Posts Tagged ‘Labour


Strange callers and turncoats

lib dem rosette

We at Castle Dent (n.b. not an actual castle) had an interesting caller yesterday afternoon. Whilst the sun beat down on Southend, the doorbell rang, and I was the one to open the door.

And it opened onto a strange gentlemen, with a clipboard in hand, and a look I knew well. He introduced himself as the Conservative candidate for Victoria Ward. When he asked about my own politics, I was honest — a simple Google search would have told him the truth any how. It was a little different to how I would have canvassed someone on the doorstep; a lecture on the follies of François Hollande and the Parti Socialiste.

His name was Denis Garne, and less than half an hour later I learnt that he was a former councillor on Southend Borough Council. Representing the, erm, Labour Party.

Read on…


Whips and chains

southend civic centre

My apologies to anyone whose non-specific Googling has brought them to this page. This blog is, of course, about political whipping. Which is less kinky than what most of you clicked the link for. Sorry.

For the uninitiated, a party whip is responsible for keeping the party in line, and making sure that all of the representatives of that party follow the line set by the leadership. It’s a fairly thankless task, but it’s the cornerstone of stable governance under the political party system.

And, on Southend Borough Council, the Independent Party Group make a point of not using a whip. So, for that matter, do UKIP. They flaunt it on their campaign literature as some sort of badge of honour. If only it were that straightforward.

Read on…


Predictable election ends predictably

southend civic centre

On Thursday, the voters of a safe Conservative ward in Southend-on-Sea went to the polls in a by-election. When the ballots were counted, the Conservative candidate was returned as the new councillor representing the ward.

By the numbers, you might say.

Except, that bare bones overview doesn’t quite show the full picture of what happened in West Leigh ward this week.

Read on…


Out and About in Kursaal Ward


So after nearly two months in Southend, I finally ran out of excuses and found myself today canvassing with Southend Labour Party.

It rained — of course it did — but that didn’t stop us — myself, Councillors Ware-Lane and Jones, and Labour candidate for 2014 Chas Willis –  knocking on doors up and down the marginal Kursaal ward. Not how many people would choose to spend their Saturday mornings, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve done any sort of campaigning.

As I said before, after leaving Wokingham I drifted a bit from local politics, but I’m determined to get stuck back in here.

And Kursaal was a good place to start. Over the course of a couple of hours we spoke to residents about all manner of issues — with lack of parking a big issue. The parking in Southend is a huge problem, particularly given that it’s a hybrid of commuter and tourist town.

The other issue was around Christchurch Park. Residents were concerned that the shortage of children’s play equipment had led to it becoming a focal point for anti-social behaviour even down to drug dealing and use on a residential street.

The fact that the area has Labour representatives means that we can take some action immediately. But each additional councillor gives more power to deliver changes for the better more quickly; so there is real and tangible importance to each vote cast next May.


Go and vote for your Police Commissioner!

The day is here. November 15th, the polling day for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. And it is essential, absolutely imperative, that you go out and use your vote today.

A lot of people aren’t keen on this role at all. I, actually, am one of them. I’d rather that we weren’t politicising the police forces of England and Wales, and spending a fortune in order to do it. However, not voting won’t stop that from happening, and it won’t lead to a positive situation.

Tomorrow we will have a Police Commissioner, even if only 1% of the registered electorate vote. In many cases, a low turnout will allow someone not at all right for the job to win. The opportunity that you have today is to vote for whoever you feel would be best for the role of the candidates before you.

I’ve already declared how I will be voting. My first preference will be Tim Starkey (Lab) and my second preference John Howson (Lib Dem). I’d urge, naturally, everyone to vote for Tim because he’d make a great Police Commissioner, and would focus on keeping policing numbers and standards up in the Thames Valley, rather than just enacting Tory cuts.

If you haven’t managed to see his leaflet yet (and I know that’s a lot of people — Thames Valley is big, and although I and others have been working hard, we’re a long way off covering the whole area), then here you are you lucky people!

But whatever you do, whoever you vote for, do go out and vote!


Pinkneys Green: the winners and the losers

After the Pinkneys Green election count last night, the dust has settled, and in the cold light of day the results don’t look any better. There’s not really a way to spin it, there were distinct winners and losers here.

The winners were clearly the Liberal Democrats and UKIP. Sadly, the losers were Labour and the Conservatives.

Firstly, Labour. I am disappointed with our results. We worked hard, canvassing widely and getting mostly good feedback. To come fourth behind a UKIP candidate who did very little campaigning (indeed, who turned up at the polling station yesterday morning and asked the tellers from the other parties “Why are you taking numbers? This is a local election, you don’t actually do anything. You’re not actually going to knock up, are you?“) is very disappointing. There’s no real way of spinning it as anything else.

For the Lib Dems, though, this will be a great encouragement. They won the election, so clearly they did well. But it goes a bit beyond that. They won this election despite polling ratings being in the toilet, despite having been all but wiped out in the 2011 local elections, and despite the local Tories throwing the kitchen sink at this election.

