Articles

Labour Movement what won it!
Community Organising the key to winning again.

Margaret Mullane

 

I have been a labour activist for many years. In that time I have worked for Jon Cruddas MP for eleven years and have been a ward councillor for nine. I can say with confidence that I have never fought a campaign as hard as I did in December 2019. Fast forward to the Poll of Polls at 10.00 pm on election night and I had a sinking feeling as I headed off to the count. Hours later, after a very long night, Jon Cruddas won the election – but it was close. We won locally by just 293 votes. We always knew it would be tough, and so the questions are: how did we survive in Dagenham & Rainham, and why did we lose so badly nationally?

Let’s start by looking at the local campaign. Dagenham and Rainham as a constituency formed in 2010, and Jon inherited three Havering Wards with a Conservative leaning electorate. Jon and the labour activists have worked incredibly hard to win these wards, but when the Brexit referendum happened over 70 % of Jon’s constituents voted to leave the EU. From a national perspective I watched key figures in the party calling for a second Referendum and promoting a Remain stance, and constituencies such as Dagenham and Rainham never bought into the “will of the people” rhetoric. Even last week, when asked about Brexit two of the candidates for the labour leadership said that we never challenged the Tories enough on their “Brexit at any cost” approach and again advocated for Remain, before begrudgingly admitting that, at this point, Brexit must happen.
When the Election was called, Jon met with Councillor Darren Rodwell, the Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, and they both set about working on their campaigns. . Never do we hear “we only see you at election time”, as we are committed to being engaged and involved in local issues and community politics all year round. On the back of this strong foundation they utilised the 51 councillors of the area to make a powerful pro-Labour to local residents.
The Trade Union movements were paramount to the success of keeping the seat. Unite activists and leaders beat the streets with us, and were key in mobilising support when and where we needed it. Members of the London Labour parties also came in their literal hundreds to help us.

On a National level, I felt that the UK press undertook a targeted and imbalanced campaign against the leadership – But being frank, they always do. I feel that we needed a more succinct and firm stance in terms of our core campaign messages. As simplistic and annoying as “Get Brexit done” was, it stuck and resonated with the public. I feel that in seats such as Dagenham and Rainham the constituents felt Labours heart was never in Brexit and going back to what I always state in my articles, were a bit “sniffy” and dismissive in parts about Brexit and its voters. Our seat does not share the opinions of the liberal elite in London who would discount the beliefs and opinions of much of the country.
The talk now in articles is about how Labour can win back our Heartlands – and worse still, some are saying we may need to find more new ones. This for me is very worrying talk. Our vote in what is deemed “our heartlands” has been decreasing. One of the many reasons is that our voters don’t recognise the political class that represent them. Where are the Bus Drivers, Train drivers, Care workers, call centre workers, amazon workers in the House of Commons? They are not there – it can often feel like an echo chamber for the wealthy and privileged. Jeremy Corbyn has tried through his Leadership to ensure that more regular people have an opportunity to be involved in politics, but the way that the current labour party Selection process works makes this an unlikely ideal. I have said it before – the membership fee is too expensive. If you are on a zero-hours contract or struggling to pay rent and bills, how will you afford the £50.00, especially if you don’t meet the concessions criteria?

I feel that aspiring to improve things for the public is the key for the seats we need to win in the Labour Heartlands, Scotland and many other areas. We must focus not on what we think should be done, but what our Communities want and need. In Barking and Dagenham the local council has secured Coventry University in the Borough. UCU is coming shortly, along with the three markets from the City of London Billingsgate, Smithfield’s, the fruit market, and a Film Studio. What does this mean? Decent, secure jobs and educational opportunities that are second to none. The people of the Borough deserve access to fantastic opportunities for work, education and leisure, and we are dedicated to continuing to strive for exactly that.
Labour must also work to find common ground with those who wish to own their own businesses, or want a successful job in the city. Currently those people feel that Labour isn’t for them.
Housing is a hugely important issue for us. A very good offer was made in the manifesto for council housing, but unfortunately this message was lost among the rest of the pre-election noise. Many people must now rent, and the rent paid takes up so much of people’s income. Again, this was touched upon in the manifesto but was ultimately ignored in the national press. Rent controls are needed, and adopting the licensed Landlord scheme that is run in the Borough on a national level would be well received.
Crime is of huge concerns to all communities; the Tories were let off the hook on the police numbers being dramatically cut in a bizarre but apparently effective campaign where they promised to undo most, but not all, of the damage that they have caused under austerity. We need to understand the Tories won’t stand up to public scrutiny, with local candidates not turning up at hustings and a refusal to take part in media appearances, to name but a few of their avoidance tactics. We need to carry on campaigning in a different way.
Grass root, community led campaigns are the only way forward, as in Dagenham and Rainham there is at least one volunteer in every area – not necessarily Labour members, but certainly labour voters. They know that we keep in touch 365 days a year and will continue to let them know what is happening in their communities. In return, they act as champions and advocates for the community and let us know what is important to them and others like them. They see the community action, and believe me, when parties from the right and far right arrive and try to pretend to be interested and engaged in local issues, be that the BNP, UKIP or the Tories, the public will vote Labour.
However, we must never be complacent as Scotland has proved that someone will always fill a vacuum, and we once would have struggled to believe that the Tories would be representing our Heartlands! We must remain vigilant and dedicated to the best interests of people of the Borough, and trust that they will see that their future lies with Labour.

