Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A few thoughts on the election in Ipswich and further afield

As I have a few days to recover from a long election campaign, think it is worth writing a few lines on how I think we (Labour) did both locally and nationally. Then it will all start again as only 11 months to go till the important General Election.

Starting very close to home it was a good night for Rushmere Ward as we gained the final Tory seat and elected Sandra Gage to the Borough Council.

It seemed to be the culmination of 11 years hard work from when I first stood in the ward when the Tories held all 3 Borough seats, the fight back starting in 2008 when I won my seat, the slight reversal in 2009 and 10 when we failed to capitalise on that result till today when we no longer have any Tory representatives in the ward. The hard work of course has to continue and we have some serious issues to deal with, the lack of support for our local schools and the state of our roads and verges. Both the responsibility of the Tory run County Council but we still need make sure residents’ concerns are heard.

In Ipswich, we also gained a further seat (in Whitton) and held all our own – The Tories were claiming some sort of victory for holding onto Stoke Park and Holywells. They did increase their margins of victory from 2012 but their majorities were down from 2010 when these set of seats were last fought for. Of course we wanted to and hoped we could win both seats – we worked hard and had two outstanding candidates – I quite like George Debman and though I can’t say the same about Nadia Cenci what I do know is that she is very active in her ward, dedicated and a hard worker but I have no doubt that the residents of both wards would have been better represented by Colin Smart and Howard Needham. But I am sure both will fight again and it will not be long before they are both serving as Ipswich Borough Councillors.

The Tories (by their low standards) worked hard in those two wards but other than Bixley , North West Ipswich and parts of Ravenswood little sign was seen of Tories elsewhere in the town. Gipping and Gainsborough residents have not seen any Tory activity other than the odd leaflet since 2010 where on the other hand we worked in every ward- no matter what party held it and I myself spent time both canvassing in Bixley and delivering in Castle Hill. This hard work will pay dividends in 2015 but the Tories will find it hard to just concentrate on only two wards next year.

On Election Day after starting in Rushmere, I spent the rest of the day working in the North West of the town where I feel we gained our best results of the night – gaining Whitton, holding Whitehouse and more importantly making sure that UKIP are not represented on the Borough Council. To actually increase the majority in Whitehouse was great reward for a long day’s work.

Regionally it was disappointing that we did not gain a second MEP, it was always a hard task but made more difficult in that it seems parts of Essex and constituencies along the East Coast seem to be areas where UKIP did very well.

It is important that we do not just ignore UKIP or even just ridicule them. The European Count on Sunday indicated that when it came to the Euro vote they topped the poll in Ipswich. The problem we have is how to deal with not only UKIP but how to persuade voters that UKIP are not the party that will help them. Just look at their number of MEPs, how many of them are ex Tory members or politicians –and there is no doubt that UKIP has also attracted some from the very far right, as Tony Blair stated on BBC Radio 4 this morning: “peep beneath UKIP facade.. something unpleasant” – we need to get that message across to voters – what is the UKIP policy on the NHS, Defence, tax breaks for the rich, housing? – When you ask those questions you quickly see a party that other than its stance on Europe is just the Tory Party in a different coat.

But voters did vote UKIP why? I do not feel Europe was the main reason it is more basic than that it is immigration – and again we need to address those concerns but we also need to tell residents the true facts. The ex Tory MP and now journalist Matthew Parris believes we need to take UKIP head on and that the trouble is voters have been duped by the press to believe that immigration is a big problem. The press have lied, made the situation worse but immigration is a problem. All UKIP voters are not racist, probably very, very few are but certainly some of their activists are and certainly (like some Tories) they exaggerate the threat for their own benefit.

On Election Day, in Whitton a woman told me she had moved to Ipswich from Great Cornard as 600 asylum seekers had been given all the new housing in the town. I attempted to explain that that was impossible- would be surprised if there were 6 asylum seekers in Great Cornard rather than 600 and probably the number of new homes built was closer to 60 than 600 but she was convinced it was true and that voting UkIP was the answer.

We do need to get the true facts out there and that is hard when the right wing press wish to keep pushing their lies. But we also need to work with the EU to make sure that there is not just a constant flow of cheap employment from the East to places like the UK, Germany and Denmark. Voters still believe that the recovery isn’t benefiting them and their families, but the right-wing owned press is happy to persuade them that it isn’t the wealthy and their tax-avoiding multi-nationals driving the UK into a low-wage economy that are to blame. Instead it is migrants coming here in ever larger numbers, taking housing and benefits, whilst causing a disproportionate amount of crime. In fact net migration is static, migration has a positive effect on the economy, and the Eastern European crime wave is a myth. In fact, perceptions of the public on many of the issues on which UKIP campaign do not match reality.

These are tasks we have to take on locally as well as nationally.

The other myth which the press wishes to push is that only UKIP were the winners on Thursday, that again is wrong – Labour had a great night in London but also in the rest of the country, and made the targets that I thought we would make. We gained over 300 council seats, did well in almost all of the parliamentary marginal seats, took control of councils and increased our share of the vote. Interestingly when you look at the local council votes, the UKIP share is actually down on last year. Where we did not do well (or the Tories) was in South Essex, and parts of the East Coast- Yarmouth and Grimsby being two examples.

So the fight continues, plenty to do before May 2015, but we can win Ipswich, we can form the next Government but we have to work and work hard- something that the Ipswich Labour Party is good at.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

New labour rears it ugly head quoting Tony Blair the man who allowed mass immigration into the UK to boost the voting numbers for the labour party. You seem like all other arrogant politicians not understanding the reason for the rise of UKIP change is not always welcome.TH