So another General Election done and dusted although the residue of this one seems to be lingering longer at the National level!
Here in Dagenham & Rainham, Jon Cruddas MP was comfortably re-elected, despite the best efforts of the Tories and UKIP, with the highest percentage of the vote achieved by Labour. So how did we do it?
When the election was called, the Tories let it be known this was one of their target seats, as did UKIP. What was the Tory strategy? The Tories felt a lot of their support lay in the three Havering Wards. Their mantra, as we all now know, was to keep stating “Strong & Stable” and tough Brexit. They stressed this at all times, avoiding local issues, and with little visibility from the local Tory candidate. I think it’s accurate to say the Tory candidate wasn’t pounding the streets of Dagenham & Rainham daily. Lots of money was thrown at the seat resulting in many leaflets, but even those did not address the issues in Dagenham & Rainham. The result indicates that the electorate is more sophisticated, politically aware and invested in local issues. The Conservatives took them for granted, under estimated them and this huge mistake was one that worked to our advantage.
Jon has been working with many Havering resident groups, fighting the building over Greenbelt land in Havering and the proposal of 30,000 new homes without consulting the residents. Who was responsible for the overseeing of these proposals? The Tory Council. These kind of decisions didn’t sit comfortably with residents. Jon had been campaigning tirelessly to get improvements to the rail service on C2C. The response to this was tremendous and this is an ongoing campaign. These are two examples of why being a Community Champion is an important aspect of being the elected MP. Jon keeps close contact with his constituents by, for example sending e mails out regularly, issues a newsletter and has a website that has fresh pieces weekly on local issues. If you live in Jon’s constituency you know what is going on and who is looking out for you.
Initially when the election was called, there were “gloom and doom” predictions, Labour were predicted to lose seats across the nation. Campaigning at the ground level, it changed when the Labour Manifesto was produced and so too when the Conservative manifesto was released. The Tory Manifesto robbed the country of any hope. Essentially it said to any-one needing social care- watch out we are coming for your property. Someone said to me the other day, history students will one day write essays about why Theresa May called an election for party interest, not the good of the Nation. Additionally, I would add that they tried to win this with a manifesto of no hope, not costed and no vision for the future. At a national level too, the Tories underestimated the electorate.
UKIP did not see any gains as essentially their purpose has been fulfilled. Brexit had been voted for. The dream of being the party of the working people had not been realised with disastrous by election results and many leaders. I am not complacent though. We must learn lessons from their periods of ascendancy and Labour voters have turned to them in the past and we must continue to listen and engage with our voters’ concerns
Dagenham & Rainham received so much help and assistance. It truly was very inspiring. On Action days and Election Day we had 150-350 people outside the constituency coming to help. Labour’s ground operation I feel is second to none. Our social media campaign was huge. Essentially the big LOCAL issues, such as Moped riders in Dagenham or the “concreting over in Havering” would receive circa 20,000 views. Contrast this with how long would it take us to deliver a leaflet to that many people and who, to be frank, may not read it? The Tories on a national level massively utilised Social media, and as costs for this continue to “bump up “, there is a danger that the prices could “lock out” democracy. Labour nationally should be continually striving to improve its use of Social media.
The Labour manifesto promised that Tuition fees would be scrapped, building of council homes and the nationalisation of the railways. The percentage of vote of the youth for Labour was huge. 61.5% of people under 40 voted Labour. The Manifesto made politics relevant to the youth and gave them hope. In their lifetime they were being presented with real socialist policies and as it was election time, the policies could be discussed without the usual mainstream media bias and hysteria. What politician could show their face at Glastonbury and get the reception Jeremy Corbyn did? At Pride festival last weekend when Theresa May’s message was relayed, there was crowd booing, and much mention of the DUP agreement. The “nasty party” is well and truly back.
Although the “momentum” is with Labour, there is still a long way for us to go. We need to appeal to the wider electorate. But we are “onto something.” The operation that went into motivating and mobilising the youth could be undertaken in other area, such as the Seaside towns. Labour could offer a vision to them and to the former Industrial areas In need of investment and a future of hope.
Another area of concern is what I would deem the traditional working class vote. Labour still hasn’t answered or offered a vision to them that answers their concerns. The living wage and the abolition of Zero hour contracts is a start, but with automation and companies’ constant cost cutting for profit, this is always at the expense of the loyal workers. With salaries being put on levels of 1975 it’s hard for people who earn the lower salaries, to feel they are sharing in the wealth of a country. Rents need to be capped and housing solutions need to be offered.
People who know me well, realise this is a drum I keep beating. Labour Councils need to stop being seduced by developers bringing in regeneration projects, or worse still new housing with-out a scrap of social housing. Affordable housing cannot mean 80% rents. Watching the national tragedy of Grenfell unfold, at the time of writing, only 18 people have been rehoused. That’s because councils have been let off the hook over many years and allowed not to build council housing. They have allowed gentrification of areas and anyone who dares comment is called a “dinosaur.” It’s interesting to watch the language of the councils that allow this; it’s always couched in terms of aspiration or bringing wealth to an impoverished area. Often the Council officers directing these schemes ironically are on huge salaries, pensions and benefits and often hold a bias against social housing. Developers now on planning Boards give a sum of money towards social housing but that is piecemeal and utterly inadequate. Our Voters would embrace a bold vision on housing, and we would win over Tory and former UKIP voters. Let’s sound that vision loud and clear – on social media and on the doorstep of our communities.
Margaret Mullane – Councillor for Village Ward in Dagenham, CLP Secretary, member of Unite and GMB, Office Manager and a leading member of Jon Cruddas 2017 re-election Campaign