The next few days will see us saturated in ‘spin’, but we have to focus on what really happened. What is patently clear from the European election results is that the country is hopelessly divided. This result was a cry of frustration at a political class that seems to lack the answers to the biggest issue facing the UK.
Millions of people have turned to the easy falsehoods of the far right populists. Nigel Farage – a wealthy, privately educated former trader – has convinced many people he’s on their side, when the reality is he peddles the same old snake oil. The failure of Tommy Robinson to get elected in the North West was good news, but it shouldn’t blind us to the fact that Farage’s shallow nationalism is picking up votes everywhere.
It’s clear that however people voted in 2016, the majority are deeply frustrated with the two main parties, and understandably so. Whether we like it or not, Brexit is what the majority were voting on this week – yet both Labour and the Tories campaigned as if the UK’s relationship with the EU wasn’t on the ballot paper.
This was a disastrous night for the Tories. Achieving their worst ever result in a national poll shows they’ve lost what little mandate they have to govern. This result is a reflection not just of their catastrophic handling of Brexit, but of the callous and unfeeling decade of austerity they have inflicted upon our country. Whoever replaces Theresa May has no legitimacy as Prime Minister – and we need a general election to clear the deadlock.
However, it’s also clear this was a disastrous night for Labour. If Labour is going to win the next election, which may be only a few months away, we need to engage in the serious listening and reflection that Jeremy Corbyn has talked about this morning. Ambiguity and division aren’t appealing – but that’s what the public have got from Labour over Brexit. That needs to stop today. All of us in the party owe it to those who need a radical Labour government, with properly funded public services at its heart.