The local election results are coming in, and the pundits are predicting doom for Labour in next month’s general election. I could have written that line before we even knew the results – in fact I did – because it relies on two hard facts that were never going to change. Firstly, that these local elections are not nationwide and exclude pretty much everywhere that Labour’s vote share has been improving (for instance, there were no elections in London). Secondly, that large sections of the media are committed to building a narrative against Jeremy Corbyn.
But the pundits should be careful because the ground is shifting from under that narrative. Labour, which under Corbyn’s leadership has grown to be the biggest left of centre party in Europe, has woken up. Unprecedented numbers are heading to the doorstep all over the country. Most of the recent polls have the Tories’ lead cut in half from where it was a few weeks ago.
Labour’s army of campaigners were never drawn to the idea of giving up their evenings and weekends by good polling numbers, and they won’t be put off by the odd setback in county council elections. They have been inspired by a vision for a radically different kind of society – an alternative to the rigged political and economic system in which nurses are using foodbanks and four million children are living in poverty.
It’s the people versus the establishment, and for the first time in my lifetime we have, in Jeremy Corbyn, a potential prime minister who is really on our side.
The general election campaign has forced two sharply contrasting visions for Britain’s future into the open. The Tories are focusing on a narrow and bizarrely aggressive agenda which offers little to inspire – whether it’s their 20-year-old self-plagiarised soundbites (and posters) about Labour’s tax bombshell, or Theresa May’s ludicrous assertion that Jean Claude Junker really wants a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government and is “interfering” in the election to get one, almost every move they make is mired in negativity.
Meanwhile, Labour is talking about people’s lives and proposing real solutions to the problems in our society, such as introducing £10 an hour minimum wage and banning zero hour contracts, reversing the Tories’ £70bn tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and using this to fund the reversal of cuts to the police, the armed forces and the NHS. These are the so-called “radical”, “damaging” policies that a Labour government would stand for.
For commentators and machine politicians who thrive on the tittle tattle of the Westminster bubble, election campaigns are tiring and disorientating. If, like Jeremy Corbyn and the fresh army of Labour activists, you hate establishment politics and want to kick the doors down from the outside, it comes as second nature.
Maybe that’s why Theresa May is hiding. Not only is she running scared from TV debates with Jeremy Corbyn, but her road shows are shrouded in secrecy. Reportedly village halls have been booked for children’s parties then, knock me down with a soundbite, Theresa May turns up with her handpicked entourage. Local journalists in Cornwall are locked out while she visits a factory, lest they ask any challenging questions. After a while one place seems much like another, which would explain how May forgot which town she was in last week.
We know what the headlines look like today. But make no mistake – this election is narrowing, and its outcome is in the balance. If you’ve had enough of the Tories rigging the system in favour of the elite few at the expense of the many, vote Labour on 8 June.
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