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.

Party members attending Stand up for Labour in Sedgefield in September last year

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.

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Paul.

    Refreshing to see your approach and how we need to ‘not play someone else’s game’. I’m right with you on that.

    Also. You pinpoint the spin and propaganda which good people, including socialists just like us, are subject to and manipulated by. O feel this is an underestimated area of influence which we certainly recognise in the main but, in my opinion, largely fail to know how to address it. And telling people they are stupid or immoral is hardly the best way to convince people that there are viable alternatives which fit in with their own principles, as you have cited in your article.

    It appears perverse and bizarre, puzzling even. However, it seems to me to be perfectly well explained and you seem to know it. What amazes me is that seasoned, long-established political representatives in our party who are intelligent, well-educated and experienced campaigners don’t appear to know it too.

    But that, in my opinion as a relative newcomer at my later stage of life, would seem to be more symptomatic of being culturally conditioned and habitually ingrained into a style and role model of behaviour than anything malevolent or cynical. That can easily happen in any group, movement or organisation.

    With all these newbies coming in in their droves, bringing their infernal and niggling mentalities of querying, challenging and critical thinking with them, that looks to have shaken that comfort zone culture up a bit. So I think we need to be aware and sympathetic of that situation, respect it and formulate any methods to help upgrade and improve that culture accordingly.

    Good luck and best wishes to you, Paul.

    Terry Deans

  2. The problem is that we are now seeing a very divided party Paul ask for Unity and i was brought up in a coal mining area and taught that unity is strength , it seems to me that from 2015 one section of the party does in no way want that Unity it would much rather see caring Socialist attacked and accused of racism, i live in a Red wall Town and from 2001 i saw the Labour vote drop in this Town why ? because people were feeling unwanted by the party, this led to Brown polling just 8 million votes in 2010 and losing Scotland along the way, 2015 and Labour crashed again , when you desert people you can no longer expect their vote although the party at that time really did expect it.
    When Corbyn was elected many flocked back to the party but it was not easy to get in indeed i have friends who were refused entry because they shared a meme from the green party on FB or Twitter, we were not welcomed in the party by those who were in it all in fact many were cold shouldered and ignored, in the red wall towns today i am hearing people say they will not vote for the man who went against their democratic vote to leave the EU , in 2017 my Towns Labour vote increased because Labour vowed to respect the result of the EU ref no other reason just that , in 2019 Labour adopted the Lib Dem policy of a 2nd ref and lost the red wall towns along with the election , it really is that simple the people in the red wall towns are sick of being told that politicians from the centre know best a do as your told attitude that drove Scotland away and now a large chunk of Northern England.

    i am an activist i speak to these people they are not in a forgiving mood at all hence the polls telling us the Tories are still ahead .

    In 2017 we sold the manifesto on the doorsteps, young people with children loved the the offer of free school meals and extra hours of child care , pensioners cheered that the triple lock would be kept , environmentalist swooned over our green policy , low paid workers wanted and need a minimum wage of ten pounds an hour and an end to zero hour contracts , we went withing a whisker of winning that election , i will not beat about the bush after it the attack on the leader intensified it was launch by the right wing media on social media aided by the Establishment and sadly by a lot of centrist Labour Mp’s who have never ever learned the lessons from 2010 and 2015 and who now want to return to being part of the status quo and an agreeable opposition , it is clear to me that this Labour will move the economic policy to the right in a bid to appeal to Tory voters, this of course will mean those at the bottom the least well off will suffer once again , is this the Labour we want ? will this win the red wall towns back ? i very much doubt it .

    So we can not win an election without Scotland the best we can hope for is a hung Parliament and that leaves us out of power , the choice is clear a progressive alliance with the SNP and others is needed to win power nothing else will win it in my opinion , a step to the right will once again alienate the red wall towns who are angry that the new leader went against their vote to leave the EU, yes we can work in the communities. in my Borough community work has been taking place for years due to the huge cuts to our council but it did not stop the Town returning its first Tory MP in its history , the red wall towns have spoken , it will will take a lot to bring them back , we must hold on to our radical policies that won them over in 2017 if not we will be a lot longer out of office .

    1. That really resonates with me. My vision here is for our Party to unite and do things grassroots up. People like you have the answers for your own area. By creating democratic CLPs that are well funded, we can run campaigns that speak to the people in our areas and feed into national policy, rather than feeling like the Labour Party is an abstract thing with decisions made far from our communities.

      Our strength is our membership. All members must be respected and policy should be sorted out democratically, not through proclamations following a focus group.

  3. Thank you Paul. there is no way that we will ever get into power by throwing each other under the bus. Already there appears to be splits and disaffected members. It is healthy to disagree and sometimes we will be right and sometimes not so in our ideas that is because we are human rather than left or right. We all want justice and equality within our society. That is what we stand for together and together what a force for good we would be.

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