Margaret Mullane – Paul Embery, Celebrity and representing the working class

Happy New Year everyone!  I have been meaning to write a piece about politics for a while but have not found the time – until now.

I have not long finished reading a book called ‘Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class’, by Paul Embery. I would encourage everyone to read it. Many of the themes will be familiar to anyone that knows me, has heard me speak or has read my blog posts. The key message running through the book is the need for the modern Labour party to engage and listen to the working class.

Reading this book had me reflect on our relationship with the media, class, celebrities and political engagement.  I wanted to draw to people’s attention something I noticed during the Covid lockdowns. Speaking to politically engaged people, I have often heard the sentiment repeated that, ‘I don’t like Piers Morgan, but you have to admire how he tackles politicians on Good Morning Britain’. I must confess here that I do not watch Good Morning Britain and do not find Piers Morgan likeable or admirable, but it brings me to the question – why is it left to him to hold the Government to account?

Piers Morgan is paid £1.1 million every year for sharing his opinions on Good Morning Britain and has an estimated personal fortune of £15.8 million. While I do not begrudge him his success, Piers Morgan went to Cumnor House Private Boys’ School for his education and is about the furthest thing from the working class that I can imagine short of the Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates of the world. Bear this in mind when he is ‘holding the Education Secretary to task’ and trying to depict himself as the voice of reason.  He presents himself as an ‘everyman’ – creating an unconvincing pretence of distance between himself and many of the Eton-educated Tory MPs and Ministers that he self-righteously tears down.

I like my T.V. as much as the next person, but it is fascinating that Piers Morgan holds such an esteemed place in the world of British politics without holding office. I would not expect to hear Micky Flanagan’s extended opinions on Brexit or social housing, but this kind of political engagement is happening more and more with ‘celebrities’.

It is the politicians that you vote for who should be challenging the Government – your local Councillors and MPs. I feel a void has occurred where political parties have told MPs and Councillors that they will be whipped on decisions and have little latitude to express their own opinions, keeping to the adage that divided parties do not win elections.

Political programmes are in decline. Many programmes, instead of asking politicians their stance on an issue, will go to a celebrity. I recall during the first lockdown seeing TV programmes showing celebrities lecturing the public from their holiday homes abroad to stay at home. This disconnect between their realities and the realities of the average working-class citizen of this country could not be starker.

When the national media decide politicians are boring, they will then turn to those they see as the voice of the people. Nigel Farage is another example; he does not hold elected office and is essentially a failed politician, but he is on many national media programmes playing ‘ordinary bloke at the pub’ when he is anything but. The scrutiny is selective. His followers cry on Twitter that he should get a peerage for all the ‘good’ he has done.

Politics is tough, and politicians need to be able to hold their own against differing opinions. Just because someone has an opposing view does not make them wrong.  In my opinion, political parties are mistaken in asking for celebrity endorsements and it can even be damaging for the celebrity. I never quite felt the same about Gary Barlow after he stated he had voted Tory.

Has anyone noticed a theme in the different people I am speaking about? They are all male and they are all wealthy. The female working class voice is essentially silent in the national discourse, as are regional perspectives. Something I have said before and will say again is that there are not enough working-class MPs in Parliament, and especially in the Labour Party. If the public could hear a voice that sounds like them and has lived a life closer to their own, the world of politics may become more accessible and engaging to them. If the right people do not go into politics, then the wrong people do – those who are hungry for power and money. With this power they can be extremely dangerous due to a short-sighted obsession with playing politics like it is a game rather than an essential public service. Many current politicians have far more interest in serving their career ambitions, their bank accounts and the interests of wealthy donors and business associates than in serving the public.

We are left with a conversation dominated by wealthy celebrities, wealthy politicians and relatively wealthy journalists. Where is the voice of someone who understands what it is like to struggle on Universal Credit through no fault of their own or who has relied on schools to provide their children with vital nutrition when the budget just will not stretch far enough?

I am not saying that celebrity engagement is always a bad thing and can never make a positive impact – Marcus Rashford springs to mind. But the potential danger I see is when celebrity opinions supersede those of elected politicians and are afforded little scrutiny.  Vacuums can occur and the likes of Donald Trump, who claims to have the interests of the workers of America at heart, will step up and fill it. The question is not why America voted for this former celebrity millionaire, but why the voting public saw no viable alternative.

As we enter 2021 and I see the inequalities deepen for our communities, I will continue to highlight the inequality that the Tories have heaped on working class communities and I will continue to work to be a voice for those without one.

