Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Come on Labour - what are you waiting for?

Caroline Lucas is not happy with Labour. Neither am I.

I am not talking about local Labour activists here in Shipley or in the wider Bradford area. I have the highest regard for the way Labour colleagues on Bradford Council have done their best to protect our District’s public services from hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts in central government funding.

I am referring, specifically, to the Labour ‘high command’ and Jeremy Corbyn in particular. At this vital moment, when so much is at stake in this election, Labour are resisting a broad-based progressive pact with like-minded parties. They are determined to stand candidates in every constituency regardless of local circumstances. Corbyn and his key party colleagues have not yet grasped this golden opportunity to reset British politics on a better path for us all.

Unfortunately, I fear that the result of their blanket refusal to build bridges with other progressives will allow Theresa May and her Tory MPs to wriggle off the hook once more. In Shipley, Philip Davies faces a group of opponents who will queue up to criticise his track record and Tory policies but then lose to him for a fourth time on 8 June. Labour have not won here since 2001 and Philip has now been Shipley’s MP for twelve years. In fact, the Tories have only lost two elections in Shipley since 1945.

Local Labour folk tell us that their party has changed radically since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015. They say they have many more activists than ever before willing to stand up and be counted on the doorsteps and plenty of additional resources to match. I applaud their optimism, determination and chutzpah.

But the hard fact remains that they have a mountain to climb locally.

First, they would have to achieve a monumental swing in the vote to unseat Philip, who bagged half the vote in 2015 and cruised home with a very comfortable 10,000 vote majority.

Second, Labour remain miles behind in national opinion polls – the latest Guardian/ICM poll puts Labour 19 points adrift and all recent polling confirms that the Tories hold a strong lead over Labour nationally.

Third, their leader is unpopular. Corbyn appeals to the party faithful, not to mention many of us on the environmental left as well, but has not successfully engaged the wider electorate. Twice as many voters feel that he is running a poor campaign compared to those who think he is campaigning well. Amazingly, even Theresa May is more respected and popular as a party leader despite her abysmal campaign outing over the weekend on the Andrew Marr show, and her apparent inability to relax and eat a bag of chips at the same time (#milibandbaconsandwich #osbornepasty).

All of this is wearyingly familiar. My point is simply that Labour’s leaders need to reach out to the other progressive parties in British politics on a national level and strike a UK-wide deal that would enable their activists on the ground to work with other parties in places like Shipley.

It is fair to say that Philip Davies has cultivated a unique reputation over the years in his relentless opposition to progressive politics. Indeed, he would probably be the first to celebrate that statement! In these circumstances, therefore, the Green Party has chosen to endorse Sophie Walker and the Women’s Equality Party. Sophie has a proven track record engaging with voters, is passionate and committed to progressive politics and has already demonstrated her party’s determination to reboot the way we do politics by reaching out to the Greens. If Sophie and her colleagues can do this with Caroline Lucas and other leading members of my party, there is no reason why Labour and the Liberal Democrats cannot do the same, and we should start that progressive fightback against reactionary politics here in Shipley.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.