About the election in England

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Jeremy Corbyn*

We live in highly volatile times. Two and a half years ago, in the first general election I contested as leader of the Labor Party, our party increased its share of the popular vote by 10 percentage points. On Thursday, on a desperately disappointing night, we went back eight points.

I asked for a period of reflection in the party, and there are not a few things to consider. I do not believe that these two contrasting election results can be understood in isolation.

The last few years have seen a series of political upheavals: the campaign for Scottish independence, the transformation of the Labor Party, Brexit, Labor's electoral rise and now Johnson's 'Get the Brexit' victory. None of this is a coincidence.

The political system is volatile because it is failing to generate stable support for the status quo in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown. As a Labor leader, I have made a point of traveling to all parts of the country and listening to the people, and I have been impressed to be able to observe again and again the extent to which trust in politics is broken. The gap between the richest and the rest has widened. Everyone can see that the economic and political system is not fair, does not provide justice and is against the majority.

This allowed the opening for a more radical and hopeful politics, which insists that it doesn't have to be this way and that another world is possible. But it has also spurred cynicism among many people who know things aren't working for them but don't believe that can change.

This is what I saw most clearly in the former industrial areas of England and Wales, where the deliberate destruction of jobs and communities over 40 years has taken a heavy toll. No wonder these zones offered the strongest reaction in the 2016 referendum and, regrettably for the Labor Party, in Thursday's general election.

In cities where steel mills closed, politics as a whole was unreliable, but Boris Johnson's pledge to "get Brexit done" - sold as a setback to the system - was. Sadly, that motto will soon be exposed for the falsehood that it is, further demolishing trust.

Despite our best efforts, and our attempts to make it clear that this would be a tipping point for our country's common course, the elections revolved mainly around Brexit.

A Conservative Party prepared to exploit divisions capitalized on the frustration created by its own failure to secure a referendum result – at the cost of a Labor Party seeking to unite our country to face the future.

The polarization in the country over Brexit has made things more difficult for a party with strong electoral support on both sides. I believe we pay a price for being seen by some as trying to dodge that divide or re-enact the referendum.

Now we need to hear the voices of those in Stoke and Scunthorpe, Blyth and Bridgend, Grimsby and Glasgow, who did not support the Labor Party. Our country has fundamentally changed since the financial meltdown, and any political project that pretends otherwise will incur complacency.

Progress does not come in a simple straight line. Although we lost several seats on Thursday, I believe the 2019 manifesto and the movement behind it will be seen as historically important – a real attempt to build a force powerful enough to transform society for the majority, not for the few. few. For the first time in decades, many people had hope for a better future.

That experience, shared by hundreds of thousands of people, cannot be erased. Our task as a movement, and as a party that has more than doubled in size, is not over: we now have the urgent task of defending communities that will come under continual attack from the Boris Johnson government and the toxic deal he wants to forge with Donald Trump. .

And we must ensure that this feeling of hope spreads and deepens. As socialists, we seek to raise people's expectations. People in our country deserve so much more – and we can get it if we work together to achieve it.

I am proud that, on austerity, the power of big corporations, inequality and the climate emergency, we won the debate and rewrote the terms of the political discussion. But I regret that we did not convert it into a parliamentary majority for change.

There is no doubt that our policies are popular, from public ownership of railroads and essential services to a massive home-building program and a wage increase for millions of people. The question is: how can we succeed in the future where we didn't this time?

There is no quick fix to overcome the distrust of many voters. Treating them with condescension will not win them back. The Labor Party has to earn their trust. This involves the patient work of listening and living with communities, especially when the government intensifies its attack. And it also means ensuring that the working class, in all its diversity, is the driving force behind our party.

Media attacks on the Labor Party over the last four and a half years have been more ferocious than ever – and, of course, this has an impact on the election outcome. Anyone advocating for real change will be met with the full force of media opposition.

The Party needs a more robust strategy to directly confront this hostility from billionaire ownership and influence and, wherever possible, turn it to our advantage.

We suffered a serious defeat, and I take responsibility for that. The Labor Party will soon have a new leader. But whoever it is, our movement will continue to work for a more equal and just society, and for a sustainable and peaceful world.

I have spent my life campaigning for these goals and will continue to do so. The policy of hope must prevail.

*Jeremy Corbyn leader of the British Labor Party

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves

Originally published in The Observer.

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