Last week’s results should make us proud – but could we have done even better without the campaign to undermine Corbyn? asks CHRISTINE SHAWCROFT
HOW many successful elections has Jeremy Corbyn got to preside over before his critics concede he may have something going for him? And when are they going to run out of excuses to explain away his results?
Last summer, as people flocked to join his campaign in their tens of thousands, packing out his meetings and mobbing him in the streets, I was repeatedly told that he was unelectable and would be a disaster as leader. This was after we were told he couldn’t get on the ballot paper and were then told he couldn’t win even if he did get on the ballot paper.
When the Oldham by-election was announced, political pundits and irreconcilable Blairite MPs were united in their prophecies of doom — Labour would do badly under “toxic” Corbyn and might well lose the seat. When we increased our share of the vote, we were told that there was a good local candidate (true) who had won “in spite” of Jeremy.
Now the results of the May elections are being slated as not good enough. Have I read this right? We won all the mayoral contests including by a landslide in Bristol and London (of which more later), picked up PCC victories in several areas including the East Midlands (where we had failed to gain all eight of our target seats in 2015, plus losing another one for good measure), did well in council elections in the south of England where Jeremy is supposed to be especially “toxic,” continue to be the dominant party in Wales despite the doomsayers’ predictions and won two parliamentary by-elections, one with an increased majority. We won more councillors than any other party.
Crucially, we finished ahead of the Tories in terms of the national popular share of the vote. At the 2015 general election we were nearly seven points behind. Now we are a point ahead.
One wonders what the results might have been like if Jeremy had not been subject to a barrage of abuse from commentators, news media and David Cameron every week. Some of these attacks were described by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey as a “cynical attempt to manipulate anti-semitism for political aims.”
There were also sadly attacks from some members of a minority of our own party. In scenes reminiscent of the Blairite resignations announced just before local elections in a bid to destabilise Gordon Brown, Jeremy’s detractors seemed to be throwing more and more negativity at his leadership as we approached the elections.
Yet look at the vote, especially in London. Cameron repeated endlessly the claim that the London vote would be a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn, and warned Londoners not to vote to be “lab rats” for Corbyn’s “crazy” policies. The ensuing landslide for Labour is being presented as — guess what — “in spite” of Corbyn.
However, the situation in Scotland is being spun as all his fault, as if the collapse in the vote in 2015 hadn’t been a very long time in the making, and could be turned around in a mere eight months. Don’t ever say the Blairites aren’t trying to make up for it by making helpful suggestions, though: they think it would rebuild our vote in Scotland if we gave a commitment to keep Trident.
Surely a new leader should be given more than a few months to make his mark? If his opponents really want to win elections, they should stop the barrage of criticism and show that they respect a democratic decision and Corbyn’s mandate.
With the NEC elections coming up, Labour members should choose Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance candidates who have a record of standing up for Jeremy’s leadership and party members’ rights. Then we can get on with the real business of winning a Labour government and Jeremy as PM in 2020.
Christine Shawcroft is running for re-election to the Labour Party National Executive Committee as a Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance candidate. You can follow her campaign.