Reliving Labour’s Loss
(CW: Suicide Ideation, Depression, Alcohol and Drug Misuse)
Yesterday my Facebook memory was a video of myself just before the 2019 General Election yelling out of my window at a Tory canvasser who had put some Tory propaganda through my letterbox. The elderly gentleman concerned was extremely amused at the fact that I was so annoyed and he laughing as he walked away. I shouted that he should continue to laugh it up as he would need the NHS before I did and there would no longer be one (after the Tories decimated it.) Obviously since then there has been so many changes that none of us could possibly seen coming. As Covid 19 swept the world we in the UK relied upon the NHS more than ever. At its peak over 1000 people were dying per day here. The importance of having a free at the point of use health service really hit home for most of us especially as we saw how other countries were faring. Of course those who were from poorer backgrounds everywhere were the ones that suffered the most. Many of us looked on in horror as people in the USA posted their Covid Bills for the rest of the world to see. As if being ill wasn’t bad enough, lots of Americans that survived were left with huge medical expenses that left them deep in debt.
I often wonder what happened to the man canvassing for the Tory Party. Covid-19 affected the elderly more than most especially those in care homes. I wonder if he had been lucky or if he had fallen ill. And if he had, I wondered what he thought about the disastrous way the party he was campaigning for had handled this health crisis. I also wonder if he is still here to even think about that at all. I have made no secret of the fact that I voted for the Labour Party at the last election. But as social media reminds me of the run up to the election, I”m also beginning to remember how I felt when news of Labour’s defeat reached me. It was one of the party’s worst defeats in living memory. Why they lost has been debated, argued and gloated about since it happened. There are many different opinions from all sides of the political spectrum and everyone thinks they’re right.
I have written about the subject myself more than once but today I don’t want to concentrate on that. Instead I want to speak about how that defeat left many people feeling and see how they’re doing almost a year on. And what a difference a year makes. Jeremy Corbyn is currently suspended from the Labour Party. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, most Corbyn supporters, at least the ones that I know personally were not voting for him because they were driven by virulent antisemitism. However, it is something that existed and I have written about this before, but I don’t want to concentrate on that today either. I got to meet many, many Corbyn supporters as I toured the UK on the JC4PM tour organised by Stand Up For Labour. Most people that I spoke to didn’t even raise the topic of antisemitism, particularly in the beginning. So why were there so many people supporting Jeremy Corbyn so passionately? What was it about his politics that struck a chord with so many people? And how did they feel when the movement was completely and utterly crushed?
I supported Jeremy Corbyn because the policies he was presenting were the ones that appealed to me the most. He appeared to want to redress the imbalance in society in a number of areas such as education, healthcare and access to transport. He vowed to make big business and the super rich pay their fair share of tax and invest the money in undoing the damage done by ten years of crushing Tory austerity. There was nothing in the manifesto that I saw as extreme, radical or unreasonable. I was looking forward to the more disadvantaged having a little more breathing space, children not going to bed hungry and hoped that minority communities would feel less uncomfortable after the Brexit referendum had left many feeling vulnerable after racism and xenophobia skyrocketed. I had not been out canvassing in 2019 as I had in 2017 so I was unaware at how the mood had changed on the doorstep. I was in my own little bubble and I expected Labour to either equal what they had done in 2017 or actually win. I hadn’t considered how Brexit would affect the election nor that Purdah rules were out of the window. Nor did I know about the information released in the Labour Leaks which showed how many people inside Labour HQ were determined to sabotage Corbyn’s chances. Put all of that together with four years non-stop demonisation of Corbyn and his key allies and I should really have known better. But I didn’t and when the exit polls came through I just sank down on my bed and cried. I stayed off social media and stayed in my room too depressed and hurt to even be able to form words. I dragged myself out of my bed only to take my daughter to nursery. I will never forget how utterly crushed I felt. I still feel the pain of it today as do many others.
“IT FELT WORSE BECAUSE IT SEEMED LIKE THERE WAS HOPE, WITH ALL THE FOOTAGE OF YOUNG PEOPLE QUEUING TO VOTE. AND IT MATTERED SO MUCH-SO MANY THINGS HINGED ON THAT ELECTION. I JUST COULDN’T SEE HOW MANY PEOPLE COULDN’T SEE THAT OR JUST DIDN’T CARE ENOUGH.”Kate Morrison, Author
When I asked others how they had felt, journalist Owen Jones said, “It was like a bereavement comparable only to my father’s death.”
Whilst some may not understand this, he was not the only one to have felt this way. Author Kate Morrison said, “It felt worse because it seemed like there was hope, with all the footage of young people queuing to vote. And it mattered so much-so many things hinged on that election. I just couldn’t see how many people couldn’t see that or just didn’t care enough.”
Labour Staff Member Matt Turner said, “I was at a marginal count so knew it was game over locally – smoked like a chimney and just had to put a brave face on while tweaking a concession speech and letting other staff who weren’t there know to prepare for unemployment. Was rough but the following day(s) were worse.”
Rachel recalls sadly, “Was at Pudsey Labour rooms with last of the gotv doorknockers, no TV. Was refreshing twitter, saw the exit poll & couldn’t speak – had to hand over to my partner to break the news. Remember crying & @JaneAitchison being strong & composed as we all sat there horrified. Awful night. Took the vodka we’d got in for celebrating to bed, drank ourselves to sleep, woke up periodically to cry some more. Felt like the future had been cancelled. That feeling is less raw but much more powerful & hopeless now, given everything that’s followed.
