LONDON—Jeremy Corbyn’s radical left-wing experiment has been obliterated by the British public.
The Labour leader limped to the party’s most pathetic defeat since 1935 after publishing arguably the most socialist party platform in British history.
Boris Johnson—a party leader widely viewed as elitist, dishonest, and out-of-touch—was swept to power by the very working-class communities that have cherished and sustained the Labour party since its foundation in 1900.
Former Labour leader Michael Foot’s radical manifesto of 1983 was once labeled “the longest suicide note in history,” but his Labour party secured more parliamentary seats against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party than Corbyn managed this week.
Foot’s defeat lead to a brutal battle for the soul of Labour that was eventually won by the moderate wing of the party, who chased out the most hardened left-wing members in a decade-long dispute that culminated in the election of Tony Blair as leader in 1994.
Speaking just after 3 a.m. Friday in a North London sports center, Corbyn made the case that his radical proposals were widely popular and his project had been derailed by the animosity and split loyalties riled up by Brexit, not because the party must move back towards the mainstream.
He hopes to stay on as party leader long enough to oversee the election of one of his Corbynista protégés. If he truly wanted to advance the cause of Labour’s left-wing tradition, he would stand down immediately. The last thing any new Labour leader needs is the endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn.
The outgoing Labour leader is the most unpopular British party leader since polling began.
One only needed to spend a few hours in Labour’s heartlands in North Wales, the Midlands, and the North-East to experience the stunning level of distrust—and even disgust—for the Londoner.
Life-long Labour voters opened their doors to The Daily Beast this week and poured scorn on a man they described as “weak,” “a Marxist,” “a joke,” and “a disgrace.”
It is true that some of this disdain in ‘Leave’ voting areas flowed from Corbyn’s tortuous progress towards making Labour an anti-Brexit party. But that was only one factor cited in a torrent of abuse directed at the hapless leader.
Even in Labour target seats in the anti-Brexit London suburbs, former Labour loyalists said they could not bring themselves to vote for a man who has spent his entire adult life campaigning alongside anti-Western activists associated with Hamas, Hezbollah, and opponents of Israel, some of whom have been accused of anti-Semitism.
Of the 2017 Labour voters who abandoned the party at this election by far the largest group (46 percent) said it was because they “don’t like Jeremy Corbyn,” according to a Deltapoll of 12,000 members. Next up was: “Don’t believe manifesto promises.”
Voters in Labour seats like Leigh in the suburbs of Manchester, where the Conservatives were elected for the first time since the district was created in 1885, were simply not willing to allow Corbynism into No. 10.
Corbyn says the process to replace him will begin in the new year. If his successor is to achieve power, they must be able to unite the party membership—many of whom joined the party to support Corbyn—while not alienating the rest of the country.
That will be incredibly difficult. Corbyn’s supporters in the Parliamentary Labour Party and outside sought to defend the left from the election fallout as soon as the devastating exit poll dropped on Thursday night. Hundreds of thousands of party members have bought into the Corbyn narrative and moderate candidates will have to convince them to change direction in order to secure nationwide support if they are to have a chance of preventing a Corbynista from taking up the role.
Corbyn’s right-hand man John McDonnell—who often refers to himself as a Marxist—has ruled himself out of the running, saying that the party needs to look to a younger generation.
One of the Corbynistas’ most loyal followers and brightest hopes was Laura Pidcock, but she lost a seat that had been held by Labour since 1950 in Thursday’s election.
That leaves Corbyn acolytes and avowed left-wingers such as Rebecca Long-Bailey and Richard Burgon to try and fight off the inevitable challenges from more moderate rivals like Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer or, even further towards the right of the party, Jess Philips.
The internal spin battle to explain Labour’s crushing defeat will only intensify in the coming weeks, but whoever emerges must be able to present a clear break from Corbynism if they are to re-engage with a country that has turned its back.