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Good news on leukaemia, good news on student activism

Posted on 13 October 2009 | 8:10am

Late night, early morrning … both containing reasons to be cheerful.

Late night because I was speaking to Oxford University Labour Club, where there was a mood and an energy to the gathering that confirmed my view that support and activism for Labour can grow the more people focus on the idea there may be a return to a Conservative government within months. More down below.

Early morning because GMTV offfered me the 0620 slot to talk about progress on treating childhood leaukaemia thanks to a 15-year programme funded by Leukaemia Research. When the charity started almost 50 years ago – cue plug for The Big 5-0, in which we are trying to get 50 people or companies to donate 50k for our 50th anniversary next year – childhood leukaemia was effectively a death sentence.

The latest stats show that today 91 per cent of children with leukaemia survive. From zero to nine out of ten in half a century. That is progress. The latest advances are thanks to something called the Minimal Residual Disease Test, which allows doctors to tailor chemotherapy according to each child’s needs.

I managed to get in a plug for the Big 5-0 and half a plug for the Stephen Fry event on Sunday at London’s Criterion theatre. There are a few tickets left and if anyone wants them go to sgarrett@lrf.org.uk or call 0207 685 1022.

The Oxford event was in a pretty big room, and it was packed, with plenty having to stand or sit on the floor. And there was an energy there that doubtless came in part from the presence of lots of new students, and others returning after the long summer break. But my sense after a long and lively q and a was that the energy was coming from an understanding that there is a real fight with the Tories on, and people were wanting to engage in that fight.

My main message was that the next election was going to be tougher for Labour than the last three but that it was winnable, provided we properly communicated the record, won the policy arguments about the future, and really took the fight to the Tories.

The general message from the media has been that the Conference season was politically neutral. I’m not so sure about that. I think the greater focus on the Tories, far from showing their strengths, showed up some of their weaknesses. The reliance on Cameron. His over reliance on communications and media management, rather than policy and strategy. Their barmy friends in Europe. The Boris act wearing thin. Their commitment as Number 1 priority to ta tax cut for the 3000 wealthiest  estates. The pretence of supporting some public services and Labour advances alongside the evident ideological desire to cut down the State. I won’t go on as long as I did last night.

I told the story of the time a Telegraph reporter called me to ask me for a comment on a poll showing Labour’s lead in the polls had gone above 30 points. I told them too that I did not believe David Cameron felt the positive reaction to him and the Tories that was expressed for TB and New Labour in 1996/7.

And as I sat bleary eyed waiting to go on the GMTV sofa, I flicked through a copy of The Times. A new poll, taken after the Tory conference, had Labour up 3, and the Tories down 1. Hardly a ringing endorsement of their great week.

  • Harry H

    Not sure how many people watch at that time of the morning but I was one of them … amazed they never asked you about expenses and MPs but fair play, and well done with all your plugging!

  • CKS

    Great event last night. Thanks for all the time and energy you put into it. I agree the Tory conference has revitalised people. Also check out the student paper on Oxford University Conservative elections – as part of the hustings they were basically competing on who could tell the best racist stories – Bullingdonism alive and well

  • Nick

    A.C

    Why so reticent about Rowan Williams’s coruscating attack on you at the memorial service last week ?

  • Simon Gittins

    ‘Why so reticent about Rowan Williams’s coruscating attack on you at the memorial service last week ?’

    Iraq and Afghanistan are taboo subjects on here, as are budget deficits, unemployment figures, referendums, immigration, education standards…… well probably pretty much everything except the beastly media and childish swipes at David Cameron and the occasional re-writing of history.
    Funny to read though.

  • Alan Quinn

    Alastair,
    A bit of Rovers v Clarets history for you on the back page of the Grauniad sport.