If I remember rightly, Labour needs to gain 65 seats to form a majority. Jeremy has this weekend launched a campaign touring the 73 marginals most vulnerable to a Labour swing. Fittingly, he is beginning in Hastings, where Amber Rudd survived by the skin of her teeth. Also on the hit-list is Chingford (Duncan Smith), Uxbridge (Boris) and Shipley (Phillip Davies). This is, I believe, a massive opportunity for Labour to unite around what we do best – unseating Tories.
Surely all wings of the Party would be united in cheering when we see Phillip Davies lose his seat? Won’t we all be jumping for joy when we cross the magic number of 326 seats in the Commons? It really dismays me that even in the aftermath of a great campaign and result, some comrades (Richard Angell and Paul Mason, I’m looking at you) clearly still prefer to fight each other rather than the Tories. Both the left and right of the Party are guilty of this predilection for circular firing squads.
The vast majority of the Party, however, are sensible people, and will do the sensible thing – unite. We will stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize – a Labour government. The 73 campaign will help with this.
Instead of divisive talk about deselecting hard-working Labour MPs, let’s focus on unseating Tories. Instead of spending your Saturday morning studying the Party rulebook, trying to figure out how to deselect your MP, it would be time far better spent in your nearest Tory marginal, campaigning to unseat them.
Instead of backbench Labour MPs tabling hopeless amendments on the Single Market, providing the Tory press with headlines about Labour divisions, it would be good to see them using their privileged place in the chamber to attack this coalition of chaos and all its works.
Jeremy can help unify the Party too. I understand why he didn’t want to reshuffle his shadow cabinet too much immediately after the election. He wanted the headlines to be about the Tories’ floundering negotiations with the extremist, terrorist-sympathising DUP, rather than another interminable Labour reshuffle. But in the autumn perhaps, finding places for Yvette and Chuka might not be such a bad idea (although I fear Chuka may have blown his chance with yesterday’s stunt). Likewise, the leadership must continue to make clear it’s position on stamping out antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head in our movement. This is a task that can never be taken lightly. Take it seriously, and we will succeed in banishing this scourge from our movement.
Most importantly, let’s hit the doorsteps in those 73 marginals. In my region, the North East, we should be targeting Middlesbrough South, Hexham, and Carlisle. All are within reach if we get our message right. Other obvious targets jump at you from the map. Bolton West, Norwich North, Worcester and Gloucester, not to mention the seats we lost to the Tories.
In North London, we need to be on the doorstep repairing our damaged relationship with Jewish voters. We must counteract the shameful image we have acquired (thanks Ken) of being a party that not only tolerates antisemitism but is riddled with it. We need to demonstrate to Jewish people that we are listening to them and are taking steps to right the wrongs. We do this by doing what comes naturally to us: by embedding ourselves in the communities we seek to represent. Let their concerns become our concerns, let their daily lives become ours. And we must do this, not only for the sake of votes, but for the sake of restoring their confidence in us as a movement that fights against discrimination and prejudice, and as a Party where Jewish members can feel respected and valued.
We should be rightly proud of our radical socialist policies, which are popular with voters of many demographics. Our manifesto made headlines for the right reasons. We should actively want a political debate truly grounded in policies rather than personalities, because if we achieve that, then we will win hands-down every time.
Our policies are vastly superior and the Tories know it. That’s why they reduced the campaign to a presidential choice between May and Jeremy. But you know what? He even beat her on that score. He emerged from this campaign as a leader strengthened, emboldened and refreshed. She crawled from the wreckage of her campaign a much diminished figure, exhausted, fearful and out of ideas.
My favourite band is Panic! At The Disco. They have a line in one of their songs: “if you’re gonna preach, for god’s sake, preach with conviction”. We only win when we truly believe in what we are saying. That way the voters know we are genuine and we can be trusted. Let’s defend the record of the last Labour government, and vigorously promote the vision of the future that can be achieved by the next.