Part of politics is having to prepare for every eventuality. So even before a vote had been cast last week, Gordon Brown had several drafts of statements – win, lose or draw – that he would make once the result became clear.
Even the ‘draw’ drafts, as it turned out, did not really cover the unclear situation which developed, which is why a new statement had to be made, the one he made in Downing Street on Friday.
But it did mean that when it came to the words he spoke yesterday before heading to see The Queen to tender his resignation, he already had a draft he could work on. When it came to it, as is often the case with politicians and big moments, he sat at his own desk and wrote the final version himself. Even his biggest opponents would be hard pressed to say he did not capture the moment well.
Though he was leaving as Prime Minister, and knew it was a moment in history, he also set great store by the speech he made to Labour Party staff after returning to Party HQ from Buckingham Palace. I assume the Party have put out a transcript, and I know it was filmed. I hope people watch it.
Because it showed that even in that moment of defeat, there is within him, and within all Labour campaigners and activists, the knowledge that the political fight never ends, and a new one has just begun. As he reeled off the list of Labour achievements – and as you know I wish we had done more of that in the last year or two – then I defy anyone but the ideologically right and the cynically wrong to claim that Britain is not a better country by far after 13 years of Labour in power.
To well-paid journalists in the right-wing media, and indeed the left-wing media who went to the Liberal Democrats, it does not make that much difference who is in power (though the Murdoch Empire stands to gain hugely if the Lib-Dems allow the Tories to push through broadcasting changes promised when Cameron thought he was on for a big win). But we will very quickly find it makes a big difference to lower and middle income families.
If Cameron proves me wrong, good luck to him. I mean that. He has taken on an enormous job, with tremendous capacity to do good. But I do not believe his Party has the values or the understanding of the modern world to make the most of it, and certainly not for the benefit of people who most need an active government on their side. And I don’t believe the Liberal Democrats can either. Otherwise they would not have shepherded a right-wing, unchanged Tory Party – that hates Europe, has crazy policies on schools, wanted to help the richest first, wants to bring back hunting and all the other paraphernalia of a backward-looking non progressive force – through the door in the first place.
The Liberal Democrats will pay a political price in the short term, for sure. It is up to real progressives to make sure both parties play a price in the long term – not least when they start to implement their shared desire to cut tax credits.
The next election campaign – which could come sooner rather than later whatever they say about fixed term Parliaments – starts now.
Last night, just going around the place, I recruited three former Lib Dems to join the Labour Party. If every party member recuited one today, we would double the membership. If you vote Labour, become an activist. Join the Party, get involved in the debate which a leadership election will spark, and which will hopefully help re-engergise the Party. If you didn’t vote Labour, but didn’t want a Tory government, then never forget what it has delivered – a Tory government led by a tradtional Tory who talked the talk on change and modernisation but failed to get a majority because people saw through it.
If you know someone who voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out – including people who voted Labour in Tory/Lib marginals, try to sign them up too. I am always amazed how people who would never think of joining a political party will do so if you whip out a membership form. Or whip out a laptop and take them to http://www.labour.org.uk
Above all, as the changes flow, with a right-wing media desperate to put the best possible gloss on them all, just as they put the worst possible gloss on us, remember that elections are won and lost in years not weeks, even if we did manage to stop their overall majority in the final weeks. And never forget politics is not about what happens in the Westminster bubble, important though that is, but what happens in communities, families, workplaces, schools and hospitals around the country.
With every change that comes, Labour must remind people there was and is an alternative progressive route.
It is not a nice feeling to watch a Tory walk in to run the country after 13 years of Labour – an incredible achievement by the way given how many wrote us off in 1992. But as Gordon said last night, the fight continues. The Tories have had their wings clipped. Their pretensions to be the natural party of government are not quite as strong as they were.
We lost. But we can win again. And the chance could come a lot sooner than people think, whatever the spring in Tory steps today, the rise in the polls any new government gets, their satisfaction at getting us out after 13 years, and the joy for Liberal Democrat ministers in being taken seriously. (By the way – Clegg’s first big mistake in government – he should have taken one of the big three departments – Treasury, FCO, Home Office – alongside a DPM role)
I have been saying consistently on here ever since I started this blog that I felt Cameron could be stopped because he would get found out. We failed to stop him becoming PM. But we stopped him getting a full mandate. He starts as a weak Prime Minister of a coalition government made up of partners who have little real time for each other, and who will always be looking over their shoulders at the politics in their own backyards.
At least Labour people, whatever the differences, believe in fundamentally the same things; and remain the only progressive force for fairness,capable of winning and exercising power, which is left in Britain today.
*** I had assumed I would stop my booksale fundraising offer on May 7. However, we have had a surge since the election, so I will keep it going. To be honest, we are down to the last few boxes of The Blair Years, but I will speak to the publishers today. I will also extend the scheme to my first novel, All In The Mind. But if you want to buy a signed copy of The Blair Years and raise cash for Labour, go to http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.
My meeting with the publishers by the way is to discuss the launch of Prelude to Power, the first volume of my complete diaries, which is being published next month and covers 1994 to May 1997. I revealed this exclusively on Newsnight last night, apparently – even though it has been on Amazon for weeks!!
PS – and yes, Gordon knew about it.
Enjoy the sunshine. It won’t last! Rainfall levels have been lower on average under Labour than Tory governments. Not a lot of people know that.