The Last Word: More in common


Remembering Jo Cox, Labour’s post-election unity, the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, and #TipLondon – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

First published on ProgressOnline

The anniversary of Jo Cox’s brutal murder brings mixed emotions. For all of us that knew Jo there is the obvious loss and sense of pain. Each of us who did get to meet her and hear her insight firsthand will take some time today to reflect, think or pray. We grieve for the fact we will not see her again but our hearts break for her husband Brendan and her two beautiful kids. I have no comprehension of what they must be going through. 

But today brings unexpected joy. Seeing how Brendan, their kids and those who know the couple better than I, have responded shows mankind’s capacity to love. Jo’s message – encapsulated in her maiden speech – that we all have ‘more in common’ has become as much part of how she is honoured, as it is how she is remembered. The Great Get Together taking place this weekend is the best possible retort to the hate-filled cowards who attacked Jo, Westminster, Manchester or London Bridge and Borough Market. Bringing people from different backgrounds, communities and cultures together is what infuriates these small minded terrorists. It is our democracy, pluralism, diversity and unity that they hate. Every time we show those values make us stronger not weaker, we – not these cowards – are winning. 

Same goes for Labour

Seeing Labour making net gains in seats just a week ago filled me with joy. It is always good when Labour in gaining, especially in areas that often look difficult for Labour – the political south in particular. We now hold Bedford, Brighton Kemptown, Canterbury, Peterborough, Portsmouth South and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport and Reading East in addition to those won in 2015. 

However, the daily reality that Labour did not win kicks in too. The Tories may not have a majority, but they are still in Downing Street. Their utter incompetence and Theresa May’s pathetic weakness is all making the country worse. As my colleague Conor Pope so eloquently put it, she called this election ‘hoping to be given a free hand in Brexit negotiations by the British public, and ended up with both tied behind her back’. Yet David Davis says they go ahead regardless. Maybe the government should heed Cox’s message and take Andrew Adonis‘s suggestion of John Major heading up a cross-party Brexit team. Their typical arrogance means that will plough on regardless. 

As the unity of the election campaign continues within Labour, the leadership has a choice. Double down on the strategy that got them this far – still 70 seats short – or reach out and use all of Labour’s talents to try and get May out of No 10. Unity, after all, is not the absence of conflict, but the built joint platform. It all depends on how you think we got here and if winning is really the goal, coming second means Labour can call certain shots without any responsibility. It is appealing. 

Jeremy Corbyn found an energy that we all wished he had shown during the European Union referendum. He energised a generation already annoyed about Brexit and on the very harshest end of government cuts. It was great to behold and well done him for pulling it off.

Conflated with his campaign was the Tories dire performance. Their candidate for prime minister refused to turn up to the debates, and much besides, when she did appear it was lacklustre and she was found wanting – May’s refusal to engage with the woman who confronted her about learning disabilities, instead choosing to talk only about mental health issues will always stick with me – and then there was the wider campaign. To say that it lacked an argument is an understatement. There was neither an argument about the kind of Britain she wanted to create, nor a sense that the manifesto added up to more than the sum of its parts – and a strong sense that some of its parts were very unpalatable – and no argument about what was wrong with Labour polices. Just dead cat, after dead cat. The RSPCA really should have been called. 

While we can expect the Tory government to get worse, and Corbyn’s popularity to grow, it would be wrong to assume the Tories campaign will be this weak again. The next election will most likely take place with a new Tory leader in place. Labour should get ready for this. Now. 

Join us at Progress annual conference on 24 June to discuss Labour’s general election performance, how we stop a hard Brexit and more

Grenfell Tower

There are serious questions to be asked about the disaster at Grenfell Tower and Sadiq Khan has paved the way. In the meantime our thoughts, sympathies and solidarity is with them all. People everywhere will want to help. 

London Bridge and Borough Market

Being stuck at the heart of the latest act of terrorism to hit Britain was truly scary. The aftermath is still ongoing. The bridge and now Borough Market might be reopening, – and many will return as an act of defiance – but life does not simply go on. The restaurant, Arabica Bar and Kitchen, where the staff went out of their way to keep my friends and me safe have just heard their insurance will not be paying up. Other small businesses will be receiving the same news. The Labour-led London borough of Southwark is trying to step in and has agreed a month-off the business rates for those within the cordon. It is time central government stepped up too. 

I, for my small part, want to ensure staff do not miss out on their tips for the 11 days the restaurant and bars were closed. When I was a waiter my wages paid the bills and the tips ensured I could have a good time on my few free nights. This will be the same for these Londoners. They should not lose out because of three cowardly hate-filled terrorists. If you want to support #TipLondon – which also looks to support MIND Blue Light, the mental health charity project for 999 first responders, and the Samaritans, please donate here:


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell


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