It’s on! And it’s going to be fun, Jeremy Corbyn has promised. The House of Commons voted last night in favour – by 438 votes to 20 – of an early general election taking place on December 12th. Labour tried to change the date to December 9th, but that proposal was rejected. Labour MPs were then whipped to vote for the election bill as a whole, though 11 voted against and 104 had no vote recorded. Not a rebellion in the hundreds, then – they talk tough, but ultimately don’t like defying the whip. And some of those MPs who appeared to abstain, such as Laura Smith, actually did so by mistake due to whipping confusion. But moving past the initial reluctance of many opposition MPs, with the safe assumption that the bill’s passage in the Lords is a formality, the bottom line is that an early election will take place in six weeks.
Labour’s core mission is to make this poll a Christmas election, not a Brexit one. As former John McDonnell aide Joe Ryle has written for LabourList, silly as it may sound, this is an opportunity to use the themes of Christmas – particularly goodwill and generosity – to shape a creative election campaign. It is not necessary for Labour to ignore the issue of Brexit when the party has a perfectly logical and easily explained position: “We will improve the deal and let you decide.” It must expose the Tory deal as rotten, link that to domestic issues such as the NHS, then move on to a message of real change. The aim should be to neutralise Brexit as a problem for the party by showing that Labour’s solution to that difficult topic forms part of its wider vision for the country, with democratic processes introduced in all areas of decision-making.
If you’re wondering what has happened to trigger ballots, triggered MPs and selection contests yet to conclude, this exclusive LabourList write-up from yesterday should answer your questions. Essentially, to speed up processes and ensure candidates are in place as quickly as possible, power will shift upwards to Labour’s national executive committee. That has already left members who won’t get a say disappointed. Non-Labour seats are set to have selection panels pick their candidates directly, while an emergency process – either NEC imposition or mixed panels – looks set to apply to all seats without hustings already scheduled to take place this week. That includes high-profile contests such as in Two Cities and Liverpool Riverside, as well as Pontypridd where Owen Smith has only just decided to step down.
There will be a lot of doom and gloom surrounding talk of Labour’s chances in this snap election. Yes, it will be dark and cold. But anything could happen. Our political situation is hugely volatile, voters are liable to be influenced by key moments during the campaign, and the Tory strategy of targeting the so-called “Workington man” is a risky one. Labour’s vision for a decarbonised economy will be crucial to its pitch, with a recent survey showing climate change will influence the votes of 54% of adults in the next election.
Momentum has already revealed the outline of an impressive campaign plan featuring an upgraded online campaign map, a ‘viral video response unit’, a ‘Digital Army’ to make things go viral and weekly public strategy calls. Online campaigning will be pivotal in this winter period, and Labour’s launch video blew the Tory equivalent out of the water with 1.6m views compared to just over 50k. As Corbyn has quoted before…
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!