Labour friends of Poland

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Epping Forest

EppingForest1996-2010I know the last two Labour candidates who have attempted the Parliamentary route through Epping Forest, especially Katie Curtis. Katie stood in 2010, being the third candidate selected; the previous two having dropped out for personal reasons. (The 2010 campaign for many of us lasted three years and therefore some attrition amongst our candidates was inevitable). Katie’s 2010 campaign blog can still be found here. Katie, whose family come from Canvey Island, helped out in my Castle Point campaign at one time.

The numbers recently do not suggest is it fertile Labour territory, although in 1966 Labour was just 2.7% behind the Conservatives. Different boundaries and a simpler choice facing the electorate accounted for that result. In the recent high tide mark of 1997 the gap was still near ten per cent.

Labour came third last time around, a familiar story across much of the East of England. I expect that Labour will be back to second spot at least next year.

Looking through the recent election results I came across a very unusual description for one of the candidates in the 1988 by-election – Brian Goodier stood under the label ‘Vote no Belsen for South Africans ‘; he got sixteen votes.

In it to win it

My selection as Labour’s General Election candidate in Southend West has inspired the Liberal Democrat’s sole surviving blogger in the borough to write not one, but two, pieces about it. You can almost sense the rising panic at Southend’s equivalent of Lib Dem Central, so much so that they want to me to give in just as I am getting going.

Neil Monnery believes that fielding a strong candidate (I am flattered to be thus described) has damaged our chances. He writes that Labour shoot themselves in the foot in Southend in an argument that suggests my contesting in Southend West will weaken Ian Gilbert’s chances in Rochford and Southend East.

I am not sure quite what Neil’s campaigning credentials are although I do know he stood in Westborough ward in 2012. He came sixth place in a ward that at the time had Lib Dem representation; sixth out of six, with a 90 votes and 5.4% of the votes cast. I will leave it to the reader to pass judgement on this but if the strategy was to do as badly as possible then Neil’s campaign was a roaring success.

I have fought quite a few campaigns, losing far more often than I have won. However, if you factor in those that I have supported and organised (as opposed to those I have contested) then my record is reasonable. I understand about targeting, and about maximising scarce resources. I also know about our membership and what they deserve, and what a long game involves.

Neil’s attempts at analysing David Amess’s chances miss out a chunk of the story. Whilst he may be right in his view that Mr Amess will get re-elected, he ignores evidence that suggest change is possible.

Labour did come a poor third last time around in what was Labour’s worst General Election result since 1919. The Nick Clegg bounce significantly boosted the Lib Dem vote; this time around it will be what is known as a dead cat bounce – voters are deserting a party that has kept Cameron at number ten and enabled him to foist all sorts of unpopular legislation on the UK.

Despite Labour’s unpopularity, David Amess’s vote share went down slightly – hardly a ringing endorsement given the political climate in May 2010. He attracted 46.1% of the vote, with a turnout figure of 65.1%. Of course I am aware of the dangers of hypothesising about unused votes, but Amess’s vote share as a percentage of the electorate stands at 30% – meaning that 70% did not care to support him.

I am in the contest to win it. Southend West Labour Party members deserve a candidate who tries his best, Labour supporters deserve a candidate who tries his best, the electorate in Southend West deserve a candidate who tries his best. David Amess deserves an opponent who will take the fight to him. That a Liberal Democrat views this as bad news merely serves as an additional incentive.

Essex Labour groups and the struggle for gender parity

One of the travails of local Labour party organisers is the striving for gender parity in their representatives. We aspire to this in our internal organisations, we aspire to it in our council chambers.

Travails? Indeed – a laborious effort (pun intended). I have met no-one in my circle of activists and comrades who wants anything but more women involved in local politics, and yet I have met few who can claim success.

See here:

Male Female
Basildon 9 1
Braintree 8 3
Brentwood 2 1
Castle Point 0 0
Chelmsford 1 0
Colchester 6 3
Epping Forest 1 0
Harlow 10 7
Maldon 1 0
Rochford 1 0
Southend-on-Sea 5 4
Tendring 7 2
Thurrock 13 9
Uttlesford 0 0
Essex CC 6 3

This table shows the numbers of male and female Labour councillors in the fourteen local authorities plus the county council in Essex. In eight of these authorities we have gender parity, including the council that I am a member of. Eight out of fifteen sounds like reasonable, if limited, success. Except, that of these eight, two have no councillors, four have just one, and a further one has only three Labour representatives. Only in Southend-on-Sea is there a reasonably large group that manages parity.

(Note: whilst parity means the same number of men and women, odd numbers of councillors mean that getting within one of equable numbers counts as parity.)

This failure is not through want of trying. It cannot be because women are not interested in politics – in general voter turnout is higher amongst women than amongst men. Women, in general, tend to favour Labour more than their male counterparts, so it cannot be that our (Labour’s) politics fails to attract females.

For whatever reason, and despite repeated entreaties to our female members, fewer women come forward to stand in elections than men, and fewer still are prepared to put in the hours of grind necessary for electoral success. We do not give up though, and whilst some of the reasons will be cultural, we should be able to encourage women to come forward as potential community leaders.

The picture in Essex will improve, of that I have little doubt. Will I ever live to gender parity everywhere? The honest answer is that I do not know. I do know that our rules insist that we keep trying, that we have women-only shortlists – and this not only vexes those male activist who feel shut out, it vexes those of us tasked with finding women to come forward.

And the Southend West campaign begins …. in Prittlewell

Cheryl, Matt and Kevin, this morning, Prittlewell ward

Cheryl, Matt and Kevin, this morning, Prittlewell ward

Roll over David Amess, and tell James Duddridge the news

Ian Gilbert congratulates Julian Ware-Lane

Ian Gilbert congratulates Julian Ware-Lane

Among the first to congratulate Julian Ware-Lane on his selection as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Southend West was Ian Gilbert. Ian is contesting the Rochford and Southend East seat for Labour.

Ian said: “I am very pleased that Southend West chose Julian, he will be a strong voice for his constituency.

Julian Ware-Lane said: “Ian and I represent the alternative to the Conservative-led Government. We will be working for real change.

Ian and Julian, who are both Borough councillors, will be challenging the Government’s record. This is a record where working people are £1,600 per year worse off than they were under Labour, where family energy bills have been allowed to rise by almost £300 since the last election, and yet the very richest are getting tax cuts.

This year’s local elections show us that Southend is no longer in thrall to the Conservative Party. They have lost power locally, and next year we hope they will be out of Government” said Julian.

Ian Gilbert added: “We are the growing force in Southend whilst the Tories are in decline.

The Labour Party active membership in Southend is growing, whilst the Conservative Party is a party in decline here. It is believed that the Labour Party is now the biggest party in the borough.

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