London. New Year’s Eve, 2015. It’s close to midnight.
Happy middle class couples stroll along The Strand, oblivious to the rough sleepers huddled up in shop doorways. Two nations writ large at the heart of the nation’s capital.
But the Labour Party is here. And not just here, but all over London. And, in the months and years that come, all over the country. Out of bases in Wood Green, Camden Town and Islington, Labour people poured, driven on by a potent mix of fury and compassion.
For me, the night had started with Lucie Hill-Hempstead in Tottenham. Lucie is the beating heart of this campaign – someone who was once homeless herself – and it was she who organised this amazing show of solidarity. Nothing that this campaign does over the coming years will be done without her.
Dragging with us more supplies than two very short people should probably have set off with, we headed first to Wood Green, where 20 or so Labour activists had come to help. Meanwhile, in Islington and Camden, two other teams got underway.
In the end, we all converged on the West End, where the irony of revelers trying their best to wear as little as possible contrasted weirdly with exhausted, starving rough sleepers who were shivering along the entire length of The Strand.
As reported in The Guardian on the very first day of this new year, rough sleeping has doubled in London in the last five years. This situation isn’t academic – thousands of lives are under threat on the streets of the sixth richest country in the world because the government does not have the political will to do anything about it.
But we can do something about it. We, the Labour Party. The greatest force for social justice in our country’s history. I saw the Labour Party at its very best last night – no divisiveness, no infighting. Just decent, compassionate people who refused to walk by on the other side of the road while others went without shelter.
People can get sentimental at this time of year. But what happened last night can’t be a one-off. We need Labour activists out on the streets every day until homelessness is ended. So, wherever you are in the country, if you would like to help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch with people in your local area.
If you are still looking for a New Year’s Resolution, then I ask you to join us in resolving to end homelessness.
Happy New Year to you all.