17/12/2019 - Unions tell Labour it got it wrong and it's time to move on from Remain

Unions have urged Labour to accept that it “got it wrong” on Brexit and that “Remain has been defeated” following their devastating election loss. Labour went into the general election last month campaigning for a second referendum on EU membership.
Dozens of Labour constituencies went over to the Conservatives for the first time in decades — most of them Leave-voting. This included the former mining town of Blyth Valley and Workington where Labour had held the seat with only one interruption since 1918. The final result was the Tories up on 364 seats and Labour on 203 — the party’s worst defeat since 1935.

Communications union CWU’s general secretary Dave Ward said the reasons for the disappointing defeat were clear: “Labour got it wrong on Brexit.

Millions of people who know the economy, the world of work and politics, in general, isn’t working for them saw the move to a second referendum as a betrayal and the final straw,” he said.

Mr. Ward’s view was shared by teachers’ union NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney.

Writing in a personal capacity, he said that Labour “have to learn lessons” from their losses.

He stressed that this does not mean the party should move away from its readiness to confront capitalism under leader Jeremy Corbyn but “it does mean accepting that the battle for Remain is over.

Mr. Courtney continued: “Remain has been defeated in a referendum and now it looks like it has been comprehensively defeated in a general election.

The movement needs to move on.

Responding to the exit poll result, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he had hoped other issues “would cut through to voters” during the campaign.

But he admitted that this had not happened, with the Tories’ simple “Get Brexit Done” message overriding Labour’s pledges to save the NHS and restore our public services.

Unite leader Len McCluskey didn't mince his words in a post-election column for the HuffPost writing:

Labour’s slow-motion collapse into the arms of the People’s Vote movement and others who have never accepted the democratic decision of June 2016 for a single moment which has caused this defeat”.

The next leader needs to understand the communities that gave birth to the labour movement and realise that the whole country is not very like Labour London.

As important as it is, too often, Labour addresses the metropolitan wing of its electoral coalition in terms of values – openness, tolerance, human rights – and the ‘traditional’ working-class wing simply in terms of a material offer as if their constituencies did not have their own values of solidarity and community. That must change.

Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity commented: 

"Although Solidarity maintained its long-standing policy of not taking a party political stance I made it clear during the election campaign that I, as an individual, supported and would vote Labour because of the pro-worker policies in their manifesto. I always feared, however, that the many fine domestic policy offerings from Labour, which I as someone left-leaning, pro-union and pro-worker approved of, would be overshadowed by Brexit. It was a terrible mistake for the Labour leadership to ignore the wishes of those who voted to Leave. It was a mistake to take their loyalty or vote for granted. The Tories have indicated that they will accommodate the needs of these voters in policy. We will wait and see. Now more than ever it is important to build grassroots union strength to resist attacks on workers from whatever quarter it comes. The future is uncertain and we must be ready to face whatever comes."