I had intended to begin this post with a platitude such as ‘now the dust has settled’. But the dust hasn’t settled. In fact, rather the reverse: over the weekend we’ve had a shit storm of recrimination and self-justification from the Westminster bubble. Inside that bubble, it was clear that the result would be a Tory landslide. Outside that bubble, in places like Leamington for example, it was evident that right from the start, there was a sea-change emerging.
The first confirmation of this was the appearance of Jeremy Corbyn and our Labour candidate Matt Western outside the Town Hall. At short notice, more than 500 people gathered and waited – Corbyn was delayed in conversations with nurses at Worcester hospital. And then listened and cheered as he spoke eloquently and passionately about a more just society which was structured ‘for the many, not the few’.
I could see the energy flowing from speaker to audience. I saw hundreds – not all young by any means – being enthused, being motivated, being empowered. I was one of them.
But that was back at the beginning of May, with a month to go to before election day itself. What happened in the subsequent four weeks?
What happened in (Warwick and) Leamington was a determination to continue the process that had been kick-started outside the Town Hall. Over the next four weeks, we continued to be enthused and motivated by a candidate who reflected our views and needs in his policies, in his personality, in his work ethic.
Matt Western overcame a Conservative majority of 6,606 to win Warwick and Leamington. He took 46.7% of the vote. He did not achieve this extraordinary result because the Tory Chris White was a poor candidate. (He wasn’t and isn’t, despite sometimes struggling to justify many policies in the Tory manifesto.) Matt won because he perfectly articulated the Labour vision, explaining the specifics of the Labour manifesto and relating them to our community. As many of us have known for some time, he was the ideal candidate for the party, the constituency and the times.
As I write this, Matt is on his way to London to pick up the pieces, to find a desk from which to work and to be initiated into the bizarre rituals of the House of Commons. Once established, I know that he will focus on representing Warwick and Leamington in Westminster, rather than Westminster in Warwick and Leamington, arguing for a fairer society and fighting for a Brexit solution which more closely reflects the remain views of his constituents.
Meanwhile, the hundreds of us who were enthused and engaged by his campaign will continue to build on what he has achieved over this short, sharp ‘snap’ election, what Matt called 'a roller-coaster ride'.
We can relish this victory, but it is only one skirmish in a continuing struggle to build a society for the many, not the few.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Mickey and The Hartbeats from 10.10.1968 at The Matrix Coffeehouse in San Francisco. This is of course the Dead - without Weir and Pigpen - but this show and a couple or three others at the same venue include some of the most exploratory, spacey and intriguing improvisational jams ever. Chansons sans paroles.