This evening the Yeovil Labour Party held its hustings event to select a candidate to stand in the next general election.
Three candidates stood for the position, Colin Counter, and Colin Rolfe who stood for us at the last election and lastly myself.
I'm pleased to announce I was selected with a majority vote. Below is the rough outline of the speech I gave at the hustings:
The Labour Party was founded for a noble cause, to represent the working people of Britain by becoming a mass party of the working class.
I think we are all disappointed with the record of this government even if we don’t like to admit it publically, there was so much we could have undone from the Tory years, so much that wasn’t done, or too much that was done – in the wrong direction, like privatisation.
I was 14 when Mr Blair moved into number 10. By that time I was already interested in politics and considered myself a socialist. I remember that we had support from a broad section of the population, everybody was optimistic that the damage Thatcher and Major had brought would be undone. I don’t think we’ve done that.
Yes the leadership have carried out several key progressive steps for the people of this country, fox hunting semi-banned, resolution to the Northern Ireland issue, the minimum wage probably being the biggest one. When I started working I got £4.10 an hour, now it’s £5.55. An improvement of just over 30%, even with inflation that’s about a pound an hour more. Not too shabby, however in the same time property prices have almost doubled. Why?
Because interfering in the market should be avoided at all costs, at least according to the ideology of our leadership. Instead of doing the obvious thing when this housing issue surfaced, like building more council houses, and putting a stop to land lords buying up multiple properties and renting them out so they can live off other people’s work. They let the market carry on building super-profitable living spaces in London to be sold on for a couple of million quid.
There’s a lot of things this government has done which I think are wrong, and which I hope many of you will agree with me on. Shooting down the Trade Union Freedom bill, and not stopping let alone reversing privatisation in the public sector, they’ve privatised more jobs faster than even the Tories. These are things people care about, public service being put before private profit.
Just last week Gordon made a speech on climate change, while at the same time caving to BAA’s expansion plans for Heathrow airport. If you put the environment first you’d cut into the amount of air travel by nationalising the railways and building a high-speed network like they did in France.
We don’t have a political party in this country which stands up for these ideas, people rightly say it’s the Labour Party that should be doing this, yet at the moment it isn’t. I believe this is one of the key reasons why voter turnout is so low. Particularly among my generation.
I was talking to a work colleague of mine a couple of months back; I asked him who he normally votes for. He replied that he doesn’t. Now this guy is 27 and he’s never voted, I pressed him a bit more and he said “well I wouldn’t vote for Tony Blair”, yes, several months after Tony Blair had stepped down, I also asked him if he was registered in Sedgefield and he just looked confused. Everybody at work that day I asked, 4 or 5 of them said they hadn’t voted before, all of these people were in their early or mid 20s.
I think we need to tackle this over the coming years. Through reaching out to younger people informing them of the historical positions of the parties, something in my mini survey they know little about. They should know about which party historically represents them and which one represents the interests of the privileged few.
To do this we need to be a little bit radical, not be afraid to be open and transparent not be afraid to speak our minds and differentiate ourselves with the leadership when we want to, and not attempt to defend the indefensible – which is one of the key reasons politicians have a reputation of being less than honest.
With Gordon appealing to the centre and centre-right ground at least at the moment, areas where David Laws and the Tories like to sit, we can make good use of the huge amount of unrepresented space on the left-wing of the spectrum and hopefully re-connect with voters we have lost, members we have lost and make new connections with my generation. Perhaps with such a program, based on transparency, honesty and the correct working class policies we can build this party and start advancing our share of the vote.
I know some will label me as a grumpy socialist, and won’t like my public criticism of the leadership. OK fair enough. Yes sure I’m left-wing, yes I believe in public ownership, and yes I criticise, heck I like to criticise, but according to Clause IV we’re a democratic socialist party, a democratic party without criticism isn’t very democratic. And a socialist party which doesn’t stick up for the working class isn’t very socialist.
I'd again like to thank all the people for showing their support. I am determined to work hard between now and the election and increase our share of the vote, and provide a platform for these ideas going forward.