What next for Labour? The party is in danger of losing its soul

What next for Labour? The party is in danger of losing its soul

There are real and growing fears that the Tories are heading for a majority. Labour has a very serious problem with white working-class voters in seats that voted Leave. It is these Labour heartlands where the election will be determined.

It is worth pausing for thought to consider that these constituencies in post-industrial and former mining towns have been represented by Labour for a century. They are called heartlands because they represent the places of our heart, but Labour is haemorrhaging support. Labour is not just in danger of losing these seats, it is in danger of losing its soul.

Colleagues from Scotland are also very worried. The SNP are hoovering up the pro-independence vote, while the Tories are now the only avowedly pro-Union party and are picking up pro Union votes. Labour has moved from its pro-Union position at the last election to one which has flirted with backing a second independence referendum and this risks a serious squeeze.

Those colleagues representing English Remain seats, more urban seats or more affluent towns are far more confident of victory than those from Labour’s heartlands.

In short, I’m picking up a lot of chatter that Labour is on course to lose seats but very little chatter that Labour is on course to gain seats. I met with YouGov’s head of polling yesterday who says at best Labour will pick up two or three seats, which won’t be anywhere near enough to compensate for the predicted losses.

There will be a renewed focus on the NHS in the final week. It’s always been Labour’s trump card but it doesn’t feel like it will be enough.

This has been Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s campaign. They have controlled everything; no one has been able to announce anything without Jeremy’s say so, or to spend anything without John’s. Every press release from a shadow cabinet member has had to include a quote from Jeremy.

If the party wins, Jeremy can take credit for it. If, as the polls predict, he loses there will be those who are quick to point out that he was front-and-centre of the campaign and crossed every t and dotted every i. They will argue it is his failure, and the failure of his brand of Labour politics, that caused the defeat. But there will be a battle over the post-Election narrative. If Labour loses, those close to Jeremy Corbyn will blame those who vocally pushed the party to a pro-Remain stance like Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer. The battle for control of the blame narrative will be a bloody one.

Will Jeremy go immediately? Most colleagues want him to stay for a brief period so they can analyse what went wrong. They argue that any future leadership contest needs to know what the question is, so that they can find an answer in order to restore Labour’s fortunes. Colleagues are rightly nervous that going into an immediate leadership election as we did after the defeats of 2010 and 2015 leads to a beauty contest, which plays to the emotions of Labour members rather than a sober analysis of how Labour can end its years in the wilderness.

Who are the candidates to look out for? There will be a big push for Labour to elect its first woman leader. There will be calls for no man to even enter the race. The jury’s out on whether this will work. If it doesn’t, expect Sir Keir Starmer to enter the race. There are a number of prominent women candidates – some of which haven’t decided whether or not to stand for Leader or Deputy. All eyes are on Emily Thornberry, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Laura Pidcock, Lisa Nandy and Angela Rayner.

What is certain, however, is that the battle for Labour’s soul will continue.

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