Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

LEFT INSIDE: Representation & legitimacy

In C.Spiby on December 18, 2012 at 2:06 pm

In theory the opportunity of some elections should have given us the chance to see how One Nation Labour is fairing. But it hasn’t quite turned out that way.

For starters, turnout in all elections was very low, although the Bristol Mayoral election manage to nearly double the national average in turnout for the race for elected Police Commissioners.

In Bristol Labour drew 29% of the vote, strongly defeating the Tories at 9% and the Lib Dems at 7%. Fellow travellers standing as anti-cuts (1.5%), Green (5.9%) and Respect candidates (1.7%) failed to make a real mark on familiar themes to readers of The Clarion and, in the end, an independent, George Ferguson became Mayor.

Our 29% and second-placing is encouraging, though not entirely reflective of what might happen in a national election. So while we should welcome these figures, we ought not read too much into them. The Corby by-election, however, went better, but a bloody nose for the Tories in a by-election is also not entirely a ringing endorsement of Labour nationally, even if we won there.

What’s more of a concern was the failure of mainstream political parties to make headway in both these elections and get people engaged and to the polls. I think it shows that all parties are struggling to legitimise their claims to truly representing people’s concerns.

In Labour we in particular need to turn this around as our perceived legitimacy is encumbered by that already tired narrative of the right and the media at all levels: that a vote for this Labour is a vote for the same New Labour of Blair and Brown. Clearly people don’t want New Labour 2.0. And thus these polls could suggest that Miliband’s breed of Labour is not distancing itself enough.

The current breed is now ‘One Nation Labour’. I think the jury is still out on whether that view of Britain is palatable, let alone engaging. Only the people will decide. But it is early days; it arrive at conference and we have still yet to form our programme and manifesto.

Then again, when Ed wrote to us saying that…

‘Middle England is turning away from David Cameron and the Conservatives. If they want to learn the lessons of these elections they should listen to the young people who say they want hope for the future. They should listen to those people who are saying “why are you raising my taxes and cutting my services when you’re cutting taxes for millionaires?”’

I am encouraged. But I still don’t see this message getting through to the mainstream media let alone ordinary people. So, it is up to us to help build a strong alternative to this Government’s socially destructive programme, and in doing so change that narrative to build our legitimacy as the people’s representative. Predominantly and precisely because Labour people are those people.

On a local level, I am also encouraged that the Constituency Labour Party, as communicated through the Executive Committee is hungry for local engagement and a surge in numbers. It has taken on my suggestion of a buddy system to help get new members involved in Party life and more importantly to ensure they feel listened to and are able to play a part in policy-making and activism. I was impressed with the enthusiasm for member involvement at all levels. Graham Morgan was also pushing hard for more all-member meetings to increase turnout, our profile and policies, and opening them up more to the public. The next one of these is on the touchy but ever current subject of Europe and is on 25th January 2013 at 7pm, venue tba (check our Facebook page for details nearer the time).

And on a final, personal note: the weird opposition to wind turbines in both Saint Briavels (now generating carbon-free natural power) and a proposed one in the Aylburton area. My take is that those opposing the turbines were oddly silent when it came to questioning Horizon’s plans for a new nuclear plant at the Oldbury site: directly opposite these areas and MUCH bigger in scale.

The Horizon public drop-in consultation was deserted when I went to the one they hosted in Woolaston, and had been all day – and I arrived at the end. Don’t these people remember the leukaemia scares of the 80’s in this very area?

Horizon have since sold that contract to the Japanese company Hitachi even though I understand that the Japanese government has decided to go nuclear-free following the tragic events at Fukushima. Seems what’s good for Japanese commerce is good enough for British locals to live with. And serve them right: they’re too busy fighting renewables. What IS going on? I am dumbfounded by this logic. Answers on a postcard…

If you’re against new nuclear at Oldbury, visit the STAND (Severnside Together Against Nuclear Development) who can now be found on Facebook.

A COLUMN BY C. SPIBY

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