Here ends the cult of Corbyn

By Anna Cooban
November 9 2019, 12.25

First came the exit poll, then came Blyth Valley. When the former mining town turned blue for the first time in its history, Labour knew all was lost.

Tory candidate Ian Levy won 17,440 votes to Labour candidate Susan Dungworth’s 16,728, a 10% swing in a constituency that has remained staunchly red since its creation in 1950.

Moments after his victory, Mr Levy said: “I will be going to London on the train on Monday. We’re going to get Brexit done.”

After Blythe Valley, came Workington. The Cumbrian town swung 9.73% from Labour to Tory, ousting the incumbent Sue Hayman, turning blue after 40 years of red loyalty.

As the counts rolled in, Labour lost ground in many of their historic safe seats. Redcar, a north east coastal town, shunned Labour, handing the Tories a 3,527-vote majority. In Sedgefield – former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s seat – voters ushered in a Tory MP for the first time since 1931 with a comfortable majority of 4,513.

The Tory party took working class areas in key north east and Midlands battlegrounds, upending decades of Labour support and throwing the party into turmoil.

Candidates and pundits piled in to give their verdict on the cause of the party’s biggest defeat since 1935.

The diagnosis? It’s complicated.

Was it Corbyn’s leadership style? His indecision on Brexit? The promise of a second referendum? Anti-Semitism in the party?

Each voice shared their post-mortem, but nearly all agreed that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was dead. And, at 3.26am, the Labour leader agreed too.

“I will not lead the party in any future General Election campaign,” he announced as he held onto his Islington North constituency.

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Gareth Snell had predicted his own defeat before the votes were tallied.

He said: “Obviously, I suspect my seat will be part of the list of seats that fall to the Conservatives.”

At 4.25am, Mr Snell lost by 670 votes to his Tory rival Jo Gideon.

Mr Snell blamed Labour’s confused Brexit position and argued the party was too swayed by pro-Remain MPs sitting in Leave-voting areas.

“This is one of the worst results the Labour party could ever have imagined,” he added.

Former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson gave one of the most stinging indictments of the party’s leadership.

He said: “Corbyn was a disaster on the doorstep. Everyone knew he couldn’t lead the working class out of a paper bag.”

Sitting next to the chair of Momentum Jon Lansman in the ITV news studio, he tore into the far-left activist group for their influence on Labour’s direction.

He said: “Jon’s developed this Momentum group, this party within a party, aiming to keep the purity. I want them out of the party. I want Momentum gone. Go back to your student politics.”

Other Blair-era Labour figures came out to offer their assessment of their party’s failure.

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell said: “This is not just a defeat for Jeremy Corbyn, this is a defeat for the politics he represents.

“This delusion that they just have to keep on with is Corbynism and eventually the British public will see it for what it is and will flock to support it, is never going to happen.”

While the causes of Labour’s seismic defeat are still debated, it is clear the party can no longer rely on historically red areas for their support.

Voters in Labour strongholds have moved resoundingly away from their socialist roots in a national context monopolised by Brexit.

As the country moves into a new decade, Britain’s most prominent left-wing party will certainly undergo further transformation.

The old guard may fight to re-introduce a newer New Labour.

Momentum will likely continue to press their far-left agenda, convinced it is the messaging and not the policies that failed to persuade voters this time.

New faces and ideas will begin to fill Labour’s void, hoping to represent a country now changed beyond recognition.

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