There has been a sense of deflation, anger and resentment amongst the Labour party activists and parliamentarians since their crushing defeat from a Conservative majority last week. Labour lost many seats in its traditional working-class heartlands but did considerably well in metropolitan cities and university towns dotted across the country. Whilst they revel in a pensive post-mortem of their electoral disaster, a new leader is set to rise to the occasion and placate the feeling of sorrow that has emerged.
The MP for Salford and Eccles, Rebecca Long-Bailey, is expected to throw her hat into the ring of what is expected to be a crowded Labour leadership field. She would represent the continuation of the Corbynite wing of the party but rid its reputation of being run by an army of remain-voting London elitists. As shadow business secretary, Long-Bailey had long been a proponent of a soft-Brexit deal compared to the second referendum alternative that plagued the party’s image in the north and the Midlands, only coming round to the prospect of a second referendum very recently. She is a parliamentarian with a staunchly working-class and trade unionist background originating from the north-west that could appease the exasperation of voters who had a poisonous dislike of Corbyn’s leadership.
Whilst the broad-church Labour party scrambles to point fingers at the hard left’s usurpation of the its top table since Corbyn’s election win in 2015, the popularity of its leftist shift is stark. The policies of the Labour left have been overwhelmingly popular amongst its rank-and-file members and the wider electorate. In 2017, its promise to invest in public services, renationalise key industries and respect the results of the Brexit referendum proved to be popular.
The following election resulted in a hung parliament when the opposition gained 30 seats over a robotic and U-turning Tory party that lost 13 seats. This time around, the policies were there and were gaining traction on the ground. However, Brexit and the vilification of Corbyn’s personal credentials by the mainstream media overshadowed the party’s energetic manifesto. Corbyn was caught between a rock and a hard place in regards to Brexit by staying neutral. He did so as not to split the coalition of leavers and Remainers that make up the party vote share.
Long-Bailey, an unwavering Corbynite muse who has consistently supported communities damaged by deindustrialisation, could prove popular in pro-Brexit seats that defected to Boris Johnson’s Conservative party for the first time in decades. She is set to be backed by grassroots socialist pressure group, Momentum, and largest party donor, Unite the union. With a leadership race set to be underway in the new year, right-wing Labour MPs like Jess Phillips and Lisa Nandy could be side-lined now that the Labour party membership is predominantly held by the socialist left. Blairite MPs have held on tight under five years of Corbyn but would face disappointment when their contenders fail to sway leftist members who recoil at the Blair/Brown governments of yesteryear.
If Long-Bailey formally announces her bid for leader of the opposition in the not so distant future, it would energise a base left to her by Corbyn whilst also brining back voters alienated by his abysmal approval rankings. She would also the be first female Labour leader in its almost 120-year history, allowing a socialist organisation to focus more on gender equality. A female MP committed to her constituents, rooted in the pro-Brexit north whilst fending off the Blairite Labour fringe from her colleagues; Long-Bailey certainly seems like the most feasible choice for a party to fully counteract a right-wing Tory government.
With five years of Boris Johnson commencing and Brexit set to be concluded, a domestic agenda that denigrates the working poor under his rule would urge people to vote for an alternative. In 2024 when the next election is set to take place, our public services and institutions are almost guaranteed to be stuck in crisis mode. Then, only a post-Brexit socialist Labour government can prevail.