Verity was also on the frontline, “I was doing sampling at the count in Leeds arena, we hung back by the bar to get signal to see the poll- was in shock and struggled to focus on counting ballots- had to keep sitting down. Cried a lot, especially the next morning when it had sunk in. Absolutely gutting awful feeling. The most devastating loss I’ve ever felt which was even more gutting combined with the fact we didnt get to elect our amazing candidate. Hate thinking of that moment and that feeling.”
Barrister Jane Heybroek said, “Was at work Xmas party. I’d booked a room as it would be too late to get home when it ended. I got blind drunk, but barely slept a wink – kept turning TV on and off again. Eventually got a taxi at 5.30am and got the train home. I went through all the stages of mourning that day.”
Holly Weston, “Saw the exit poll, switched off the telly and cried. Went to bed completely heartbroken but sort of numb at the same time. Didn’t watch any tv for 2 weeks because I couldn’t bear to see them gloating and lying about a decent man.”
Dr Jazz Tehara told me, “I gathered my thoughts, dealt with the immediate gut punch, then went into mourning. Lots of anger for a while, directed mildly at everyone. To known that everything was done “correctly” re: listening to membership, creating a masterpiece manifesto and fully costing it still wasn’t enough to convince the electorate that this iteration of Labour was competent and had peoples best interests at heart was heartbreaking. More than 2017. To know we got splintered by the Brexit vote was infuriating beyond belief. I wrote to both Jeremy and John individually, thanking them for what they’d given us (hope, and more importantly a manifestation of vision of the world we could only imagine.) Then it was about letting go. Following the loss, the Labour Leaks and RLB issues did for me. Mind was made up after the leaks but wanted the NEC vote. Now, it’s about thinking what to do for the future. The Labour Party is a dead corpse. Reliving 2010 seems to be the modus operandi.”
Ex Labour campaigner Ed Poole remembers, “I’m still processing it but I knew something was wrong when I was canvassing. Even normally obvious Labour voters seems unsure. It was very different from 2017. And the response from members from Brexit seats when we switched to a second vote prepared me. From about the summer of 2019 it really turned. Very angry people out there. Completely different from earlier. I think that kind of set me up for what was to come.” And as devastating as we found the loss we are some of the more privileged Corbyn supporters. For others, securing a Corbyn government to them was literally a matter of life and death. Jessica Calton remembers the night well, “I was at the count. Felt like I’d been kicked in the guts when I saw it. The thing that broke me most was a friend who’d come back from London on the train being asked the result by a homeless guy outside the station. When she told him, he just broke down.
Effects on Mental Health
A Twitter follower told me in confidence, “My husband struggles with his mental health and on the night of 12 Dec 2019 the incoming results triggered a huge breakdown that left us needing to contact the local crisis teams and get him immediate treatment. We discovered subsequently that he wasn’t alone in this reaction. He works in the mental health system himself and there are many vulnerable people who found the thought of all the suffering, and the loss of that promise that things could be different unbearable. I think the effect on the psyche of the country is still to come to light. He’s ok now. He struggled with the initial US election news too but has calmed down now the results are ok. Overall, we have a better idea of how to handle it all.”
The effect on people’s mental health should not be underestimated. Dec saw no reason to live after hearing the result. He told me, “I basically lost my mind, got absolutely hammered and was determined to end things – thankfully passed out so some self-harm was the worst of it, but next day i was just sitting in a chair downstairs like that where my parents found me.”
“Just felt really really low for about two – three days. Heart was completely sunk, especially when I thought about who ‘won’ – The Tories obviously, but also complete shitehawks like Tom Watson, Wes Streeting, Jess Phillips…”Herbert Mark Hughes
Many say they haven’t recovered. John Bounds from Todayful.fm stated, “I’m still not over it. The phone memories of canvassing photos etc are coming through now and each one has me on the verge of either anger or tears. And I was always a realist, but had to build up so much hope to get the effort in in 2019 that it left me empty.”
Gem said, “I was at my local count, flanked by smug Tories and vacant LibDems. For every X I counted in my Tory MP’s box I thought, there’s a human being behind that X. Was gobsmacked and heartbroken for days, didn’t go to work and struggled to find hope in anything.”
Jessica told me, “I screamed “no” so loud and long I hurt my throat and then spent the entire night sobbing. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever actually recovered. even just thinking about the moment the results came in makes me feel sick.”
Richard Price felt the same, “Am still dealing with the loss really. I always knew I was disconnected but I have been a willed optimist all my life. My sense of trust in the ‘moderate’ media had long since gone since IndyRef but my trust of ‘moderates’ who I know disappeared and hasn’t come back.”
Herbert Mark Hughes felt the sting of betrayal was hard to bear. “Just felt really really low for about two – three days. Heart was completely sunk, especially when I thought about who ‘won’ – The Tories obviously, but also complete shitehawks like Tom Watson, Wes Streeting, Jess Phillips and so on.”
There are countless stories like these. When people are gloating about Corbyn’s demise, laughing about Labour’s loss and smearing left wing people please remember these are human beings with feelings. They had their hopes and dreams crushed. They did nothing but believe that we can do better as human beings than we have done in the past ten years.