LCC’s Review of 2018

2018 is almost done and yet politics continues its fascinating, yet gruesome hold on the nation! While much of the year has been one take or another on Brexit and its ramifications, LCC has kept the flag flying for the communities of coast and country.  Working with many of you, our MPs and Peers, and a range of others who value the chance to speak for these communities that work has included:

  • Speaking engagements at CLPs across the country, including in South East Cambridgeshire and West Worcestershire.
  • Two conference fringes in Liverpool, our now annual gathering on Sunday lunchtime and a Monday lunchtime fringe to launch “Towns of England, your time has come: A Manifesto for 2019”.
  • Convening two dinners in Parliament with a range of back and front bench MPs to discuss coast and country issues, and potential solutions as part of the process of developing our ‘Manifesto for 2019‘.
  • Contributions to external research, including the Fabians ‘Labour Country: How to reconnect with Rural Communities’  report and the Labour Party Coastal Communities consultation.

Looking forward to 2019 there are the key local elections for England on May 2nd. We have already published our ‘Manifesto for 2019’ (glossy hardcopies are still available if you are interested) and that is getting good circulation with Labour frontbenchers, some of whom we will get to blog about their thoughts on it, and wider policy ambitions in the new year.

With those elections in mind, and to continue to engage members wherever they live, we are meeting and speaking at a variety of events, with the following confirmed:

  • Southend CLP | Wednesday 13th February
  • New Forest West CLP | Monday 25th February
  • ‘Winning England, how can Labour win votes in rural England’ with Stroud CLP and English Labour Network | Saturday 16th March

We’d be delighted to hear from you – info@labourcoastandcountry.org – if you’d like an LCC speaker at your CLP next year.

With best wishes for 2019,

The Labour: Coast & Country Team

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A Manifesto for England | Hywel Lloyd

While much of the Labour family is rightly occupied with their local election campaign for tomorrow, some of the early steps in preparing for ‘The English election’ of 2019 (elections in 192 District Councils, 47 Unitaries and 33 Mets on 2nd May ’19), began last week.

Labour:COAST&COUNTRY (LCC) brought together seven of our newer MPs for a policy dinner, along with a small group of coast & country stakeholders, kindly hosted by Baroness Jan Royall, and supported by Calor UK.

A wide ranging discussion highlighted many of the issues that non-urban CLPs also report to us at branch and whole CLP meetings, in whichever part of the country they reside, including the following examples:

  • The issues of education provision, the challenges of reduced provision in non-urban areas, the lack of choice and of access, and the consequences for opportunity and social mobility;
  • Of housing, and how some of the worst housing provision, and the greatest challenge of availability and affordability occurs in coast and country areas across the UK and England;
  • If you are poor outside of a city it is much harder to deal with, and less is available to support you and your family; with these services also being as decimated by austerity as urban public services;
  • And that in many parts of the UK there is now a dearth of transport that could be called ‘public service’ transport – no trains, and few buses . . .
  • The importance of understanding that many of these issues are about how the communities, of coast and country, can thrive, and are much the same, albeit with a different scale and density, as those facing urban communities that Labour more readily represents;
  • How to ensure funding for local services properly reflects need, and how services can be delivered to reflect local settings and circumstance;
  • And finally the wider question of representation – how does Labour properly engage with, and be seen to engage with, the whole of the UK, and England, so as to have a better chance of governing the whole of the nation.

Only with such a whole nation view, and a whole nation view of what’s fair, might we get near to addressing the fundamental causes of Brexit and the divides between remainers, and leavers; those from somewhere or anywhere, so as to be able to be the next government of the United Kingdom.  Which led us to consider where policy solutions might lie:

  • As one participant put it, key are polices that will lead to change which takes a whole nation view of fairness, balance and every child, and citizen mattering;
  • So we will need to think about funding for places and local government;
  • About procurement and how it works for communities;
  • About digitisation, when connectivity continues to be an issue;
  • And about how more local decision making can support local communities more effectively;
  • And how to be the community (re) investment party;
  • Building on the assets that communities have, as well as addressing the needs yet to be met

Labour stands at a cross roads – for the first time in a long time it has hundreds of members in every part of the country, in every constituency – they could be a platform for a Labour government that could run the country for the many, that recognised the issues facing communities of coast, country and city are often the same.

May 2019 would be the time to pick up this baton to run with a Manifesto for England; helping prove Labour’s national appeal across the many and varied places that make England what it is.

LCC will be developing these ideas for the shadow cabinet and colleagues to consider in the summer, as they start focusing on the challenge of May 2019.  If you and your CLP have examples of good ideas and delivery that address these issues, or others that affect coast or county communities, please do drop us a line at info@labourcoastandcountry.org.uk.

That’s Tory territory, isn’t it? | Sandy Martin MP

When I challenged the Secretary of State to provide more resources for the Police in Suffolk in September, Sarah Newton, the junior minister, clearly mis-heard “Southwark” for “Suffolk” and replied that it was all the fault of Sadiq Khan.

