Engaging and supporting the new Leadership team

Just a few months before the former Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ conference speech in 2012 I discussed with colleagues the right name for what is now Labour: Coast &Country, we even wrote down  ‘One Nation Labour’ as a part of the route to power in 2015 . . . . .

Yet the results at the last General Election in target seats show how poorly Labour performed.  At least 19 of the targets had a significant rural aspect to them, while at least 17 were coastal (or both).  Labour only won one of the 19 seats.

These results proved the point, that to win a general election Labour must be able to represent the whole the nation – all four corners, country and city,

Do the new Labour Party leadership team ‘get’ that to govern the Party needs to win in all parts of the country?   And need to embed One Nation approach into the Party’s organisation, policies, and communications.

The initial signs are encouraging.

In his final campaign speech for the Leadership Jeremy Corbyn MP said “If I am elected leader I will ensure that Labour is as much a party in the communities like the one in which I was born (Wiltshire), as it is for people in inner city constituencies like the one I represent.   Too often the old machine politics writes off “the Tory shires”, abandoning communities struggling with issues such as housing costs, public service cuts and social exclusion just as those in inner cities are. If Labour doesn’t offer those communities solutions, no one else will.  There shouldn’t be any no-go areas for Labour.”[1]    In turn in our own engagement with the Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP it was clear that his experience of living and working in Dorset and Worcestershire had given him a decent insight to the issues faced by communities of coast and country.

Labour: Coast & Country couldn’t have put their shared ambition better – we exist to win the case for building Labour activism and representation right across the UK. To win in 2020 will require a swing equivalent to that seen in 1945, another election that saw Labour win many non-urban seats across Britain.

One aspect of the solution is perhaps counter intuitive, being a One Nation party is not the same as being a centrally controlled and directed party, not a party that creates and distributes all of its policy and messaging from a central team, nor a party that only focuses on ‘its people & places’.

Being a successful One Nation party must be built on an understanding of the diversity and variety of Britain, and a willingness to allow members to respond to local issues.

It is worth noting that more people live in ‘rural’ Britain (as defined by the ONS) than live in London (9.3m to 8.6m), while more people live in sparse areas (areas of very low population density, some 500,000) than live in all but a handful of UK cities, and certainly more than in say Leeds or in Bristol.

If Labour can take the ambition to be a One Nation party seriously as the Leadership team have suggested, then they have a chance to govern for the whole of the UK.  To deliver on that ambition requires many things, these few would be a good start on that journey:

  • Having a coherent vision for non-urban Britain, informed by the experiences of people who live there 
  • Recognize and reverse the view that some areas are inherently ‘tory’ and that campaigners  ‘don’t do villages’
  • Change campaigning and activism to reflect the realities of non-urban UK
  • Acknowledge that the Party needs to have a development approach to the next few years, especially with the uncertainty of the boundary review.

Many parts of Britain’s coast and country are ripe for a Labour return, but neglect the needs of rural communities and UKIP will fill the void.

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

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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

Majority government starts in west Wales

The delightful counties of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire contain four parliamentary seats, all of which have been Labour, which we need to win again if we are to have a good chance of achieving a majority government in 2015.

Taken together these seats are perhaps a microcosm of the challenge we face to win a majority across the United Kingdom. They cover industrial heartlands, former mining villages, market towns, coastal tourist haunts, small ports and a small city. As we enter 2015 we need to hold our heartland city seat of Llanelli, held by Nia Griffith, while we need to fight the Tories in both Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (last held in 2005), and Preseli Pembrokeshire (last held in 2001), while it is the nationalists, Plaid Cymru, we have to fight in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (last held in 1997).

Of the three ‘vacancies’ Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire is 62nd on the 106 target seats list, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr is 66th, while Preseli Pembrokeshire is 84th. To secure an overall majority we currently need to win 68 seats.

We have made a start on the road to winning. Having all three ‘vacancies’ on our target list means we have good candidates selected and in place.  What they need are the practical support and policies that will make sense for the people who live across west Wales, be that the market towns of Carmarthen and Haverfordwest; the coastal communities of Broad Haven and Laugharne; and the villages of St Clears and Trimsaran.

To help deliver these seats Labour:Coast&Country are working with the party to ensure that one of the manifesto roadshow meetings is held in Carmarthen. The presence of the party engaging with local people, involving them in a direct conversation with members of the shadow cabinet can only help reinforce our One Nation ambition and show that we are listening to each and every community of Britain (as well as building on work already done in West Wales by the likes of Nia, Huw Irranca-Davies and Chuka Umunna among many others).

We need to build on the commitment to a rural manifesto made by Ed Miliband at the National Policy Forum in July and ensure we respond to the issues of all of the places in the UK that are communities of coastal or country areas. These communities face many similar challenges to city constituents such as looking for and obtaining work, empowerment in their home and social lives, while facing greater challenges of greater distance, higher costs, limited public services and often minimal public transport (by city standards).

To go further nationally to secure those seats that are essential to our majority, much more coastal and rural than urban, we should encourage the party to hold its next rural (or, of course, Coast & Country) conference in the new year. That way, we can support those candidates who we need to win, ensure a challenge to the incumbents in seats who might otherwise expect an easy ride and to build a wider next work of twinning and support to these seats from other coast and country areas.

Win these coast and country seats and we win government.

