By now, Labour should be rather good at post-defeat inquests. Plenty have been conducted over the years and the drill has become familiar. The party goes into an election promising a certain vision of the future only to find out that it leaves the voters cold. A senior figure is then commissioned to state the obvious, and the report is sent back to the leader’s office, where it is filed and ignored. Then the party embarks upon a fresh misadventure — and the cycle of defeat begins again.
This week Labour is digesting its worst result in Scotland since 1918, having lost not only to the nationalists but to the Tories. In England’s council elections, Labour lost 18 more seats than it gained, which sounds like fairly decent damage limitation — until you remember that no opposition has lost seats mid-term since the 1980s. In Wales, Labour saw Ukip hoover up the working-class protest vote. Only Sadiq Khan’s election as London mayor made last week’s election day less than calamitous. And even this drove several Labour MPs to despair, because it meant the overall results were not quite bad enough to prompt Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation.
To his credit, Corbyn did admit to a meeting of Labour MPs on Monday that the party needed to do better. But he still seemed keen to lay at least some of the blame on those who have had the temerity to mention the electoral iceberg that he is steering them towards. A number of moderate Labour MPs are sharing their own analysis, pointing out that the party has increased support in areas it already holds, with only one in seven gains in seats it needs to win for the general elections. By contrast, nearly half of the losses were in the key areas where Labour needs to make gains (Great Yarmouth, Thurrock, Plymouth and Southampton).
Labour also lost three council seats to the Tories in Nuneaton — which has, since election night, been seen as the party’s bellwether seat.