I had the privilege of meeting Tony Blair on a couple of occasions and I also met some of his Ministers during my time working for Churches Together in Sussex and coordinating the Hope08 campaign across the UK. My meetings with Tony Blair all took place in Church settings and indeed on one occasion I was asked to pray for him and his family. On another I sat behind him and was able to shake hands as part of the service. I met Hilary Benn during one of the Labour conferences when he had asked to meet the FareShare project in Brighton and they brought a van over to the conference. I was invited to No 10 Downing Street as part of Hope 08 when Gordon Brown was the Prime Minister and I and a significant number of people met a wide range of people. It was a fascinating session for me because I was not due to go into No 10 and so I did not dress according to the requirements (I had jeans and a jumper, rather than a tie and a smart pair of trousers and a jacket). However at the last moment someone from No 10 called me in because they realised that the MPs did not know the groups from different parts of the UK and so I visually stuck out a bit!
I recognise many of the issues that the Labour Party did wrong – large sums of money for some parts of Brighton were far too much and led to workers getting jobs and then disappearing when the money ended. A much more serious case was the Iraq war in 2003. I took place in the campaign in London and the Bishops and their peers in Sussex wrote to the Government in opposition to it as well. Despite these major issues and there were others, the fact that in those days Labour was capable of running the Government was a very positive aspect. We now face a very different position across the UK as a result of future General Elections and we need the Labour Party at all levels to understand that and seek a much more collaborative approach. They need to enable areas like the whole of Sussex and indeed the whole of the South to be able to benefit from proportional representative elections. In the days before the red line was destroyed as a result of Brexit up in the North there were strong views from Labour that PR was not something that the Party would consider. However these have now changed and so the response in this years conference was very disturbing. What can we do to persuade them to revisit that issue very quickly?