10 progressive highlights of 2013

18th December, 2013 7:00 am

1)     Barack Obama’s inauguration

2)     The collapse of the BNP

3)     Equal marriage

4)     Feminism’s fightback

5)     Ed’s cost of living campaign

6)     The man who loved Britain

7)     #Labourdoorstep organisers

8)     Digital democracy

9)     Candidates worth fighting for

10)  An extraordinary life

The Labour Party really really loves Barack Obama. I think we’re probably even keener on him than he is. So our year kicked off well with the inauguration of one of our own, an outcome we’ve been mining for lessons ever since. This Forward pamphlet is a good place to start if you want to fly into January full of ideas about changing your CLP.

Then came local elections in May, a mixed night for Labour but a triumph for decency and democracy when every single BNP candidate lost. Here’s my happiest infographic of the year – sign up for activist alerts here if you want to be part of the final wipe-out in 2014.


In July Labour MPs helped haul equal marriage over the line, thereby fulfilling our historic role as Britain’s greatest guarantor of gay equality. While the PM deserves some credit for both his own change of heart and taking on his party (please, please let there be a gay interior decorator somewhere that really is “very good at antiques” making a stack of cash out of that endorsement), LGBT voters aren’t stupid. People can see what really happened here: Labour delivered equality.


The summer also saw both the nadir of online abuse aimed at women campaigners, but also some of the most inspiring examples of a year-long feminist fightback. That movement has many stars, but my tweet of the year comes from Labour’s own Stella Creasy MP, who responded to a troll calling her a “dumb blonde bitch” with the immortal “that’s DR dumb blonde bitch to you”.

Labour’s exit from a tricksy summer defied all expectations with Miliband’s conference pledges continuing to make the political weather 3 months on and even his fiercest critics had to admire the dignity with which he resisted an attempted character assassination of his late father in the same month.

Ed  is more relaxed than his predecessors about the media in part because the party is now making significant investments in the two forces that can loosen its grip on the national conversation: field and online. Party General Secretary Iain McNicol has already recruited more than 100 full time organisers covering our 106 target seats while our digital colleagues have reached 4.5 million people with one technique alone.

All of these upgrades to our campaigning infrastructure have coincided with a quiet revolution in the selection of Labour candidates, with diverse and dynamic PPCs already in place right across Labour’s frontline.

In this final month of the year we have, of course, mourned the loss of Nelson Mandela. But in the midst of our grief, the British left can be proud that what was for the world a public event was for us a family death. Madiba was not just our political inspiration but our fraternal friend and it was Labour which best articulated the incredible affection of a public which had “stood up for justice – and prevailed”.

As the shadow cabinet start to make their resolutions for 2014 they’d do far worse than heed the story told in the introduction to a book of Mandela’s speeches: at the end of every day, even in his final weeks in office, the elderly President would gather his secretaries together and ask their advice on what he had got wrong today, and how he could improve tomorrow.

This is the last of these political top 10s in 2013 but we will be back next year so if there are topics you want to see covered in 2014 let me know in comments or on twitter. Otherwise have a merry Christmas and happy Hogmanay.

Kirsty McNeill is a former Downing Street adviser and a strategy consultant for campaigning organisations. She tweets @kirstyjmcneill.

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