Labour’s Verdict on the General Election

Published in the Times of Tunbridge Wells 14 June 2017

For most of us the result of the General Election was a shock, but it shouldn’t have been.

At the beginning of the election the Conservatives were over 20% ahead in the opinion polls and it it seemed like they might get a big win. Theresa May was making the election about Brexit and leadership and thought she had all the cards in her hand.

She demanded a mandate for her Brexit negotiations. She promised to square up to the EU and to walk away from talks if things weren’t going her way. Ad nauseam she repeated her robotic ‘strong and stable’ mantra.

She was going to going to be ‘the difficult woman’ who would sort those Europeans out. She maligned her opponent as weak, spendthrift, and a friend of terrorists. If he won – he would be leading a ‘coalition of chaos’.

For a while it seemed like this approach might work until there was a seismic shift in the campaign.

Labour produced a manifesto that was popular. It was optimistic and hopeful, promising to end austerity, protect the NHS, and make major investments in education and housing. It struck a chord with voters across the country, particularly the young.

Theresa May produced a dismal downbeat manifesto promising a hard Brexit and more cuts in public services. It attacked elderly voters, by introducing a dementia tax, removing the triple lock on pensions and means testing the winter fuel allowance.

Within days of the publication of her manifesto she wobbled. Like her climb down on National Insurance in the budget, she drew back on plans for the dementia tax and then refused to appear on any platform to debate her manifesto with leaders of other parties.

Meanwhile, despite being derided in the media, Jeremy Corbyn was out there travelling the country drawing huge crowds of people who were excited by Labour’s plans to invest in Britain, to improve living standards and give hope to the next generation.

The election mood began to change. As more people saw Jeremy Corbyn and heard Labour’s message the polls began to move in our favour. On the doorstep we noticed the change where our candidate was getting an even warmer welcome.

By polling day we had not anticipated such a major shift in opinion to Labour. Despite this the shift was just not quite enough. Clearly we are disappointed that we did not win the election, but let’s be clear, neither did the Conservatives.

We now have a lame duck Prime Minister leading a lame duck government, with no mandate. Conservatives are now in bed with the DUP with their own financial scandals and associations with terrorists. May’s very own ‘coalition of chaos’ – that can’t last.

In Tunbridge Wells Labour received its best share of the vote since the constituency was formed in 1974. We take inspiration from voters in Canterbury and look forward to a further opportunity to get rid of this government.

We continue efforts to elect a new Labour MP at the next election – whenever that might be.

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