I stayed up in Burnley after our latest heroic defeat last night to do a fundraiser for the town’s new Labour candidate Julie Cooper.
It was the perfect venue for a speaking event – looking out over the hallowed turf of Turf Moor.
But may I assure those political obsessives who complain when I do a Burnley blog here that this is not one of them; and assure those who share my Burnleymania that my weekly Aol Football Fanhouse column will be posted later today. Fair to say it was John Terry’s day.
I made the point during my remarks to the dinner that with so much cynicism about politics, and so little trust in the media, old-fashioned door to door, face to face campaigning in the community is going to be more important than ever in the forthcoming election. When people talk about who they trust, the truth is most at least trust family and friends, and will listen to neighbours and workmates. So political activists are going to matter as never before. One lesson from Barack Obama’s campaign is that the more you have of them, and the younger and more energetic they are, the greater your chances of success.
People make a great deal of how Obama used the web to raise money. More important in my view was the way he used it to turn sympathisers into supporters and supporters into activists who would then take his message out to people in their own circles.
At too many Labour events I do, the average age is too high, so it was great to see a good proportion of young people last night, including one who bought a copy of my new novel Maya – did I mention I had a novel out this week? – and asked me to dedicate it to to her twittername, gracefh. I see she tweeted this morning that she finds the book ‘very exciting’ and is already up to page 150. Excellent news gracefh.
Last night’s younger element included a group of Labour students from Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan Universities, who had exactly the kind of energy and commitment the party is going to need in bulk if we are going to stave off the threat from the Tories.
They campaign all over the North West, and had recently been up as far as Barrow to help my old colleague John Woodcock.
As my son and I were driving to Manchester at the end of the evening, we gave three of them a lift back. It was a pleasure to listen to young people who had a real passion for politics and whose passion was driven by their knowledge of the difference it made to people’s lives.
So thanks to philosophy student Ben Furber, English student Talia and politics student Lauren for cheering me up after the Chelsea defeat, reminding me what politics is all about, and showing me that Labour politics still has the capacity to inspire a new generation no matter how much cynicism surrounds them.
Talia said I had been right to emphasise the importance of activists persuading family and friends. ‘A lot of my family and friends aren’t political at all,’ she said ‘but most will vote Labour simply because every time I see them I give them a reason why they should.’ Now THAT is what you call a campaigning mindset. MPs take note.