UK Election: Jeremy Corbyn’s neighbours left to wonder where it all went wrong

Islington residents on why their MP failed to become prime minister

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Corbyn was returned to his Islington North parliamentary seat despite his party's crushing defeat by the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson called the first UK winter election for nearly a century in an attempt to gain a working majority to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. As the results roll in the Conservative Party have made huge gains from around the country at the expense of the Labour party.
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The UK’s main opposition Labour suffered a brutal defeat in Thursday’s election under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Corbyn, who for years was a backbench MP never expected to become leader, had campaigned on a manifesto promising big public spending and nationalisation of key utilities, funded by placing higher taxes on top earners.

But the Labour leader’s socialist vision for the UK was not shared by voters and the party lost 42 seats from the last election, handing Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a majority. He has said he will quit the leadership office in the new year.

The biggest losses for Labour were felt in the north of England, where the so-called “red wall” of constituencies that had not changed hands in decades turned blue.

Mr Corbyn comfortably kept his London seat, Islington North, where he has been the sitting MP since 1983, albeit with a slightly reduced majority from 2017.

Residents in what was once dubbed the “People’s Republic of Islington” by the right-wing press are unsurprised their longstanding MP had been unable to make it to the top job in British politics.

For many Mr Corbyn’s failure to pick a side in the Brexit debate was his undoing. During the campaign he promised to renegotiate a new divorce deal with Brussels, which would be put to the people via a second referendum. He said he would “remain neutral” during the proposed EU vote.

Investment fund associate Tom Parr, 30, said: “Jeremy Corbyn had no clear stance on the biggest issue dividing the country.

“How can people follow his lead when we don’t know where he stood on Brexit?”

Lucien Mulberg, a student on a Christmas holiday from Oxford University, said part of Mr Corbyn’s mistake was to avoid making his campaign about the UK’s EU membership unlike his rival Mr Johnson.

“I think he tried to make Brexit not the main issue but it was always going to be the main issue,” he said. “I think he tried to make the NHS the main issue but people just wanted Brexit done.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement in Downing Street after receiving permission to form the next government during an audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace earlier today, on December 13, 2019 in London, England. The Conservative Party have realised a decisive win in the UK General Election. With one seat left to declare they have won 364 of the 650 seats available. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the first UK winter election for nearly a century in an attempt to gain a working majority to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. working majority to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. He said at an early morning press conference that he would repay the trust of voters. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to win the support of traditional northern Labour voters. Getty

Artist Chris Dwyer, 29, said he felt the Conservative leader was not put under the same amount of media scrutiny that Mr Corbyn was.

“I feel like the media spun it in a way that did favour Boris,” Mr Dwyer said.

He said the UK had “voted for someone who hid in a fridge”, referring to the prime minister’s attempts to avoid being interviewed by broadcaster ITV on Wednesday.

For others Mr Corbyn’s personal traits as well as his long history of left-wing activism that meant he was less appealing as a leader than others.

“Maybe it’s his personality that people didn’t like,” said office worker Olusegun Famodun, 53. “Jeremy Corbyn is a man who cannot even tuck in his trousers properly.”

Lauren Healy, a hairdresser at Tops Hair and Beauty Salon in Islington, said she had seen social media advertisements that said that Mr Corbyn “sympathised with terrorists”.

While many particularly in the business community, felt his manifesto was too radical. Investments director Richard Trainer, 63, said he felt the election pledges had put Labour into a “tricky position”.

“I’m happy to pay more tax,” he said. “But I know many companies who aren’t.”

Saul Pimpson, a 27-year-old writer on his lunch break from work, said he did not think voters found what Mr Corbyn was promising to be credible.

“There’s an overriding sense of people can’t picture a different system and an alternative to the current way that we live, even though everyone acknowledges that it’s bad,” he said.

“People who voted Conservative, they don’t like Boris Johnson but when they looked at Labour’s manifesto - they didn’t believe it could happen. Maybe the manifesto was too good.”