Out And About

Written By: Cary Gee
Published: July 6, 2017 Last modified: July 6, 2017

Without Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Labour would have won the election outright. Absolute rubbish. As hypotheses go, this one, forwarded by a number of senior Labour figures in the immediate aftermath of the most surprising election result this century, wilfully ignores several facts.

One, there would have been no election if the cowardly, chaotic May had faced someone she deemed a stronger opponent in the first place – more fool her. Secondly, no other leader I can think of could possibly have mustered the ground-troops that put in the hours needed to explain Corbyn’s vision of socialism to the electorate on the doorstep.

Social media is all very well at generating support, but nothing turns friendly intentions into actual votes like good old fashioned door-knocking. And the genuinely undecided voter remains far more likely to vote for the candidate they have actually met.

In my constituency of Central Ealing and Acton we were defending a majority of 274, which put this plum London seat top of the Tories hitlist. Behind a 12.2 % swing we turned that into a majority of 13,807! I expected us to win, MP Rupa Huq has certainly put in the hours since first being elected in 2015, but no one, not even Huq herself, expected quite such a stunning result.
Perhaps we should not have been so surprised. Like many constituencies mine has always relied on the same faces, and the same feet, to get the work done. I can predict, with unfailing accuracy, exactly which members will turn out to a particular campaign session. At least I could, until this election, when I would join a group of up to twenty canvassers and know no one. The numbers of volunteers that joined us with the express aim of defeating the Tory candidate – an American bag-carrier, who in a short-lived career as an ‘actress’ once rode a man like a pantomime horse in comic bonk-buster Geek Mythology (I recommend you don’t google it) – was as astonishing as it was thrilling. They came not just from ‘safe’ London seats but from all parts of the UK. I even spent one weekend campaigning with an elected socialist Deputy from the Jersey States parliament, who came, not just to assist, but to learn. He couldn’t have chosen a better campaign.

While we hit the streets in record numbers, the only Tories I spotted in my (grittier, urban) end of the constituency chose to canvass by car, displaying the same fear and loathing for the electorate that their leader displayed when refusing to meet the residents of Grenfell Tower.
In the days before the election a number of enthusiastic young voters from Kensington crossed the border to work with us in the belief they would be wasting their time pounding the streets where they lived. If only they had stayed at home the remarkable result in the UK’s wealthiest constituency might have arrived a few days earlier.

And then, following the jubilation, came the tragedy, and the starkest reminder of why the Tories did so badly. Because they simply don’t give a shit. While taking their own supporters for granted, they feel completely at ease ignoring the very real concerns of anyone unlikely to vote for them.

I’d like to think the Tories will have learned a valuable lesson from the Grenfell Tower disaster. But all evidence contradicts this. The Council leader remains in post, shamelessly playing the same stability card as May.

When our shell-shocked armour plated PM bravely vowed to Keep Calm and Carry on Calamitiously, I had visions of voters the length and breath of Britain holding their heads in their hands and wondering how much more of this wretched woman’s stability the country could take.The answer, is not very much. Her vanity, dishonesty and continued debasement of the democratic process is beyond contemptible, just as the actions of those responsible for the 79 deaths in west London may yet prove criminal.

I watched from my stairway as the fog of austerity rose above the wealth of London. The acrid stench of failure reached more than my nostrils, and only grew stronger as the smoke cleared and details of what had just occurred began to crystallize. Now London, one of the richest cities in the world, has a new landmark. 24 storeys of charred filth visible from the A40 long before you reach central London.

This was an epic failure of more than mere construction. The Grenfell Tower catastrophe represents a failure of morality and a failure of leadership. Above all it represents a failure to take care of those who can least afford to lose what little they possess. That alone should be enough for Mrs May to concede that clinging onto power by her scarlet fingertips is not just demeaning, it is dishonourable.

“There is no magic money tree” she told the electorate, having just found £130m down the back of the Downing Street sofa to pay for an election no one wanted in the first place, only to discover that it was actually her we didn’t want. It couldn’t have happened to a nastier woman.

About Cary Gee

Cary Gee is a freelance journalist and Tribune columnist