Why we have a Labour Party

18 11 2012

We lost. It happens. It hurts. As someone with a lot of campaign experience it’s hardest to see the first timers, the people who spent weeks and months pouring their energy into the campaign and how hard losing is for them. It was tough to see Marvin’s family who will have sacrificed his presence in their lives so that he could be a presence in ours and change our city. When you are knocked down there’s only one thing left to do:  start again.

I think the hardest thing was watching the Mayor elect’s speech and Marvin’s concession. I won’t compare and contrast the speeches but what I will say is this: We aren’t all equal. Some hope we are but aren’t. We are equal in human dignity and nothing more. We don’t have the same opportunities. We don’t have the same life chances. We don’t have comparable living standards. We don’t have the same power. We don’t have the same freedom. We don’t have the same say in our day to day lives or those of our kids.

It’s the belief of some classical liberals that we are all equal with little or no effort that meant that we have a Labour Party in the first place. As Nye Bevan said

“To us the doctrine of laissez faire conveys no inspiration because the hope of individual emancipation would be crushed by the weight of accomplished power.”

Accomplished power. I’ve never seen it swing into action quite so effectively. Accomplished power for whom the Council is a barrier to their companies freedom to make money. To whom regulation is a dirty word. For whom equality assessments are needless bureaucracy. They feel that way not out of malice but out of complete ignorance.  Accomplished power whose main interaction with the Council is getting their bins collected and paying their Council tax. Who would like the Council to spend more money on FUN.

We have a Labour Party because there are people who see the other side. That there are those who need local government to free them or at least make them freer. Who need their meals on wheels. Who need protection from anti social behaviour. Who worry about their care home’s future. Who want their kids to have a place at a local primary school. Who want dignity at work. Who want to care for others based on need not ability to pay.

So what is next? The Bristol Labour Party will be taking 2-3 months to review the campaign. What we did and what we should do differently. We are bringing in colleagues from outside the city to help in this process so that an honest rational assessment trumps any egoes. The most essential thing for the Labour Party is to not turn in on itself. We must look at how we improve but not become introspective or self indulgent or fingerpointing in this process.

We must remain strong, united and rooted in our communities. Whilst our core vote did not turn out the way we had hoped it is important to remember the good will Marvin and the Labour party’s engagement has brought out in the inner city. As I campaigned around Lawrence Hill and Easton. People would cycle passed chanting Marvin’s name. Stapleton Road was awash with red posters. Men and women voted for the first time because we engaged with them. We must continue to engage. If we turn inwards we fail.

The Labour Group of Cllrs will be meeting on Monday to discuss engagement in the Council and the Bristol Labour Party will meet on Wednesday. We will decide together how we engage with our new Mayor.

George Ferguson won and he should be congratulated on his victory. For my part I think that the Mayor Elect ran an unashamedly anti-Labour campaign. Many of those who voted heard that message and voted for it. The Tory and Lib Dem vote collapsed to him where as our vote did not. We should respect the Mayor’s campaign victory and the will of the voters both Mr. Ferguson’s and ours. We should not sit in his cabinet but remain a constructive opposition.

Constructive opposition. This is something a democracy needs. Both elements are just as important. We must not unnecessarily oppose for the sake of opposition. If the Mayor elect has a Damascene conversion on living wage, childcare, building affordable homes, we should welcome it and work with him on making it a reality. We must work together on a whole number of issues for the good of Bristol.

We must also be an opposition. We must scrutinise. We must invite a rethink and if this engagement fails then we must oppose.  Why? The answer is simple. The Labour Party exists to protect the majority of citizens from the crushing weight of accomplished power.

Lastly I want to thank Marvin Rees. Every Labour Party member & Trade Unionist who campaigned for him. Every volunteer from outside the Party who believed in him and us. Every organiser who worked passed midnight and every member of our families who puts up with our activism and takes up the slack when we are absent from home. Marvin Rees is an exceptional man. You’ll read much about a “vote against party power” in the next week. Yet we all know that it’s only through a political party through OUR Labour family that a black man from a single parent family in inner city Bristol. A man with two kids, a wife and a mortgage. A man with real drive and aspiration could ever afford to run for Bristol Mayor. I am proud of him and I am proud of the Labour Party and movement

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16 responses

18 11 2012
keirdhillon

I wholeheartedly agree with your comments and would suggest that after the assessment we use this as a starting point to build support across the whole of Bristol. We have local, European, and Westminster elections in the next 3 years and whilst we have seen voters see the superficial attractiveness of a local, pseudo indepependent personality, they deserted the Tories and Libems in large no.s not Labour. We need to show to our supporters that we are listening, and will act for local communities and that’s why we deserve their vote. I was amazed by the no of people out campainging and know how everyone must feel now but we should take solice in that a large no of our voters didn’t want a mayor or PCC for that matter and therefore didn’t have the reason to engage in the process – for the locals next year we need to show it is worth their while to vote labour and we can best do this by keeping up the work and encouraging more supporters to get involved – onwards to victory. Keir

18 11 2012
Paul Bemmy Down

Hi Darren. Your first concern should be why voters in what should be your own territory, the estates of s/Bristol, failed to turn out and support your candidate. People did vote to keep Labour out, but not because of GF. They wanted all parties out, just like me. And why, when you knew the Tory vote had collapsed, were your people still claiming that they were the danger, when it was obv. GF. It made you sound dishonest! Sadly, what activists think important is not always the same as what the voters think. You may be able to convince them but I think it’s you who may have to change. This is not a criticism, just my opinion. Only time will tell if I’m right!

