The Election and the Left, hosted by the Ralph Miliband Programme, attracted huge crowds that saw the Old Theatre completely packed on Tuesday, 28 January. The event, part of the Politics in Crisis series, explored the meaning of the Labour party’s defeat in the 2019 General Election for the political left in Britain.
The speakers discussed issues such as voter dynamics, culture war, the cosmopolitan-rural split and the fall of Labour’s red wall. The speakers included Professor Jane Green (Director of the Gwilym Gibbon Centre for Public Policy, Oxford, and election analyst for ITV News), Ane Oppenheim (Co-founder of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement) and Polly Toynbee (Guardian columnist).
Professor Jane Green discussed the Labour-Lib Dem dynamics and how given the UK’s First Past the Post electoral system, parties on the left must cooperate if they want to reclaim Westminster. Ane Oppenheim discussed how lack of party discipline and an unpatriotic culture in Labour leadership negatively affected the party’s performance in the election. Polly Tonybee spoke about the divided nature of the Labour party. “We are a very divided party, with criticism not only from the moderate wing but also the left,” she said.
This was followed by a debate on the future of the Labour party and how it can reclaim the rural and working class votes that it lost in this past election. Ane Oppenheim argued that the party’s split and uncertainty caused concerns for workers. Citing Professor Green’s data, she stated that the least healthy population and the less educated population, Labour’s traditional voter bases, represented Labour’s most significant losses in the 2019 election. Finally, the debate moved to the future of the party and the left. All three agreed that the next Labour leader must produce a new manifesto that is more focused on critical concerns. Remarking on the next leader and future policy, Ane Oppenheim, said “It’s about discipline, it’s about reflection, I hope the new leader will take some time and set policy, to set into cement the new policy.”