Sunday, 2 August 2015

A Lesson from South Thanet

I spent 3 weeks during the general election in Broadstairs, Kent (and 3 weeks here in Tokyo before that) running online and social media publicity for Labour's campaign in South Thanet (amongst other things) to keep Nigel Farage from becoming the MP there. It was a hell of a ride. UKIP spent an absolute *fortune* on trying to get Farage elected. Our goal (apart from winning the seat for candidate Will Scobie, of course) was to keep Farage out by stemming the tide of Labour voters moving to UKIP. In that, at least, we succeeded: Farage lost.

Labour nationally had abandoned South Thanet and the regional Labour Party was more hindrance than help (e.g. cancelling a morning press conference with Delia Smith on the night before despite invitations having already gone out, not passing on interview requests from the media etc.). But we did have strong support from a number of MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, who visited at least twice. (No pictures with me, I'm afraid, I was slaving behind a hot computer much of the time.)

It was during this election that it really hit home to me how out of touch the Labour Party was with people, and how essential it was to have: 

(1) a leader who spoke human and was prepared to say what he believed, authentically – this was the element that so many people found attractive about Farage.

(2) a social movement that was active in between elections not just something that popped up at your doorstep when it wanted your vote. (The South Thanet Labour Party seems to have popped out of existence since May 8th.)

Now, in addition, we need to understand what kind of society we want to achieve (not in a utopian way, but in a down-to-earth way with concrete examples) and then debate what policies are best to help us get there.

This approach casts aside labels such as "left" and "right" which are often meaningless, often used thoughtlessly, and which usually have the effect of dumbing down the conversation, a conversation which needs to be about how effective policies would be in getting us where we want to go.

Corbyn is a breath of fresh air. I'd prefer someone younger, and I don't agree with everything he says, but he is raising the conversation the Labour party needs to have to the level it needs to be at.
And he was nice enough to help us in South Thanet! :-)