This Thursday, May 12th, sees a by-election in Tiverton, yet it isn’t the one you’re thinking of…. It is the by-election for Lowman Ward of Tiverton Town Council, a seat that is only being contested between Labour, Conservative and an Independent (so much for the Lib Dems’ “winning here”).
LCC has long argued that when our members campaign to win in town and parish elections, we show Labour gets communities of coat and country, and can build to bigger things from seats on District and County Councils, and on to success in by-elections too
Labour’s candidate is a grass roots football referee, and a member of the Unite team that has just secured a 6.5-near-10% pay rise for workers at the constituency’s biggest private employer, hi-tech manufacturing exporter that’s firmly rooted in the area’s rich industrial heritage. With average local wages barely a tenth of average house prices, voters are paying close attention to the cost of living crisis.
Labour have a well motivated, organised team here, including our very own Liz Pole, and they have a good chance of winning. This same team delivered last Thursday’s win in nearby Topsham, a small town further down the River Exe which had has been Conservative since records began. Well done to Josh Ellis-Jones and the team on that. The same team that last year won Honiton for Labour for the first time ever, with Jake Bonetta now sitting in East Devon District Council’s ruling rainbow alliance.
Labour can and is winning in Devon flipping places only Conservatives have won before.
Winning in the Tiverton town council election on 12th May is also vitally important to Labour’s overall prospects.
On a day of by-elections where Labour would be fighting both Tiverton & Honiton, and Wakefield, the cautious approach would be to concentrate on the ground you know, let’s win back the red wall seat…. Yet there’s something of a blue wall, and as Cllr Rebecca Cooper in now Labour Worthing put it, there’s something of a ‘blue sea wall’ too – with Tiverton & Honiton a classic coast and country constituency, with market and seaside towns and villages.
Some say let’s have a progressive alliance, others the party is too stretched, some that the risk is too great – yet Labour is the only competitive national party in Tiverton, and the CLPs of Devon, Cornwall, neighbouring Dorset and Somerset are already offering support to an existing and organised local team. If few expect us to win so be it, what we must ensure is that we compete and avoid the risk of giving any other party a free hand or a head start. All of these CLPs know this is a great opportunity to maintain and extend Labour’s footholds, centred around Plymouth and Exeter, in the South West peninsula
And what reward that would bring, a red Devon coast and country seat with potential to replicate that across southern England – it won’t be Labour who will be feeling some southern discomfort then.
A confident Party would want to show itself capable of winning the coast and country towns of England – it would want to show a ‘deal’ with any party isn’t on the table because it frankly isn’t necessary, and of course that Labour’s too big to fit in any small party’s pocket!
It’s time Labour tested how far the red tide can go.