Southern England

Our island story

First published in Progress magazine

Straight after the local elections Labour will embark on selecting its first 26 candidates for general election 2015, all in seats we lost at the last election which have been designated ‘island’ seats, unlikely to be adjacent to other Labour seats after the forthcoming boundary review. In every constituency the Labour candidate will be up against incumbent Tories, apart from one Liberal Democrat, in Norwich South. Spread across the south, Midlands and eastern England, they are key targets for Labour and tests for the leadership. We must win all of these to gain a Labour majority in the next parliament.

Being selected so early in a parliament has obvious downsides – it is going to be a long old slog till the next election. But those willing to grasp the nettle have a unique opportunity to prove themselves and trial a new style of organising.

Selection for these seats will provide a vital voice for Labour in areas where we currently go unheard. With Cambridgeshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire all without a single Labour MP, those willing to start campaigning now will deliver real change locally. Important seats like Crawley, Dover, Harlow, Hove, Ipswich and Waveney are miles away from any Labour MP’s route home to their constituencies, so visits there from shadow cabinet members and MPs are going to take extra effort, time and resources. Just having candidates in place making these demands of the upper echelons of the party will push their seats up the agenda. We desperately need to reacquaint ourselves with voters in these regions and motivate new and existing party members to fight back for Labour. (more…)

Don’t forget about Kent

First published on ProgressOnline

Last night I was with the Labour club at Kent University, a great group of people keen to win back their local council for Labour and fighting to keep us on the southern political landscape. What struck me on my fifth visit to Kent since we lost the general election, is how few others have made the same journey.

Those seats Labour lost in the Midlands and the M4 corridor have scores of Labour MPs travelling through them as they return to our heartlands. If Swindon, Burton or Sherwood are holding a CLP meeting, fundraiser or campaign day, numerous shadow cabinet members let alone backbench colleagues will be travelling through or very near twice a week as they visit their constituencies in Scotland, Wales and northern England. The challenge we face in many of the seats that we must win back at the next election, places like Crawley, Brighton, Hove, and all those in Kent (from Medway to Dover), Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, is compounded by the fact that they have no Labour MP who travels past (or even near) on a regular basis. (more…)