Ed Miliband not turning up for an NHS Rally in Hull last month may not have been ideal, but boo hoo get over it!
Comrades turned out in their droves for the NHS Vigil nine days later, on a freezing night in Hull City centre at less than 48 hours notice when the “Star” speakers were Danny Marten, Cllr. Paul Hogan, Julia Marten, Cllr. Josh Newlove and errr, me! Hardly a stellar cast. As it happens Danny and Paul in particular were in fine fettlw, the former giving historical and current context to why 70 of us were there, and Paul reminding us that the Lib Dems were the get away drivers for this act of grand larceny on our beloved NHS and reminding protestors that, “We may have lost the battle but we must not lose the War”.
The point is that Comrades were there for the NHS. The cause came before any notion of rubbing shoulders with the Leader and Front Benchers past and present. Every single individual from Cllr. Shelagh Finlay who (typically of her) came from Bridlington to those who spilled over from a nearby UNISON meeting wanted to say, “We have had enough, hands off our NHS!” We may not have been successful on this occasion but the experience of banding together for a cause will stay in the memory and stand us in good stead for future campaigns.
The fiasco surrounding Ed’s non-attendance at the Rally should not have prevented a well-attended and high profile event. A combination of bungling from Region and a stunning lack of support for Miliband from the press office, who failed to kill the story, damaged the Party in the media and left local comrades steaming. I have attended five meetings since, and this issue had dominated to an unhealthy extent, and the chuntering needs to stop. We have enough problems with the Tories without silly little arguments distracting us. We can belly ache all we like, but it’s done. Get over it and move on.
There is an historic chance for the Labour Party to make sure this is one term Tory Government. In the 1980’s we suffered a hostile press, catastrophic internal battles, division between Left and Right and the cancer of Militant. This allied to a savvy Tory leader in charge of a united Party, led to the agony of the Thatcher years and it took us 18 whole years to get back into power. The hangover of Opposition made us timid when (despite two landslides and a pretty comfortable win in 2005), it came to implementing truly radical policies such as reform of the tax system, democratisation of the Public Services and a mass house building programme which could have developed the great work done regarding investment in the public sector.
This time we have a Government that blunders from one PR disaster to another, a Prime Minister that is loathed by a significant coterie of his own backbenchers and the traditional Tory cheerleaders in the Mail and the Telegraph can’t wait for David Cameron to fall flat on his face. The traditional Tory past time of tearing themselves apart over Europe is one summit away. Then there is the fallout from hacking for Cameron to deal with as Andy Coulson and other chums of his may well be hauled into Court so tainting the PM by association and putting a massive question mark against his judgement.
I would never for one moment say that Labour being is Opposition is a Good Thing as there are far too many of our fellow citizens who stand to suffer. But, as the cliché goes, “We are where we are”.
We are united. We have the best Leader (if we let him get on with the job and make sure the Party machine works for and not against him). We have the best and only alternative to the total disaster that is George Osborne’s economic policy. We have no Opposition from the Lib Dems. We have the values that place women and young people at the centre of our plans for the UK. We have learnt from our last few years in power that if you are out of touch the UK public will see right through you. We have experience of Office and know what needs to be done differently regarding the press obsession and feeling like we are squatters in Number Ten. We have a fantastic young and vibrant intake from 2010/11 in Parliament and in Council chambers to drive front bench policy from below. We have rising membership and participation. We have had the courage to get out on the streets and make the argument, and where we have, we have won easily. We can, and must win not just in 2015, but also in every single ward and by election leading up to the General Election.
Let’s just do it!