Let’s not kid ourselves.
If we, as a Party, want to transform the economy, to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, no amount of placating the billionaire press and assorted right wing pressure groups will help us to achieve this.
If our intention is to rebalance the economy to work for all people, where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect, we will not get an easy ride. The powerful will not simply give this power to all of us and we cannot expect that by playing the game of the billionaire owned media that this will change the way they treat us as a Party unless we renege on our commitments.
To make the changes we so desperately need as a society, we need to examine our strengths and use them to deliver electoral success. And what strengths we have, if only we harnessed them.
For me, our greatest traditional strength is our people.
Our strength is our membership and our trade union movement links. I have met thousands of Labour Party members and what inspires me about them is the desire and dedication to make the world a better place.
Some members have big ideas about transforming the way we run as a nation and as internationalists, others simply want to concentrate on their local communities.
What connects us is our desire to do one simple thing. Help. That is exactly what should define us in the eyes of the national consciousness.
The Labour Party wants to help. We do not have the monopoly on this, but the coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that, at least in Sedgefield and all other CLPs I have connections with, so many of the people who have wanted to help their communities are Labour Party members and supporters.
Forget which ‘faction’ of the Party the members are perceived to have been from. Our members are the backbone of our communities.
Coming from a former ‘Red Wall’ seat, I am more than familiar with our local Tory MPs claiming credit for the opening of a crisp packet, yet our members show a humility that will not allow them, in the main, to highlight their remarkable dedication.
Perhaps that needs to change – for all our benefit.
Along with that dedication comes a depth of expertise that is mind boggling. You can learn so much, simply from speaking to other members. For some time I have used the phrase: ‘I don’t have all the answers, but I am sure that between all of us, we do.’
Health, education, economics, transport, infrastructure, building regulations, health and safety regulations, racism, justice, rehabilitation and so many more topics. There is always somebody in our movement who has some expertise that adds something to our collective knowledge.
To quote a trusted comrade: ‘There are loads of us!’
Loads of people who are dedicated to seeing the end of injustice and building a better world. People who dedicate their time and money towards a cause because they are good people and want to improve all of our lives.
It alarms me when I, a proud socialist, speak to people who voted Conservative at the last election who seem to have remarkably similar political beliefs to my own. Delving into their reasons, they seem to have voted against our party for the very reasons they should have voted for us: community, compassion, disgust at a corrupt system.
The Tories have managed to brand the Labour Party as the establishment and they as the saviours who will shake things up and bring change.
These new Conservative voters have been convinced that an Eton educated Bullingdon boy is anti-establishment and that the Labour Party is standing in the way of their emancipation. This can be explored further another time but for now I want to explore one small, but vital, aspect.
The Labour Party wins on hope. Fear drives people to the right. Socialists believe that people, in general, are good. We have to, otherwise we wouldn’t believe in socialism. It couldn’t work if people are not essentially good.
If we cannot assume the best of fellow Labour Party members, then where do we stand? What is the point?
We need every single one of our members working in their communities for the next four years to stand a chance at the next election. We can compete with the media narrative by showing our communities how much we care and how much we offer.
People need to feel like when they vote for Labour, they are voting for their friend. For their family. Their colleague. The person who brought a food parcel to their nana when she was shielding during the coronavirus crisis.
I do not write any of this lightly. I am all too aware of how badly many people in the party have been treated. But I do say this. Most members I have met are great people and want largely what I want. Most staff members worked incredibly hard and were committed to winning elections.
I do not feel that I have the ability to influence the leadership of the Party as an individual, but I am part of a CLP which despite having just lost our MP, are largely united and filled with outstanding members.
Collectively, given the right backing, we can achieve great things and play our part in influencing the direction of the Party. We can move away from a model where the outcome is based upon three word slogans and the perceived ‘electability’ of leader.
We need to stop playing somebody else’s game.
The Labour movement must unite. This does not mean that we must not disagree. Healthy debate is essential. But we must assume the best of one another rather than thinking the worst and that every disagreement is a falling out. We must stop throwing fellow members, and consequently the Party, under the bus.
I have faith in our members. This is not about individuals. This is about a collective.
Paul Daly is Chair of Sedgefield CLP, a Parish Councillor in Wingate and runs a social media channel called Socialist Think Tank.