It didn’t take long, did it? The Corbyn-haters were stunned into silence for a short while by the general election, but now they are back and starting to make some noise again.
Some have admitted they were wrong when they predicted that Jeremy Corbyn would be wiped out by Theresa May.
Businessman and former Labour donor Michael Foster stood against Corbyn in Islington North, telling the Sunday Times beforehand: “There are a lot of things a political party looks for in a leader. Jeremy Corbyn possesses none of them. Because of him, Labour faces annihilation at the polls.”
After polling just 208 votes – to Corbyn’s 40,086 – the man who once described the leader’s supporters as stormtroopers had the good grace to say: “I tip my hat to him and I told him personally that he had succeeded where others would have failed and that the Labour success was his and his alone.”
Furness MP John Woodcock, one of Corbyn’s fiercest critics, predicted a “historic and catastrophic defeat” but admitted afterwards that he “got it totally wrong” and apologised for “two years of pitched battles and bad blood”.
Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, who was openly contemptuous of the leadership during the campaign, said after doubling his own majority: “I take my hat off to the campaign (Corbyn) has run and for getting this result which is better than anyone could have expected.
“If I think what my mood was seven weeks ago, this feels like a completely unreal dream.”
Not everyone has been so gracious. Tony Blair has admitted he was wrong – but he has neither apologised nor offered his backing to Corbyn.
At least he is now being honest. Before the election Blair and his supporters hid their dislike for Corbyn behind claims that they were simply fearful for the future of the Labour Party. Now they have lost that fig-leaf, they are having to come clean.
What they really hate is what Corbyn stands for – and they can’t stand the idea of a Labour government led by him.
Less than two months after the election – a shock result for many, but not for those who could see what was happening with our own eyes – there are already attempts to rewrite history.
A quick scan of below-the-line comments on Corbyn stories brings up claims that he should have won easily given the lousy Tory campaign, that the circumstances of the election were massively favourable to Labour, and that a more centrist leader would be prime minister by now.
Let’s recap on the facts, as some people seem to have very short memories.
First of all, Labour lost the election. We’ll get that one out of the way, as this is something Corbyn-haters keep repeating as if the rest of us were deluded enough to believe otherwise. But…
Labour began the election campaign 24 points behind the Tories in some polls. In late April, the Telegraph reported that May’s popularity score of 61% was the highest recorded by Ipsos Mori since it started asking the question in 1979. A separate YouGov poll on the same day put Corbyn’s net favourability rating at minus 42 – his all-time low.
These were the “favourable circumstances”: May held an apparently unassailable lead – the reason she called the election in the first place.
Yes, the Tories fought a poor campaign, but it was a low-key campaign that they clearly believed would be enough to get them comfortably over the line with the increased majority they expected.
During the campaign, May falsely claimed that if she lost six seats, Corbyn would be prime minister. She did lose six seats and he isn’t.
But look at it this way: if she had lost six MORE seats, her deal with the DUP wouldn’t have been enough to give her a working majority.
Just six more seats and Labour would have been in a position to force a new election at a time of their choosing.
As a football fan, I know the popular reaction to “if only” arguments: “If only my auntie had a dick, she’d be my uncle.”
But that could so easily have happened. The Tories held six of their seats with majorities of less than 315, and five SNP and Plaid Cymru seats were just as tight.
So what of the actual numbers? Despite the predictions of a wipe-out, Labour gained 30 seats. But look at the statistics behind that headline figure.
Labour got 40% of the vote. That compares to 30.4% under Ed Miliband in 2015 (just two years earlier), 29% under Gordon Brown in 2010 – and, most impressively, 35.2% in 2005, when Tony Blair easily won his third election.
Then look at the actual votes.
Corbyn’s Labour Party won 12,877,869 votes. Which by any standard is a LOT more than Miliband’s 9,347,304, Brown’s 8,606,527, Blair’s 9,552,436 in 2005 – or even his 10,724,953 in 2001 that gave Labour an enormous majority of 166.
Put simply, Corbyn easily outpolled two of Blair’s huge wins, despite the former prime minister’s insistence that his was the only way.
Does anyone seriously believe that Owen Smith would have done better than Corbyn? Never in a million years.
That is why Corbyn is now the undisputed leader of the party after two years of attempts by his own parliamentary colleagues to force him out.
And that is also why it is important now to resist any attempts to rewrite history. The main reasons for Labour’s increased vote are clear to see: the leadership of Corbyn and a popular left-leaning manifesto.
Labour are now favourites to win the next election, which is an extraordinary turnaround from three months ago when many, such as Neil Kinnock, thought they would never again see another Labour government. But it is not won yet.
None of us knows when that next election might be, but what we do know is that now is the time for unity. Now is the time to stop bickering and get behind the leader. Now is the time to counter the terrified Tories’ pathetic efforts to smear Corbyn.
This is the time to ignore those who reject the message of recent history – and fight for that better future that we all know is not only possible but now within reach.