First published on Progressonline
Lab3seats founder Richard Angell talks exclusively to Tessa Jowell MP at the end of her first #TessaTriple
As 2013 was coming to an end a group of friends and I were sitting discussing life and one mutual friend’s recent achievement. They had just completed the three peaks challenge, a slightly barmy activity where people climb the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours. ‘Imagine if there was a Labour doorstep version’, we joked. The laughing soon stopped and in early 2014 we organised the first of what has become a regular occasion. Not only has #Lab3seats – as it has become known – become a regular part of the Progress calendar as we near the election, many others have taken up the idea. Both Young Labour and Dan Jarvis MP have done their own three-seat challenges.
One year on from the initial challenge and Tessa Jowell is following suit in what Twitter has dubbed a #TessaTriple. I talk to her about why she decided to take up the idea of the three seats challenge? ‘I think three seats is what you can do in a day while giving a good chunk of time to each constituency and it is a very good way of engaging people who perhaps have not got a close relationship with their own constituency; or perhaps living in a Tory constituency, [allowing them] to feel they can be part of the great tidal wave of optimism in the party’. She goes on, ‘it is our contribution to making Ed Miliband the prime minister of our country’.
Tessa, who is about to head home for a ‘long soak in the bath’ recounts her day: ‘At 9.30am about 15 people joined me at King’s Cross. By the time we were at Enfield Chase, we had a core team of 25 volunteers from constituencies across London, and 35 people ready for the doorstep in total.’ ‘First, we were in Enfield North with Joan Ryan where we made 369 contacts; then, munching sandwiches on the train, we moved on to Hornsey and Wood Green to joined another 15 plus local campaigners, this time clocking up another 290 contacts.’ ‘Finally’ the London mayoral hopeful explains, ‘we are in Hampstead and Kilburn. Now we are over 50 people out with Tulip Siddiq’.
When the three seats challenge idea was launched there were two principles: ‘All party members are welcome and everyone should try and keep it fun!’ Tessa lives these values. ‘The Labour party’, she explains, ‘is like my family. I am a member of a tribe and it is a tribe with a great sense of openness about it. I have been doing this for so many years and if you feel you have had fun you come back.’
The member of parliament, first elected in 1992, says she never gets over ‘that incredible sense[of achievement] when you have turned a former Tory voter to say they are going to vote Labour in the next election; that is as good as it gets when you are out on the doorstep’. More importantly, ‘it has to be fun because we are a party of aspiration, energy and decency. Having fun together consolidates that’, she argues. ‘Just remember, everyone always has a choice: to stay at home and read the Sunday papers, chill out for the day, or come out and help win a Labour government.’
Asking if this is the first of many, with the same energy as she had for the first photos at 10.30am and before her teams had made 1,027 conversations, she says, ‘Absolutely, when we talk about winning this election street-by-street, conversation-by-conversation, this is how you do it.’