“SORRY I’m late, Ben,” the Labour Party candidate for Derby North Chris Williamson says to me as he greets me outside the train station. “I’ve just finished recording with the Today programme and this fucking racist wouldn’t let me leave.”
Tony Benn said famously in an interview that “every generation must fight the same battles again and again. There’s no final victory” he offered “and there’s no final defeat.” Benn’s attempts to democratise the Labour Party were defeated, however. Standing on a radical manifesto in 1983, the poor showing for Michael Foot’s Labour Party meant that many of the socialist ideals of Bennism became dormant – if not killed off entirely.
Today marks the end of the consultation period for the terms of reference for the Grenfell inquiry. My colleagues Jeremy Corbyn, David Lammy and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have all made submissions to Martin Moore-Bick, the retired judge leading the inquiry.
Long ago I remember reading In Place of Fear, by Nye Bevan. I’m reminded of it now, as I return to parliament as MP for Derby North for the second time, after two years of absence. Bevan, the Welsh Labour politician who oversaw the creation of the NHS, describes the House of Commons as a range of mountains dominated by statues of old statesmen. Those stony eyes, the church-like stained glass and the echoing halls are all meant to cow a politician from humble origins, Bevan said, reminding us that the people Labour politicians are elected to represent hail from the other side of history – not the one represented by those statues.
There is not a humble pie in the world big enough to feed all the commentators and MPs who said Corbyn’s Labour Party would not amount to anything. Labour hasn’t won a Commons majority, yet. However Labour’s advances under Corbyn’s leadership combined by endemic Tory divisions reveal our road back to government.