While the recent election was disheartening for many of us, the result was not because of a lack of effort, commitment and passion from our local volunteers. Having now (almost) fully recovered, I wanted to personally thank many incredible local volunteers. I also think that the next few months are genuinely an exciting time for us. With humility, our extraordinarily varied membership can ask how to rebuild.
Being selected for my home seat to fight Iain Duncan Smith was at the time one of the proudest moments of my life. But it was soon eclipsed by the daily and relentless support of so many who helped us do better in the Tory stronghold than we have done since 1997.
The overall result in Chingford and Woodford Green may appear modest, but a 6% swing toward us, a slashing of IDS' majority by about 5,000 and the most number of votes since 1997 is for us, a strong and hopeful result. It has laid the foundation for a really exciting local election in a few years, galvanised members and allowed us the resources to help both Joan Ryan in Enfield North and Wes Streeting in Ilford North. I'm so very pleased to see they have been elected, and know they will both make excellent MPs. But these success are down not to the candidate, but to the people I wanted to publicly thank below.
David Shepheard is the wisest, most practical and calming CLP Chair a candidate could ask for. Together with stalwart volunteers including Roger Gillham, Anne Garrette, Liz Lee, David Lee, Janet Sinclair, Neil Weekes, Ken Kennedy and Bella Goldstein, I gained years of experience of campaigning. Their lessons have not been lost on me.
Canvassing is perhaps the core of our strengths as a Party. We relish engaging with the local residents and understand that it is the heart of politics. We do it rain or shine and always in our free time. I want to thank Nathan, Janet, David (Matson) and Highams Park Councillor Tony Bell and Newham Volunteer Tahir Mirza for coming out to canvass throughout the past 18 months. Canvassing can be difficult at times, but their support and skills made the endeavour greater with their contributions.
My recent experience has taught me two valuable life lessons. The first is to never undervalue sleep. And that's why I'm particularly thankful to Higham Hill Councillor Ali Strathern and Helen Butler, who came out at 7am in the morning to leaflet tube and train stations. It's at times a thankless task, but one which they did with relentless charm and positivity. Councillors Pauld Douglas and Louise Mitchell were tremendously helpful in canvassing and data entry. Most of all my Agent, Graham Smith is the epitome of stamina, calm and expertise that our Party need to cultivate and value.
The second lesson is the importance of family. On a personal note, my father Hamid, my mother Samina and wife Khadija have propped me up over these few years and to whom I am incredibly grateful.
But above all else, I want to thank the people of Chingford and Woodford Green. Regardless of their political beliefs, the overwhelming majority of them were glad to see us out in the community, talking about what we think needs to change to bring out the best in Britain.
These next few months for the Party are critical. With such an unexpected and sizeable loss, we as a Party must ask ourselves of what is the right direction for the Labour Party, and how do we bring Britain along with us. I have little time for saying what we should have done, and I also think tribal divisions such as 'Blairism/Brownism/New Labour/One Nation' are outdated. They are certainly not relevant when making an offering to the British Public. But after being a candidate, I realise we as a Party have an extraordinary asset: the membership. It's a membership that is the biggest and most varied of any political party in the country. It is a membership of people filled with values and ideas that can help us rebuild and find a progressive-left offering for Government. The leadership debate (while important) is the icing on the cake. I look forward to continue being part of that conversation.