We’ve just had one of the most historically significant elections, of all time, for many reasons. It’s been the worst election for Labour (in terms of seats scored) since 1935. It’s also been the biggest conservative majority since 1987. With this particular election being dubbed ‘The Brexit Election’ this in itself was a referendum which reflected the overwhelming public desire to quote ‘Get Brexit done’. Despite all the hard campaigning from many party leaders, MP’s and potential candidates, it became nothing more than a traditional two-horse race amongst the red and blue political heavyweights.
So, how did Labour lose so badly? What caused the public to put an overwhelming amount of trust and support into a man previously vilified as a ‘bumbling buffoon’ and a ‘racist’. What caused the huge swing of constituencies that saw decade-long held Labour seats crashing into Tory clutches? To find the answers, we have to look back at their campaigns.
The Conservative Party campaign.
After a seemingly slow start to the campaign trail, it was evident that the conservative government had implemented a strategy to coast through the vote. They appeared timid, almost afraid to be bold and lay down a passionate, inspirational plan for the country. They kept it short and simple, predicating the whole trail around a gradual descent out of austerity and Brexit, focusing in on the famous three word phrase we all love or loathe, ‘Get Brexit done’. They avoided controversy by, some would say, ‘hiding’ away from situations that would reflect badly on them. This was shown most notably in Johnson’s failure to attend the climate debate and Andrew Neil’s interview. This turned out to be a good strategy call (if it was planned) as it was a talking point against the conservative party that was largely forgotten about rapidly by the public.
The campaign took a hit when it was revealed their plans for ‘50,000’ new nurses involved schemes to retain 19,000 of them leaving their net addition short by 20,000. It is baffling, to this day, why they did not outright say 30,000 more nurses and a plan to retain 19,000 more; this would have still been a good pitch!
After Nigel Farage and The Brexit Party bowed out of the running in many Tory constituencies, they continued to push along on a simple campaign with a crystal clear message and a clear goal. One idea that really paid off was the hard campaigning in Labour dominated areas. They excelled here, managing to snag 54 seats directly off previously Labour constituencies.
In terms of Johnson’s performance, it was overall a stellar one. He suffered a few deserved knock-backs like his infamous ‘retreat into the freezer and ‘phonegate’ in reference to the picture of the ill child on a pile of jackets. In the debates, he held good ground. By constantly spewing his Brexit message and rightly calling out Jeremy Corbyn’s marxist economic plans for the country. One particular note of excellence was his rather unpolitician-like slamming of Corbyn’s NHS accusations. When the question arose, he was expected to flip-flop on it and avoid the answer, but instead, he flat-out condemned them. It is moments like that that kept him looking strong throughout the campaign.
The Labour Party campaign
The Labour Party, flew out the gates like a greyhound. They instantly had a plan for the country and instantly got to work on pledges and promises for their supporters across the country. It seemed almost too good to be true in the beginning. Elimination of tuition fees, free high speed broadband for everybody, halving of rail fares. It was a splurging budget designed to directly target the Tory implemented austerity program that has caused many problems in the public sector since the crash of 2008.
Corbyn and the Labour party steamed ahead with a direct message of hope, unity and change for the nation. However, in doing so, it was evident that the party had skewed further to the left. With plans to nationalise transport, energy and internet, it appeared the party had quite a hardline socialist agenda but keeping it fresh by hinting at a new wave of ‘democratic socialism’.
Labour party attempted to be the party of change, it also looked to squash issues of wealth inequality across the nation by targeting the top 5% bracket for income. With plans to cap wages at £250,000, the idea was to create a more egalitarian playing field by looking into really escalating taxes on corporations and the so called ‘rich’ citing capitalist greed and its damage to the poor as the main reasons for doing so.
Like the Tory party, Corbyn and the Labour party hit their own bumps in the road. Failure to address the problem of anti-semitism certainly played its part in the Jewish community after being called out by the Chief Rabbi. This was made worse by his failure to apologise quickly. All though he eventually did, it took its toll on the Jewish community.
Corbyn, in the debates, also did a stellar job. Similar to Johnson, he predicated a lot of his political debates around the targeting of Tory austerity and the supposed sale of the NHS. This was a great strategy as not only did it hype up the base but gave justification to his seemingly outlandish fiscal policy prescriptions. Corbyn is a well-spoken, solid debater and an intelligent man. This came across in many of the debates and gave a lot of credibility to his campaign.
How did Labour lose so badly?
The big reason that Labour got hit so badly was the direction of their campaign. With trying to tackle so many issues, Corbyn and the Labour party overstretched themselves and lost coherency, unlike the Tory’s that had a clear goal and a laser focus on Brexit. By not having a clear standpoint on Brexit, trying to tackle the environment and climate change and trying to iron out wealth inequality with socialist fiscal policy in so many national sectors, it seems his campaign had lost its way. It can be argued that he set expectations far too high and may have overestimated public support for the far-left policies he suggested. Polls show that we are increasingly more inclined to adopt socialism as a governing strategy – but for now it was too much, too soon.
Anti-semitism played a part in Labours demise this year. Corbyn got away with it last election but it caught up to him this time round. After the Chief Rabbi’s claims and internal testimonies from Labour MP’s surfaced of internal issues regarding judaism, things got worse. The Labour party was hurt even more when he failed repeatedly to condemn anti-semitism within the party on the Andrew Neil interview and others. When he did, it was too late and the damage was done.
Finally it is the Labour message that hurt the campaign. Despite being about hope, unity and change, it reeked of an elitist disdain for the public. Johnson’s populist message of Getting Brexit done and working together to build a strong economy resonates with the people show his patriotism and faith in the layman. Corbyn’s anti-capitalist campaign was almost entirely suggestive of the fact that society cannot be trusted and needs a huge government to rule over everyone’s lives in order to protect the vulnerable. Whether or not you believe that statement to be true, it was a negative dig at people that was shrouded in ‘hope and happiness’. In short, it was an attempt to polish a turd that people fundamentally rejected and it showed in the latest election, with a resounding Tory victory.