On Friday night thousands of Labour Party members joined a digital meeting to understand our response to the crisis unfolding before us. During the call I asked all of those who had joined to use the opportunity provided by the humanitarian crisis not to shirk from our responsibilities and to lead from the front.
Yesterday morning I was alerted to news that my comments had been taken out of context and were being used to smear me and the Labour Party. This is utterly appalling behaviour from long out-of-control elements of the media, which seem not to be able to cease their outrageous “journalism” even in a time of national crisis.
This pandemic poses an extreme threat to our society and has been exacerbated by the response of the government and ten years of wilful destruction of our public services. It is extremely worrying that the most optimistic estimates of the death toll from this virus is likely to be in the tens of thousands. For the acolytes of the British Right to suggest that I or the Labour Party are excited by this prospect is utterly disgusting.
I make no apology for calling for our hundreds of thousands of members in every community up and down this country to get involved and to take their roles in this crisis seriously. It is a call that I would extend to members of all political parties.
Our members are already at the forefront of this emergency in the workplace. They are doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, supermarket staff, council workers, teachers, teaching assistants, postal workers and others, literally on the frontline.
Members of all political parties take their roles in civil society seriously. In Wansbeck, Labour Party members are stalwarts of voluntary organisations from food banks, to sports clubs to tenants groups. All of these have a role to play in ensuring that in seeing unprecedented restrictions in how we operate as a society that we do not lose our humanity.
Our elected representatives at each and every level also have a duty to ensure the power they have is directed at making sure that the response of our local authorities and institutions puts the health and wellbeing of all of our citizens, and especially our most vulnerable, at the forefront during this difficult time.
Last night, the prime minister announced sweeping measures that fall short of locking down the country. Quite how our police force, who have been decimated over the last decade, are meant to enforce this is yet to be seen. But it does throw lots of questions into the mix about the outstanding response of communities to the challenges that this crisis is throwing at us.
While real thought has to be given to how our community groups respond to the new regulations, there are things that all of us can do to support one another. The internet has opened up a whole new world where links can be built and our social fabric held together without leaving the house. We have to utilise this technology to ensure those that can play a full part in our communities digitally and are not left behind even as we are facing unprecedented restrictions.
However, the digital age has not reached everyone. We must ensure those who cannot or do not use social media are checked upon and helped during this moment. Those we cannot reach using the internet we could call on our phones or push notes through our neighbours doors to ensure everyone is doing ok.
Once again I call on the battalion of 580,000 Labour Party members, our supporters, trade unionists and all community minded individuals to pull together during these most challenging of days. The labour movement was formed to give voice and look after those in most need. I am truly proud of that. These are unprecedented times and the response from all sides should be built on compassion, not gutter-level “journalism” that seeks to undermine the gravity of the moment.