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Brexit elephant in the room

16 January, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Former Islington councillor Claudia Webbe – now Labour MP for Leicester

WAS I witnessing the terminal decline of the Labour Party or simply sitting among shell-shocked members still recovering from the catastrophic general election?

I had gone along to the Indian YMCA off Fitzroy Square, Fitzrovia, on Thursday hoping there would be a rational post mortem on the election results at a rally held by Labour.

But though the two man speakers, Leicester’s new MP, Claudia Webbe – an Islington councillor of some experience – and Richard Burgon, just chosen as a candidate for the deputy leadership, did their best to rally the troops, what was signally missing was an analysis of what went wrong with Labour’s election campaign.

Standing for deputy: Richard Burgon, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

The elephant in the room is Brexit. In my opinion, Labour lost because it ignored the result of the 2016 referendum and made traditional voters in the North believe their vote to Leave was going to be ignored.

Simple arithmetic about the loss of seats tells the story. Yet no one seemed to want to discuss it on Thursday, nor, from what I can gather, are any of the contenders of the Labour leadership willing to haul the subject into the glare of debate. The favourite contender, Sir Keir Star­mer, in fact, was one of the architects of Labour’s Remain manoeuvring in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, who appears to be abandoning Tory policy on austerity, is likely to invest regionally in the North, as pledged, and however small the investment it will be magnified by a compliant media and turned into something it isn’t.

Labour’s got a long haul. But first it needs to look at how it went wrong. It cannot ignore the past.

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