Margaret Mullane is Cabinet Member for Community Safety on Barking and Dagenham Council and Secretary of Dagenham and Rainham Labour Party – this post first appeared on her blog

Call-to-Action: End the racial inequality at Havering Council

tele lawal in the town hall


I am Councillor Tele and I am tired and black.

The title ‘Councillor’ does not protect you from the overt and covert discrimination at Havering Council. When I have walked into the Town Hall, and without speaking a word, Council staff have immediately directed me to the public gallery to watch the proceedings, instead of the Council Chamber where my colleagues, politicians, like me, are sitting. At meetings, I am warned that I am asking too many questions, my recommendations are not noted, and my remarks are cut short. Meanwhile, others can speak at length and with no restrictions. What they have in common is the colour of their skin.  More often, I raise my black hand, which is very visible, yet the Chair looks around the room and says, “let us move on.”

It is a year since I was physically assaulted at the Town Hall by a white Councillor and Havering Council has done nothing. If it was a black man who aggressively grabbed a white woman in the Town Hall, the Council would have reacted very differently. I have written a report on diversity and race for Havering Council and put forward recommendations. Emails have been sent, and meetings had about these issues. I and many have concluded that Havering Council is institutionally racist. George Floyd’s death and outcry for justice has shown me that several voices are powerful and it will take a collective to push the race agenda and that black lives matter.

Therefore, I am making a Call-to-Action for you to email Andrew Black-Herbert, Chief Executive: and Councillor Damian White, the following demands;  

  1. Switch on the Town Hall lights to purple in memory of George Floyd and in support against the fight of racism on Friday, 12 June 2020. This is being done across the country by other Councils. Havering Council has also done this before, and therefore, it is not a policy issue, but merely a decision to show solidary or not.  
  1.  Launch an inquiry into the entrenched racial inequality at Havering Council which affects their workforce and Councillors. This should be an independent Investigation – and not someone on Havering Council’s retainer as this will lead to a whitewashed report. Recommendations must be adopted within 5-10 years. 
  1. Havering Council should set up a task group including the BME forum and their BAME employee forum to provide solutions to tackle racial inequality in our community.  
  1. Havering Council should create an equality fund by the next Budget Council meeting. Members in the community can apply and use the funds for projects which will bring about better community cohesion and inclusion. 
  1. Havering Council does not know the ethnicity or race of over 40% of its workforce. How can they aim to want to achieve the ‘Excellent’ rating in the Equality Framework for Local Government when they do not capture or monitor such data about their employees? That is basic for any organisation and this failure shows clearly how much their employees’ lives matter. Havering Council must close the data gap by April 2021. 
  1. Havering Council should diversify its Senior Leadership Team and Senior Managers within 5-10 years. At the Senior Leadership level, there is not a single black or Asian director in 2020.

In Havering, brothers George, Keane, Ryan, Charlton, and Robson Handley will be running a combined marathon in support of Black Lives Matter on Sunday, 14 June. The Romford Recorder has published an article here; You can donate here;

Please see here other ways you can support George Floyd family and the Black Lives Matters Movement in the UK;

Councillor Tele Lawal


Memories of 1997

1997 in retrospect

There are relatively few occasions when power moves directly from one
Party to another in the British electoral system. Since the war, this
happened on only four (arguably five) occasions. The first was in 1945,
when Clement Attlee delivered the welfare state. The second was in 1951
the Conservatives returned, and remained in power until 1964, when
Harold Wilson just squeezed home before securing a working majority in
1966. He lost this again in 1971, the third change, and was back in majority
in October 1974. The fourth change came when Thatcher won in 1979, and
the Conservatives held on until 1997.

Labour had believed that the removal of Thatcher would see the
Conservatives out of office in 1992. Rogue opinion polls and the exit poll
on election night suggested this would happen, but Major held on and won
a working majority. This shaped Labours approach to the 1997 election,

where there was a conscious approach not to repeat John Smiths tax
proposals in the lead up to 1992, and to view the polls with suspicion.
While some polls gave Labour a lead of 20%, no one quite believed it, and
planning included some early discussions with the Liberal Democrats in
case of a hung parliament. A by-product of the a huge Labour lead was to
bring Hornchurch back into play as a winnable seat. Indeed the Guardian
ran an article shortly before polling day which suggested Romford was the
sort of seat Labour ought to be winning.
So there was some optimism in respect of the electoral prospects in
Havering. This section of the newsletter will reflect on the views of some
of those involved in the 1997 election, including one of the successful local

