In the aftermath of the heartbreaking and exhausting night of the 2015 general election, I stood there in the emptying hall where the count for Leeds had took place and, in a fit of exhaustion and sleep-deprived nerdy psychosis, paid tribute to my friends and colleagues on the campaign by quoting a speech from the video game “Mass Effect”, in which a soldier motivates his men by calling up memories of past victories and stresses the importance of “holding the line” against seemingly overwhelming enemies.
That, in essence, should be our strategy for June 8th. We hold the line.
We aren’t going to make a hundred gains. We aren’t even likely to make a handful. Nobody but the most deluded member thinks there is any chance whatsoever of victory, or of Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister on June 9th.
Our party’s popularity has seemingly bottomed out at around 25%, and has been coasting there for months, whereas May leads Corbyn in the latest polling by over 30 points.
That is why she’s done this. To destroy us. Swiftly and brutally.
Let’s not give her that satisfaction. Let’s make her struggle for every vote that she expects to gain and every seat she expects to take. Let’s fight the strongest defensive campaign in British electoral history.
Let’s make all our current marginal seats defensive, and give them the resources, the staff, the money we usually pile into optimistic and wasteful key seat lists and plans.
We aren’t likely to pick up any seats, but we can sure as hell try our best to avoid losing them, and we should protect our MPs and majorities like a mother protects their children.
Seats like Halifax and Dewsbury, where hard-working MPs do their level best to provide help and support for countless desperate constituents, are now in danger.
Every Labour member who wants to give May a bloody nose shouldn’t be thinking of making gains, or dreaming about slashing Tory majorities that are likely to just go up. They should look at their nearest seat where the MP is in danger, and commit to doing all they can to defend that seat and help that MP cling on.
This isn’t D-Day or Agincourt. We aren’t going to surge to victory, rout the Tories and stand on the steps of Downing Street bathed in the dawn light.
Those days have passed like tears in the rain.
This is Verdun, Roarke’s Drift – Helm’s Deep – a battle not for victory, but for survival.
It is no secret to my friends that of late my commitment to the party has been wavering. I’ve been disillusioned, I’ve been angry, I’ve been full of despair. I was ready to walk away at the end of this month if things didn’t get better.
It feels like fate, but just a few days before this announcement, at my sister’s wedding of all things, I had one of those life changing drunken conversations with someone who might well have been an angel (it was Easter after all) and was persuaded to stay. Now, the war has been declared, I wonder how I was ever so selfish to consider standing down.
All my misgivings pale into significance at the threat of a Tory landslide, we all have to unite and do all we can to stop that happening and be that iron dome, that thin red line around Labour Britain saying “you go no further”.
Every member, whatever your opinion on the leader or the party at the moment, has to remember one simple truth: that any Labour MP, whoever they are, wherever they stand in the party, is preferable to a Tory MP, and that the best way, in the face of defeat, to protect the most vulnerable in our society, is to defend those MPs and constituencies to the hilt.
Shakespeare’s King Hal famously said that someone with no stomach for the fight should depart the battlefield. I urge every member to join that fight and resist the Tories in every seat they expect to beat us – doorstep by doorstep, voter by voter – doing all we can to hold them back.
The only thing currently protecting the British people from the unrestrained callousness of Theresa May’s government and the hardest possible brexit is the thin red line of Labour constituencies that runs through our country.
We owe it to the British people to hold that line.