Dear friends

Friends

Despite what was pretty good results for us in Southend-on-Sea, let us not be under any delusion – the Tories had a better night. Three gains put them back within touching distance of regaining control in the local council chamber.

The hotchpotch that is the Joint Administration is now four groups.

If the Tories have a similar set of results next May then they will be back, and we will once again be in opposition, powerless to help those who depend on us.

Of course, it is not a given that May 2016 will be a mirror of May 2015, but I am not prepared to trust to luck on that one. I have already been back out canvassing, and I know some of our colleagues are planning their campaigns already.

In my opinion we must be on the attack, and discover a love for pavement politics. Leaflets have their place, but nothing beats doorstep conversations. We also must be prepared to talk to everyone – there is no natural Labour majority in the borough.

Winning elections is all about finding our vote, nurturing our vote, and encouraging it out on polling day. We also have to win people over, especially those we have lost to the likes of UKIP and the Greens. We have to be the ones who are active in our community, and we have to be the ones that residents see all year, not just when elections are imminent.

I think we need to fight 2016 as hard as we fought this year. Join us, and help Labour grow in Southend-on-Sea. We have keep our opponents at bay.

My campaign showed that there are possibilities for us in a number of places beyond what we currently hold. With your help we can make gains, and by making those gains help make Southend-on-Sea a better and fairer place for everyone.

You can email me at warelane@gmail.com

Thanks for reading.

Julian Ware-Lane
Secretary, Leigh Branch Labour Party

Le sac est mort, vive le sac

Le sac

Le sac

There has been a regular feature of my campaigning over the last decade, my trusty bag. This has carried thousands of leaflets over the years, with, maps and pens, as I have navigated footpaths and letterboxes in many parts of south Essex.

It got progressively more battered as it has suffered from being caught in gates and gateposts, the weight of hundreds of leaflets at a time, being snared by unfriendly plants, and the elements. Recently it was a minor miracle that it carried anything at all, such is the state of its disrepair.

However, it became a totem for me, a survivor, like me, of three General Election campaigns. Despite being offered a replacement I was determined to see my bag accompany me right through to the end of the 2015 campaign.

Alas, the bag retires to the recycling bin – perhaps a metaphor for my fate. Who knows? I genuinely have no thoughts for the future beyond hoping to retain my Milton ward seat next year, and to get more Labour activists out on doorsteps in my hometown between now and the first Thursday in May, 2016.

I cannot believe it was only a week ago …

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012010011

A week. a long time in politics.

A sunny afternoon in Blenheim Park

Chris, Kevin, Matt, Ashleigh - out delivering the Labour message

Chris, Kevin, Matt, Ashleigh – out delivering the Labour message

A beautiful warm and sunny afternoon in Westcliff-on-Sea, and what better way to spend it than in the charming company of four Labour friends.

Our pledges, Labour’s pledges:

1. A STRONG ECONOMIC FOUNDATION
Balance the books and cut the deficit every year while securing the future of the NHS. None of our manifesto commitments require additional borrowing.
2. HIGHER LIVING STANDARDS FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Freeze energy bills until 2017 and give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter, ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £8 and provide 25 hours free childcare a week.
3. AN NHS WITH THE TIME TO CARE
20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs. We will join up services from home to hospital, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week.
4. CONTROLS ON IMMIGRATION
People who come here won’t be able to claim benefits for at least two years and we will introduce fair rules making it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers.
5. A COUNTRY WHERE THE NEXT GENERATION CAN DO BETTER THAN THE LAST
Tuition fees reduced to £6,000, an apprenticeship for every school leaver who gets the basic grades, and smaller class sizes for 5, 6 & 7 year-olds.
6. HOMES TO BUY AND ACTION ON RENTS
Biggest house building programme for a generation with priority for first-time buyers and their stamp duty cut to zero. Secure three-year rents capped by inflation.

