Sunday lunch-time of the first day of Conference 2015 saw over 40 members from across England and Wales gather to reflect on what next for Labour in communities of coast and country. After moving to a larger room to accommodate everyone more comfortably, a wide ranging discussion occupied those present for almost two hours.
That discussion covered the issues we knew affected our coast and country communities, ranging from poor connectivity and much reduced public transport; low wages and the impact of changes to tax credits; a lack of affordable housing, and challenges of faced by many communities loosing their bank, shops or post offices. We appreciated the contribution of newly elected Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, LCC supporter and a long serving rural campaigner across the East of England. We recognised these issues as some of the same challenges faced by communities already represented by Labour – be they in city, coastal, or country constituencies.
We touched on the challenges facing the party, with a wide-ranging contribution from Maria Eagle MP, previously Shadow Secretary for Defra, who’s team had spent the summer researching Labour’s performance across rural seats, and looked towards ‘Winning in 2020’. That work highlighted the need for a new Labour vision for non-urban Britain, that Labour does already represent some of these communities and those like them in the cities, and that Labour could win with the right organisation in place for 2020.
Finally we explored the opportunities in front of the party, and every CLP, now our membership was growing dramatically – ideas for action and organisation that we will feed into the Party.