I am writing to you as a Labour activist of 10 years: someone who has pounded the pavements until my shoes have fallen apart, someone who has received more papercuts and dog bites than I can recall, and someone who has been loyal to my party, the Labour Party. An unpaid volunteer. A foot soldier, if you will. Someone who has dedicated most of his adult life to the party.
I must confess, when Theresa May announced the general election in 2017 my heart sank. While many newer Labour members were ecstatic with the prospect of the election and a Labour government, all I could see were the terrible polls that showed Labour on the brink of oblivion. I sincerely hoped they were wrong, but I also remembered the three years of slog towards 2015 and the massive disappointment of the result both locally and nationally.
I knew this announcement meant that I would once again be giving up two weeks of annual leave to go out and volunteer for Labour. Prior to the announcement, I had spent a couple of weekends in Manchester Gorton, volunteering for the upcoming by-election – as I did in Copeland and Oldham before that. I did all this because I sincerely believed – and, perhaps more importantly, still believe – that only Labour can fix the injustices and inequality in this country.
During the election, I worked hard in my own constituency, Elmet and Rothwell, despite a huge Conservative majority, delivering leaflets, organising volunteers, knocking on doors, and everything else. On top of all this, I visited 10 other constituencies across the country, supporting candidates from across the party – from Tom Watson in West Bromwich East to Laura Pidcock in North West Durham; from Doncaster Central knocking for Rosie Winterton to student voter registration for Alex Sobel in Leeds North West.
As the campaign progressed, we saw our efforts pay off. The polls started to climb. I even dared to hope that we might manage to prevent the Conservatives making gains. Our volunteers, our candidates, our local councillors all played their part to make an effective campaign. We were joined by people of every age group – from students at university labour clubs to members of decades standing. We stuffed thousands of letters, made nearly as many calls and spent day after day, hour after hour talking to people about Labour’s policies on the doorstep. We were united by Labour’s positive message that the UK could be run for the many, not the few.
Polling day arrived quickly. I woke up at 4am, had breakfast and was out of the door for 5am. I was the first volunteer to arrive at Richard Burgon’s campaign office in the neighbouring constituency of East Leeds. They started somewhat earlier than my CLP, so I decided to go and help get some leaflets out for sunrise. Once I had finished, I returned to my own constituency, and then proceeded to spend the next twelve hours doing as much as I could to win votes for Labour. We finished up just before 8:30pm, with the sun setting.
But the day wasn’t over for me. I was at the Leeds count for around 10pm. The exit poll had come in. I was surrounded by Labour activists, the lifeblood of our party, who were incredibly proud. They were exhausted, but their work had been justified. They could see a real prospect of a Labour government – if not now, sometime soon. The next several hours were spent sampling, only interrupted by cheers from colleagues when ‘Labour gain’ flashed on the television screens.
In Elmet and Rothwell we didn’t win. But in Leeds North West we did. In Crewe and Nantwich we did. In Peterborough, in Colne Valley, in Keighley we did. We even won in Kensington and in Canterbury. The result was testament to our much-derided policies. It was testament to brilliant candidates who gave everything. But before all that, it was testament to the hard work and effort of thousands of Labour activists in every part of the country.
It was with that memory in my mind that I read the contents of this weekend’s leaked report. I would ask all comrades in our party to please try to put yourself in my shoes. Imagine what I, and all of the thousands of other activists, must be feeling when we read about senior staff in our own party rooting for Labour’s defeat in that election.
Consider how heartbreaking it must feel to have given up spare time and annual leave to learn that your efforts were being undermined. Better still, think about those who were in desperate need of a Labour government – to transform their lives, get rid of the bedroom tax, properly fund health and social care, and bring about both social and economic justice. How must they feel today? What can we say to encourage them to stay in this party and this movement?
Clause I of the Labour Party Rule Book states:
- Its purpose is to organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country a political Labour Party.
- The Party shall bring together members and supporters who share its values to develop policies, make communities stronger through collective action and support, and promote the election of Labour Party representatives at all levels of the democratic process.
Do the actions of our senior party staff comply with this rule? I don’t believe so.
Even when Labour parliamentarians have said or done things I profoundly disagreed with in the past, I have lobbied and tried to change things, but when push came to shove, I have still gone out to campaign for them and the party. I – alongside the thousands of amazing party activists – have given it my all, because I am loyal to my party.
It is sickening, gut-wrenching in fact, that people paid six-figure sums to work for the Labour Party cannot say the same.
There is more to this leaked report even than that. Appalling cases of bullying and harassment, of racism and sexism, which will turn members’ stomachs in every part of the country. I will let others, hopefully those victimised, lead the calls for justice in those cases – and support them when they do so.
But our party members need justice now too. People who dedicate their lives to campaigning for the party will not tolerate staff on cushy wages undermining their efforts from within. We cannot simply sweep this report under the rug, our members won’t abide it.
I urge my comrades on the National Executive Committee to take this matter with the seriousness it deserves. Launch a proper investigation and take the decisive action necessary to restore faith in our party and allow us to move forward as a united, fighting force.
Elmet and Rothwell Labour
(In a personal capacity)