Admittedly, current opinion polling data is not encouraging for the Labour Party. At least not for the faint hearted. But then think about who's paying for those polls and publishing - a largely hostile media. Meanwhile, in the real world, there are the markets, places of work, leisure and home. And for political party activists, a relentless work programme from an electoral ward in a local authority to capturing the attention of electorate nationally.
This is an election when contrary to the siren calls of those who claim that most votes don't count in a first-past-the post election, every single vote will count in 2010 - wherever it is cast.
Living in a Conservative held parliamentary seat (Cities of London and Westminster), and a place where local council elections took place last year (City of London), I've still been mobilising members in my own Labour Party branch. Some are keeping our Labour candidate for the General Election in the limelight by delivering leaflets, others like me are also canvassing in a neighbouring electoral ward Bunhill Ward in Islington South. Membership alone is not the driver. Nor dreams about possible outcomes. Organisation and policies are key within a framework of party democracy. Having rebuild a local branch, we have members who understand the importance of a political narrative, regular voter identification, messages for postal voters, canvassing of PVers, members to take polling numbers on election day, others to knock to Get Out The Vote. With polling stations open from 7 am to 10 pm breaking up the day into one-hour shifts - a small army is required in every branch, not just constituency to optimise the vote.
Bunhill Ward, like most electoral wards in London has three polling stations. That is 13 - one-hour shifts times three making 39 shifts just to collect numbers,. Then there are runners to pick up, committee room staff to enter and produce 'Knocking-up' sheets for those additional members with the most stamina to walk/jog/run round reminding 'promises' to actually vote. (There is scope for efficiencies using electronic devices, but that's another story.) It should be done with 20 people/ branch, ideally more. So across a densely populated urban constituency that would be some 200 volunteers - and that's just on polling day.
So tiring it might be, but 'tired old politics' - oh no. This is the stuff of real politics that reflects our policies, passion, process and party democracy. Parliamentary democracy is not just about a vote when a General Election is called. It's about on-going debate reflecting values - the bedrock of tackling events. If anyone wants to clean up British politics, then their plans have to encompass accountability, party AND parliamentary democracy. All three main political party leaders have shown themselves wanting in that regard. None of them readily embraces party democracy. If Brown really wants to win he will show he understands he owes his career to the Labour Party. It is the Labour Party that has brought fairness to the many. it is the Labour Party that thanks to its members and supporters has a manifesto to offer 'A future fair for all'.
The economy is on the mend. Today's International Herald Tribune carries some very encouraging words:
Policy Exchange, a British research organization, has written: “Though many people find it hard to believe, the United Kingdom is still a major manufacturing economy — the sixth in the world,” whose output is about equal to Italy’s and a bit bigger than that of France. Although Britain’s deficit, according to the E.U.’s statistical agency, is troublingly high at 11.5 percent compared with Germany’s 3.3 percent, its debt as a percentage of G.D.P. is smaller, 68 percent versus 73.2 percent. And so was its March unemployment rate, 8 percent in Britain against 8.5 percent in Germany, where Rainer Bruderle, the German economics minister, branded “our little Job Miracle” the envy of the world. The International Monetary Fund even projects growth in Britain as out-doing the euro-zone average this year and next.
I'd say. So Labour Party Leader, Gordon Brown's job in the remaining 9 days of the campaign is to empathise with the electorate seeking reassurance. He needs to focus on the benefits of public sector investment, the banks back in profit, recapitalised able and more willing to lend, and look forward to rising tax revenues from growth to help reduce the fiscal deficit without draconian public spending cuts or massive tax hikes.
He should also take some credit for helping stimulate interest in our politics by agreeing to the TV debates. But that will only be credible if he sets himself and his party firmly on the side of ongoing political engagement and collegiate policy making, rather than concentrating more power in the hands of the party leaders and their power brokers (m'lord Mandelson, take note).