I boiled my head in social media for two days until it was a sweet, sticky mess. Then I shook off the hateful detritus and wondered what to think.
Boris Johnson won an unexpectedly large majority because he had a simple message: Get Brexit Done. Never mind it was a lie (we all know it won’t be done for years). Never mind that he did as much as anyone to stop Brexit getting done under Theresa May.
Johnson persuaded traditional northern Labour areas that he offered bright new hope. They looked at him and said, “Life is shit, we’ll give you our vote” – even though life was shit because of his party.
He persuaded Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson to go for an election date of his choosing, when they should have strung him along.
Tony Blair warned Corbyn that agreeing to an election before Brexit was sorted was an elephant trap. But Blair is the devil incarnate in Corbyn circles, even when he’s right.
Johnson gamed the election with cynical brilliance, using fake social media posts, lies and deceptions, bluster and bullshit. He gamed it by refusing to do interviews. He gamed it by doing what his handlers told him to do.
Oh, I don’t know how he did it. Sometimes there is something in the air. Or the political molecules have a new charge. Sometimes people want a change, even if it’s more of the same but with a different clown at the wheel.
I boiled my head in social media for two days until it was a sweet, sticky mess. Endless comments from disenchanted Labour voters like me; endless self-serving comments from Corbyn supporters who still don’t get it.
Elections are won and lost for many reasons, but the shorthand here is simple: Labour lost because of Jeremy Corbyn. I know that’s hard for his most ardent followers to accept. But it’s true.
You can blame Brexit. You can blame the crooked establishment media. You can say as Corbyn’s sons did in a touching letter to their father that they’d “never known a politician to be smeared and vilified so much”. Oh, I don’t know – you could always check in with your dad’s friend Diane Abbott, more vilified than just about anyone.
You can say that your manifesto trended well. You can scrabble statistics and say Labour did better than it seems. Or you can just accept you lost. That you lost disastrously. And that you lost because of Jeremy Corbyn’s weakness as a leader.
Corbyn’s ridiculous Brexit fudge was impossible to swallow. Johnson’s liar’s toffee was as sweet as a new-born lie.
As for the charges of antisemitism, they may have been designed to harm him. But Corbyn’s lack of action failed to remove that stain.
Even in retreat, Corbyn can’t just say, yes, it was down to me. Even as he apologises today for Labour’s heavy defeat, he says he remains proud of his party’s campaign (you know, the one that was such a disaster). More denial, more dithered exclamations of, “Yeah, but…”
It is true that many sections of the media behaved appallingly towards Labour. But they always have and always will. A Labour leader needs to know how to play them at their own game. Not sigh and look exasperated.
Politicians can be lucky in their opponents and Johnson was lucky in his. Corbyn was lucky in Theresa May last time around. But he didn’t win then; and he didn’t win this time either. Everything is meaningless unless you win elections.
I boiled my head in social media for two days until it was a sweet, sticky mess. And here is something. After his 1992 loss, Neil Kinnock said: “I accepted blame because I was to blame. I don’t think you can lead a party to two successive electoral defeats and consider yourself to be free of blame.”
There’s a lesson for Jeremy Corbyn in there.
As for his party, they should elect a woman next time, but not Jess Phillips (as much of an egotist as Johnson). And probably not Rebecca Long-Bailey (too much of a female Corbyn). Angela Rayner would get my vote if I had one: not too extreme, a good life story to tell, an opposing pole to Johnsonian privilege.
One final piece of advice to Labour fanatics (as opposed to humdrum Labour voters such as myself): don’t expend so much energy on hating factions on your own side – it’s the other lot you need to worry about.