However, its worth looking at just how they won the election. Granted, they ran a good campaigning operation. But in the end it wasn’t that which won them the seat. The margin between Simon Werner and Tory Catherine Hollingsworth was eight votes. UKIP, in comparison, polled 152.

At the count, UKIP councillor Tom Bursnall (who, let us remember, defected from the Conservatives) joked with me that if UKIP won “we’ll be withdrawing Pinkneys Green from the EU“. A joke, but it shines an interesting light on the state of affairs: UKIP have nothing offer on a local level. They are a one issue party, and that one issue is irrelevant here. Those 152 votes must be for the most part disaffected Conservatives making a protest vote.

And this is why, although Labour came last, the Conservatives were the biggest losers of the night. They were denied a council seat by UKIP. Replicate this on bigger elections, across the country, and the Tories are in trouble. The left-wing vote has long been split between Labour and the Lib Dems, and now UKIP are doing the same on the right.

I was mystified that, with it being so close, Ms Hollingsworth didn’t pursue a recount. Losing the seat is immaterial in itself, as the Conservatives still hold the vast majority of seats. But losing as a result of UKIP is a major political setback. The fact that Tory councillors came out on mass to canvass the ward only makes it more humiliating.

UKIP now have a lot more leverage over the Conservatives on a national level. There have been internal forces pushing David Cameron to make a deal with the anti-EU party and those voices will only get stronger as a result.

So there we have it. A bloodied Conservative Party, Labour in the same place, UKIP emboldened, and a new Lib Dem on the council. Talking to Simon Werner, he seems like a nice guy — and is, apparently, on the social democrat wing of the yellow party.

But I still think Pat McDonald would have made a better councillor.


Vote Pat McDonald in Pinkneys Green

Pat McDonald campaigning with Labour PCC candidate Tim Starkey in Maidenhead high street.

It’s election day in the Pinkneys Green ward of the Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor, and by now polling stations are open. They will stay open until 10pm, allowing some fifteen hours for residents to vote.

There are a few reasons why this by-election will probably have quite a low turnout (and they apply to next month’s Police & Crime Commissioner elections, too):

  • Poor promotion: a worrying majority of voters who I spoke to whilst canvassing had no idea that an election was even happening. The ballot hasn’t been terribly well promoted, and a large number of the electorate will have no idea about it.
  • Weather: it’s the middle of autumn. It feels, if we’re honest, more like the start of winter. This is not prime election weather. There is a reason that elections are most commonly held in May: because the weather is likely to be nicer, and thus more people are willing to walk down to the polling station. If it is (as weather forcasts indicate) grey and miserable and cold tomorrow, then a lot of people will simply think “Screw it!”
  • Apathy: Linked to both of the above options, many voters simply aren’t interested. Maybe it’s because they think that all politicians are crooks (unfair), or that their vote won’t make a difference (understandable), they have no intention to vote.

But in low turnout situations, unexpected things can happen.

The Labour and Co-operative candidate Pat McDonald is a long-standing resident and activist in Maidenhead. He has sat on his parish council, stood for parliament, and is heavily involved with Maidenhead United Football Club. He would be an excellent addition to the borough council and an excellent representative for Pinkneys Green.

I don’t know anything about the Conservative candidate, but there are more than enough Tories on the council as things are, and their policies are already failing the public both nationally and locally.

The Liberal Democrat candidate is Simon Werner — the former councillor who the electorate chucked out at the last local elections, and whose party is propping up the Tories in a national government which is failing on every promise it has made. They have also cost the local taxpayer some £3,000 to hold this by-election now, rather than coinciding with the Police Commissioner elections three weeks later.

I’ve already said on this blog that a Labour win at this by-election would be the only result which could substantially change the political situation in Maidenhead. For the reasons detailed above, I have to look at such a victory as a distinct possibility.

People of Pinkneys Green, please go out and cast your vote today. Vote for the candidate for change and a better future.

Vote for Pat McDonald.


Poster Boy for the Labour Party Conference


Or maybe not.

This photo, of yours truly holding up a plastic bag (from the USDAW exhibition stand) trying to get Ed Miliband’s attention in yesterday’s Q&A, is in today’s Times.

The actual article is a bit combative, calling Labour members’ support if Ed “a cult“, and accusing us of having “drunk the Kool-Aid“. Which is a bit rich, given the tendency of the Tory Party to deify Margaret Thatcher.

But it’s still nice to be noticed.


The Speech I Would Have Made at the Labour Conference

I had been hoping that I would get the opportunity to address the Labour Party conference this week. Sadly, lots of people want to do exactly the same, and I wasn’t called by the chair in either the economy or young people debates.

But I had written a speech, and it seems a shame to waste it, so I offer to you here — the speech I would have given to the 2012 Labour Party conference.

Conference, I’d like to take a moment to thank you for this opportunity to speak here today. In all the years I have watched conferences past, listened to delegates speak from this podium, I never imagined that I would be here myself one day.

