As I write this, Theresa May is Prime Minister and the negotiations regarding the UK leaving the EU are still due to begin next week. But forgive me for feeling as if everything else in politics, including in our own region, has been somewhat turned upside down.
Labour is far closer to No 10 than it was before last Thursday’s election thanks to our positive campaign led by Jeremy Corbyn. As well as making gains — more of which in a minute — we closed the gap in a whole swathe of seats, making them Labour-Tory marginals going forward. From Camborne and Redruth to Filton and Bradley Stoke, constituencies that in recent years we have considered out of reach are now integral in ensuring a Labour government is elected the next time we go to the polls. I want to place on record my congratulations and thanks not only to those candidates who stood and were unsuccessful, but the leaflet deliverers, door knockers and all those who gave up their time to help.
Labour made three gains in the South West, upping our representation from four to seven MPs. In Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Bristol North West, and Stroud three brilliant Labour candidates managed to topple the Tory incumbents, meaning the South West has a few more islands of red in the blue tide. I have no doubt that Luke Pollard MP, Darren Jones MP and Dr David Drew MP will do an exemplary job. I have known all three for many years and it is a joy to know they will be standing up for their constituencies and for the South West in Westminster.
Our four MPs elected before last Thursday managed to hugely increase their majorities. Many congratulations go to Ben Bradshaw, Karin Smyth, Kerry McCarthy, and Thangam Debbonaire (who managed to secure the biggest rise in vote share for a Labour candidate ever).
While we are, and we should be, celebrating the result we must also recognise we did not win and the Tories are still in government. That means, among other things, that they are the ones negotiating with the EU27 over Brexit. If we can't be in the negotiations then we must do all we can to protect our jobs, manufacturing sector, and the finances for our public services. All we are getting from the Tories on Brexit are decisions based on narrow party interest - we must put the interests of our county first.
I am looking forward to working with our Magnificent Seven MPs, as well as our Labour voices elsewhere in the region to ensure that the party’s message and manifesto of hope, equality and social justice is heard at home, in Westminster, and in Brussels. Our work now is to build on the current success to ensure we will be making all the decisions as a Government after the next election.