A happy campaign

Three candidates

Three candidates


Whatever the outcome Thursday I am pleased that Labour’s campaign in Southend West has been a happy one. Politics and campaigning can be arduous, and tempers can flare, but I have managed a happy ship. I am also pleased that Labour has a bigger presence in Southend West than it has been for some time. I have been lucky, I have had some very good people come forward to help, for which I am most grateful. I heartily thank them all.

It has had its surreal moments. I am not sure what David Amess was thinking when he decided a horse-drawn carriage was an ideal vehicle to parade about in. I am wondering whether Brian Otridge can answer every question with a reference to Europe or immigration (“What would you like for dinner dear?” “I don’t know, but it better not be made by Bulgarians.”) I was called dishonest for not including all my middle names on my election material, yet said Tory-woman seemingly unconcerned that David Amess does likewise.

Some things do stick in my mind. The Liberal Democrats must be hoping for a saved deposit and not much else – their support is all but invisible. UKIP’s campaign has been lacklustre, whilst the Green’s idea of personal statements by their council candidates is to make them all identical. The Independent Group appears to have forgotten that they are part of a team of three running the town. There is a discernible wobble in Conservative support. I have seen no evidence that the English Democrat candidate has done anything.

If new media has any influence then Labour is on for a landslide in Southend – ours is by a country mile the best presence on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

In terms of number of activists, it is hard to tell. You hear stories of other campaigns which are struggling because of lack of activists – whereas our pool is growing. If you count posters and garden boards the Conservatives are ahead, but we are not that far behind. We are being out-spent, but our strength has always been those who help us, not how much money they have.

I will be able to say, after Thursday, that Labour has had a good campaign in Southend West. An honest, fair, and not personal campaign. Our presence is one of trying to win, not to be a spoiler for other people’s ambitions.
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Was it a butterfly?

ABC_1A telephone call, just now, went like this:

CALLER: I live in Southchurch and I want to vote UKIP. Can you tell me who the candidate is please?

ME: I am a Labour activist, and I am not about to help UKIP. If they have not made themselves known to you then I do not know why you would want to vote for them.

CALLER: Oh, OK, Thank you.

I guess I should be flattered that to be contacted, and perhaps it speaks to my enthusiasm for campaigning that I am called at all.

Am I flattered by the attention bestowed on me by Anthony Chytry (ABC) in his latest leaflet? Not really, not considering that what he writes is untrue. Labour can win in St Luke’s, and I suspect we will next Thursday.

Whilst he is clearly no fan of Labour, Anthony’s in the main is reserved for the three Independent Group councillors currently in St Luke’s – especially Paul van Looy.

Poster wars

Perhaps it is false memory, but my hazy recollections of elections from that other country, the past, suggest a veritable forest of garden boards. As for window posters, it was an ocean – honest!

Certainly this election, in Southend-on-Sea, has been decidedly low-key as regards to both garden and window decoration. It is almost as if this usually Conservative certainty has been overwhelmed by bashfulness. Maybe, though, it is less reluctance to admit Tory proclivities than an admission that lacklustre representation both at Westminster and locally has finally taken its toll.

Now, before the howls of protest begin let me admit that this is no scientific analysis. Let me also admit to not having trod every footpath. That being said, I have travelled, I have been abroad in my hometown, I have wandered the highways of Westcliff, Leigh and Southend.

You cannot get away from the impression that in numbers it is Labour that is winning it. We have more garden boards and posters up in the areas I have been to. It is not even close; I am sure those who fly the flag for the other parties will contest my findings, but they are only jostling for the runners-up spot. It is Labour that leads.

Labour first then, and I call it for the Tories in the silver medal position. A podium finish, but some way from victory. I give bronze to UKIP. After that it is the Greens, then the Independents, and finally the Liberal Democrats.

Does it matter? Of course it is votes that matter, and only votes. But it sure feels strange to live in a town that I am assured is safely Conservative and yet find little evidence to back that up.

You have to ask yourself: is it only a safe seat because they keep telling us it is?

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