May you live in interesting times


labour in victoria

There’s a long standing curse, which despite popular belief is not Chinese in origin (So says Wikipedia… -Ed), that goes, “May you live in interesting times”. However you feel about Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as leader of the Labour Party and the present direction upon which the party is embarking, it’s impossible to deny that these are certainly interesting times.

But for Labour in Southend, I’m afraid it’s very much business as usual. The summer was spent delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, and talking to the people of the town about the issues that matter to them. True, we’ve had an almighty membership surge, to the extent that I suspect we may outnumnber every other party in the town. But in terms of tactics, in terms of policies, it’s all rather unchanged.

At the weekend, the Southend Labour campaign tour rolled into Victoria ward, and I spent a good few hours talking to residents about the usual subjects: parking, dog mess, and the general poor repair of the roads, which was underscored by the noise of workmen digging up the roads as I knocked on doors. Mr Corbyn did come up a handful of times — though it would be an exaggeration to say that he was a key concern of Victoria residents — and with all of the people I spoke to it was in a negative sense.

One gentleman, who described himself as ex-armed forces, highlighted Mr Corbyn’s approach to defence policy, and his ill-advised statement earlier that week that if Prime Minister he would never use Trident. All I could muster in response was that I, too, was uneasy around defence, but that Jeremy Corbyn is not the leader of Southend Labour (Which he isn’t -Ed) and that our local policy is set by our members and not Jeremy Corbyn (Which it is -Ed).

The other remarkable incident of the day was one door that I knocked on, to be greeted by the sound of barking. Not altogether unusual, but what was a bit of a novel experience was to see shape of a golden retriever coming towards the door, standing on its hind legs, and opening the door to sit there barking at me. There didn’t seem to be anybody other than the dog home, so I was left nervously closing the door and backing away.

I put the dog down as undecided.

So we do, indeed, live in interesting times. But I’m afraid Jeremy Corbyn has a way to go to be more interesting than a dog that can answer the door.

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2 comments

  1. A very thoughtful article, Matt, concluding with a strategy that local Labour must, as you realise, clearly differentiate the national and local ‘scene’. Next year’s local elections are clearly all about local and you must be thanking your stars that the national elections are years away! That said, you’ve got your work cut out; Corbyn’s win is clearly mana from heaven to my party, UKIP and indeed other parties. But it will be the hard work on the ground that will make the difference, that is beyond dispute.

    1. I’m willing to give Corbyn a chance. I don’t mind admitting I have my disagreements with him on defence and foreign policy, and as a son of Warrington I am of course uneasy about his and McDonnell’s links to the IRA.

      I don’t know what effect he will have on the local scene, to be honest. I can see both sides of the argument. It does occur to me that Corbyn has something of the straight-talking political outsider vibe that has worked well for Farage, so he may not be the gift to UKIP that you anticipate.

      May will be here soon enough, though, so I guess we’ll find out.

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