With national intention polling suggesting just 24% support for Labour compared to the Conservatives on 40%, there has never been a better time for some soul searching amongst labour members and voters alike.
How did we end up here and are we really as disconnected from our voter base as polls suggest? It’s easy to dismiss these results, but the reality is the Labour party is stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of its stance on Brexit. Two challenging by-elections in previously safe labour seats, Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central, will test the waters on how much weight we should place on these discouraging polls.
Supporting the invoking of Article 50 is disorientating its youth base and support from liberal metropolitan professionals, but choosing to oppose the so called ‘will of the people’ would lose support in communities such as Stoke Central and Copeland, who voted decisively to leave the EU. Our stance on Brexit is part of a wider discontentment with the leadership, an issue which has plagued the membership and the parliamentary labour party since our painful defeat in 2015.
Was the Corbyn 2.0 ‘relaunch’ a success following a second leadership contest in just two years? Or have we distracted our membership to mask our incompetence as an opposition to the NHS crisis and the terms of a chaotic Brexit?
Pro-Corbyn or not, questions are beginning to be asked on when enough is enough. Is a shadow cabinet dogged by resignations and a leader who cannot bridge support our best bet at electoral success?
All that is clear is this. The results of the by-elections on the 23rd February will be indicative of where the Labour party is heading, and a loss of either could set into motion a series of movements against the leadership. Even ardent Corbyn supporters will struggle to rationalise a 16.6% swing to UKIP in a seat that has been held by labour since 1950.
As a Labour member, I hate being in opposition. However, I believe the root cause of our present polling nightmare is the first past the post electoral system.
We have no alternative but to embrace proportional representation and a progressive alliance to get back into government. The left is simply too divided as things stand. Second, we must let the Tories carry the can for Brexit. Whether it is a success or failure will be down to them - let the government live or die by its negotiations.
Next, we must be, and be seen to be, a deeply patriotic party, motivated by love of Britain, serious about defence and policing, and we must show that our internationalism goes hand-in-hand with our patriotism. Patriots love their country, nationalists hate their neighbours. We are the former, not the latter.
Loud and proud defence of the record of the last Labour government is a necessity. Let’s hammer home the message that it improved the lives of millions of people, at home and abroad. Ultimately, we must look, act and sound like a party that wants to be in government, and will be competent.
The constant introspection and endless infighting, for which all wings of the party must take blame, makes us extremely unattractive to the electorate. In short, the entire mentality of the Labour Party must change, from being a party comfortable in opposition to one that viscerally hates not having the power to put our principles into practice.