A House Divided?
Posted on 13 June 2009 | 2:06am
There has been a
good response to the latest email I sent out to Go Fourth supporters this
week. I know there will be some crossover between Go Fourth subscribers and
people who visit here, but thought those who are not Go Fourthers might like to
see it anyway.
Dear Go Fourth
A long one this
week but I hope worth reading.
It’s a difficult
time to be a Labour supporter, isn’t it? Not only because of the poll
results last week, but also the bruising conflicts we have seen amongst our
Poll results can
improve, and they need to.
MPs can put aside
their conflicts, and they need to.
I’ve been looking
through my copy of Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s a great book,
about the rise of Abraham Lincoln and the way he proved himself despite all the
obstacles and showed himself in the end a better leader than many imagined he
would be as he saw off, and then brought in, his rivals to work together for a
better, fairer America.
divisions remind me of a famous phrase Lincoln used in a speech in 1858.
divided against itself cannot stand.”
He was actually
paraphrasing an even more famous leader of men. who an old journalist colleague
of mine, Harry Harris, memorably called ‘the legendary Jesus Christ’.
kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or
house divided against itself shall not stand.”
I bet you didn’t
expect me to quote Jesus in one of these emails, did you? Perhaps it’s that I
am writing this from a hotel in Sedgefield, TB’s old seat. Well, even though I
don’t do God, the point is a good one.
terms, parties that are divided don’t win votes. Look at Labour in the 80s.
Look at the Tories in the 90s.
So after all the
gnashing of teeth, and the wringing of hands, let’s have some calm. Let’s have
some confidence in ourselves and what we stand for. The task is to get on with
achieving what we joined the Labour Party to do. Campaigning for a better,
Some might say
how do we do that when people are electing the BNP? Well, look at the way the
votes fell and it’s obvious that the BNP were elected not because they polled
any more votes than last time (they didn’t), but because Labour polled so
badly. A house divided against itself DID NOT stand.
The Tories did
not set the sky on fire last Thursday, which says to me there is no hunger for
a Cameron government. There is, I believe, an appetite for Labour to turn
things round, and that means there is still a fight to be had.
We owe it to
everyone who has voted Labour since 1997 to draw together, make our case on the
doorsteps, be proud of our record and fight the Tories to win. We owe it to the
people who say “Labour’s done nothing for us” to show them what
we have done be it SureStart, the minimum wage, the winter fuel allowance
or vast investment in schools and hospitals. We must stay together and win for
them. And we have to explain, face to face in every part of the country, why
the BNP slogans do not add up to policy solutions.
The polls look
undeniably bad. But we are living through unprecedented times, with the global
economy volatile and people worried about their homes and jobs. In times like
these, the Tories are not the answer either. Labour is feeling the brunt of
peoples’ fear and frustration, not to mention a lot of anger over expenses, but
I doubt most people want to see the Tories in charge of the British economy
again. So we need to work with purpose, not panic.
Some say we had
our worst electoral result in 100 years last week. Maybe so. But the Labour
activists of a century ago would curse us all if we resigned ourselves to defeat
in a general election.
We can recover if
we work together. Let’s look at some of the results where we worked together.
In my area of
London, though we lost Gospel Oak to the Tories for the first time at the last
local elections, in the Euros on Thursday, the Tories got 16 per cent of the
vote, to Labour’s 32. Hard work = victory.
South of the
Thames in Lambeth, Labour’s Mark Harrison held a council seat with a 330
majority over the Lib Dems. Hard work = victory.
South, Herts, Labour’s Kieran Thorpe defeated the Tories to win a council seat
by 18 votes in a Tory area. Hard work = victory.
In Radcliffe West
in Bury, Labour’s Rishi Shori saw off the Tories to hold a council seat by 9
votes. Hard work = victory.
There are others
I could mention, including by-election gains from the SNP in Scotland, and well
done to all who won or held seats on Thursday. Commiserations to those who did
not – I ask you to stay with Labour.
I know times seem
hard. Our work to win will be hard. But the lives of millions of people will be
made harder, much harder, if we fail.
I’ve read over
and over again in the past few days that Labour activists are taken for
granted. I never have. JP, Glenys or Dick never have. We know how hard you
work. That’s one of the reasons why we started Go Fourth last autumn to show
how activists matter.
Thanks for all
you do in bad times as well as good.