Thoughts on 1997 – the Candidate
To begin at the beginning. It was election night in 1992 and we were all
driving to the count in Hornchurch. On the way, we heard the Basildon
result and we knew then that Labour would not be forming the
government. We were bitterly disappointed because it meant another 5
years of a conservative government that we despised.
At the time, as well as being the candidate, I was constituency caseworker
for Tony Banks M.P. and knew the misery caused by Tory government
policies. We knew that we had to keep campaigning hard until the next

Forward 5 years to 1997. Along with massive support, the campaign to
save Oldchurch Accident and Emergency was still going strong and
Romford Labour Party had gained a high profile and when it came to the
election campaign, we could immediately sense a change in support.
Romford market had not exactly been a friendly place for the Labour Party,
but now we were being approached by the public, wishing us good luck
and offering to help in the campaign. The desire for change was palpable.
It was obvious that people wanted hope that things could be different and
we sensed that along with the national swing to Labour, we could win
Havering Fabian Newsletter Volume 2 Edition 30 March 2017
Romford. I had a large team around me, who were enthusiastic and
worked their socks off. Most of us had campaigned on Oldchurch hospital
for years and thus we had a really strong bond, which made the campaign
fun as well as ultimately successful.

We knew that we could win. On election night the National Party phoned
our headquarters with a request to send people to help in another
constituency. My husband Tony, my agent, told them, not too politely
where to go and told them that we could win. I don’t think they believed
him, but there was no way he was going to let the workers out of Romford.
Well, the rest is history. The count was tense. my family, friends and
campaign team were with me and when our victory was declared, it was a
marvellous moment and a tribute to all those who had worked so hard . As
the results tumbled in from around the country, we knew that there would
be a Labour government with a huge majority. When I arrived back at
Saffron House, the place had been decorated with lights, there was a cake
and they were playing “Come on Eileen”. I have to admit we did party, it
was a perfect end to a very exciting day.

Now when I look back, even though I only had one term in Parliament, it
was a huge honour to be the first and only woman M.P. for Romford, so
far !

The world seems a darker place now with events in America etc. People
want change, but it is change for the worse. I can only hope that optimism
and tolerance return. Let’s work to ensure that “ things can only get better”.
Eileen Gordon
MP for Romford 1997-2001

Elm Park campaign
We had felt confident in 1992 of reducing the majority in Hornchurch, but
despite the poling, knew we were not going to win the seat some time
before polling day.

So while the mood was more positive as the campaign began, we remained
nervous about the results. The exit poll in 1992 meant we took the Labour
lead with caution. However the campaign drew in new people, and the
older hands suggested this was the key sign. There was no great animosity
on the doorstep, although the growth of trading hours meant contact with
voters was harder than previously.
The polls before Election Day suggested Upminster was in play, which
meant a win in Hornchurch was now expected.
The day was free from rain, and a well oiled machine ensured that the
polling stations were covered from 7am until we pulled off in the early
evening. Mary Cruikshank had taken numbers at the polling station in
Rosewood at every election since 1945, and was confident of a Labour
victory. She was always confident of a Labour victory!
As we did the car calls, the mood improved when three of us arrived in
separate cars taking voters to the polls at the point sitting MP Robin Squire
arrived to thank those working in the polling station. A few friendly if brief
exchanges with Ray Harris and Jack Hoepleman and we were back to get
out the vote.
Jack Hoepleman insisted we break for food before the final push, although
it was a co-incidence this was timed around Star Trek on TV. The final
couple of hours saw a massive effort to get out the vote, with three or four
teams out in the ward.
As the light faded we gathered around Jacks for a coffee, and were
optimistic of what was to come. We departed in time for the exit polls, and
despite the prediction of a Labour landslide, remained anxious. The first
few results were enough, it was indeed a landslide, in all probability a once
in a lifetime majority with a huge swing. Hornchurch was announced on
the BBC in passing amid a flurry of Labour gains. Upminster and Romford
followed as Labour ended with a 179 majority.
I returned home in time for the Blair “New dawn” speech, and dozed until
midmorning, and the entry to Downing Street. The Hornchurch celebration
Havering Fabian Newsletter Volume 2 Edition 30 March 2017
party on the Saturday night was a great evening, with many of those who
had been campaigning solidly since 1979 in an odd state of relieved
Did it make a difference? Well yes, peace in Ireland, the minimum wage,
sure start, an end to Section 28, more funding for schools and the NHS.
Could the Blair government have done more? Well governments can
always do more, so expectations can never be fully met. The
true achievement of the Blair / Brown era was to move to a more
progressive agenda, the benefits of which became apparent as the Cameron
government began to roll back the progress made. 1997 ended the
Conservatives dominance of the political agenda – if you have read John
O’Farrells book “Things can only get better”, politics is not my side
beating your side, politics is about the ability to shape the agenda and
deliver a better society. The Blair government was not perfect, but Britain
was a far better place for its election.

