The existential Labor dilemma: the left, sentenced to another decade in the opposition

The existential Labor dilemma: the left, sentenced to another decade in the opposition
Jeremy Corbyn, the night of defeat. (Reuters)

The feeling is catastrophe having lost up to 24 constituencies of the known as “Red Wall.” And the question is: who can recover the course of a totally sunken match?

“Everything got screwed up in the UK when he won the ugly Miliband.” The phrase was heard in the halls of Brussels, in the middle of the European summit, when the overwhelming victory of Boris Johnson was announced on the other side of the English Channel in what have been the last general elections that the country has held as a member of the bloc.

The truth is that the reflection has been circulating in the corridors of Westminster for years. Many wonder to what extent things would have been different if the opposition had had another leader other than Jeremy Corbyn.

The 70-year-old veteran politician apologized this Sunday with a public letter to his electorate after bringing Labor to its worst results since 1935. “It was a blow to all those who so desperately need a real change in our country,” he claimed. Enemy of austerity, defender of Hugo Chávez, supporter of the Palestinian cause and supporter of nationalization of the railways, gas and electricity, the deputy of Islington (where he has been re-elected for the tenth time) never had the great approval of his own ranks

The Third Way and the Blair option

Although his appointment as a leader in 2015, cannot be understood without the (unexpected) triumph of the youngest of the Miliband brothers in the 2010 primary. The press already named him “Ed the Red”. Did that mark the beginning of the end?

Labor begins now, in the words of Corbyn himself, a “period of reflection” that will last until early next year, when the party will choose its next leader. Although frankly, Boris Johnson – which now has a majority of 80 seats – marks a new era that does not look to end in 2024, when the next elections are planned. Therefore, everything indicates that the formation could have another ten more left in the opposition.

It would not be the first time. They were 18 years off Downing Street until Tony Blair took power in 1997, triumphing with the centre-left that lasted until David Cameron arrived in 2010.

David Miliband then presented himself to the Labor primary as a continuity figure of the Third Way. But it was his brother “Ed the Red” who took the helm, thanks to the support of the unions, with tremendous power in training. And the trip to the radical left was consecrated with the arrival in Corbyn, five years later. Statistically, the veteran politician has now won a percentage of votes greater than the one harvested in his day by Ed Miliband (2015) or Gordon Brown (2010).

However, the feeling is catastrophe having lost up to 24 constituencies known as “Red Wall”, where the electorate had opted for Labor since World War II. The defeat, for example, of Dennis Skinner, 87, known as “the beast of Bolsover” – he had been representing the Labor Bastion in Westminster since 1970 – has become a symbol.

Against the second referendum

Most of these districts once advocated for Brexit. And in this sense, the fact that Labor was now presented with the promise of a new referendum has meant a betrayal for many. “It was never a good recipe,” says party president Ian Lavery now. “Ignore democracy and the consequences will come back and bite your back,” he says.

Corbyn’s chief advisor, Seumas Milne, and Unite union leader Andrew Murray were always sceptical. Corbyn himself never wanted to advocate for a new consultation. But John McDonnell, his right hand and spokesman for Economy, eventually convinced him. “If there is someone to blame for the disastrous results it is me. Point and end ”, declares the latter now.

Undoubtedly, the ambiguity that Corbyn always showed before the community question did not help. The volunteers who participated in this campaign complained that, given the direct and clear message of the ‘tories’ (“let’s run Brexit”), they did not get the attention of the electorate when they began to enumerate the long list of promises of the one who has It has been the most radical manifesto since World War II.

However, it has not been Brexit or the program (the proposed nationalizations, in fact, had the backing of the electorate) so the voters have abandoned the formation. The main reason has been Corbyn. Labor knows it. And Corbyn himself too.

The lowest rated leader

His defense of regimes such as the Venezuelan or Iranian, the sympathies shown in the past towards the IRA or the constant controversies with the problems of anti-Semitism for which he did not want to apologize in the reputed program with Andrew Neil (to which Boris Johnson did not even he deigned to go) made him an unpopular leader. According to the polls, the electorate is more confident that Johnson can cope with the crisis of the National Public Health System than Corbyn himself, the leader of the opposition most valued since the records began.

The defenders of the veteran politician present him as an altruist, without any ego, who has always been faithful to his ideals. Even after the defeat, he defends in his public letter to the electorate that he feels proud that his program has “contributed to establishing the terms of the debate during the campaign.”

In the last four years, Corbynism has considered that it was better to bet on a leader and a manifesto that they can be proud of, than a program or leader with whom they had real chances of winning. The problem is that in politics, as columnist Jonathan Freedland recently pointed out in ‘The Guardian’, “a party or becomes a plausible vehicle for forming the government or is nothing.”

And there the dilemma that the formation must now face in this “period of reflection” when choosing its new leader: must it be an heir to Corbyn or someone more centrist that allows the recovery of the most moderate electorate?

For months, the names that sound the most to represent both sides are those of Rebecca Long Bailey and Keir Starmer. The first, 40-year-old Eurosceptic, is the current spokeswoman for Business and Protected John McDonnell. The second, 57, pro-EU, is the current spokesman for Brexit and always opted for a second referendum.

In any case, there is almost a conviction that Labor will be directed for the first time by a woman. And in this sense, Long Bailey is very likely to have several competitors, including Angela Rayner, another of the defenders of Corbyn. The current Education spokeswoman left school at age 16 after becoming pregnant. He never finished his studies and at 39 he has already become a grandmother. For his part, Yvette Cooper, 50, who was part of Brown’s cabinet and who was already unsuccessfully presented by the 2015 primaries, would also be thinking about it.

We will have to wait until the beginning of next year to see the new course of training and the forecasts of success or new failure that open with the new leader. For now, as responsible for the opposition will have to put things complicated to the Government, something that, for many, Corbyn never achieved.