Corbyn or ABC: Now’s the time to focus on country

By Emma Burnell / @EmmaBurnell_

Theresa May is effective in a way other politicians can only dream about. To have dropped us into a General Election, just as the polls are at the very lowest the Labour Party have seen for a generation, and to do so without a hint of a leak is extraordinary.

If the polls are right – and Labour has to hope they aren’t, while planning their strategy as if they are – the Tories will increase their majority handsomely. That will mean a lot more backbenchers loyal to the leader who got them there – vastly outnumbering the anti-May faction that hold a certain amount of sway at the moment.

May can go to the electorate telling the country that she has triggered Article 50, and before any of the real damage of Brexit is done. An election now puts off the next election until some way after we leave the EU giving her much more time to try to mitigate the worst of the damage. If it had been held in 2020, Brexit would have been just over a year in and a lot more uncertain.

This is going to be an incredibly tough election for Labour. It is not disloyal or discreditable to say so. Labour members will need every ounce of their strength to come through and keep fighting. Labour’s focus, which has been on internal crisis and strife for some time now will have to be redirected to where is should belong – on the electorate.

No one can be happy with the state Labour is in going into this election. But Labour members have to do what they have always done. They must push aside the doubts and fears and carry on. For all the reasons people desperately want to see a Labour Government elected. This isn’t about individuals as members. It isn’t about factional advantage or personality clashes. It’s about getting as many Labour members on the Green benches as possible. Once that is achieved other questions may come into focus.

Labour must all work together to first elect council candidates and metro mayors around the country, and then to elect MPs to represent the people and our shared values in the Commons. Of course, it will be hard, and the conditions and press will be against us every step of the way. But this has always been the case. It never stops Labour fighting for what we believe.

The reason Labour has been so divided up to now is not because we stopped being passionate about social, economic and environmental justice. We have differed frequently over how to deliver these.

Labour members have every right to question their leaders, their strategy and their direction between elections. But whether you’ve been a Corbynite or ABC (Anyone But Corbyn), it must be put aside for now. Calls for party unity between elections are often misplaced ways of shutting down uncomfortable debate. But now is not the same. The party is on an election footing and it behoves everyone to act like it.

Clause One of the Labour Party Constitution says that our aim is “maintain in Parliament and the country a political Labour party”. That is our job now – all of us.

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