Memories of a brighter future
From the moment, the election was called by John Major on 17th March
1997 there was a desire to see the Tories out. In Newham, which was and
still is staunchly Labour the idea was to get the voters to the polling station.
Delivering leaflets to household and plans to get voters to the polling
stations on the day. Every action was another step on the way to victory.
There was a real feeling that with a new leader and new policies the
electorate might be able to vote for a Labour government once again.
As poling day approached anything was looking possible. Poling day
arrives 1 May 1997 a beautiful sunny day and I was up by 6am to deliver
more leaflets to household to catch them before they left for work. After
that kit was assisting with getting the less mobile voters to the polling
station and they all seem determined to rid us of the Tories.
I spent some time outside the Polling Station in Roman Road, East Ham
watching the people turn up to vote. Once the stations were closed at 10pm
it was back home to watch the results to arrive.

Having been up early and busy most of the day by 2am I was wilting and
went to bed to await a new dawn. The following morning there was the
news that a magnificent majority had been achieved and Labour was now
the party in power. It was a day to remember and the rolling television news
was a joy to watch as number of Tory seats lost to Labour.
I never tired of seeing the results coming in and most memorable Portillo’s
loss and Labours gain.
Mary Breading

Londoners punished for doing the right thing.

by Cllr Judith Garfield MBE
Havering and Redbridge Labour candidate for the London Assembly


Judith Garfield
Judith Garfield with mayor Sadiq Khan -Judith joining us via a zoom call 6th May 8pm

Transport for London’s funding package from the government, agreed last week, will allow Londoners to travel safely for the next four-and-a-half months. But for our communities, it will cause added hardship – particularly for our key workers; care workers and those who are already struggling with day-to-day household bills.

The Government has insisted TfL must increase its fares above inflation next year, bringing an end to the four-year fares freeze introduced by the Mayor of London. They have also insisted that the scope and hours of the congestion charge be widened, a suspension of free travel for pensioners during peak hours, and that free bus passes for children be halted entirely. After pressure from the Sadiq Khan, the Government has now agreed to allow disabled Freedom Pass holders to continue travelling for free at all times.

When speaking with residents in Havering and Redbridge earlier this year, before lockdown they want a safe environment without pollution for which reliable, fairly priced and comfortable public transport is central. They should not be exploited by the government through its abuse of our public transport. They did not want to see politics before people and this is precisely what this government has done.

We stayed indoors because it was the right thing to do; we worked from home, maintained social distancing, missed family birthdays, and even paid our respects via videoconference. We are continuing to stay home in a heroic effort to get us past the coronavirus peak and prevent a second wave of the infection, which some of our nearest and dearest wouldn’t survive.

As the hub of COVID-19, we Londoners worked together to reduce the infection rate. The government tells us that we are ‘in this together,’ so why are they punishing us with a bad deal for our public transport? In Havering and Redbridge, this spells further hardship for frontline workers who have already been told not to expect a pay rise any time soon.

The Mayor has been honest with us all – this is a bad deal for London. But it was the only deal the Government were willing to put on the table, and one he had to accept to keep the tubes and buses running.

In 2015, austerity meant TfL lost a yearly £700 million grant from central government. Today, we are the world’s only major capital city with an unsubsidised transport network. All our transportation costs are covered by fares and some devolved business rates, unlike the government subsidised transportation networks in Paris, Seoul, or New York City.

COVID-19 has left a £4 billion hold in Transport for London’s budget this year. Travel on the tube and buses plummeted 95% in the first week of lockdown, representing an equal drop in fare revenue which the government has told TfL to fund its operations with. Whitehall has announced other transport networks in Britain will receive similar funding packages, because they have also suffered the same plunge in operating revenue. Except, they have assured private operators their bailouts will be devoid of the penalties inflicted on TfL. So, why is this government punishing Londoners?

Many of us in Havering and Redbridge rely on public transport to meet our everyday needs and get to work. Our NHS heroes, supermarket staff, refuse collectors, care workers, and cleaners all depend on TfL. Outer London boroughs like Havering and Redbridge are home to the lifeblood of this city and if we want to get through coronavirus ‘together,’ the government needs to stop punishing low-paid Londoners and the residents in Havering and Redbridge.

Andrew Rosindell MP, get a grip! 

Cllr Tele Lawal

Tele Lawal


On Friday, 22nd May the MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell, published an interesting letter on his socials about the level of illegal crossings taking place in the English Channel. He urged the Home Secretary to ’get a grip on this crisis.’

