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LABOUR was urged to accept that it “got it wrong” on Brexit and that “Remain has been defeated” today following yesterday’s devastating election result.
Over the course of the long and brutal night, dozens of Labour constituencies turned blue for the first time in decades — most of them Leave-voting.
This included the former mining town of Blyth Valley and Workington where Labour had held the seat with only one interruption since 1918.
Communications union CWU’s general secretary Dave Ward said the reasons for the disappointing defeat were clear: “Labour got it wrong on Brexit.
“Millions of people who know the economy, the world of work and politics in general isn’t working for them saw the move to a second referendum as a betrayal and the final straw,” he said.
Mr Ward’s view was shared by teachers’ union NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney.
Writing in a personal capacity, he said that Labour “have to learn lessons” from their losses.
He stressed that this does not mean the party should move away from its readiness to confront capitalism under leader Jeremy Corbyn but “it does mean accepting that the battle for Remain is over.”
Mr Courtney continued: “Remain has been defeated in a referendum and now it looks like it has been comprehensively defeated in a general election.
“The movement needs to move on.”
The results finished rolling in today with Tories up on 364 seats and Labour on 203 — the party’s worst defeat since 1935.
Facing calls to step down, Mr Corbyn announced that he would move on after giving time for a “period of reflection” by the party.
Responding to the exit poll result, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he had hoped other issues “would cut through to voters” during the campaign.
But he admitted that this had not happened, with the Tories’ simple “Get Brexit Done” message overriding Labour’s pledges to save the NHS and restore our public services.
Labour went into the election last month campaigning for a second referendum on EU membership.
It came after 25 MPs — many in Leave-voting areas — wrote a letter to Mr Corbyn urging him to back a Brexit deal because a second referendum would be “toxic to our bedrock Labour voters.”
Yesterday this appeared to prove true. Signatories of that letter were also among the MPs to lose their seats, including Caroline Flint who had stood in Don Valley for over 20 years.
Critics of Mr Corbyn attempted to place the blame for Labour’s defeat squarely at the leader’s feet.
But Mr Ward said that the party should “acknowledge that for a variety of reasons the party leadership was a factor in this result,” but “the truth is, a prolonged assault from the media has assassinated the character of a man who has devoted his whole life to helping others,” he said.
The union leader added that the role of trade unions over the next five years will be “more important than ever.”
A spokesperson from campaign group Trade Unionists Against the EU suggested that the Tories could face challenges from the public after pushing through Brexit.
“A Johnson government is a Brexit government, defined by Brexit, elected to deliver Brexit; it has a single purpose: to get Brexit done; it has no other mandate,” it said.
“It legitimacy ceases once we leave the EU.”
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