Two years ago – in the early morning hours of May 8 2015 – electoral defeat came like sudden death to Ed Miliband's Labour Party. It was catastrophic for all those who were against the ravages of Tory austerity, but at least there was the sense that Labour had time to lick its wounds and arise once again to be the party to lead the people to a more equal Britain.
However, two years after that disastrous election loss, it would appear that Labour – under Jeremy Corbyn, in the 2017 snap General Election – is on the steady path to electoral oblivion on June 8.
In the 2015 Labour campaign, I played a very small part in their election strategy by speaking across the country to party members about my youth in a Britain before the welfare state. On that election night, I sat until well past midnight in a pub near Westminster with young Labour supporters. I left the moment the television pundits told us and the country; it was all over for Labour because David Cameron had won a slim but workable majority.
That night, my black cab swept me across empty streets and past the war memorial towards my budget hotel. It was being readied for the 70th anniversary of VE day in the morning.
I couldn't help but recall the elation I felt in 1945 when the war ended in Europe. I was 22 and stationed with my RAF unit in the newly surrendered city of Hamburg that smouldered in the ruins of war. But in that barren landscape, as spring began to blossom, so too did peace, bringing hope and optimism back into our lives across the continent and in Britain.
When we celebrated Victory in Europe on May 8th 1945, my generation knew this was the first day of the rest of our lives. It's why my generation resolved not to waste one moment of precious time by turning back the clocks and accepting the politics that had given us the suffering of the Great Depression.
We were young and wanted a life worth living. So we seized destiny by the shirt collar and in the General Election of July 1945 voted for our futures by electing a Labour government. This government was revolutionary because with its commitment to create a new society based on merit and the construction of a social safety network, it would make Britain liveable for all its citizens – not just the 1% of that day.
Between 1945 and 1951, the Attlee Government dragged Britain into the 20th century through progressive politics. That government was not perfect, nor did it satisfy everyone needs and wants. But what it did was strive to do great things like build the NHS and nationalise key industries that benefited our changing economy. It made higher education dependent upon ability rather than wealth. It cleared city slums bomb damaged residential neighbourhoods to ensure every citizen had a roof over their heads. But it wasn't easy, and like now the Tories resisted any change that would make the elite pay their fair share.
It's why I know from my own youth in post war Britain that Labour's commitment to taxing the top 5% of wage earners, ending the housing crisis, ensuring proper public funding for the NHS would not have been considered extreme left-wing policies to Clem Attlee, his cabinet or to the millions of working class voters who voted for a political movement that espoused the well of the 99%, rather than the entitled.
Yet today, during an era when wages have not seen real growth in over a decade and affordable housing is out of the reach of anyone but the wealthy minority, Labour's vision for a more equal Britain is seen as radical, unstable and economically disastrous by too many political pundits or those who seemingly speak for the centre.
Economic inequality is as deadly for society as climate change, and to deny it or deride it is abetting the end of civilisation
I lived through the Great Depression the Second World War and Britain's post war reconstruction, so I find it absurd to find fault in Labour's desire to end the ravages of economic inequality. It is as deadly for society as climate change, and to deny it or deride it is abetting the end of civilisation.
If Labour has any hope of winning this election and stopping the destruction of the welfare state and just society, they must embrace – with passion – their history, their struggles, their triumphs and their failures - from Attlee to Blair. Labour must take the gloves off and declare this election for what it is - a battle between the darkness created by austerity, a hard Brexit and malevolent nationalism, and the light of democracy based upon common sense, fair play and tolerance. Labour has to demand of liberals and those who believe in an inclusive society that Jeremy Corbyn - like Macron in France - is the only choice to stem the tide unreasonable austerity and hard Brexit.
Labour must use my generation's grit, my generation's determination and my generation's history to convince the young that they must register to vote and then vote Labour if they want a future.
I am 94 now, so if Labour loses when the next election comes around who will be left from my generation to remind the young of what we endured before the NHS? We will be nearing 100 years old.
In 2022, there will be nobody left from my generation to speak out, to remind, and to rage against the death of my generation's dream that we almost achieved in 1945: a Britain where all of us lived in hope and prosperity.
Harry's Last Stand Published by Icon Books is a searing modern polemic that shows, with the indisputable force of lived experience, why the past shouldn't stay buried, and the future is ours for the taking. Available June 2014. Join a Harry on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/Harryslaststand