The letter to the Secretary of State is distasteful and not a true reflection of Romford constituents views. During a global pandemic, where people are dying, I do not believe for second this is a major concern constituents are raising at this time.

Residents across the borough are worried about their health, employment, the risk of children returning to school too soon, the lack of PPE and how they will put food on their table in the coming weeks and months.

Businesses which are largely in the Romford constituency are concerned about the gaps in the packages announced by the government. Many have been locked out of any Government support through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme. And do not let me start with the self-employed, contractors or freelancers.

Andrew Rosindell MP should appreciate that businesses are the drivers of growth for our economy, and will be crucial to our recovery from the economic shock caused by Coronavirus. We would rather a letter to the Chancellor to address those concerns and more.

The MP for Romford is hiding behind voters, instead of boldly airing these concerns as his own. Andrew Rosindell should stop using his position to push his right-wing views. For once, I and many, would like to see him make a real and proper representation for the diverse constituency in which he was elected to represent.


When Should Gerpins Tip Re-Open?

Title: When Should Gerpins Tip Re-Open?

Of course we all want toKeith Darvill the tip to open as soon as possible. But it has to be done safely and effectively. Havering must not be in the position of opening Gerpins and causing miles of static traffic as happened recently in Manchester.

Social distancing measures need to be set up to adhere to government guidelines. Personal Protective Equipment needs to be available for those working at the site. We need assurances that this will actually happen as we already know that PPE is still not being adequately provided at Queen’s Hospital and our borough’s care homes. We don’t want to put people’s lives at risk, as many thousands have died as a result of the virus in this country already.

Labour wants to see a coordinated approach to a re-opening that will be in line with other London boroughs and Essex County Council. The police need to be able to monitor and supervise this enterprise, as long queues will cause frustration. Possible fly tipping en route to the tip could occur if the public are unable to reach their destination for long periods of time.

We don’t want to see political, petulant point scoring from Havering Tory Leader Damian White that helps no one. We do want Gerpins to open safely for the protection of those working there and the general public.
If those safety measures need more time to be ensured and organised, then we say take the time needed and put people’s lives first.

Keith Darvill 

Leader Labour Group Havering Council

Chair Havering Fabians 


Covid 19 – Keith Darvill & Tele Lawal Write on the current crisis

Better support for Havering care homes during COVID-19

Havering Labour Group Leader Councillor Keith Darvill

Keith Darvill
Day by day, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is changing people’s lives. We, as elected opposition councillors, need to ensure that the council is doing its best to ensure the safety of all Havering residents at this critical time. That is our role.

We understand the challenges and difficult decisions that now have to be made by the Tory council but we need to be able to scrutinise and question decisions so that the best outcomes are implemented for everyone’s benefit.

Havering has 60 plus residential care homes and an older than average population. These demographic factors are not new but have been intensified by the chronic underfunding of the health and social care sector for the last ten years. We, as Labour councillors, have been lobbying the government for years to increase the funding.

Now, the situation in Havering care homes is at a critical stage. Those serving our elderly and vulnerable residents put their own lives at risk because of a lack of protective equipment. They are poorly paid with little job security. We hear of people being released from hospital back into care homes without being tested, putting staff and other residents at risk.

And now information is being collated at a national level that is stoking our worst fears.

1. The Guardian and Telegraph have reported that major care operators have seen a steep rise in deaths and infections.
2. The soaring cost of PPE could bankrupt care homes. The Head of the National Care Association says that some care homes have to pay as much as £8,500 a week to keep staff and residents safe.
3. Care home residents have been told that they are unlikely to be offered ventilators if they are admitted to hospital with Coronavirus.
We in the Labour Party want to support the government and our council in its measures to fight this pandemic. However, as local councillors we need to have much more opportunity to ask questions. A desultory one-hour report back is not adequate. The group leaders’ one-hour slot is too short and limits probing questions.

All Havering councillors need to have full access to the true facts about the situation in our care homes and be able to ask questions which our casework has thrown up.

We want to serve our community at this time of uncertainty. To do that, we need full access to accurate and current information

Do we need an inquiry into the deaths of BAME people dying due to coronavirus?

By Councillor Tele Lawal, Heaton Ward
Tele Lawal

Throughout the world, communities are affected by the global health pandemic which has disrupted all parts of citizens’ day-to-day lives. Coronavirus does not discriminate. It sees no race, age, class, sex, or religion.

As we mourn those who have sadly been taken by the silent killer, emerging figures highlight that coronavirus appears to be disproportionately affecting black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities – while this might be an uncomfortable truth for many, this revelation is no surprise to me, and to many who identify as BAME.

