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Forget about ‘Remain’, it’s time to campaign

Remainers need to leave the damaging Brexit debate now and become part of the mass-canvassing phenomenon, writes CHELLEY RYAN

AS MUCH as I feel excited about the impending general election, I am anxious too.

This is such a crucial election for all of us, and if John McDonnell is right about Jeremy Corbyn standing down should we lose, it will be Corbyn’s last shot at getting through the glossy black door of 10 Downing Street. I don’t believe in sugar-coating things: the timing could not be worse.

A pre-Brexit general election runs a very real risk of becoming a de facto second referendum, with Leave and Remain voters basing their vote solely on a party’s Brexit policy.

If that becomes the case, our vote could be squeezed on both sides.

Leave voters, unhappy with our policy to offer another referendum with Remain as an option, will be drawn to unequivocally Leave parties.

Remain voters might plump for revokers the Lib Dems. Boris Johnson is relying on these “ifs” to get him back into a government with a majority — and who can blame him?

The polls make for grim reading for us right now. I don’t doubt we are all hoping and praying for a campaign-induced polling surge, the like of which stunned the pundits in 2017.

The Tories don’t think we will get one because this general election will be held in very different, much more Brexit-obsessed conditions.

However, predictions are a mug’s game in today’s political climate, and the Tories will be a bit anxious.

Good. Let them sweat. But let us sweat too. Complacency is our enemy. We have the toughest of fights on our hands.

Labour activists now have to go into survival mode. Imagine we’ve just been thrown en masse overboard a ship into shark-infested waters.

Now an election has been called we mustn’t look back, spending precious campaign energy on regrets about our policy on Brexit, for example. We must only look forward. What is, is. We have to run with it.

As someone who has never made any bones about my belief that we should not have changed our Brexit strategy from the one we adopted in 2017, I need to apply this advice to myself as much as anyone else.

Now is the time to strain every campaign sinew. Now is the time to give up precious free time to knock on doors, stuff envelopes, tweet, post on Facebook, make hot soup, attend rallies, volunteer for the phone bank and any other campaign activity that comes your way.

Online campaigners need to focus on policy, policy, policy and more policy. Policy is the ground the Tories don’t want to hold this election on, so we drag them onto it over and over again whether they like it or not.

Of course, door-knocking is a much less controlled environment and voters will raise Brexit. If they voted Remain, hopefully they will be reasonably happy with Labour’s policy, so this tip is for activists who come across unhappy Leave voters. Show empathy. Validate. Don’t try to tell them Brexit is a bad idea. Don’t talk about illegality and please don’t say there is nothing wrong with having more democracy.

If you do, you’ll lose that precious vote. If you’re not happy with our Brexit position, say it — maybe explaining how it came about, as an attempt to unify Leave and Remain supporters in our party as well as the country.

If you do support our policy, explain that many Labour members are not happy with it too. But end with this — “I’m unhappy with our Brexit position and campaigned against it, but here I am, giving up spending time with my family in the comfort of my home to come and talk to you about the amazing policies that can transform this country, your life and all our lives.”

Voters will appreciate your honesty and it will help break through any Brexit defensiveness.

I wish all my fellow activists the best of luck for the upcoming campaign. I want to thank each and every one of you for your commitment to making a better world for us all.

We’ve dramatically changed the political conversation in this country. We’ve started a movement that will never go back in a box. Now let us defeat all the odds and really make history by getting Jeremy Corbyn, a truly socialist, compassionate, humanitarian prime minister, into No 10.

See you on the other side.

Chelley Ryan is a Labour activist.

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