EDITOR’S NOTE: Sean Woodcock was Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Banbury in 2015 and 2017. In 2017, he saw his vote rise by 8,635, an increase of 12.8%.
There are already plenty of pieces of analysis and reflection on the result of the 2017 General Election – what does one more have to offer?
Well, as a self-declared Corbyn-sceptic who found myself in the position of standing in this recent election, I suppose I felt that one more couldn’t hurt.
Yes, I am someone who did not support Jeremy Corbyn in either leadership election. I have been critical, sometimes fairly but also unfairly, of his leadership since he came to office. And I didn’t, and still don’t, agree with many of his stated positions (particularly on foreign policy and Trident).
Yet now, with an election out of the way, and the blisters from polling day slowing starting to heal I can conclude the following:-
1) Jeremy Corbyn has tapped into something that none of the other candidates in 2015, and certainly Owen Smith, could. The massive increase in the turnout among young people, which I did not believe could happen, did; and that is down to Jeremy Corbyn. Working-class people in Leave areas coming back out to vote for Labour, as happened in my council ward, having been placated by the party accepting the result of the EU referendum; that is down to Jeremy Corbyn.
Just as it is right that some of the responsibility for the poor results we have seen, in local elections and Westminster by-elections, during his tenure is down to him; so it is that right that he gets recognition for an election which saw Labour gather an unprecedented 40% share of the vote. Those who backed their man through all the difficulties that he has had have been utterly vindicated, and me proven wrong.
2) The nature of this snap election saw our party at its best. My agent, Chris, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter worked tirelessly to get me elected, as did many more supporters of a leader that I, wrongly, believed was leading us to ruin.
This unity and coming together must not be allowed to evaporate. There will be challenges going forward.
We did not win the election and a Tory, however weakened, still occupies Downing Street.
There will be disagreements about how we go forward to try and change that. But these disagreements must not revert to the open warfare, bitterness and hostility that there has been in the last two years.
The PLP must lead by example here. Jeremy Corbyn has earned the right to remain in post as leader. Equally, he should be prepared to draw a line in the sand on what has gone on before so that colleagues who have not always backed him, can strengthen his shadow cabinet. I would urge him to do so, and them to heed the call.
3) The power of the mainstream media has never been weaker; as the limited impact of their incessant reporting of the more controversial aspects of Corbyn’s career shows. It seems to have had no impact on the Labour vote, though of course there is a question over how its impact on the Conservatives vote share.
Instead the emergence of social media, often regarded as an echo chamber, as the dominant power in British politics may be upon us. Momentum, in particular, have led the way here. In Banbury and Bicester where I stood, our exploits on Twitter and Facebook attracted interest from thousands at a time while the Tories largely stayed silent. Labour, while continuing with time honoured traditions of pounding the streets, delivering leaflets and knocking on doors; must seize the advantage it seems to have online.
This election showed that far from being a spent force; Labour can be the electoral force of the future. And it may happen sooner than we think. In that, Jeremy Corbyn will have my support and backing. JezWeCan? I hope so.