While the government recently announced an inquiry into why people from a similar background like me are disproportionately affected by coronavirus (led by the NHS and Public Health England) – I fear this is merely a token gesture, somewhat a tick box exercise.

Many of us already know the underlying cause of the disparity, and what the conclusions of the review will reveal. If we discuss the robust correlation between socioeconomic status and health, it is widely known that individuals of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to suffer from poorer health, than those in the higher social hierarchy.

Those individuals in the UK are usually BAME people who are overrepresented in overcrowded/poor accommodation and insecure, low-paid employment. All of which contributes to why BAME people have a lower life expectancy and serious underlying health issues in the UK. It is already confirmed that coronavirus preys on those with underlying health conditions.

BAME people are more likely to be employed in frontline roles, like the NHS. Such keyworker roles will put them at greater risk of contracting coronavirus. The first ten doctors in the UK to die from coronavirus were from BAME backgrounds.

This health pandemic has removed the plaster once again and has shown these deaths are the consequence of inequalities deep in our society, that the government has not addressed, review after review. Clearly, we have not learned from the Grenfell Tower inquiry or the Windrush report.

We do not need another report catching dust on the government’s website and used as mere references in academic research papers or political speeches. We need life-changing action. While these underlying causes cannot be addressed in the short term to save lives, the government can start capturing the ethnicity on the number of people who have died as a result of coronavirus – at the moment age and sex are only recorded. This will enable us to explore how best to protect communities.

Havering Council should not hesitate to join the conversation and take action. Coronavirus Equality Impact Assessments (EIA) should be carried out to assess the impact on different communities protected under the Equality Act 2010. Labour Councillors have already suggested that a temporary overview and scrutiny committee should be formed to look at COVID-19 related issues, such as this, thus allowing Councillors to put forward life-saving policies and recommendations, based on information from the EIA and other sources.

I believe that communication is a powerful tool. Havering Council should produce a coronavirus information sheet, electronic or otherwise, targeted to BAME communities. This will help reaffirm the facts about how the virus is and isn’t spread – and tackle myths too. Havering Council should work with charities, organisations, and local groups to ensure those who are not known to them are receiving the relevant support during this period.

Once this crisis is over, we do not need another roundtable discussion or committee formed to analyse the report. I hope for my future and those from similar communities, we will see real legislative changes, backed with proper central government funding. But, I won’t hold my breath.

Councillor Tele Lawal | Heaton Ward
Committees : Crime & Disorder | Children Services

Town Hall
Main Road, Romford, RM1 3BB

General Election 2019

Election 2019 More thoughts
The reasons for defeat are subject of much discussion and many interesting articles. While most of the seats Labour lost were in Leave voting areas, there is evidence that in many of the seats the loss reflected a long term decline in the Labour vote.

Bishop Auckland sounds like a seat that should be Labour forever
The results since 1997 suggest otherwise
Labour Majority in Bishop Auckland:
1997: 21,064
2001: 13,926
2005: 10,047
2010:   5,218
2015:  3,508
2017:     502
2019:    Lost
This is a stark example of long term decline. The 1997 result was at the peak of New Labour, but the signs of decline came quickly, an indication of problems ahead.
Another leave voting seat that provides an insight – Mansfield
Labour Vote in Mansfield 1997-2019
Election Labour vote % of vote Labour majority Swing
1997       30,556           64.4          20,518.                        +11
2001       21,050           57.1          11,036                         -6.3
2005        18,400          48.1           11,365                        -0.1
2010       18,573           38.7            6,012                         -9.5
2015       18,603           39.4            5,315                         -0.6
2017       22,235           44.5      Conservative 1,057     -6.7
2019       15,178           30.8      Conservative 16,306    -15

So a seat that voted Labour in 2015 now has a huge Conservative majority – the scale of defeat needs perspective.
Locally the boundary changes make strict comparisons more difficult –the results Romford and Hornchurch and Upminster have not been seats in doubt since 2010. Dagenham and Rainham is more interesting and the 293 majority in the 2019 election reflected a downward trend.
The table shows the results since 1983 for the Dagenham constituency, which show that the seat has been marginal through the 1980’s. With the Chadwell Heath ward moving to Romford if the boundary changes do happen, the new seat could well be a notional Conservative seat by 2024. Had the seat existed in 1983 and 1987 the large Conservative majorities in Hornchurch and the loss of two wards to Barking would probably have meant Dagenham and Rainham would have been a Conservative seat and In 1992, too close to call.
Labour vote in Dagenham \ Dagenham and Rainham 1983-2019
Election Labour vote % of vote Labour majority Swing
1983          15,665              39.3            2,997
1987          18,454              44.4            2,469
1992           22,027             52.3             6,733
1994 by election 15,474  72.0          13,344
1997            23,759             65.7         17,054
2001             15,784            57.2            8,693
2005            15,446              50.1           7,605
Dagenham & Rainham
2010            17,813             40.3             2,630
2015            17,830             41.4             4,980             -12.6
2017            22,958              50.1            4,652               -3.4
2019            19,468              44.5                293              -4.8

