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Labour blames "Brexit" for defeat

Bryan Edwards

Just as every day leading up to an election, there are talking points and slogans this morning as the scale of the Conservatives' win in the UK General Election sinks in. The standard response from Labour is that they lost the election because of "Brexit." But did they?

Quoted by the BBC website, a voter who wanted to be known only as "Abi" said "For me Labour needs to move to be more moderate – someone like Kier Starmer who can bring together the different sides of people who typically would be voting on the centre-left." She's far from the only one who made the point that Corbyn's ultra-hard left history made a party led by him very unattractive. On Twitter, several people blamed the anti-semitism row (all of them failing to recognise that not all Jews are Semites and not all Semites are Jews) and also failing to recognise that it was Jewish attitudes in North London that began the anti-Corbyn moves immediately he took office with one woman telling the BBC "we are afraid we will lose our influence in the Labour Party."

But in truth, it was a lack of leadership on "Brexit" rather than "Brexit" itself that did for Labour. Some of the party started a call for "a People's vote." That was clearly a call to undermine democracy and many people didn't like that. What's even more surprising is that the election showed that one of the planks that the "People's Vote" stood on didn't hold up. When the Referendum result was known there was much hullabaloo that it had been lost because the young didn't want to leave the EU but that, because the voting age is 18, those of 16 and 17 were disenfranchised. Well, in this election they voted - and it didn't go as expected. Corbyn's failure to lead over the People's Vote did him no favours and his continued dithering over what Labour's policy would be made it clear: he is not strong enough to lead a disparate party. When he did finally make a decision, just a few days before the election, it was to say what he had always said he would not say: he would, as he had long said, do a new deal with the EU and that deal would be put to the Country: but what he then said was an about turn - he said that the ballot would include a "Remain" option. That sent out shockwaves - first, this usually honourable man was not doing as he said he would do and, worse, he proposed another period of total uncertainty. And if his party didn't get an absolute majority, things would be no better than they had been for the past two years.

The fact that Momentum was still fiddling around in the background worried centre-left voters who did not want a hard-left turn.

So, while the question of the EU was important, there were far bigger issues at play, as demonstrated by the unceremonious dumping of the LibDem's leader Jo Swinson: her campaign was run, to all intents and purposes, on one line: she would cancel "Brexit." That single point said "we will over-ride the will of the people." She and her party stood little to no chance after that.

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