Terror. Chaos. Shock.
The Manchester attack was an atrocity. It was cowardly. It was evil.
My thoughts and prayers are with Manchester – with the victims, their families, friends; and the emergency services.
But within the madness. Within the chaos. Within the emptiness that devastated the country, there is hope.
Communities coming together, serving each other, pulling-together; ensuring unity, peace and love prevail over the forces of hate which sought to destroy us.
In the midst of an election camapign, campaign activity was suspended, the terror level raised to critical and people still mourning the loss of their families.
This is no time to hold a general election.
Presuming the election goes ahead, an entire week will have been wiped off the campaign cycle.
With Theresa May doing her job to the best of her ability, managing this attack and the crisis we now face; her shortcomings in the campaign will – if we’re not careful – be forgotten.
After a car-crash interview with Andrew Neil on Monday evening, an awful manifesto launch and Labour closing the polls to single-digits, Theresa May has escaped what should have been her toughest week in the campaign so far.
In the wake of the attack, there is no desire for conflict. No desire for confrontation. No desire for the open attacks launched so casually over the past week.
We have entered a new style of election campaigning. One where respect, dignity and calm discussion will be all that is tolerated by a country still reeling from the worst attack in ten years.
The election campaign will almost certainly be suspended until the weekend, at the earliest.
TV debate and interview schedules will be pushed back or scrapped altogether (although, given May’s interview with Andrew Neil, we should at least expect Jeremy Corbyn to be offered the same interview).
But let’s be clear: We know what the Conservative campaign has done over the past 72 hours.
Lynton Crosby has been handed the time to significantly reshape the Conservative campaign – to re-brand Theresa May – once more – as the “strong and stable” candidate.
Jeremy Corbyn – who has all but been wiped from the airwaves – faces a monumental task of regaining control and recovering the momentum harnessed in the last two weeks.
While Theresa May has had free coverage of looking Prime Ministerial, being “in-charge,” and giving speeches on the steps of Downing Street, she will resonate with millions of people across the counry who – at a time of national crisis – would rather gain stability over change.
Governments – often – stay in power during national crises; particularly when an election is just two weeks away.
So, my advice, would be this: get ready.
Get ready for a different kind of campaign. A different style. A different argument.
Because the attacks on stability and strength no longer apply.
People want unity. They want togetherness. And they want security – not just physically – but economically.
People want secure, happy, loving futures for their kids. They want their grandparents and elderly to live with dignity and care in their old age. They want security in their work with higher pay and career progression.
These are all policies Labour can deliver – and they are policies Theresa May and her Conservative Party cannot.
Prepare your arguments – but allow them to reshaped by Monday’s atrocity. If the attack has proven one thing, it’s that people desire unity, peace and security; and it is on these terms our campaign should be conducted.
The election must – must – be fought on these issues.
Who has the plan, the policies, to provide unity? Who has the policies to ensure peace and security – not just as a country and on our streets – but in our education, jobs and healthcare?
Because – judged against these barometers – Theresa May falls short – far short.
The Conservative Party cannot provide this security. They have no plan to do so.
Only Labour can – and will – deliver this security, if elected on June 8th.
Free school meals for our children, free university for our teenagers, a free, national care system for our elderly, keeping the triple-lock on pensions, the winter fuel allowance, bus passes; guaranteeing a £10 minimum wage for our workers, 20 new rights in the workplace to protect our jobs and careers. A guarantee that our taxes will not rise unless we earn over £80,000 a year. A national education service so no matter what age we are, we have access to free, life-long education. A National Health Service, brought back into public ownership, receiving an extra £6 billion each year to ensure our doctors, nurses and medics can be paid the wages they deserve, so we can all benefit from improved care. Scrapping hospital car parking fees, renationalising our railways, 10,000 more police on our streets and new legislation to support unity and diversity in our community, protecting our freedoms and solidarity as a society.
Theresa May and her Conservative Party do not have these policies. They cannot rule-out tax rises for people on the lowest incomes. They will scrap free school meals. They will scrap the triple-lock on pensions. They will scrap the winter fuel allowance. They will introduce a dementia tax. They will segregate our children through grammar schools. They will continue to privatise our health service.
So when we think of security – when we think of “leadership” – when we think of “strength,” “stability” and “unity” – think not just of the last few days: think of the next five years.
Labour will invest in our public and emergency services. Labour will end the austerity and pay-freezes on our local heroes who have been – literally – saving lives on our streets. They will have the resources – and we will have the care – we all need; not just in times of crisis, but in everyday life; in the personal emergencies, in the life and death situations we all face at least one point in our lives.
It is only the Labour Party that has a serious, costed plan for our future – and it is with these policies that we can – and will – win the next election.
So let’s focus on health. Let’s focus on public services. Let’s focus on our economy, on education for our young people, on jobs, on community; on solidarity. Let’s do it without the nastiness and without the attacks: let’s do it with facts and, on June 8th, let’s vote for a caring, loving – and more hopeful – Britain.