So bleak, with a downward trend – and within Dagenham, demographic changes and a more diverse population probably dampened the impact.
The 2017 election saw an increase in the national Labour vote that meant these issues were overlooked – but the warnings signs were clear. At Fabian meetings both Paul Embery (see newsletter 36) and Claire Ainsley (newsletter 40) pointed to the Party losing touch with it working class base, and that this was about more than Brexit- the Brexit vote was a symptom of the issue not the cause.
The decline from 1997 was almost inevitable, given that it was a highpoint. The fear for Labour is a repeat of the trend seen in 2001 – voters having put their faith in Labour in 1997 did not switch back (although locally and in parts of Essex this was not the case) – giving an almost identical result. So unless Labour can address the issues, there is a real risk in 2024 of a similar result – and in 2001 Labour made some gains!
There are other worrying trends that show no signs of helping Labour. Scotland shows what can happen if voters lose faith – Labour has 1 MP and needs a 1997 scale landslide to form a government.
There are also trends across Essex and Kent that show it will be a long way back. There were 15 Labour MPs in 1997, 13 in 2001, 10 in 2005 and only Rosie Duffield in Canterbury since.

Election        Labour MPs in Essex Labour MPs  in Kent
1983                                     1                            0
1987                                     0                            0
1992                                     1                            0
1997                                     7                            8
2001                                     5                            8
2005                                     3                            7
2010                                      0                           0
2015                                      0                           0
2017                                      0                           1
2019                                      0                           1

In the list of 120 or so seats Labour needs to gain form a majority – there are no seats in Essex or Kent.
Thanet South is the first at 131. Thurrock is 142; Mansfield 200 and Romford 242. Hornchurch and Upminster is beyond 250.
Depress yourself by looking at this link

Dagenham and Rainham is the 4th most vulnerable Labour seat.
That sets out the depth of the problem facing Labour.

There are several articles setting out why this happened and what to do next.

It is my view there is no single reason we got here, and the answer is not a factional response. It is depressing to read misrepresentation of others views as that does not help. The Labour Party has always been a broad coalition of the working class and elements of the middle class, and always will be.
The working class of the 1930s is different from the working class today, and of course it now includes many from the BME communities. It is depressing to see cheap shots about use of the phrase “the traditional working class” as implied racism – it is nothing of the sort, it refers to the working class of any race.
Labour can only win by keeping what is left of the existing Labour vote together and broadening its support. This means taking no groups for granted, which is easier to say than to do.

The Party has the harder job of engagement with elements of the potential Labour leaning electorate, which is ever changing as the nature of employment changes, housing tenure types change (greater renting means a changing electorate) and the population becomes more diverse.
Engagement is easier to achieve in the areas where membership is thriving, harder where the active party membership ship is smaller and dependent on a few individuals.
An unintended consequence of the party membership increase is that areas often referred to as the “liberal metropolitan elite’” are best placed to do this, being based in London, the university towns and big cities. This has inadvertently worked against the interest of the northern and midland towns. Lisa Nandy has much to say on this – that these areas mostly voted to leave and were the main source of Labour losses is not a coincidence.
The Party has to become relevant again for these areas to return to Labour. As the position in Scotland has shown, this is not easy to achieve. If voters have turned their back on Labour, they will need good reason to change back again, the long term trust and related loyalty has been lost.

In this context the Brexit vote has soured politics. The campaigns were negative based on dubious premises and as previously argued (newsletter 40) the Leave campaign was focused on getting the result and sorting the details later, while Remain focused on project fear and the negatives while any positive reasons to vote were secondary.
This has left a divided electorate, and the chance to “Get Brexit done” proved tempting to enough leave voters to give the Conservatives a majority. Brexit will not be settled any time soon.

Reasons to be optimistic

History would suggest that it will take several elections before Labour returns to government, and it is by no means certain this will happen.

Here are some reasons to be optimistic. Bear with me.

Claudia Webb was right to be pleased that Labour now has a majority of female MPs for the first time, and that there are significantly more BME and LGBT MPs. That should enable Parliament to better reflect the diversity in society. Labour must ensure that the interests and concerns of all sections of society are heard and not played off against each other.