Margaret Mullane is the Office Manager for Jon Cruddas MP
Village Ward Councillor Barking and Dagenham Council
Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement
CLP Secretary Dagenham and Rainham CLP

This article first appeared on Margaret’s website

Margaretmullane.co.uk

 

 

Tele Lawal Labour candidate for Hornchurch and Upminster on the General Election and the Labour offer

Councillor Tele Lawal: A strong and local voice representing you in Parliament

My name is Tele Lawal and I am your Labour Candidate for Hornchurch and Upminster Constituency. I am honoured and proud to have the opportunity to stand for what is right in this General Election and on a promise of change for Havering.

 

I was born and raised in Havering, having been educated at local schools. I have worked here and attend community groups and a local church. In 2018, I was elected as a Councillor for Harold Hill, where I live. I believe that with my conscientious council service I have demonstrated my passion for my community and what they care about:

Protecting our environment
– Worked with residents to save Gooshays Gardens from housing development by the Conservatives
– Submitted evidence to the High Court resulting in the borough-wide traveller injunction on our green spaces
– Advocated for Briar Road estates highways to be resurfaced, which is now scheduled for early next year

Fighting for better health services:
– Protected our health care services, by preventing Harold Wood GP Walk-in Centre from being closed down
– Campaigned for better funding for our NHS in the community

Improving community safety:
– Launched a review on how Havering Council is tackling knife crime in the community
– Active member on Havering police advisory boards, such as Stop & Search Monitoring Group and Independent Advisory Group, where I work with the community and police on safety issues
– Changed the Council’s policy on collecting and storing dangerous weapons until the police retrieve the items

Better housing for all:
– Improved Havering Council’s online housing application form
– Working with residents to tackle anti-social behaviour and drug-related activity on our estates such as Harold Wood Hall/Briar Road
– Requested a review of the Conservatives’ plans to remove Community Wardens from our housing estates, but still make Council tenants/leaseholders pay for them

Supporting investment in our high streets, businesses and Council services
– I voted against the Conservatives’ increased car park charges and removal of 30-minute free parking slot
– I opposed the closure of our Children’s Centres in Harold Hill and libraries not being fully supported by Havering Council
– I have championed residents’ and businesses’ views on the regeneration projects in Harold Hill, requesting that a community hub be built

From listening to residents in Havering and hearing about their concerns for the future, Its clear, they’re tired of our current government, and the state of politics in general. Many residents want to move on from Brexit, and start focussing on the issues that matter to them – and I feel the same way.
That is why I am standing to be your Member of Parliament, because it is time for a change, and to have a local and present individual representing what you care about in Parliament. I am not a self-serving politician, but simply a politician who is strong and has a bold voice, to push back against the cuts and policies imposed by the Conservatives.

I am a Labour Candidate who is not just a local Councillor. I work full-time as a Caseworker in Parliament, dealing with housing problems, education and health-related matters, crime and immigration issues. I know first-hand how a decade of austerity, imposed by our current government, has affected people’s lives.

As your MP I would work to achieve a well-resourced police force, so you can walk the streets without fear. I want Investment in our schools meaning every child receives the best education and start to life. I would fight for our strained health services to ensure you’re not waiting weeks to see your GP, and you’re able to access the best care.

