Labour Party

Charles Willis for Westborough


chas, anne and matt

Continuing my series of selection announcements for Southend Labour Party, I am delighted to be able to announce that Charles Willis has been selected by Labour Party members to contest Westborough ward in the May 2015 local elections.

My first bout of canvassing after moving to Southend was actually for Chas’ campaign in Kursaal. He unfortunately narrowly lost that contest, and I think most would agree that Kursaal ward is the poorer for it.

He will, I am sure, be a fantastic councillor for Westborough. On polling day I crippled my foot walking up and down the long straight roads which make up the ward. It was worth it, though, as the results saw two Labour councillors elected. I will be hoping for a repeat of that victory next year.

Chas said,

I’ll be working with residents to introduce the improvements they want to see in the ward and representing their interests at the council.

And I am confident that he will.

Blenheim Park deserves better


matt dent for blenheim park

This weekend the Labour Party campaign in Blenheim Park got started, with yours truly as the candidate.

Blenheim Park is an area which is currently represented by one councillor each from UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, and none have given residents the strong representation they need in local government.

Read on…

Judith McMahon for Kursaal


judith mcmahon kursaal
Members of the Labour Party in Southend have re-selected Judith to contest Kursaal ward in the May 2015 local elections.

Judith has represented Kursaal since 2011, and before that had served a nine year stint as councillor for the ward. In that time she has stood up resolutely for the interests of her residents, focusing on making a difference locally.

Judith said,

Residents in Kursaal ward have more reason than most to need Councillors who get on with the job. My aim is to serve according to the values of the Labour Party and to stand up for residents against crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour.”

In May of this year the Kursaal local election was won by UKIP’s Lawrence Davies, surprising everyone. Including, one suspects, himself. His performance in the role has been a catalogue of reasons not to vote for UKIP. My favourites include:

Kursaal is one of the most deprived areas of Southend, and desperately needs strong representation in the council chamber. UKIP are not the answer; they have proved that in a remarkably short period of time. In 2015, Kursaal ward needs Labour policy and representation; Kursaal ward needs Judith McMahon.

Gray Sergeant for Milton


gray sergeant

On Saturday 6th December, I was not the only Labour candidate selected to fight the 2015 local elections. Gray Sergeant was selected by party members in Milton to fight Labour’s number one target seat, and complete the revolution started by Julian Ware-Lane in 2012.

As a new resident of Milton ward, I am delighted with the choice of Labour Party members. (For those who are curious, I moved into Milton the day after the selection, hence I’m not describing it as ‘my choice’.) Gray did excellent work this year in St Luke’s ward, and was unlucky to come second to an invisible, voiceless Independent Party Group candidate.

He will, I am sure, do far better in Milton.

Jonathan Garston, as I have pointed out, is not a good councillor. He is near-enough invisible, something which has been thrown into stark contrast by the active, vibrant work of Julian Ware-Lane and Cheryl Nevin, the ward’s two Labour councillors.

Speaking of his selection and the challenges before him, Gray said,

It’s an honour to be selected as Labour’s candidate for Milton. I was born in Southend and have grown up here. I want to make my hometown a better place to live and work and somewhere people want to visit. Milton is a vibrant part of the town but also an area with many inequalities which I hope to address. I will work hard to deal with the local issues residents raise with me on the doorstep.

Gray will make an excellent councillor for Milton, I am sure of it and come May 7th he will have my vote. And if you want effective local representation for a better place to live and work, then you should give him yours.

Matt Dent for Blenheim Park


blog photoI have, this weekend, been internetually challenged as a result of moving flats (still within Southend). As a result, Julian Ware-Lane has beaten me to breaking the news: yes, on 8th May 2015 I will be the Labour Party candidate for the ward of Blenheim Park in the borough of Southend-on-Sea.

Read on…

A little perspective, please


ed miliband

Ed Miliband is in trouble.

This much is undeniable. Two of his MPs have defected to an insurgent party who are taking vast swathes of his party’s voters and activists. He has been forced into an embarrassing volte face on almost every policy position he initially espoused. More than 30 of his MPs have called for him to go, and now his party’s polling has dropped to 27%, within touching distance of UKIP.

Oh, hang on. That’s not Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, is it? That’s David Cameron and the Conservative Party.

Read on…

A weekend of knocking on doors


matt, ian and anne in st luke's

If anyone wants indisputable proof that I am indeed mad, then may I present as exhibit 1, the fact that I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings out knocking on doors and talking to strangers.

(There is an argument, and a compelling one I think, that by doing just such I am in fact the one who is stranger)

We are still some eight months away from the next round of elections, so most political parties in Southend are conspicuous by their absence on the campaign trail, and I suspect will remain so until January at the earliest, but I am glad to say that Southend Labour are out campaigning almost all year round.

Read on…

Why the Labour-Trade Union Link is Essential


Ed Miliband on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, ahead of the start of the Labour Party Conference


Being interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show, Ed Miliband has just said the following, and I think it bears repeating:

There’ll be some people who say ‘Why doesn’t Ed Miliband make a splash, by breaking the link with Trade Union members?’ I tell you why I’m not going to do that. Because think about politics and what people think about politics: detatched from the lives of most people.

What does that gives us? At its best, the link with Trade Union members, and I underline members, gives us a link with people up and down this country, who go to work every day, who get up early, who put in all the hours that God sends, who know what life is like at the sharp end.

And I’m not going to break that link, but I am going to make the right decisions in the interests of the country. And that’s my position as Labour Leader.

And he’s absolutely right. The system might not be perfect, from either perspective, but we are a party which came out of the Trade Unions and the working people of this country. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that.

