually deliver on their promises. Ironic that centrists who called for Corbyn to resign in 2016 and then resigned from the shadow cabinet in protest (or in Jess’s case as PPS to Lucy Powell) and then openly participated in the anti-Semitism smear campaign against the party, don’t see the part that they played in encouraging voters to lose confidence in the party in the first place.
It seems obvious to me that the centrists would want to control the narrative because the last thing they want is for people to dig deeper and discover that the statistics tell a very different story – a story that actually makes them look really bad. As you know folks, Spotlight recently produced a vote share report looking at gains and losses across all the major parties over the last 7 elections. On closer inspection, this report has revealed that, in actual fact, there were clear fault lines between Pro-Remain and Pro-Leave parties and that the pro-Remain campaign had a far greater impact on Labours election prospects than some people might admit. Labour lost 2,608,842 votes but this didn’t boost the pro-Leave parties as some people had predicted (you’ll recall some MPs claiming Labour would lose a lot of ground in the Leave supporting northern regions?). In fact the re-distribution data paints a rather interesting picture…
Pro-Remain parties (LibDems, SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru) gained: 1,918, 205 (75.53% )
Pro-Leave parties (Tories, UKIP, Brexit Party, BNP) gained: 396,707 (15.2%)
Other (smaller parties or people who didn’t vote) : 293,930 (11.27%)
Certainly this data shows that the pro-immigration, remain-alliance parties, who advocate for open borders and who many in this country would therefore consider unpatriotic, gained 75% of floating voters, which ultimately served to return the Conservatives to government with a significantly increased representation. Would any of these ‘remain alliance’ parties or the, ever vocal, Labour centrists who attacked Corbyn and, in some cases, even left the party because Corbyn refused to back remain, be comfortable with a post-election analysis looking at how their pro-remain advocacy damaged the parties election prospects? What of those Labour MPs who voted in support of the Tory withdrawal agreement and further fueled the confusion over Labour’s Brexit position?
Who then is ultimately responsible for putting the Tories back into power for another 5yrs and handing a no-deal Brexit to the Pro-Leave campaign? The data would suggest it wasn’t Corbyn or Labour’s left wing socialist policies that put people off. If anything, it was the very deliberate framing of this election as another Brexit referendum. Of course, if you’re a centrist leadership candidate, you’re obviously going to use this opportunity, while there’s still a lot of confusion immediately after the election and before the actual data starts to come through, to deflect attention away from your own culpability and to try and argue that ‘you’ know where it all went wrong and only ‘you‘ know how to fix it.