And so the next stage in the journey begins . . .

Sadly it isn’t a journey of engagement with a Labour led government, but a renewed period of opposition – lets hope it doesn’t become unduly introspective as we all endeavour to work out what worked, and what did not – and more importantly what’s required to win in 2020.

As a Co-Founder of Labour: Coast & Country, I’m firmly of the belief that we need to be able to engage and speak with the whole country – One Nation is a good and also positive ambition – and that we need to be able to win the majority of the new towns, the coastal towns and the market towns. They are where we have historically won majority government.  Get that right in England and we may not have to win all of Scotland back in one go, something that seems a monstrous challenge at this stage in the game.

We must play our part in the Party’s review on this election, and in plans to ensure we are as electable as possible – from Harwich to Haverfordwest, from Plymouth to Pitlochry.

It is good to see that the Party’s initial steps will include Leadership Hustings in the coast and country communities, as proposed by Harriet Harman; and it is also good to see Jamie Reed making the point to all of his colleagues that “the next Labour leader must listen to the marginalised, peripheral communities of our country as the United Kingdom risks disintegrating before us.

Both interventions suggest our ambition for a Labour Party that wins in coast and country can rise from the lessons of 2015.

If you think communities of the coast and of the country are part of Labour’s 2020 government please join us, and contribute to making that a reality.

Hywel Lloyd is founder of Labour: Coast & Country

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, the Labour: Coast & Country

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Sympathy to all Agents!

This is my first, perhaps only, foray into the role of Agent.

This is for an excellent candidate in a safe Tory seat, with probably less than a dozen Labour activists across the whole sprawling constituency. No experience; no people; no money; no realistic hopes beyond unashamedly showing Labour’s colours and values to the heathen; or providing limited added support to nearby target seats, thus effectively abandoning left-inclined voters here.

What strikes me is just how unequal are the resources available to constituencies like this compared to safer or more winnable seats.

We acknowledge the reasons for this, but cannot see how things can ever change without some fairer input. After all, the bureaucracy of the Party and of the electoral process are the same for us and our opponents have all that we lack.

We in Labour believe that those with least have recourse to the State. Yet Labour seems to say internally that those with least shall continue to have below-subsistence means. We have the same desires and values, but no chance of enfranchisement as those who live in redder climes.

It is for this reason that we urge the formation of nationwide linkages such as Labour: Coast & Country through which isolated voices can be heard and even become collective.

Good luck everyone – and sympathies to all Agents!

Tom Serpell is a Committee member for Labour: Coast & Country and brave Agent for Wealden CLP

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, the Labour: Coast & Country.

Norwich North – the first seat of an overall majority!

Friday and we join a mass of volunteers, the Progress team on their last ‘Final countdown’ campaign days and Jess Asato our candidate.  You can read more about her campaign here.

Winning Norwich North and we are in overall majority territory so key to our national campaign as well as giving Labour voice to those who live in a constituency that is a classic mix of city and rural fringe, as our door knocking areas illustrate.  There are plenty of places where houses abut the fields of rural Norfolk and are part of the District of Broadland, such that the District Council is responsible for the running of the parliamentary election for Norwich North. 

We’ve enough volunteers for five or six teams of six or more, and are soon out enjoying the sunshine and decent levels of voter contact for a Friday.  Proof of Labour capacity for voter contact is soon apparent, our team of seven (average age 35) meets a pair of Tories (average age 55); a few pleasantries later and the next door has a resident soon making very clear he’d rather talk to us than them – another vote for Jess!   Three hours later and it feels like we are definitely ahead – there are some Labour – ukip wavering, and some who think voting green is the answer – more opportunities to remind them it is only Labour that delivers workable, sustainable policies from the National Parks to the growth on renewables we see today.

A quick bite to eat and every team is out again, further north.  More sun, more stakes and more Labour support keep us going through the afternoon, before heading home.

On the train we get to read this fascinating piece by Nick Pearce, considering the variety and energy in the politics of English regional identity, by way of an exhibition of the work of Eric Ravilious. We agree with Nick, England is much more complex and varied than the north, the midlands and the south east; and that every part of England has its radicalism to balance its conservatism – responding to and supporting the descendants of those radicals across the country is why we created Labour: Coast & Country.

Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country

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, the Labour: Coast & Country

Thanet South – A battleground seat if every there was one . . .

Saturday and we joint a different bunch of local volunteers, comrades from Hope not Hate along with Will Scobie our candidate in the fight to see off ukip and their so called leader.  You can read more about his campaigning here. Once upon a time Thanet South wasn’t on our target list.  Now with the departure of the sitting Tory, and the advent of ukip’s leader as their candidate we have a three way marginal – and an opportunity to push back ukip where it will hurt them the most.

Teams are soon off out to different parts of the constituency.  We’re in St Peter’s ward, Broadstairs, currently represented on the council by two tories and one ukip councillor (in a council, Thanet, that is Labour 26; Conservative 22; Independent 3; Thanet Independent 2 ; UKIP 2; and 1 Non affiliated Councillor).  And yet on the door step this ward expresses much more of a Labour versus ukip tone.  As with many other door-knocks this campaign we find some dedicated voters and quite a number who are as yet undecided, and for whom a decent five, ten or even fifteen minute conversation is a minimum requirement for their engagement with what Labour can offer them, their community and the UK.

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A good morning’s work and back to ‘The Red Hall’ for a cuppa and a bite to eat, where their ‘charity’ bookshelves has Tawney on offer, and an interesting Soviet take on Shakespeare!

Then heading out again to cover more ground.  Thankfully the sun is starting to emerge and take away the morning’s chill.  Sadly the weather might have warmed up, but the politics has been polluted by intimidation and abuse as comrades on another canvas are set upon by far-right agitators.  Thankfully Will gets prompt support for his condemnation of the attack from tory candidate, and no-one is hurt.  And of course that isn’t going to put us off, and every team goes out for a third door-knock before evening sets in.

This seat is a bit like the wider election – too close to call;  Some of our opponents will get nasty, if not nastier.  So we have to be stronger, work harder and keep talking to the British people about the future they want, a future free of intimidation, bullying and hate, a future of hope.

Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country

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, the Labour: Coast & Country

Swindon South | Target Seat 55

Tuesday and it’s sunny Swindon to campaign for Anne Snelgrove and her team, along with a visit from Tristram Hunt – he’s also here to meet with local head teachers and explain further Labour’s policies for schools. Over the weekend the papers report current polling that has this seat neck and neck between us and the incumbent, while the last Ashcroft poll (March) has a dead heat. All to play for.

Door knocking takes us to the Peatmoor, on the fringes of the town near a forest park and reservoir. The street names (Squires Copse, Furze Close, Newmeadow Copse) and the jackdaws, remind us how close to open country we are here.  The blossom and tended gardens are a reminder of how much the British people value green spaces and access to nature. It is sometimes a shame that we have to remind some voters that it was a Labour government that created the National Parks legislation, and the green belt through the Town & Country Planning Act (both by the ’45 government). In our ambition to build the homes people need we should remember the green spaces, the benefits they bring to health, and flood protection when they are well designed, and recall the work of Nye Bevan as Housing Minister, who ensured the building of homes of a decent size with gardens and space, and the new towns (rather than MacMillan, who built more, but worse, many of which have since been demolished).

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There’s a good reception on the door step, lots of support and the occasional goose bumps as a whole house say ‘we’re with you’ – this might not be 1997, but their support and the sunshine are doing a good job of bringing that back to mind. Let’s hope the sunshine continues, more opportunities for us to canvas, have the conversations and for our voters to come out. The session closes with leafleting at a primary in the town, opportunities to meet parents and give kids balloons and flags – they’re all gone in less than 20 minutes. It’s very cheering to see a ten year-old skip away with their Labour balloon and a big grin!

A good day on the fringes of Swindon. And a final thought given the way the Tories seem to be headed:

“The Tories, every election, must have a bogey man. If you haven’t got a programme, a bogey man will do.” Nye Bevan.

Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country

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.

To Beaconsfield and back again – every vote still counts!

