Referendums are strange things for Labour party members. We have a great tradition in our party of remaining neutral on referendum matters. We do not demand compliance, we do not impose a party line on others. We allow our MPs, Councillors, Candidates and Members to be guided by their conscience and campaign or not as they see fit. It is the sign of a mature and strong party. It is a sign of our respect for freedom of conscience.
As a result of that freedom, party activists will often find themselves in opposing camps on these big referendum issues. Of course this can cause strain. We want to win in everything we fight for. We are, as Labour Party members passionate, thoughtful and committed individuals.
Yet we recognise that our strength is not acting as individuals. We recognise we are strongest when we work together collectively. When we pool our individual strength and determination and fight for a higher cause.
Almost 30 years ago I was born into a coal mining community under attack from Thatcher. They called my father and uncles “the enemy within” when they fought for their jobs and then “dole scum” when they lost them. Yet in that great assault on my mining family the Labour party was powerless. Too wracked with self doubt and infighting to defend those it was created to protect. I don’t want someone in 30 years time to be saying the same of us now. For as Neil Kinnock said in those hard days:
“There is only hope if there is hope together.”
Some comrades will be happy that Bristol has voted Yes to a Mayor some will be disappointed, but now is the time to pull together. We will listen to our candidates, we will debate their programmes and their aspirations, we will contribute and discuss our own ideas, hopes and plans for their campaign, we will vote on that person and then we will unite, fight and win the Mayoral election in November. We will do all of that because we will do it together.