The news of a snap general election came as a shock to most of us, but the worst thing any Labour supporter can do is panic. Last November I was elected to Wandsworth Council with a 9.9% swing to Labour in a council by-election that we were not expected to win at all. My predecessor Sally-Ann Ephson had won in 2014 by 75 votes, and had been the first Labour councillor in the ward for over 20 years.
But day in and day out, every evening in the rain and cold for over a month, we went out on the doorstep and talked with voters, making the case for Labour politics. Our canvassing sessions became an event, bringing together seasoned activists and the huge numbers of new members that have joined the party. Many of those involved were young people who grew up in the area and were getting involved in politics for the first time.
We've seen others win in even more unlikely circumstances by tapping into this energy. In March, Labour won a historic victory in the City of London, an authority whose centuries old secrecy and independence gives big business a vote. If Labour can win in the City of London, clearly no election is a foregone conclusion and nowhere is unwinnable.
The lessons from my experience at the local level are that divided parties don't function. If Labour is to win, it must mobilise its new membership and organise the largest mass canvassing campaign seen in a generation. Combining the knowledge and experience of long time activists with the energy and enthusiasm of new members can create a winning force. In my neck of the woods, this is exactly what we've seen with the vibrant campaign to re-elect Dr Rosena Allin-Khan.
Politics seems to be all smoke and mirrors at the moment. It has somehow become normal to break manifesto pledges, to make up statistics (and put them on buses), to talk about the national interest while playing Russian roulette with the economy, to rebut evidence based arguments as the work of the dreaded 'experts'. It has even become acceptable to refuse to debate your opponents. This has served the Right's agenda well, distracting from basic truths like the fact that real term wages have been falling, austerity has not reduced the deficit, grammar schools are overwhelmingly condemned by educationalists, the NHS needs to be better funded, and rough sleeping has more than doubled as extortionate rents continue to rise.
Labour has been announcing common sense policies to address these issues which are supported by the overwhelming majority of British people. Just today, Jeremy was out with us in Battersea talking about Labour's plans to end the housing crisis by building more council homes and clamping down on rogue landlords letting properties not fit for human habitation, an extremely pressing issue in our area and, indeed, across the city.
Labour is the party that promotes the interests of the many, not protecting the wealth and privilege of the few. The Tories gloss over this by appealing to people's' fears, in 2010 they blamed welfare claimants for the fallout of the global financial crisis, these days it's immigrants. Labour policies present an alternative to this fear mongering, one that starts to rebuild the fabric of our social democratic society, which has been hacked apart by the Tories. Mobilising our half a million members to take Labour's vision to millions of people in marginals is how we can take on this election.
If progressives come together, rally behind Jeremy's policies and go out into in our communities to make the case for a Labour government, we can win this.