“Predistribution” is a godawful buzzword


Centre-left governments of the future will have to also make work pay better by making work itself pay.

But as an idea, it might just be the key that the left — and this country — is looking for.

Allow me to elaborate a little. Yesterday, Ed Miliband gave a speech organised by the Policy Network. In it, he outlined further the direction of  Labour Party policy, unveiling the idea of “predistribution”. Ed explained it as thus:

Predistribution is about saying: We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with permanently being a low-wage economy… Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples’ home. Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to offer them more: Higher skills. With higher wages. An economy that works for working people.

It sounds pretty good, and it gels with the other policy speeches that Ed has given since he took over the party leadership. In his conference speech last year, he talked about “predatory capitalism”. It got a panning in the right-wing press, but since then has become the political centre ground. The idea of predistribution is an extension of that idea.

The problem is not the content, it’s the expression. Yesterday, LabourList’s Mark Ferguson said of the speech, “It was more academic lecture than political speech“, and he was right. Ed has always been a more cerebral kind of politician; a thinker rather than a showman. It’s a characteristic that has also come in for frequent criticism, and one I’ve been quick to defend. David Cameron is the epitome of leaders who can “talk the talk”. We need one who can “walk the walk”.

However, if this idea is going to reach ordinary people, it’s going to have to reach them in plain and everyday English. Just as the Conservatives’ disingenuous “maxed out credit card” analogy connected with the lives of voters, so will this. And “predistribution” just isn’t going to do that.

So what should it mean in practice?

A great many of the votes that Labour lost at the last general election were because people had lost faith that the economy was working for them. It’s hard to argue that this isn’t the case. You only have to open the pages of the Daily Mail, the Daily Express or the Sun to see railing against “scroungers”. But the root of the problem is that a large number of people aren’t earning, and cannot earn, a wage that they can live off.

This was addressed by the last Labour government with such redistributive measures as tax credits. The minimum wage was a good first step, but if it’s not enough to live off then what good does it really do?

We need a statutory “living wage”. If a person can be ensured that by working they will have enough to live off, then what greater incentive can there be to get people to work? Talk of “scroungers” would disappear, and people would have real money to spend and put into an economy that badly needs it. We need a taxation system where anyone earning a “living wage” is exempt from income tax, and a government that helps to enable people to thrive, rather than excusing the fact that they aren’t.

As an idea, it’s still in the early stages of its genesis. But it has real potential. David Cameron’s Tory-led government is the last gasp of trying to fix the broken economic and social system. It’s not working. The government talks about making work pay, but when the minimum wage in the country is not enough to allow a person to survive, then it work self-evidently not paying.

Ed Miliband’s ideas are grand, and mean changing the nature of our society completely. But it’s been done before, so it can be done again.

And if the worst thing about “predistribution” is the name, then I feel we’re onto something important here.

Wokingham Election Results – An Analysis


The results of Wokingham’s 2012 local elections are in…

I’ve had a few hours now to reflect on the results of the Wokingham local elections, and to do some some fancy arithmetic with the numbers to get a full picture of how the votes played out across the borough.

There were a total of 31,630 votes cast between the hours of 7am and 10pm in the borough as a whole. I don’t yet have the information on turnout, but it doesn’t seem terribly good- probably around 30%. The weather contributed to this, doubtless, but there has been a slump in turnout across the country.

Here is a table of information on the election, showing the number of seats won by each party, the gains that it means for them, the total votes they received, and how that stands as a percentage of the overall vote (Note: I’ve rounded the percentage figures to one decimal place, which is why the total comes to 100.1%).

Seats Gains Votes Percentage
CON 13 -2 15,345 48.5%
LD 4 +1 7,643 24.2%
LAB 0 0 3,862 12.2%
GREEN 0 0 2,378 7.5%
UKIP 0 0 1,733 5.5%
IND 1 +1 496 1.6%
Spoilt - - 183 0.6%

There were 18 seats up for election this year, which is a third of the council, and the Tories lost two. Somehow (think #wokyrubbish) the Liberal Democrats managed to buck the national trend, and actually gain a seat in Winnersh. The independent Nick Ray (about whom I know embarrassingly, well, nothing) taking Charvil from Tory incumbent Emma Hobbes was the shock of the day really.

Firstly, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. I had held private hopes of Labour winning a seat- Greg Bello came agonisingly close in Bulmershe & Whitegates, and I maintain he would have been a superb representative. I’m also disappointed that I came third after a candidate who did no campaigning at all, but I did significantly increase my share of the vote. Thank you to everyone who came along to help me campaign, and especially to everyone who voted for me.

The results show, I think, Labour as the solid third party of the borough. The Greens get fourth place, largely out of the number of candidates they stood (they didn’t poll badly, but only Marjorie Bisset in Shinfield South posed any serious challenge). I’m still waiting for any signs of this supposed UKIP breakthrough.

There are several lessons I take from these results with regard to improving Labour’s performance. The first is that we need to stand a full slate of candidates. We can’t be seen as a credible challenger in the borough unless we’re fielding candidates all across it.

Secondly, there was a distinct lack of canvassing all across Wokingham. I worked hard knocking doors and distributing leaflets, and so did my opponents (well, one of them did). But many of the returned Conservative councillors didn’t do a thing by all accounts. There are so many votes that are there to be picked up, if only we could run even a minimal campaign- and not to mention a get the vote out operation.

The next election isn’t until 2014, so that gives us two years to look at what needs to be done, and take steps to do it. Labour is here in Wokingham, and we’re not going away any time soon.