Leaving aside the blatant buck-passing that was going on, it is obvious that the Minister was conditioned to believe that Labour MPs come from London, or from “oop North”, or from Wales – anywhere but the Shire Counties.  Tragically, far too often the Labour Party appears to fall into the same trap.

The fact is, we need to be able to win in Shire Counties – constituencies such as St Albans and Norwich North depend on their County Councils for much of their public spending and thus for the residents’ experience of government.  It is no coincidence, I believe, that the extraordinary County Council election result in 1993 which left the Conservatives in England in control of just one single County – Buckinghamshire – led on to a General Election where Labour won seats that it had never even contemplated.

Labour has a vision of society which should work in rural areas.  We believe in public transport.  We believe in public education, in a decent health service, in properly resourced police services.  All of these things matter to people in rural areas just as much as they do in urban areas.  And in addition, we have a view of small businesses and of protection of the environment which does not start from the bottom line of the company accounts, but from the needs of the people.

For too long the Labour Party has projected a corporatist image which quite rightly supports the needs of trade unionists working in large institutions but ignores the needs of small and micro businesses and in particular of sole traders.  Unlike the Conservative Party, Labour does not need to pander to the needs of multi-national corporations as we do not receive any significant amount in donations from them.  Unlike the Conservative Party, Labour has a commitment to fairness which can and should extend to the self-employed as well as to public sector and industrial sector workers.  And unlike the Conservative Party, we do not have an obsession with privatisation which leads services which should be delivered at the point of need to be instead profiled to maximise the profits of the contractor.

Housing, for instance, makes more profits for developers in greenfield locations, and if designed and built to cater for wealthy retired people.  Thus we have the paradox of disproportionate levels of building in very small towns, virtually none of which actually caters for the needs of local people. Conservative Councils are relatively good at maintaining roads in rural areas, but completely useless at maintaining bus services to run along them.  And while Conservative areas tend to attract the highest number of Free Schools, these are very often designed to please a minority of the local population – the “we don’t want our child mixing with the kids from the estate” mentality.

On all of these issues, Labour can and must win if we are to take back control of many of our Shire County Councils, convince the local voters that we are capable of winning and that we have a genuine alternative programme that can work for them, and ultimately win all those seats we need in the Shire Counties in a General Election in order to form a Labour Government.

Political battle lines drawn (in the sand)

As someone who counts going to the seaside and canvassing as two of my favourite things, Labour’s “Seaside Express” seemed tailor made. So I joined day two of Labour’s tour with instructions to meet at Lowestoft’s South Pier.

By the pier all the elements of a traditional British seaside holiday were on show: Punch and Judy, arcades, kiosks selling fish ‘n’ chips, plus a spot or two of rain(!)

Labour MPs and Campaign Deputies Jon Ashworth and Gloria De Piero, Labour Students and local activists from Lowestoft and surrounding CLPs donned red “Seaside Express” T-shirts and began handing out sticks of Labour rock to passers by whilst signing people up as official Labour supporters to help the campaign to re-elect Bob Blizzard as Waveney’s MP. Then in the afternoon we split into teams and hit the doorstep.

As well as visiting Lowestoft, the Seaside Express has visited Brighton, Morecambe and Blackpool which are all marginal seats Labour is campaigning hard to win.

As well as the obvious benefit of lots of additional activists campaigning in marginal seats (and seaside towns often face a UKIP threat), the Seaside Express helps remind those in the Labour movement who don’t live in coastal constituencies some of the particular challenges as well as the opportunities for our seaside towns.

Coastal erosion is a case in point and Bob Blizzard showed the visiting MPs the damage caused to the town’s seafront by the tidal surge last year which have left parts of the beach inaccessible for the summer season.

Other issues of particular concern in coastal areas include the challenges of seasonal work and second home ownership increasing house prices for locals.

Coastal communities have been let down by the Government who cut funding for flood protection, abolished the Sea Change Programme which drove cultural and creative regeneration in our seaside towns and slashed Visit Britain funding. On tourism, David Cameron pledged in 2010 to lift the UK up the destination rankings of the UN World Tourism Organisation from sixth to fifth – we are now eighth.

However there is huge potential along the coast not only from tourism but increasingly areas such as the East coast are becoming known as renewable energy centres of excellence. When I visited an offshore wind farm I met many local people who had found employment in this expanding sector. Lowestoft College provides training for those pursuing a career at sea or in the energy sector and Lowestoft’s EU funded Orbis Centre clusters renewable wind, wave and tidal power businesses offering a bright future of high skilled jobs.

I do like to be beside the seaside so I’ll certainly be back to Lowestoft and other marginal coastal seats in the run up to 2015. I hope many more Labour MPs and Labour Coast and Country activists will too.

Alex Mayer is NPF Representative for the East of England

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.