I would advocate for the protection of our environment and new affordable housing for residents in Havering. I’d demand more government funding for Havering Council, resulting in proper investment in our local shopping centres, and the reduction of car park charges.

We need a Labour MP, like me, who is passionate and only wants to improve the quality of life for all. I hope on Thursday, 12 December you will vote for change in Cranham, Emerson Park, Harold Hill, Hacton, Harold Wood, St Andrew’s and Upminster.

Promoted by Keith Darvill on behalf of Tele Lawal both at 54 Park Drive, Upminster, RM14 3AR.

Unintended Consequences

Politics is, or should be, about achieving what is possible and making (informed) choices. Policies that appear at first glance to be non-controversial can often be anything but once fully understood.

The Children’s Act is one example. The Act was intended to increase parental influence over the assistance given to children with High Needs. This is a motherhood and apple pie policy, that no one is going to be against.

Until it becomes apparent that the consequences are to drive a significant number of councils into even more dire financial problems than they have had after nine years of austerity .

The legislation has brought more children into the system, in addition to the growing number resulting from population increasing. Given the choice of care packages, what parent would not select the one that provides most support, even if the child could manage with less.

So surprise, the cost of support has shot up nationally. Councils that have not unreasonably sought to balance care with cost have been taken to court and lost judicial reviews, meaning more cost and leaving high cost packages in place. There is some extra funding to allow the Government to make the claim it is dealing with the problem, but it is nowhere near enough.

None of this would matter if the Government had respected the principle that if central government creates extra responsibilities for local government the funding it provides should be adjusted accordingly. This was known as the New Burdens rule, and was introduced by the coalition government in 2010.

However, this only applies where there is a direct link. The element of parental choice complicates this as Government will argue that they have not caused the costs to increase, it is the parents.

All this may be of secondary importance if Councils had a way of raising sufficient revenue each year to meet the additional costs. Guess what, they don’t. The capping of increase in Council by central government nine years of budget reductions and demographic changes all make the position harder to deal with.

The law allows administrative decisions to be subject to Judicial review. Nothing unreasonable about that. So should a council not satisfy a parents wishes, the matter can go to court. Again wholly reasonable. Should the court find in the parent’s favour, the council will need to provide a higher standard of care, and cost is not a consideration. To add to the budget pressure, precedents are set and similar cases have to be treated in the same way. So costs go up further. Councils across the country therefore face increasing costs as an unintended consequence of a policy change, on a spiralling scale into the millions.

There is no way out short of government recognition that the change in legislation has resulted in the additional cost and that this needs funding. Ten years of austerity have squeezed out efficiency savings, councils cannot increase council tax – so this has to fall back to Government as they instituted the legislation that caused the financial shortfall.

Do you think this is going to happen anytime soon?

Mike Lucas RIP

Sad to hear of the death of former Elm Park Labour Councillor Mike Lucas. Mike was a Councillor from 1986-1994.

Mike had a massive heart attack during the 1990 election campaign and it was touch and go for a while. Alan Williams tells the story of arriving early in the morning on election day and seeing no one around, fearing the worst

Mike survived, and was nominated as chair of Social Services in the minority administration that followed…however he never assumed this role for a variety of reasons. He did not stand in 1994, and was a bit disillusioned with Labour politics.

He had great integrity, and when we made a error in an election leaflet naming him as current Chair of Benhurst school governors rather than former Chair, we manually wrote in the correct title to 4,500 leaflets.

He was Chair of Governors at Abbs Cross until 1992 resigning when the school became Grant Maintained.

Mike had been a social worker for Newham and later Essex County Council and helped out at Community Links, the main Charity in Canning Town.

He was a loss to the Labour Party, and a genuinely decent man.

Condolences to his wife June, and Joanne, Kevin David and his grandchildren RIP.

Jean Horan RIP

Jean Horan was a most loyal member of the Hornchurch Labour Party and l well recall her enthusiasm in the Greater London Council election of May 1981 that resulted in my election to County Hall. She always enjoyed her visits to the building and once met Ken Livingstone!
She represented Hylands ward on the Hornchurch General Committee for some years. I will never forget her determination to forcefully put forward her opinions but in a cheerful and friendly manner. The Labour Party would have been much happier and successful in the 1980s had there been more members the likes of Jean Horan.

Alan Williams
GLC Member for Havering Hornchurch 1981-1986. Parliamentary candidate 1983 and 1987.