We can learn from the Tories in 1997. They chose the wrong leader at the wrong time and were unable to dent New Labour until leader number four. The prime role for the next Labour leader is to ensure Labour is credible to be a government again – the next leader but one may be the eventual beneficiary, but it may take longer.

Labour did engage with policies aligned with the climate change emergency – the home insulation proposal would have made a significant difference and remains a policy to promote.

Although subject to some cynicism, the free internet access policy is credible. The Daily Mail recently ran an article bemoaning poor internet speeds and lack of access in rural areas. A government funded universal provision would address this, but the case has to be made and explained not launched in isolation.

Brexit is going to be a bumpy ride. Even the optimistic leaders have expressed concern about the initial period when anything could happen. This is a Tory project and they are going to have responsibilities for whatever happens. The previous government was some way from competent. This should create plenty of opportunities for Labour to advocate alternatives. Being a credible and focused opposition is vital, if energy sapping.
It is crucial that the Party leadership sets out a positive vision. Brexit in some form is now inevitable and there is not going to be a clamour to re-join the EU anytime soon. Let’s not waste political capital on this.

Another difficult issue is the likely clamour for a second Scottish independence referendum, which would mean Scotland leaving the union. Labour are likely to be a bystander to the debate. Forming a government without Scottish MPs is going to be a struggle and there now seems no route back to a majority for Labour in Scotland.

The Party is discussing proportional representation which is only going to be feasible if introduced by a government prepared to lose a potential majority. That takes a lot of courage and will not come from the Conservatives.

British politics is by nature confrontational rather than cooperative and so PR is not popular. However, with much talk of tactical voting to ensure that the party you don’t like are defeated, together with vast swathes of the country unrepresented by parties that significant number of people have voted for, there is a growing level of support. A brave Labour Party leadership will break this cycle and gain much capital for doing so.

Local Campaign

The results in Hornchurch and Upminster and Romford were not in doubt from the date the election was called. Both Conservative MPs had big majorities and the withdrawal of the Brexit party meant any lingering doubt about a split vote was removed.

A thankless task for the Labour candidates Angela Leatherbarrow and Tele Lawal.

Romford Conservatives have a well-oiled machine that acts as a model for the national party. They have a hyper active MP who for all his many faults is well known and visible. There is virtually no local issue he won’t appear to support or photo opportunity he will miss. His voting record places him on the right of the Conservative Party on every major issue.
One of his most annoying traits is to claim to speak for the people of Romford as if they all support him. So the task for Romford Labour was a difficult one, knowing a win given the opinion polls was not going to happen and that everyone else knew as well.
His digs at Angelina for not being visible were particularly irritating, and almost certainly aimed at winding up opponents. Unnecessary in the circumstances, and untrue – Angelina had wide support in the party, is known locally and is playing an important part in a democracy of giving the opposition a voice. It is also unworthy of a full time politician to abuse a working mother making sacrifices to ensure the democratic process works as intended. This was not Rosindell’s finest hour, there was no need to be so personal.

Angelina had a good campaign and the daily video’s where local voters gave reasons why they were voting for her were a welcome development in the use of social media and drew some positive feedback. Best wishes to Angelina when the GLA campaign resumes in the new year.

In Hornchurch and Upminster, the Conservatives have a relatively new MP, who had been on maternity prior to the election – congratulations to Julia Lopez.
Tele Lawal brought a different dynamic to the election, with interesting use of social media to advertise her campaign and attract publicity. She did attract some bizarre comments, both on her apparent youth (although Sam Gould drew few such comments standing in Romford in 2015 when of a similar age, so some sexist overtones?) and her dress sense!
This was dealt with as it should have been and Tele was rewarded with coverage in The Stylist magazine.

Tele had a good campaign and brings a younger perspective as well as an energetic approach. This will pay dividends in the long run both for the party locally and for Tele herself, who has a chance to make a big impression on the national stage.
There will come a time when Labour fortunes locally revive, and the work done by all in the local parties will have helped achieved this. Keeping the Labour Party functioning as a viable entity helps this and when a breakthrough comes, the work of all of those door knocking, leafleting, phone banking and lending support in other ways will have contributed. Those local campaigners who braved the weather in what was always going to be an unsuccessful campaign are to be congratulated, and remembered when the breakthrough comes.

The campaign in Dagenham and Rainham was ultimately successful and was covered in labour list inset link.

Defying the Right – how Labour in East London fought back

We regroup, the GLA elections are in May

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?

This article first appeared in the Havering Fabian Newsletter Edition 39 June 2019