Ian Murray MP was correct when he said in his acceptance speech that Labour had let down the country. The Tories had their best result since the 80’s and Labour had its worst result since the 30’s. People across the UK from Peterhead to Plymouth have been slipping into poverty under the Tories since 2010, and that may accelerate if Brexit is now implemented by Boris Johnson and his Eton chum Jacob Rees-Mogg.
As an MP Ian Murray lost friends last night (and their staff lost their jobs), and many voters right across the UK lost hope. I knocked on hundreds of doors for Labour in Edinburgh South and found that Jeremy Corbyn was a bigger issue for voters than Indyref & Brexit combined. Yes, some voters were supportive of Jeremy Corbyn but the vast majority simply did not trust him. It is now clear from media reports that this was not an uncommon experience.
Yes, voters don’t trust Boris either, but it is clear they put a Tory Brexit before a radical Labour Manifesto. With just one result to be called, Labour is on 32.2% nationally and the Tories won 43.6% on a nationalist ticket.
In Scotland the situation is more complex. Tactical voting for the SNP took the nationalist vote here to 45% of the vote, with Labour on 18.6% (an 8.5% drop on what Kezia Dugdale achieved in 2017) and the Tories on 25.1%. Whilst much of the local SNP campaigns avoided talking about independence, Nicola Sturgeon is claiming that pro-UK parties only winning 54% of Scottish votes is a mandate for a further referendum. She has said that next week her Nationalist Government will publish a “detailed democratic case” for letting her decide on whether there should be a second independence referendum.
Don’t expect that “detailed” case from Nicola Sturgeon to answer fundamental questions on the deficit, currency or even EU membership. Instead she’ll argue that Scotland should walk away from those slipping in to poverty south of the border, without really providing answers on what Scotland’s financial position would be.
So people north and south of the border face a bleak future one way or another despite Labour offering some fantastic policies in our manifesto. The problem is that the lack of trust in Jeremy Corbyn meant our manifesto did not connect with voters. This loss of trust, of course, started with how the party dealt with the Brexit result – the party equivocated when leadership was required. A different leader may well have been able to bridge the remain and leave positions, but neither camp were willing to trust Jeremy Corbyn due to his record on the EU. The EU election was possibly our last chance to regain trust, but we wasted that opportunity.
A second issue which undermined trust in Jeremy Corbyn is the issue of anti-Jewish racism. Although seldom raised on the doorstep, those that brought it up always had heartfelt concerns.
Soon Labour will face the challenge of fighting the 2021 Holyrood elections. These elections approach us at a time when the public in Scotland is openly questioning the state of key public services like education and health. Before we can respond to that challenge, however, we need to rebuild trust in our party, and its leadership.
Despite the best efforts of the SNP, Brexit will continue to dominate UK politics in the coming weeks. That’s why I welcome the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has said he will soon stand down and I hope we can enter the next sitting of parliament with an acting leader that has been clear and unequivocal on the issue.