Never have I seen such a huge backlash to a by-election. As soon as the result was released, the media jumped on the story like lions to zebra frites, focusing of the failure of the Labour Party to retain a seat it had held comfortably since its creation. Labour’s hold on the north seems to have snapped. The media at this stage was highlighting the loss as if they were about to hail Theresa May as the new Caesar. While some took it as the coming of the blue apocalypse, many blamed Jeremy Corbyn for the source of Labour’s problems, citing weak leadership as the main reason that they lost. I am here to argue that Labour need a new strategy in order to stand a chance, not just Corbyn.
Before I am accused of being a Corbynista (which I still believe is an advanced coffee maker), allow me to explain. The Labour Party suffers from a distance from the desires of their electorate, a problem that goes way beyond the position of leader. The Copeland by-election was pivotal as it focused on two areas of campaign: the guarantee for the local nuclear business to be sustained, and the issue of cuts toward NHS services in the town. In the post-Brexit economic uncertainty, people desire job security more than the safety of the NHS. The problem here is that people did not trust Corbyn on the issue as he has had an extremely stanch position against nuclear power before he assumed leadership. It is hard to see how the electorate could trust a man who would seek to end the industry that they rely on if he was in any other role than leader of the opposition. No matter the U-turn, Corbyn is a man of his values, which in this case played against him.
This would indicate a problem with Corbyn, however I believe that it is a problem with Labour in general. The leaders of the Labour Party are not on the same page as the people they once called their electorate. Labour’s stance makes them appear to hinder Brexit, which has dissuaded the masses of Labour voters who voted to leave. Its ideas give a hyper-liberal stance that would be welcomed in metropolitan areas, but practically foreign to those who voted labour for the interest of the worker in rural areas. The strategy works on middle class champagne socialists but not the working class Labour was founded upon. The Labour Party under Corbyn promises the things that aren’t contemporary to the views of the common voter.
I believe that the Conservative Party would absolutely adore keeping Corbyn as leader. In fact the only calls I have heard for his resignation are from other Labour MPs. The Tories will not comment on him because they don’t have to. If the polls are correct, which in this day and age is a rarity, it would be a Conservative landslide if an election were to occur. Napoleon once said “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”. Why fan the flames when the house is already ablaze?
Our democracy thrives on an opposition that challenges the government both on the commons floor and the hustings. At the moment we have neither of those things. Corbyn may be a hero to many in the party, but if he cannot convince the voter on the street of his party’s convictions and get people to trust the Labour Party on the issues of its past, we are in for five more years of Conservative domination, along with all the issues that brings.
This leaves the centre ground for the first time as the disenfranchised. However, if the Labour Party turns things around, we can see the opposition fighting again. If not, then the only step towards a thriving democracy would be the