The European election results were extremely disappointing for the Labour Party across the country and in London. Despite the hard work of Labour members, councillors, supporters and our MEP candidates, Labour has seen a significant decline in our vote in these European elections.
This is as true in Lambeth as it is in the rest of the country – but the results here are sadly no surprise in a borough that had the highest Remain vote in the UK. Our residents are deeply anxious about Brexit, frightened of the prospect of a Tory No Deal and unconvinced by the national Labour party policy regarding a People’s Vote.
On the doorstep in the Thornton by-election in April we could feel this coming with the Labour vote switching to the Lib Dems in significant numbers. In hindsight it was an amazing achievement to retain our seat and see the excellent Nanda Manley Brown elected, a third successive by-election win for Lambeth Labour within a year. They followed the local election results just a year ago which saw us comfortably win 57 out of 63 seats and 54% of the vote. Where we are united and we campaign as Lambeth Labour, in touch with our residents and responding to the issues and challenges affecting them, we have secured their support overwhelmingly.
And that is vitally important, because while we have many residents who campaign passionately for Remain and have marched for freedom of movement, we also have too many residents who are under assault from Government-imposed austerity and whose children do not have freedom of movement on their own streets, let alone the chance to study abroad or travel. Only Labour can unite those residents together, fighting to Remain in the EU but also fighting to tackle inequality in our borough and for a Labour government that will end austerity.
Yet on Thursday 23rd May our party lost a significant amount of our residents’ support. People have told us unequivocally that the leadership of the Labour Party needed to be clear on its position on Brexit, but they failed to do so.
It is very clear from the results in Lambeth and across London, that Labour’s national position was rejected by the voters. This is despite Lambeth Labour councillors taking an unequivocal position in favour of a People’s Vote, alongside many Labour MPs including local MP Helen Hayes.
The time for the Labour leadership to avoid taking a stand has long since passed. It is clear that Parliament cannot deliver a Brexit deal and this will only become truer as Tory leadership candidates pander to Nigel Farage and his hard-right Brexit party. Therefore, the only way to truly solve this mess is to trust the British people and put the decision on this country’s future back in their hands. Lambeth Labour will keep campaigning for that, redoubling our efforts to get the Labour leadership to change their position in line with the democratically agreed policy of the Labour Party conference and the views and wishes of Lambeth residents.
Cllr Jack Hopkins
Leader of the Council