After the rigours of the Country Tour (some 650 miles supporting eight CLPs – from Lydney to Darwen) the tube and train swept me westward to spend Saturday supporting Tony Clements, our PPC for Beaconsfield (yes another Tony standing in that interesting part of Buckinghamshire!).  Given the response on the door-step and the street stalls he is well on his way to a good showing, and a reasonable prospect of polling well above the 3,884 votes (10.4% of the vote) achieved by one Tony Blair in 1983.

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Some colleagues have argued with me about going to such seats – ‘they aren’t our voters’, ‘they won’t vote for us’  . . .  y’know, the usual stuff.  Thankfully, most of my comrades aren’t omniscient, and some might be surprised at quite how many Labour voters were born in, have moved to and continue to live in coastal and countryside parts of the UK; and that came to talk to us during the day.  They might also be surprised at quite what you can find in local charity bookshops, including a Summary of the 1947 National Assistance Bill, a key plank of the emerging Welfare State created by Attlee’s government. DSC_7530 (2)

Being a national party, being the party of Labour and of the people I think we have to stand in every election and provide our supporters with the opportunity to vote for the positive future we offer wherever they live; and as my fellow campaigner Ian Parker put it, with such a tight election commentators, leader writers and the press will make a lot of the number of seats we win AND the number of votes cast in our favour. The higher the vote and vote share the greater the ‘moral high ground’ in our favour on May 8th.  

Every vote does count in the emergence of a new Labour Government.

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Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country

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.

Country Tour – Day 3 – The North

A cool grey morning in the Midlands soon gives way to the sunny uplands of the Peak District as we head north to meet Caitlin Bisknell, PPC for High Peak, and her team. The rolling hills stretch out in every direction, occasionally interrupted by an aggregates quarry, a bright beacon on human industrial endeavour in the landscape. We meet with Caitlin in the small village of Peak Dale and are soon door knocking, (& noticing many community facilities paid for by the aggregates levy (between 2005/07)).

With Caitlin and team, Peak Dale village

As a village some eight miles from the nearest town (of Buxton) the bus is a lifeline for the many older residents so transport is an issue on the door step; as are jobs, immigration and the NHS. Four streets later and much of the village is covered, some good Labour support, with the occasional ‘I haven’t decided yet’ and just a couple of once Labour veering to UKIP.  Details of our five pledges on immigration help moderate people’s concerns – we clearly need to continue to have this conversation in detail with those who might waiver towards ukip.

With time pressing we head off to Rossendale & Darwen to meet Will Straw, our PPC there. First stop is Ritherdon & Co. Ltd, a specialist company making stainless steel enclosures, such as those metal boxes you see along the highway holding the cabling for traffic lights and the like. A growing business they suffer from poor broadband connectivity, which can affect everything from downloading software updates to accessing design software.

At Ritherdon Co.Ltd with MD Ben Ritherdon

A great business that will benefit from our continued commitment to universal broadband access.  Broadband, and mobile connectivity, are probably already an essential utility (along with water and electricity) and we should ensure everyone can benefit from the potential they offer, as citizens, and for the economic opportunity connectivity offers – every part of the UK can play its part in our economic revival, if they have the download speed!

Our final door knocking of the Country Tour has us enjoy the sunshine and views of the Jubillee Tower on the moors above Darwen in the company of Will and his team, assisted by the red coated Graham Jones, PPC for Hyndburn. Again plenty of Labour voters, interspersed with the occasional Ukip wavering household – door knocking might take longer, with more to explain in detail, but it is usually worth it – some who start angry appreciate the time, get the detail, and are willing to think again, not least because it really is Labour or disaster, for their village or town.   After watching Huw gently, firmly persuade another waverer I top–off my tour with a Tory – Labour switcher ‘the IMF have done for the Tories today’ who has a good chat with Will about what needs to happen for the town.

With Will and team in Darwen

A final team photo before departing home – three days have seen us cover 650 miles, made at least that many contacts, in eight constituencies with over 100 Labour friends and colleagues. We wish them all the best for the next three weeks and look forward to seeing them win on May 7th.

Hywel Lloyd is a Co-founder of Labour: Coast & Country

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.