Labour values in a 10/40 window

1040window.jpgEvangelicals use the term 10/40 Window to describe the part of the world where the Church’s influence is weakest. It refers to the area between 10 degrees to 40 degree north of the Equator. This region includes North Africa, the Near East the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia.


Running a church in this part of the world is very different from elsewhere. A church that meets in someone’s basement under cover of darkness doesn’t need to worry about the colour of the carpet or the pews being pulled out. A church characterised by the accapella singing of hymns learnt in the oral tradition won’t have arguments over whether to be accompanied by a historic organ or a “worship band”.  And theological debates over the comparative use of wine or grape juice probably seem somewhat academic in a place where managing to feed your children is a major achievement.


Since my selection as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in the Tory stronghold of Hitchin & Harpenden I have often found encouragement from the lives of Christians who live in the 10/40 window. Their challenges are much, much greater than mine but there are similarities that I draw on.


Hitchin & Harpenden Labour Party’s challenges are different from those in South Shields and East Ham, or even Harlow and Stevenage. We do not run the local council – or County Council – so we are not burdened by the trappings and responsibilities of public office. We do, however, have heated debates over how our five councillors (twelve across North Hertfordshire) can best wearelabour.jpgchallenge the governing administration. We don’t argue over which Shadow Minister we want at our next branch meeting but we do find encouragement in the fact that many of our members (due to our proximity to London, and perversely, our high house prices) are leaders in their chosen field across a range of industries and sectors.  I do not have a regular column in the local paper – and I haven’t (yet) appeared on Newsnight - but I have had measurable success getting into the local press – perhaps even because I help to diversify the local Tory hegemony.


It is a great relief to me that we don’t have arguments over whether or not we have hit our voter contact rate for the month but, paradoxically, that is also a great sadness. Sometimes it is difficult to articulate to my Inner London friends exactly how low a base we start from. A good way to think of it is a huddled group of believers meeting in a basement somewhere in Uzbekistan. Forget the pews, the red carpet, the organ and the choir robes and imagine us singing “Kumbaya” by candlelight. [My Hitchin and Harpenden comrades will hate this analogy, but I do think it’s very apt!]


As a candidate, I often find myself being my own Campaign Manager,  Press Officer, Branch Secretary and Membership Officer. I fold leaflets into the small hours, I put in my own orders for materials off Membersnet and I spend an awful lot of time on the Ballot_papers.jpgphone and email to members. My number one priority is “Capacity Building”. How much we can achieve is directly proportional to how many people I can recruit to do things. After all, there is only one of me – and I routinely find that this is a major limitation.


This challenge is made greater by the fact that one of my roles as a candidate in a non-target seat is to mobilise members to campaign in our “twin seat” of Stevenage. So, on a “Super Saturday” I am expected to turn up with an army of activists from the Hitchin and Harpenden constituency to help us win a key marginal so as to form a Labour Government in 2015. This is a bit like asking the Vicar of Tashkent to get together a delegation of Christians to support the work at Canterbury Cathedral. The difference in manpower ought to be obvious – even to the untrained eye. Please don’t misunderstand me: I understand the theory – getting a Labour Government involves winning Stevenage - but in practice, this can be an extraordinarily tall order.


If I have learnt anything over the last few months it is that I have learnt to appreciate people for what they can DO rather than what they think or say. Even when someone offers to deliver 200 leaflets, I become filled with gratitude. It make me want to listen to their opinions and allow them to have influence. Making a difference in politics isn’t Rocket Science: it starts with a willingness to serve.


“whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”


Rachel Burgin is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden and is a member of Christians on the Left. If you are interested in delivering 200 leaflets for her or being part of a vast army of activists that she can take to Stevenage to campaign ( you can contact her on


You are also welcome to attend the Hitchin Stand Up For Labour event on 7th November


You can find out more about her campaign at

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