I want you to do something for me today. I want you to ask a friend, collegue or maybe even a family member to tell you what the Labour Party is. The results, I’m willing to bet, will be illuminating.
Some will tell you the Labour Party is Ed (Miliband or Balls), some will say Blair, or Brown – and someone is bound to muddle up their Milibands and tell you it’s all about David. They will probably think of the Labour Party as men in grey suits (always men) on their televisions, shouting at each other in wood panelled chambers or talking in jargon in well lit TV studios. Politics feels distant from their lives, and the way we do politics only serves to push people further away.
Fortunately though, there’s a remedy to that – because the Labour Party isn’t them, it’s you. It’s friends and neighbours, workmates and the man who runs your local shop. It’s your doctor, your electrician and your old school teacher. It lives and breathes in the world around you. But people don’t know it. Our members are the party’s greatest strength – their relative invisibility is our greatest weakness.
In recent weeks, I’ve been helping to run a by-election in my local area. And it’s been a fantastic experience. Not because I love elections – although, here’s the thing, I do – but because of the people I’ve met while I’ve been campaigning. Because whilst messrs Miliband and Balls get the attention and the limelight, the Labour Party couldn’t survive without the unsung efforts of Labour activists, the happy(ish) few prop up the party through sheer force of will.
You all know the types – the person who never seeks elected office but is always the first one out to canvass. The longs serving Treasurer who expects nothing back from the party but gives so much of themselves. The chair who IS the local party. Unsung heroes. Unrecognised. Not thanked often enough. Not spoken of loudly enough. Not thought of as the Labour Party.
But they a though. As much, if not more, than anyone else. Thank you.
Now go and ask the person next to you who or what the Labour Party is. And then tell them, the Labour Party is you, too.
P.S. – As I’m campaigning in the by-election today that means posting will be a little light. It also means I’ll miss Jeremy Hunt at Leveson which I’m hugely disappointed about. Normal service will resume tomorrow.
P.P.S – If you happen to be in London and want to campaign in the by election for Labour, you can find us all day at 104 East Barnet Road (next to New Barnet Train Station).