And I certainly never imagined I would be here in the situation that I am. Conference, I have a confession to make: like a million other young people in this country, I am unemployed.

When I left university, I had such bright hopes. I had worked hard, gotten good grades, and graduated with a good degree from a reputable university. All my life I had grown up being told that if I did that, then the rewards would be waiting for me.

A year later, I have applied for over three hundred jobs, and what have I had in return? Rejection, rejection, rejection. Rejection from entry level jobs, rejection from supermarket positions. Rejections from office jobs, and even rejections from unpaid internships! I volunteer my time as an intern and as a Cub Scout Leader, but when I seek paid employment I find only doors shut in my face.

It’s an experience far too common across people my age, and a situation which is destroying lives and wasting talent. With hundreds competing for every vacancy, people are being rejected from entry-level positions and told they don’t have enough experience.

It’s bleak, it’s unfair, and it’s demoralising. The phrase “lost generation” has been thrown around a lot, but it’s not until you look in the mirror and realise that it means you that you really understand how horrific it is.

These young people like me, they are not unemployed because they want to be. They are not out of work because they aren’t trying hard enough. They are unemployed because there aren’t enough jobs, and because they have been abandoned by a government which was full of false promises, but has delivered for them nothing.

Labour’s response to youth unemployment was the future jobs fund. The Tories’ response is jobs for the boys. We are living in a world where young people have to be able to work unpaid for months in order to even have a shot, a world where what you know pales next to who you know, to who your parents know.

I ask you, conference, in 2012 how can it be that who you know still counts volumes more than what you know?

Conference, I count myself very lucky to have grown up under a Labour government. To my shame, I took it for granted, and when I watched David Cameron and Nick Clegg walking into Downing Street that shame propelled me to join up and stand up for my principles. I firmly believe that in 2015 we will see Ed Miliband as Prime Minister of this country, and conference I am counting down the days until the young people of this country, until all people of this One Nation can see their potential fulfilled in a bright and hopeful future.


Letting Ed Be Ed

Yesterday morning I asked if Ed Miliband needed to show some anger in his conference speech that afternoon. I wasn’t the only one wondering, and there was both real pressure on the Labour leader, and a strong sense of expectation surrounding him. The party has been polling well, but a poll result released in the morning raised serious questions about Ed as a leader.

So, of all the times to pull out a barnstorming speech, yesterday was a very good time.

For over an hour Ed spoke about his vision for the future of both the Labour Party and the country. He was relaxed, he was confident, he was funny, and he was clear about his direction. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to who are delighted that Ed has finally managed to come across in a public speech as eloquently, strongly and likably as he does in private.

In short, to quote an absurdly over-used cliche from the West Wing, he finally let Ed be Ed.

It was a long speech — made all the more impressive by the fact that he did it without notes or autocue — and he had the crowd responding to him naturally. Even down to the pantomime-esque call-and-response when he asked repeatedly whether the Tories could unite the country.

One of the early indicators of the speech’s success was the response of the right-wing press — even they couldn’t deny that Ed was pulling off an excellent piece of political performance.

At a Fabians panel in the evening even ConservativeHome editor — and human barometer for the Tory Party — Tim Montgomerie said that it had been a very good speech.

There was some discussion about whether Ed’s adoption of the traditionally conservative concept of One Nation constituted a move to the right, or a redefining of the political centre-ground. Certainly there was something reminiscent of Tony Blair about the way that Ed connected with such ease with the audience in the hall, and reached out to those who voted Tory in 2010.

(Of course, it’s worth noting that the perennially dissatisfied and embittered arch-Blairite Dan Hodges was still not happy, complaining that it didn’t contain enough policy. At the aforementioned Fabians panel, even Tim admitted that with two years before the next election it’s far too early to announce firm policy pledges. Constructive criticism is one thing, but criticism just for criticism’s sake? Can’t we leave that to the other side?)

Another notable aspect was the patriotism which coloured the whole speech through. From Ed’s account of his family history, to the Olympics and Paralympics success, there was a real sense of Ed taking on some of the traditional dominant grounds of the right.

It wasn’t the compete package. Ed won’t walk into Number 10 of the back of this speech. But it was a good platform, and sets the stage for him to make a real offer to the British people and a real challenge to the Tories. One of the best things about the speech was knowing that David Cameron was watching it, and tearing up his own conference speech — his doubtless-planned right-wing lurch would now fully vacate the political “sane” ground to Labour.

But I’ll finish with a direct quote from the speech (which you really should watch):

Who can come up to the task of rebuilding Britain? Friends, it falls to us, it falls to us, the Labour Party. As it has fallen to previous generations of Labour Party pioneers to leave our country a better place than we found it. Never to shrug our shoulders at injustice and say that is the way the world is. To come together, to join together, to work together as a country.

It’s not some impossible dream. We’ve heard it, we’ve seen it, we’ve felt it. That is my faith.

One nation: a country for all, with everyone playing their part. A Britain we rebuild together.

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