Choose human, and change tactics

There is an untestable theory in some Labour circles that a donkey with a red rosette would have won in 1997. This attitude towards Tony Blair stands in contrast to what is being said about Ed Miliband. Either those that lead matter, or they don’t. Much like that favourite question “who was the best Labour Prime Minister ever?”. Clement Attlee fans need to be reminded that whilst he achieved a thumping majority in 1945 and his first term saw much done, he was out of office by 1951.

I do not buy the timidity argument for the first Blair term either. Look at the 2001 result, a second landslide almost as good as 1997. Say what you like about Blair, voters liked him. If it was a timid administration, timidity clearly worked.

I am no Blairite – I am in no particular wing or faction. However, I do like Labour governments. I sometimes wonder whether some on the left share my fondness for Labour victories; you could believe that vainglorious opposition is preferred. Doing it in administration beats any shouting from the sidelines, in my opinion.

We are embarked on a journey that will lead to the unveiling of a new leadership team in September. I am less bothered at the moment about policy (our 2020 manifesto is some way from being written yet) when choosing a leader and deputy than I am about the mechanics of success. We have to win, and I am looking for a winner.

Let’s choose human, and whilst we are at it let’s re-assess our campaigning methods. I am less than keen on our targeting strategy which plays right into the laws of diminishing returns. Besides, talking just to friends is not only easy, it is a recipe for disaster.

Those who support us at our electoral nadir require little persuasion to stick with us. We have to find new support, and this means finding out what those who either abstain or plump for the alternatives really want.

Too many times I am advised not to speak to ‘againsts’ or those who our records indicate don’t vote. Too often have we abandoned whole tracts of the country as unwinnable, ignoring not only the stalwarts there who pay their dues and deserve some activity in return, but also the possibilities of new activists acquired as well as those conversations we are desperately in need of.

Whether we like it or not, our campaigning methods have brought us to where we are today. We have to be expansive if we want success in future, we have to listen and be prepared to compromise or change course, and we have to be led by someone who can connect with voters.

Latest NEET figures still unacceptably high

Latest figures] show that the number of NEETs is still appallingly high. There are 943,000 young people who were not in education, employment or training for the first quarter of this year. Whilst this is a small drop on the previous quarter’s figures, it still is unacceptably high.

It is a tough world, out there, for young people in the UK. Education is unaffordable for some, and we are facing having a lost generation for whom under or un-employment will become the norm.

The numbers show that of this 943,000 about half are looking for work, whilst half are described as economically inactive.

The so-called economic recovery clearly is not being felt by young people. Mr Cameron and his Conservative Government are presiding over a crisis for young people – a potentially wasted million lives.

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

Silly season in Nelson Street

Nigel Holdcroft is a clever man who likes to give the impression of being a very silly one from time to time. His post on the legitimacy of a Cllr Woodley led administration (Southend Council – a question of legitimacy!) is a good example.

I shall skirt over the leadership vote in 2012, when the then Cllr Holdcroft held onto power despite his group being one short of a majority – although one could question that administration’s legitimacy. I shall not because within the limitations of the electoral system current in Southend-on-Sea, he won a fair election.

This does not change this year. The Independent Group is some distance from having a majority on its own, and so some sort of coalition has to be cobbled together. If this is achieved then Cllr Woodley continues to lead. Nigel can bleat all he likes, until his party has enough councillors they will be condemned to opposition. (One could question why they are devoid of friends – four groups look set to reach an accommodation, whereas the Tories are left on their own.)

Our Nige quotes the latest set of election results in Southend-on-Sea, and correctly points out that those adorned with blue rosettes saw thirteen victories out of a possible maximum of nineteen. However.

I counter this with a look at the votes each party attracted.

Only 39.3% voted Conservative. Whilst this is more than any other party, it is some way short of a majority, and leaves 60.7% of the borough choosing to avoid the Tories.

Legitimacy?

Labour, the Independents, and the Liberal Democrats attracted a combined 43.5% of the vote – 4.2% above the Tories. I call that a mandate.

If the Conservatives can persuade both UKIP and the Greens to back them then the debate takes an interesting turn. Until then, please shut up.

The Campaign for State Education

As much as try to claim that education is not a policy area that excites me, I find myself regularly drawn to it. I guess this is because my take on education in the UK is rather like my brand of socialism. Whilst I want to help the gifted and encourage the ambitious, I also want to help those who are in neither category. The drive to take schools out of democratic accountability, and to pit school against school in some sort of pseudo-Darwinian struggle is decidedly not progressive in the eyes of this commentator. Choice is fine, but real choice should be available to everyone. Choice in education is often limited by the depths of one’s pockets, faith, or an arbitrary exam that those not immiserated can be coached for.

I stumbled across the Campaign for State Education’s website – interesting even for those whose take on educational matters is the polar opposite to mine. Check it out here.

In the meantime, I will continue to press for an educational policy in Southend-on-Sea that works for all of its students.

Tracks no more

Station Road, Westcliff-on-Sea

Station Road, Westcliff-on-Sea

I am pleased to note that the long-standing eyesore that was Tracks has been bought and looks like it will be an eyesore no more. It was not just an eyesore, it was also a home for vermin, a magnet for the homeless, and the subject of much grumbling from its neighbours.

I am not able to claim the credit for this undoubted improvement, not all of it anyway. But I have been vocal in my condemnation of its dilapidated state, and have sought, and achieved, council officer intervention on several occasions.

So, I do claim a little credit. I believe that my prodding has encouraged about change, even if only to wake up the previous owners to the reality of this (former) blight on the community.

Those dancing pigeons will now have to seek a new home.

Group roles

In the last week the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Labour Group held its annual general meeting.

The following positions were filled:

Chair                 Cllr Kevin Robinson

Leader              Cllr Ian Gilbert

Deputy Leader  Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

Secretary          Cllr Cheryl Nevin

Treasurer           Cllr Margaret Borton

Whip                 Cllr Judith McMahon

 

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