Facing reality and fighting backMay 11th, 2015
It was wonderful to watch every Southwark Labour candidate win their seat on May 8. As the dawn broke over the town hall, Neil Coyle made history by winning Bermondsey and Old Southwark back for Labour.
This made it even more infuriating to see the Tories returned with an absolute majority after everything they’ve inflicted on working people and our families over the last five years.
Yes we need to look reality in the face, however bitter it may be. But at the same time it’s crucial not to exaggerate what has happened, to be clear on the facts, to react calmly and effectively to the new situation.
Yes, the Tories have upwards of 100 seats more than we do. But this was no Tory landslide. The Tories increased their share of the vote by just 0.8%, and gained 400,000 votes since 2010.
Too much, clearly. But look: in terms of votes, we gained twice as much as the Tories. Labour increased our share of the vote by 1.5% and gained 800,000 votes since 2010.
Yes, we were smashed in Scotland, and need to reflect on why that was. Not because we were too radical, I’ll hazard.But look: we grew in London, increased our vote, caught the mood, like in Bermondsey where I’m so proud of Neil Coyle’s tremendous win.
The Tories have a small majority, much like the Wilson/Callaghan government did in the 1970s. After a couple of years, beset by the mid-term blues, these small leads erode. With just eight LibDems, one UKIP and few Ulster Unionists to rely on, Cameron is not guaranteed to make it all the way to 2020.
So the Tories will use the first year or so to push through the most unpopular and socially regressive parts of their programme. Housing association homes will be sold off. Benefits will be cut. The NHS will continue to be sold off piecemeal. Zero-hours contracts will be known by another name, but will still spread like a rash.
The Tories are in a hurry, because they want to do this while the population is stunned by the unexpected result, and – they calculate – while we descend into a destructive post-mortem.
Yes, we need to analyse and regroup. But we should do so on the basis of facts, not myths. In England and Wales we are intact, with millions of people supporting us, with a hated government that has a very small majority. We have good prospects for recovery.
I will carry on working with my local community, my fellow Lane ward and Southwark councillors to campaign hard, against the Tories. We must make sure our most vulnerable constituents don’t bear the brunt of Tory policy and make sure our children grow up in a more equal society