Our Women's Officer gives her view on what should happen now the general election is over...
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they are going through…
- David Bowie, 'Changes'
What have the last few days told us? Last year, during the second Labour leadership contest, I argued that we needed to give Jeremy Corbyn the chance to put his agenda and policies before the electorate. As a steadfast Corbyn supporter, this election night had even more at stake for me, if possible, than usual. I had heard people telling me Corbyn’s message did not connect, that this would be the end, the destruction of the Labour Party - a party I have campaigned for since I was a child.
But I had felt the hope in the air, and I identified with it, and felt more represented by this Labour party than I had ever been before. I believed that there was an appetite for the direction that Corbyn was taking the party in. For a party that employed process, rather than be blocked and hindered by it. A party that utilised enthusiasm and initiative, rather than squashing it. A party that had the courage to look at pockets of pessimism that had taken root in some quarters and challenge them. And declare that we can, and will, do things differently.
I live in London, but I come from Oldham, a town that now bears the dubious title of the most deprived town in England. This was my weathervane. When I spoke to my 85 year-old father about his vote, he told me he had been freshly inspired to vote for Labour (and Corbyn) by my son, who had stayed with him recently, campaigning for Labour. When I spoke to my brother, he told me that actually having seen Corbyn speak over the short campaign, he had changed his mind about him - and about the manifesto. “What a knockout,” he said - he did used to be a boxer, after all. “Who could argue with that?”
For the last few months, I have been working with young people in the Worlds End area of Chelsea, on a theatre project that allowed young people to speak of their experiences. I have been inspired by their intelligence, their talent, their political awareness and conviction, and above all, their courage. At the other end of the scale, you hear that Rachel Johnson’s daughter declared to her mother that it should be blindingly obvious why she and her friends voted for Jeremy Corbyn - because they believe in, and wish for, a more equal society. We can see how Jeremy Corbyn’s message resonated across the board with young people, and no one can doubt how crucial the vote of the young has been to this campaign.
Many people woke on Friday morning, acknowledging the result, and questioning their previous pessimism about Corbyn’s direction of travel. This is welcome. But I would respectfully suggest that they really examine and seek to understand where they went wrong. This change has to be about conviction, not popularity. Corbyn did not U-turn in all the months he was being undermined and ridiculed. He refused the popularity contest, and it was arguably the sincerity and courage of his campaign that resonated so powerfully with the public.
And now for the future. This is an amazing turnaround that has been achieved by the Labour Party in such a short time. We did not win outright, but we proved that we can. Even George Osborne said on the Andrew Marr Show today: “Make no bones about it - this weekend we have the Leader of the Opposition as victor, and the PM in hiding.”
The tide really is turning. Labour activists, as ever, worked tirelessly for this result, aided enormously by new young activists, and if recent polling is accurate, the votes of women. These huge increased majorities, and big swings in once-safe Tory seats like Cities of London and Westminster, are a clear verdict from the electorate for the direction that Jeremy Corbyn has taken this party in.
This party has been vindicated for its sincerity, commitment and courage. We can and will take that forward. We can do that by respecting and valuing the fresh ideas that are brought by the young into our party. By refusing to make our policies in accordance with the straw polls and prejudices of the Daily Mail, the Telegraph et al. And by building on the success of this incredible campaign. This is indeed a time for celebration - and continued hard work!
Kate Landin - Women’s Officer, Cities of London and Westminster CLP