Unity, Competence, Ambition and Electability
Reflections on the Batley and Spen 2021 by-election (this article represents a personal view)
Jane Darling: FHCLP Vice Chair, Membership
At the Fabian online conference held in January 2021, Angela Rayner paid tribute to the achievements of every Labour leader in her lifetime. “Asked what she hoped for in a year’s time, she did not choose a stonking lead for Labour in the opinion polls, but an end to internal strife: ‘for everybody in the Labour Party to be talking positively about the Labour Party, with a smile on their face saying “I’m part of a great movement and we’re doing great things”.
“The Labour party has a mountain to climb if it is to win back national power. On that journey, unity within the party will be necessary but not sufficient. But with a frontbench team focused on unity, competence, ambition and electability, the building blocks for a return to power are there.”
The Batley and Spen by-election story is not a pretty one. Campaigning was tarnished and made ugly by the actions of people who used bullying, aggression and dishonesty to try to intimidate and denigrate others. This kind of behaviour can alienate people from politics and reduce participation in elections and the willingness to engage in democracy on a local or national level.
Our nation and our communities are divided by many issues – Brexit, a wide spectrum of discrimination, Covid issues such as vaccination take up, being able to go on holiday or not, inequality and insecurity, access to good health, wealth, housing and life expectancy, to name a few. We need to show that we are seeking to co-operate and collaborate with those with influence, power and expertise in our community, our local councils. Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, our public services and voluntary bodies to see what we can do together. Amazing things can happen when there is a will to collaborate and to seek the things which unite, rather than those which divide. There are plenty of examples around the country to show what can be done when people work together to achieve a positive outcome – Preston, Doncaster, Bristol, to name but a few.
Our CLP is looking at what we can do in Folkestone and Hythe to help people to feel that they have a stake in our community; that they can be part of change for the better, however big or small. Our ambition is to get out into all parts of our district to hear what people have to say about their lives and what we can do to help them to feel that they can contribute to the change they would like to see.
Over the next few weeks we are going to be planning all sorts of activities that our members can get involved in over the next weeks, months and years leading up to the next general election and beyond. We don’t want to be seen as a party which just knocks on the door when an election comes up, we want to show the people of Folkestone and Hythe that Labour Works all year round and that residents are our priority.
To achieve this ambition, we will need a huge investment of time from a large number of our members. But there are over 600 of us. If we pull together, we can do it.
So, watch this space for further news of the campaign Committee’s plans. As Membership Officer, one of my first tasks is going to be building on the Activist List of members willing to give some time, in a variety of ways, to help us to engage with our residents in making Folkestone and Hythe a place where their voices can be heard.
In her acceptance speech today, Kim Leadbeater said she was “absolutely delighted that the people of Batley and Spen have rejected division and they’ve voted for hope”. How much could our CLP can achieve if we work with hope, unity, competence, and ambition towards Labour’s electability and by promoting the interests of our communities? Let’s aim high together!