Labour had seen the election as a huge opportunity to take advantage of a Conservative Government in crisis, during a six month period that saw Theresa May resign and replaced as Prime Minister by Mr Johnson, as well as continued struggles to get Brexit over the line. But Mr Corbyn led Labour to a huge general election defeat, handing the Tories a massive 80-seat majority in the House of Commons. Labour also lost significant heartlands and in the north of England that it had held for several decades, which contributed largely to the party’s humiliating defeat.
The crushing defeat led to the departure of Mr Corbyn, with Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer elected as new leader.
Now a major report looking at the 2019 general election defeat has laid bare the “toxic culture” and “operational dysfunction” that dominated the party over several years and led to its national humiliation.
The report has been put together by Labour Together, which was set up to unite MPs and activists from different traditions, and was prepared by a a 15-strong panel of commissioners, including former leader Ed Miliband and James Meadway, who advised the former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
This uses interviews with senior party figures, as well as previously unseen polling and analysis, and outlines huge faults in Labour and in particular its election campaign.
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Our Party has spent substantial periods of the last five years in conflict with itself resulting in significant strategic and operational dysfunction, resulting in a toxic culture and limiting our ability to work effectively
But the report paints a damning picture of Labour, and says: “Our Party has spent substantial periods of the last five years in conflict with itself resulting in significant strategic and operational dysfunction, resulting in a toxic culture and limiting our ability to work effectively.
“Responsibility for this rests not wholly with one side or part of our movement.
“Across our movement we should accept our part in these divisions and the impact this had on our ability to work together and present a united front to the public.”
The Labour Together review also launches a scathing attack on the leadership under Mr Corbyn, who not only left the top seat in humiliation but also led the party to two successive general election defeats in 2017 and 2019.
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The report states “concerns about Labour’s leadership were a significant factor in our election loss in 2019” and that a ‘Stop Jeremy Corbyn’ campaign was a major reason for the party’s crushing election loss.
Labour Together admits Mr Corbyn’s personal poll ratings had been a sign of encouragement over the 2017 election campaign, but they plummeted heading into December’s election, laying the blame at issues such as Brexit, and the anti-Semitism allegations that had swept through the party.
The report says: “Concerns about Labour’s leadership were a significant factor in our election loss in 2019.
“‘Stop Jeremy Corbyn’ was a major driver of the Conservatives’ success across all their key groups including previous non-voters, and among all the swing voters Labour lost to the Tories.
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“In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal poll ratings dramatically improved over the campaign. Had these levels been maintained, Labour’s vote share in 2019 would have been 6 points higher.
“The very low poll ratings on leadership going into the 2019 election cannot easily be disentangled from the handling of issues like Brexit, party disunity and anti-Semitism.
“In the words of our candidates and activists, the strategy was inadequate, the organisation was muddled and the execution was poor.”
The report also warns the crisis engulfing Labour stretches back 20 years, making clear the election defeat had “deep roots” and the loss is “the story of more than one election”.
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Labour is accused with “disconnecting” with voters throughout the country through the loss of “institutional roots”.
The review says “we will not win or deserve to win” the next general election in 2024 unless all of the fundamental flaws dominating the party are quickly addressed.
Labour Together says: “Unless we recognise and accept this triple challenge of the scale of our task, the failures of 2019 and the deep roots of how we got here, we will not win or deserve to win. None can be ignored.”
“Our report lays bare that our defeat had deep roots. This loss is the story of more than one election—indeed it is a story that stretches back two decades.
“The institutional and cultural bonds that linked many voters to Labour have become weaker and weaker over time. From the loss of local Labour clubs to declining Trade Union membership, Labour has lost many of the institutional roots it had within communities, resulting in disconnection.
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“Labour lost millions of voters before it lost office in 2010 partly as a result of political alienation from politics more generally, and from the Labour Party particularly, including perceptions that there was little difference between the parties and the prominence of new cultural divides.
“Over many years previous Labour voters and traditionally Labour communities have moved away, either to abstention or to smaller parties such as UKIP.
“Some of those voters also chose the Conservatives for the first time in 2019, enough to help tip a number of seats over the edge where the long-term decline in Labour’s vote share had been evident for years.
“Unless we recognise and accept this triple challenge of the scale of our task, the failures of 2019 and the deep roots of how we got here, we will not win or deserve to win. None can be ignored.”