Today, the devolution debate continues, though often now in the guise of localism, and how labour will deliver that localism for the people of Britain.
At the LGA fringe, Deborah Mattinson, founder of the polling organization Britainthinks, highlighted the need to think of people beyond any demographic category – their interests and needs are more complex than that. She also offered the thought that pledges might no longer work, such is the low level of trust with which (pledging) politicians are now held – politics had to bring people and politicians much closer together.
Ed Cox of IPPR North highlighted their recent report ‘De-centralization decade’, noting that to really deliver localism (and its twin decentralization) required an organized and concerted effort planned over many years. Thankfully he acknowledged that devolution was as much about counties as cities, and parishes and town councils must have a role to play – clearly, they could be a powerful way to reconnect people and politicians in the policies and decisions of their place.
At the Countryside Alliance event the focus shifted to what Labour needed to do to win the rural vote in 2015. Some were surprised to hear the CEO of the CA highlight the findings of their own polling, in which Labour (on 27%) and Tories (on 30%) were almost neck and neck in rural areas. And yet, as other speakers highlighted, Labour still needed a narrative to show they ‘got’ non-urban areas and could translate voting Labour into benefits that worked for coastal and country communities.
What might those polices be?
All the panel members were agreed that for the vast majority of people living in these areas the questions were ones of work, pay, and security of employment; getting round the difficulties of access, be that physically getting to work or training, or virtually to fill in the digital forms now so often required by government, as well as the other benefits of online and mobile connectivity – in many cases the very things that also concern urban citizens.
So, to name but a few, we would need to:
address digital hot spots
look at low pay
sort out public transport
empower town and parish councils
All things that could mirror the right approach to urban Britain, better connectivity for the modern economy, pay and terms and conditions that allow people to live without benefits, and devolution that allows people, politicians and politics to be carried out nearer to home.
Plenty of food for thought – for the devolution debate; for the cost of living debate (it is often worse in non urban areas); and to begin to answer the question of how Britain can work better for all the people of Britain.
LCC will continue to work with our friends and supporters to help the Party get the right policies into the ‘Rural Manifesto’ and to put those in front of the voters of coast and country for the General Election in May 2015.
Hywel Lloyd, founder of Labour: Coast & Country | Conference 2014
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Labour: Coast & Country.