It became clear very early on at the count on Thursday night that something incredible had happened. Our sampling operation revealed we had won all but two polling districts in Ealing Central & Acton. We won Ealing Common, Ealing Broadway and Hanger Hill. We laughed in disbelief as the pre-result analysis revealed we would win a 12,500 majority. In fact it was 13,807.
We knew Ealing North and Ealing Southall were better bets, but the swing to Labour even in those seats was impressive to say the least. I want to offer a big congratulations to Rupa, Steve and Virendra on their campaigns and all who helped across the Borough.
Our campaign went from a standing start to quickly one of the most formidable machines in London. In no small part down to our significantly increased party membership who turned out on mass from this constituency and from across London to join our longstanding and battle-hardened Ealing Labour veterans and Councillors on the doorstep. It was this display of unity in practice which was pivitol in delivering this result -; and we must remember this for local and general elections around the corner.
I am so grateful to all our volunteers, alongside our fantastic and professional campaign team based at Ruskin Hall. Their dedication and determination was a critical part of delivering victory in Ealing Central & Acton.
It was also abundantly clear that Rupa’s campaign set the dividing lines early on and the Tories simply didn’t have an answer. They were talking about the issues we raised, rather than their own.
“On Brexit, on the NHS, Rupa is the local candidate fighting for you.”
Rupa diligently held this tripartite line for seven weeks and the Tories had no response other than to throw litigious tantrums, sending threatening letters about our literature and flip-flopping over their attendance to public meetings. Given the scale of their defeat locally, I suspect we won’t be seeing them in court after all.
Now that the dust has begun to settle this election has revealed a number of important questions that must be addressed by both Ealing Labour and the party nationally. Going forward we will all need to have a thoughtful and considered approach to the facts and I want to take a moment to share my initial thoughts with you.
The first and most important thing to say is that we did not win this general election and this will be the third election Labour have lost in a row. Under Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn we have failed to convince the public that we are ready to serve and that the country should have a Labour prime minister. We should not aim for a hung parliament or a minority administration – We are sixty seats away from being able to form a government, which is a mountain to climb. This is a simple reality we absolutely must remember and keep at the forefront of our minds going forward.
That said, it would be remiss of us not to look at the other facts of this election. The Labour Party accrued the largest swing from the Tories to us since 1945. Even larger than the Blair landslide of 1997. Labour saw youth turnout increase from the paltry 43% in 2015 to a significantly higher proportion this time. Although we await official turnout figures by demographic, it was palpable on the campaign trail that young people were energised by our campaign and the average age of activists passing through Ruskin Hall’s doors was significantly lower than usual! Labour gained 30 seats in every corner of the country. And all this happened under Jeremy Corbyn.
I supported different candidates in both leadership campaigns and I did so in the genuine belief that Jeremy would not put us on course for government. While we lost this election it is clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has tapped into something that no pollsters could have predicted. When Jeremy won his second leadership campaign I and many others threw down the gauntlet of an electoral test and what is now clear is that he confounded not just me, but a good portion of the country by doing as well as he did – and all the while under relentless media scrutiny and outright hostility.
I want to congratulate Jeremy on running an excellent campaign and urge us all now to unite as a party and keep the Tories on the run. We are a broad church and like all congregations and families we have our disagreements but we must unite in order to win power. We have done this in the past. In 1997 I was John McDonnell’s agent and Organiser and although from different wings of the party we worked closely together to elect a Labour government.
Theresa May’s coalition of crackpots has a majority of two. They are threatening the rolling back of women’s rights and a fragile peace in Northern Ireland – all so arrogant Theresa can cling to power.
I for one am relishing the chance of a buoyant and unified Labour Party working to hold this government to account and then go on to win the next election and form a radical Labour government. I hope you’ll join me.
Cllr Julian Bell