Emma Reynolds: If we don't change it could be the end for the Labour Party

"It's unforgivable what the hard-left has done to our party."

Emma Reynolds lost the Wolverhampton North East seat she held for nearly 10 years in December
Emma Reynolds lost the Wolverhampton North East seat she held for nearly 10 years in December

It has been two months since Labour's devastating general election defeat and Emma Reynolds admits she is still consumed by a mixture of anger and sadness.

The source of her fury is not simply losing the Wolverhampton North East seat she had held since 2010, her 4,587 majority wiped out in a 12 per cent swing to the Conservatives.

It is the way her party has responded to the defeat that irks her most, with outgoing leader Jeremy Corbyn insisting he "won the argument" and hard-left activists calling for a continuation of the path which saw Boris Johnson returned to Number 10 with a majority of 80.

"Not so long ago in the Black Country we had 12 Labour MPs, now we have three," Ms Reynolds told the Express & Star. "It is quite frankly unbelievable that we don't have a single Labour MP left in Stoke on Trent.

"It's appalling. These people... Momentum, Jeremy and his team... how many seats do we have to lose until they admit that they got it horribly wrong and betrayed the very people that we came into politics to represent?

"It makes me angry. Just how bad does it have to get? The idea that we won the argument is ridiculous. We haven't won any argument.

"Delivering a Tory majority of 80 after nine and a half years of cuts is just horrific. We weren't even in contention. With a decent leader, a decent team and a decent message to the electorate, we should have been in a position to win the election."

Ms Reynolds put on a brave face during a testing campaign on the streets of Wolverhampton North East

The former MP said she knew the writing was on the wall in Wolverhampton North East fairly early in the campaign, saying voters in parts of her constituency that were usually staunch Labour were giving her the cold shoulder.

"A lot of people were slamming the door in our faces, or they were saying, either in anger or regret, there's no way I can vote Labour this time," she said.

Mr Corbyn's leadership and Brexit were the reasons given by voters for the turn against Labour, Ms Reynolds says, recalling a woman on polling day who told her that although she had always voted Labour and liked her personally, she just couldn't bring herself to do it this time.

"People didn't trust Corbyn with their money, or with the security of the country," she said. "They thought he was a weak leader. Although anti-Semitism didn't come up on the doorstep, I think the lack of leadership over that issue, and then not deciding on the Brexit policy at all and trying to hedge his bets meant people thought he was weak. There were lots of reasons, but they just didn't like him."

Ms Reynolds quit the Labour frontbench in 2015 when Mr Corbyn was elected leader, accusing him of being disloyal to the party over his opposition to the EU and Nato.

She has repeatedly clashed with him over his handling of anti-Semitism in the party, although she insisted before December's election that he would make a better leader than Mr Johnson.

She now says Labour needs to break away from Corbynism as it enters a crucial period which she believes will make or break the party.

Ms Reynolds lost out to Jane Stevenson at the election, the first time the Tories had won the seat in 32 years

Ms Reynolds is backing Sir Keir Starmer in the leadership election, and while she expects him to win, she believes he will only succeed in transforming the party into a "serious opposition" if he assembles an effective shadow cabinet.

"In the first instance we need to look competent, and that means getting talent back on the frontbench rather than wasting away on the backbenches," she said, name-checking Pat McFadden, Hilary Benn, Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper as MPs she would like to see promoted.

"I think Keir Starmer will win, but the big test is what he does next. He needs to tell the party some hard truths if he is to win back the trust of the millions of people who have deserted us."

For Ms Reynolds, the prospect of a Labour Party led by Momentum favourite Rebecca Long-Bailey does not bear thinking about.

"If she wins it could be the end of the Labour Party," she said. "As Lisa Nandy has so powerfully said, if the Labour Party doesn't change it will die. And make no mistake, we are on the brink.

"Rebecca Long Bailey gave Jeremy Corbyn 10 out of 10 for losing 60 seats to the Tories.

"We went down to our worst election defeat since 1935, how on earth can a party leader be deemed to have succeeded on such an abysmal record and a betrayal of the people who I used to represent?"

Ms Reynolds says since the election she has enjoyed spending time with her eight-month-old son Thomas, who she saw sparingly during the six week election campaign.

"The election doesn't end when you lose," she said. "There's the office to clear out and I've had to make staff redundant. In many ways it is a sad time, but I'm not worried about me, I'll be fine.

"I'm worried about the country, and what a Tory majority for the next five years will mean for the NHS, for schools, for the police.

"That's why it is so unforgivable what the hard-left has done to our party. At a time when we should have been winning an election we lost so badly and let down millions of people across the country."

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