So Theresa May has called a snap general election and it looks like there is no chance that Labour will block it in Parliament.
My Facebook is exploding with anti-Corbyn Labour activists expressing their deep concern that we will get hammered and who are getting ready to knock on doors.
I’m seeing somewhat less from the local pro-Corbyn Labour activists on my wall. Granted it’s only been a few hours, but I want to take this opportunity to admonish my fellow Corbyn supporters: If you support Jeremy, get out on the bloody doors.
I said this same thing in these pages last year. Then, in the days after Jeremy became leader, many of my aims were strategic, hoping to encourage doorstep activity not just for its own sake, but also to solidify the integration of new members into the party, and to build ties of respect between old and new activists.
Today, I am saying these words for entirely different reasons. Jeremy told us that one of his hopes was to reform the Labour Party, and that those aspirations hinged not on his person or his leadership, but upon the new members ourselves.
If Corbyn-supporting members are not willing, after being begged to get out on the doorstep, then this project is over – and, win or lose – Labour will be stuffed for a decade to come.
Then we will get a Brexit that is terrible for the working people that Theresa May so loves to reference in her speeches, and the last vestiges of our NHS will be privatised, cut and gone. The schools will be academies, our doors will close to immigrants, and Trump will ride down the Mall in the Queen’s golden carriage. UKIP will arise from its half-life, calling itself the only force that can keep a Tory Brexit honest, and the racism that bubbled up during and after the Leave vote will only increase.
May clearly called for an election that, if not a second referendum on leaving Europe, is a referendum on what kind of Brexit we shall have. Yet again we will have a nasty campaign where stories about immigrants dominate the press – and may even be used as stalking points after the purdah. Discussions of freedom of movement – essential, of course, for a just society – will eclipse discussions of issues of trade, human rights, and the environment. And Brexit, as a whole, will eclipse all the huge concerns around public service cuts and investment that would be at the forefront of a general election that was not overshadowed by Brexit.
We are facing an uphill battle with this election. In places like Plymouth, there are a lot of people on the doors who say they won’t vote for us while Corbyn is in power. But Corbyn and his shadow cabinet have been coming up with some brilliant policies in the last few weeks – free school meals, protections for small businesses that get cheated, and the pensioners’ pledge are among them. All we can do is cut through the media chaff and get that message to the doors.
There’s a chance for us with those policies, and there is a chance May has made a mistake calling for this election. Remember Gordon Brown once abandoned an election he had been sure he could win.
But there is not much of a chance if the keyboard warrior culture of Corbynism doesn’t expand to accommodate the culture of finding our voters and getting them out on polling day.
I want to see every Canary-forwarding, mainstream media (MSM)-bashing activist out on the doors, or with a phone in their hand, talking to people who think a canary is a bird and MSM is something that goes in Chinese food. Sure, canvassers get a lot of invective from voters about Corbyn, and sure, much of that stems from decidedly unfair national coverage of Corbyn. But the only way to cut through this national messaging is to do the awkward thing and walk into someone’s garden, past their bluebells and their sleeping cats, and to give their door a knock.
If every Momentum or Red Labour member does not get out on the doorstep, then the project Corbyn has dedicated his life to – reforming the Labour Party – is dead. Old guard members will see us Corbynites as fairweather friends. We have to prove to the party and the electorate that we are willing to do hard work and have difficult conversations, not just show up to pack party meetings and vote in leadership elections.
Party politics is getting involved in the long slog whether or not it is pleasant and whether or not we have a huge chance of winning. It’s about paying your dues and eating your share of humble pie. If we are not out on the doors for the next six weeks, if we melt away in fear of a hard job, we let ourselves down and we let Corbyn down. We must learn that politics is much, much more than clicking a button, and we must learn it fast – or Corbyn’s project for a Labour founded on explicitly socialist values will be smashed to pieces.
Margaret Corvid is a writer and Labour activist in Plymouth and is contributing in a personal capacity.
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