There is a by election happening in Tiverton and Honiton so political pundits have been busy googling the place, and many in the Labour Party have been gearing up to fight a “rural” election. After all the big thing the constituency is famous for thanks to its dodgy MP is sexy tractors.
So bring out the agricultural policies, this is going to be an election about sheep, cows and growing crops.
Only it’s not.
Tiverton is a fair-sized town of 20,000 and Honiton has over 11,000 residents. In other words, a lot of the people of the constituency live in towns, and they shop at places like Tescos, and guess what? They are suffering the worst cost of living crisis in generations.
Yes there are the very real rural issues like access to jobs and services, fuel, rural isolation, and so on, yet many of the issues and challenges facing these people and their communities are just as they are for others, bread and butter issues for the Labour Party: jobs that pay fairly, doctors that aren’t over-stretched, social care that is allowed to actually care for people, the list is as long here as Tottenham or Hyde, Manchester.
This is an election that suits the national Labour narrative perfectly well because as we in Labour COAST & COUNTRY know, people living outside of cities make up most of Britain. Let’s show Labour gets this and puts into practice our belief that we are stronger together.
On the ground in Tiverton & Honiton Labour is also a lot stronger than you might believe by reading the national press. We came second in the last general election and our excellent candidate from then Liz Pole is standing again. Liz and her team work all year round (unlike the Lib Dems). Indeed Labour just won a town council by election in Tiverton itself. The LibDems weren’t even an “also ran” they were a “didn’t run” – they did not even manage to put up a candidate!
So here is a call to arms. If you’re Southern based and want to see how Labour’s message is getting cut through then please come and join us. Tiverton and Honiton are the places to knock on doors!
Ant Reid, LCC Steering Group