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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.

Labour’s recent
divisions remind me of a famous phrase Lincoln used in a speech in 1858. 

“A house
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. 

In political
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,
fairer Britain.

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.

In Hatfield
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. 

Keep Going


  • Alex White

    Good points Alastair, about the need for unity. To what extent do you think unity in times of crisis is based on sound leadership?

  • Wireman

    It was “legendary Bible character Jesus”, as I recall.

  • Alexandra MacKay Binnie

    If more people did “do God”, this country would be in a far better state than it is today.

    I find it strange that in times of trouble people who had no faith, flocked to church.

    Your colleague should have carried on to the next chapter of St. Mark which tells the parable of the sower. Next time you find yourself in an hotel read the bible and you will find even more good points.


  • Des Currie

    Don’t do God?
    What a surprising statemant.
    What of those who do? Seemeth to me your contempt runneth over.
    Don’t do God, indeed.
    Fortuisly I wrote on a BBC site the morning in response to an article about fate…..

    “Through Biblical reasoning the words “lest I” preclude a fate, leaving your own actions in your own hands, saving prayer should have influence.
    Lest I come and smite thee with a curse.”

    And you seem on course to be smitten.

    Des Currie

  • mary

    Alastair, i got the e mail from Go Fourth, kind of funny as I only joined the site to complain to John Prescott about being made to pay for all his food. Now there is a call for everyone to get together to support Margaret Beckett’s bid for Speaker. Did any of you see her performance on Question Time as the expenses scandal evolved. None of our business that she charged us for her pot plants. All the Telegraph’s fault for exposing her. No apology, any more than there is one from John Prescottor any of the other grandees. For God’s sake try to locate someone who does understand the damage that has been caused. Mrs. Beckett, it is time to retire.

  • Christine Higginbottom

    Dear Alistair, Here’s to all of us who ‘don’t do God’, and a quote for all of us striving for loved ones mentally ill.

    “Full effort is Full Victory”, Gandhi.

  • Tubby Hubby

    Interesting blog AC. I have just finished reading Teachings of Queen Kunti. Chapter 8 is interesting it comes under the heading Let There Be Calamities. “…this material world is full of dangers..” Perhaps you could weave some Krishna into your New Labour propaganda

  • gary Enefer

    Dear Alastair (and Fiona!)

    What’s this about Four Poster bed’s on Twitter and the MOS?I may have mentioned I was working too hard in the 80s & 90’S (and leading a very sheltered life obviously),to take too much notice of your relationship with Daily Mail and MOS.

    As any good journalist would say ”This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story”. Profuse apologies to those that know it.Have you written a book about it?

    Best wishes


  • Colin Morley

    A brave try, Alastair. You’re doing what you do best very well. But the ‘rise’ of the BNP and the general apathy in the political scene isn’t going to disappear until and unless somebody (or preferably a good, coherent political ‘body’) comes up with something that will really say to Joe Public that what they are getting is TRUE representation and not a bunch of self-seeking, arrogant, greedy people who care not a jot for the plebs. Labour cannot do this anymore it is way too late

  • The Gord Delusion

    The Labour Govt need a miracle. The holier than thou Lord Mandelson will perform miracles with 40 fish and loaves to feed the millions who are unemployed. Then our great Lord will turn water into wine for the multi billionaires and fat cats he socialises with. Religion is only good for one thing and that is setting up soup kitchens for the poor and needy. There are going to be a lot of people needing them. GORD BLESS YOU NEW LABOUR

  • Selfish Jean

    Dear Alastair, What an impressive blog you have. The Government are jolly lucky to have someone as perceptive as you supporting their cause. Even better with God on your side. The people of this country-revolting peasants- do not realise what a great government we have. Let them eat gruel under Conservative rule. Godspeed

  • cpw

    they say a people gets the government it deserves. this week has proved a blog gets an audience it deserves too. christ, this week’s commenys have been comical. you are all irremediable morons. well done

  • Dave Taggart

    Been out on the doorstep often enough for Labour but never been sure to what extent elections are won or lost there. Do think that other factors are important. However, much that is true here including lack of support for Tories and not to forget Labour achievements.

  • Jane A

    My thoughts are that we also need not to be short-termist. A week is a long time in politics. Ok, the last month has been dire, but given that the next election doesn’t have to be until May, that is a hell of a time in which to turn things around. In that time Dave is going to have to come clean re if he actually has any policies. The LP needs to push through this and use the next ten months to rebuild confidence and trust. But there’s time.

  • Selfish Jean

    Jane A I agree with everything you write. Must go I have new knee pads to pick up from Harrods. Keep up the good work.