As the dust settles from Thursday’s local and Mayoral elections, the familiar refrains can be heard from those in and around the Labour Party who still believe that Jeremy Corbyn has anything more than a snowball in hell’s chance of walking across the threshold of 10 Downing Street on the 9th of June: all that is needed is for the party faithful to campaign harder, the polls will close, and ultimately, victory will be theirs.
Now, here on Zelo Street, Jezza has been backed when the press has gone OTT in smearing him - but also called out for his shortcomings. Yes, I know there will be the usual dismissal of what is going to be said - “You’ve lost all your credibility”, “You said this before and you were wrong”, and no doubt “This link shows why you’re the one who is out of touch” - but I have to tell all you Corbyn fans that the game is finally up.
All the excuses have been heard before. “It’s all the Blairites’ fault”, “Jeremy has faced massive disloyalty”. Every Labour leader had had the awkward squad to deal with - even Blair. The Labour awkward squad was what drove Harold Wilson to call the 1975 referendum on membership of the then EEC. The awkward squad might have stopped Clement Attlee becoming PM after Labour’s 1945 landslide victory.
We hear of how principled and sincere Corbyn is. Voters do not disagree. They just don’t want to vote for him. Some Jezza fans tell us the poll numbers are closing, with the Tories “only” 11% ahead. Right. Look at the right-wing press baying and hollering this morning. D’you think they’re frightened at the prospect of their chosen party being “only” 11% in front? Jezza is agreed to be hard working. But the voters no longer care.
Look at yesterday’s results. Labour LOST the Mayoral elections for Tees Valley and - far more importantly - the West Midlands. They LOST. The Tories WON. Look at some of the councils Labour lost. Derbyshire. Yes, they lost f***ing Derbyshire. Derbyshire, where not so long ago there was no point in the Tories turning up. They lost Derbyshire. Working people turned out to vote … for the Tories. The Tories WON Derbyshire.
Am I getting through here? Labour LOST control in Nottinghamshire. Another county the Tories should never have got near. They LOST Lancashire. They LOST Glasgow and the Tories WON council seats in Glasgow’s east end and Paisley’s Ferguslie Park. Labour LOST council seats by the dozen. At a time when we have a Tory Government that has redefined what it means to be utterly, totally, and all too visibly useless.
We now hear that all those activists who turned out, on their own time, to campaign for Labour were somehow not campaigning hard enough, that if they door-knocked more enthusiastically, all would be well. Whoever is polishing that particular turd should go and tell all those Labour supporters who gave their all, for no payment, just how lacking in enthusiasm they were. And while they’re at it, tell all those hundreds of councillors who got voted out that they were somehow not campaigning hard enough.
Now it seems that there will be a Labour fightback. This will be led by John McDonnell. Just how serious is a party who puts John McDonnell up as its best shot at a fightback? The Tories and their cheerleaders will be licking their lips at the prospect. He puts his head above the parapet and it will be shot off in short order. One peep from McDonnell and the Tory attack dogs will shout “IRA sympathiser”. And more votes will be lost.
What’s that you say? The media is against Labour? So what are you Jezza supporters going to do about it, sit there and f***ing whinge? A rabidly hostile media didn’t stop Sadiq Khan seeing off Zac Goldsmith. It didn’t stop Andy Burnham - who, remember, could have been leading Labour - from wiping the floor with all-comers in the Greater Manchester Mayoral election. Whining about the media is like a seafarer whining about the sea.
Corbyn’s supporters need to get real. How real? Consider this headline from Independent Voices yesterday: “As a Momentum member, I'm not disheartened by Labour's losses in the local elections”. That’s Rachel Godfrey-Wood saying she isn’t disheartened. Well, hello Rachel and all those who agree with that view. You damn well should be disheartened.
Your side just got trashed. And in just under five weeks’ time, barring the kind of miracle that ain’t about to appear, you can pretend not to be disheartened when Labour is reduced to a Parliamentary presence no better than it had in 1935 (154 seats, to save you looking). And oh look, Rachel has another snappy soundbite for us all.
“The local elections results don't reflect the support Jeremy Corbyn has across the country as the anti-establishment candidate many voters are looking for”. Er, hello? The local elections DO reflect Corbyn’s support - all too well. If many voters were looking for him, they would have turned out to vote. They did not. Worse, they will not.
But Rachel is not finished: “these local elections are not nationwide and exclude pretty much everywhere that Labour’s vote share has been improving”. So the MPs that Labour lose across the country next month don’t count, eh? Only the ones where Labour manages to hang on. Because hanging on is the best the party can hope for right now.
When you have voters who say yes, they think Corbyn is an honest and principled man, yes, they would trust him to do what he says he’d do, yes, they like his policies and think they would benefit, but then glaze over at the prospect of voting for him, the game is up. All those voters who Labour needs to get into power are not being swayed. And they are not going to be swayed, no matter how many members the party signs up.
To make those changes on which they campaign, Labour needs to be in power. There is no other point in campaigning. Without power, all that is left is a protest movement. In other words, a big group of people all imbibing the Kool-Aid and shutting out the real world, safe in the reassuring knowledge that theirs is the one true way.
Meanwhile, the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the young, the elderly, the sick, the single parent families, the racial and religious minorities, all will get ritually screwed over. Because a protest movement is sod all use to them.
And on election night, there will be the Tory boo-boys whooping and hollering. It’s a sound I heard in 1983 when Labour last got badly trashed. A sound I heard just two years ago. It’s a sound I’m sick to the back teeth of hearing. And it’s what all those defeated Labour candidates are going to hear next month.
More loyalty is not going to cut it. More campaigning will not solve the problem. What will improve matters is to get real and stop pretending. Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian has it right: it’s Jezza who needs to carry this particular can. The Corbyn myth is bust.