18 11 2012
turningbristolred

Yes it’s necessary for us to examine why the working class vote in the South and North West stayed at home. My analysis is not important as we will look at the figures and start conversations shortly but again and again we were told by core Labour voters they did not vote for a Mayor and would not be voting.I think many don’t think the institution will have much impact on their life. They are about to find out they are wrong.

As for the Tory threat. I did not analyze the stats that wasn’t my job but anecdotally on the doorstep there was not a Tory collapse registering in our ID. It was only in the affluent areas up the hill that this phenomena seems to have occurred. Again only a sound analysis over time will tell. The media narrative was based on the patch in which they live. Much like their embarrassing “exit poll” that didn’t include any part of South. In this instance it was the affluent areas that decided the election.

Ultimately you’ve got what you hoped for in the short term Paul, we wait and see if merely getting the parties out is enough to give you your longer term hopes and aspirations (whatever they may be). Perhaps Bedminster Down will flourish under George’s leadership.

18 11 2012
Dave Roberts

Yep it was a sad result – but this is not the only result where Labour has failed to manage the personality factor. As a Party we seem to struggle against credible, or seemingly credible, personalities that look to challenge us on the progressive wing of politics. I do not have a clear answer as to why this is – Marvin had a great personality, has his own views and is no stooge to the party machine – so why didn’t it cut through during this election? But we need to get to grips with personality politics pretty quickly as it looks like it is here to stay.

18 11 2012
turningbristolred

An interesting point. More than welcome to email in ideas when we set up review. Will keep your email and send details of who to contact if I may?

19 11 2012
Dave Roberts

sure – be happy to contribute

18 11 2012
Jess

“We should respect the Mayor’s campaign victory and the will of the voters both Mr. Ferguson’s and ours.”

I don’t see how personally we can respect the voters decision to elect George Ferguson when those voters were almost exclusively white, middle to upper class and from a very select area of Bristol. In fact I think we should read that as the epitome of our divided city, Marvin on one side & George on the other. GF should be embarrassed that he incited that division and won on the back of privilege in a campaign where he barely mentioned equality once when we, as Labour supporters, understand this to be the very biggest issue in Bristol. These people have more of a say on the issues in the city as it is and whilst it’s great to see Marvin turning out people to vote that didn’t the numbers speak for themselves.

Money = votes and money speaks to money it would seem.

18 11 2012
turningbristolred

In the coming days and weeks there will be some people who will argue that we should have only targeted affluent voters up the hill. The people who turned out and decided this election. They’ll say we should have fought for their votes to the cost of the hopes and aspirations of majority of Bristolians.

That might be the best way to win an election but as you say Jess many might find this deeply cynical and undemocratic.

Ultimately in the following months we’ll be having this conversation. Come along and share your views. We’ve got to knock everyones ideas around. It’s important to play a part in it.

19 11 2012
bsk

I would have preferred to give my second vote to Marvin but after seeing him in action at one of the hustings and on tv, I decided I could not vote for him as he came across as a party man, come what may. Indeed our city is divided as Jess says above, but saying that your cabinet will be composed of only Labour people, as he declared, is not the way to fix it.

19 11 2012
harryT

I think you are right to form the opposition. All governments need oppositions and an absence of an effective opposition is damaging for the population as a whole.

I think its also important to recognise that the majority of the voters did not back any candidate. So those who claim there has been a widescale vote for a change in approach to politics are wrong (unless they think it is valid to ignore entirely the 72% who did not vote for anyone).

As regards Jess, your thesis fails upon the basis that the poor areas of the city did not vote for Marvin in any great number. The Labour Party’s problem is that those who live in the poorer parts of the City largely chose not to vote for anyone at all (and that includes choosing not to vote for Marvin). I don’t think people consider Marvin was the candidate of equality. A non-binding living wage does not address on its own the inequalities in the city, especially when coupled with a promise of a tax-freeze. People may be poor but they are not stupid.

19 11 2012
20 11 2012
Matthew Pollock

I found Marvin the strongest candidate, in terms of intellect and articulateness, judging by his performance at the Wills Memorial hustings. But the supporting paper PR materials were very weak. If I hadn’t seen him in person, no way would I have voted for him.

20 11 2012
turningbristolred

It’s something we will look into. We were up against someone who had a lot of PR and design people to help him & a £50,000 expenditure so a comparison of materials is never going to be favourable. I do get your point though and we will explore it further.

Thanks for your contribution. Constructive criticism helps us learn and campaign differently.

20 11 2012
thebristolblogger

Design of the standard Ferguson managed is not particularly expensive or difficult while my cat could do PR it’s so simple.

I’m sure I called you out on the quality of Marvin’s design at his launch and you told me design wasn’t an issue in Welsh Working Men’s Clubs.

Remember: Russian Constructivism and Bauhaus!

21 11 2012
turningbristolred

I do remember. But I don’t think Knowle West stayed at home because of leaflet quality. Something to investigate anyway

21 11 2012
harry

Remember Nick Clegg and the national Lib Dems ?

Remember how in the days following the election, he was pressurised by the media to get on with it and join the coalition.

Remember how this was going to be a new consensual type of politics ?

This is what people are now pressurising Labour to do locally. It can only result in further loss of core support.

The local Labour Party needs to re engage itself with its lost core vote. It does not need to bury itself in a right wing, neo-liberal coalition cabinet, making cut after cut to local services impacting mostly on its lost core voters.

Don’t go chasing voters up the hill. You will never win on that strategy

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