It can be hard to stay motivated as a Labour Party in a Conservative Parliamentary stronghold like Derbyshire Dales. We have and likely will always have, a Conservative MP, we lost the County Council to the Conservatives in 2015 and members come and go.
But, the pandemic has proven how important our rural areas are to people right across the UK, as well as here in Derbyshire Dales. We should be proud of where we are from, or where we have made our home, as our beautiful area has been a place where people have come to visit and find peace at a time of deep uncertainty.
As a local Labour Party we have four incredible District Councillors, some great town Councillors dotted across the constituency and one precious County Council seat , as well a Labour Police and Crime Commissioner for the County – that we must hold onto in May’s elections. We must not take for granted what we have, but other CLPs don’t.
We must recognise and help other people to understand that rural issues are urban issues.
In Derbyshire Dales, like our counterparts in cities, we mourn the loss of our high streets, worry about access to our local underfunded health services and the cost of getting around on public transport.
It’s just here, there isn’t any alternative, there isn’t another high street nearby for someone to get another job in retail, another hospital with an available appointment for a sick relative, or a closer school for our child.
Local issues are also national issues. Before the pandemic, our Conservative County Council threatened to close council run care homes right across our county and for the residents in those care homes their future remains uncertain. This has left us with a social care crisis of our own.
Even international issues, such as tackling the climate crisis must be fought at a local level, as our members plan to plant community forests.
We must listen to our local communities and make what local issues matter to them the bedrock of everything we do. Asking them to tell us what matters to them through surveys, polling and door knocking when we can again, as well as finding new ways in this “new normal”. Making sure the listening doesn’t stop, just because there isn’t an election on the horizon.
In the absence of an MP, we the CLP, must become the MP – writing letters of support to our local organisations during the pandemic and beyond, asking how we can help them, inviting them to share their experiences at our meetings and tell us what matters to them.
We have embraced the digital nature of the pandemic and spent the summer virtually touring around our six branches, hearing and getting to know our members. It is important they feel part of something and that their voices are heard, so they stick by us. We are continuing to invite them to tell us what they want from us and in return we are taking the time to bring together and share with them what is happening across our large constituency, through monthly campaign updates.
Rather than looking to what we don’t have and to those things sadly we probably won’t ever be able to achieve, we are finding ways to support and keep the Councillors that we do have. Sharing their incredible work through our online platforms and newsletters, showing those areas of our constituency where we don’t have a sitting Councillor – this is what could happen in your area if you voted for Labour.
For the Labour Party to win the next general election we must win rural constituencies across the UK – issues that impact constituencies like ours in Derbyshire Dales, have actually never been more important. And we need our members and other CLPs like us, to know that and to be inspired by it.