This article was also published at: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2014/11/06/majority-government-starts-in-west-wales/

Hywel Lloyd is a 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.

“You’re obviously just not trying…”: The harsh reality for Non-Urban Labour

We were discussing my chances of becoming a borough councillor at the 2015 local elections.

‘Surely,’ said my friend, ‘you just need to put the work in – knock on doors, put out leaflets – and then every seat is winnable? You’re obviously just not trying…’

He’s not had much to do with politics, bless him. ‘Let me explain,’ I sighed, resisting the urge to scream.

My ‘patch’ is technically a ‘village’. Stretched along a by-passed ‘A’ road just north of our county town, it is actually an established high street with multiple ‘bolt-on’ housing estates which are home to some 5,000 people.

It is also part of a rural, Tory-in-perpetuity constituency.

Things were not always that way. When I joined Labour, full of anti-Thatcher campaigning zeal, the village came under the same Parliamentary constituency as the town, and we and the nearest urban ward were a joint branch. Boundary changes intervened, however, and 1994 saw us cast into the outer darkness of the new, geographically large and predominantly rural, CLP.

It was, and still is, an unwieldy situation. The only urban focus of the constituency lies down south in ‘the other half’, while our main community of interest is the county town – itself another constituency. Our branch is huge and unrelentingly rural. And equally unrelentingly Tory.

Apart from my ward, that is. The village has been every political colour in its time, going from solid Labour in the 1970s, to Liberal (remember them?) in the 1980s, then Tory in the early 1990s. Much to my surprise, I actually won the seat in 1995, serving for just one four-year term before being ousted by the Tories. And hold it they have, despite my standing for most elections since.

So is my friend right and I’m just not trying hard enough? Or are there other factors in this, a familiar scenario to so many of you?

Well, to an extent I hold my hands up. I haven’t always door-knocked and leafleted. Life intervenes, and some years you have to be content with simply giving your Labour voters a name on the ballot sheet. It’s a perfectly valid part of what we do, especially where we know we can never, ever win.

What we also do, unpalatable though it may be, is use our limited resources to fight only the battles we can possibly win. And by ‘limited’ I mean almost non-existent.

A CLP which had some 400 members now has half that number, fewer than 10% of whom are active in any sense. Our multi-ward, multi-village branch covers nearly 210 sq km and has a population of almost 27,000. Of these, fewer than 100 are Labour Party members and, of those, five or six come to meetings.

Neither CLP nor branch has any money to speak of. And people to knock doors? Forget it. The best we can do is rustle up a few stalwarts to deliver leaflets. The leaflets we can’t afford to have printed, that is.

So, talking about battles we could win, what of our discussion? My friend persists: ‘The ward’s not even that rural, so close to the town and with all those new houses. Surely Labour could win it? You did it once, after all…’

Yes, I did. But in 1995. The year that saw the biggest swing to Labour in decades. And my majority? Two votes. Yes, just two. And I ‘lost’ next time on a dead heat when, after five recounts, the two names were thrown in a ballot box and the Tory one drawn out.

Now, what are the chances that 2015 will see a swing anywhere near 1995? Factor in the increase in the home-owning population; the likely defectors to UKIP; the neglect of rural communities by successive governments; public disenchantment with politics in general – and this village looks like a battle too far.

So, while I’ll do what I realistically can, you’ll forgive me if I spend most of my time and what’s left of my energy in the neighbouring urban constituency – one that’s high on Labour’s list of key marginals.

Now there’s a battle we can, and must, win if we are to return a Labour government. That said, Labour – One Nation, or not – is supposed to be the ‘Party of the People’. That means ALL people. Not just the people in this city or that city, but everyone, everywhere. That, if for no other reason, is why I think this all-too-familiar scenario for non-urban CLPs has to change.

What do you think?

Jenni Jackson, Labour Member from NE Beds CLP | @jenni_jackson

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.

One Nation Labour, for the communities of coast and country too! Labour: Coast & Country’s Conference Fringe

The first fringe of the Labour List tent Conference 2014 was hosted by Labour: Coast & Country this sunny lunchtime. Over 100 delegates, including local activists, PPCs, MPs, and MEPs gathered to consider the question of how the Party’s policy review will deliver One Nation for coast and country.

Hywel Lloyd, one of the founding members of Labour: Coast & Country opened proceedings with a reminder to everyone that LCC had been established to represent the voice of all those who lived and worked in coastal and country communities. This happens to be more people than the population of London (9.3m to 8.3m), and with almost 600,000 people lived in sparse areas, collectively they would be the UK’s seventh largest city. To govern well AND to win Labour had to hear and respond to these voices as much as it might to those of its city heartlands.

Maria Eagle, the Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defra picked up the batton, describing the importance to her and her role of ‘non-city Britain’, the need to have a sharp elbows to help ensure her colleagues properly rural proof their work (ably assisted by Huw Irranca-Davies). As she put it the fundamental problem faced by rural Britain was the Tory problem! At the end of the day, she said, we have to replace them if the people of coast and country are to have any chance of better wages, opportunities for training, access to services and a better deal on transport and connectivity . . . .

Jim Knight, previously a Schools Minister and Lords Defra Shadow, and a founder of LCC spoke of the importance of the big picture, what sort of economy are we trying or expecting to create in post industrial Britain – get that right and we could see a rebalancing of the economy and a much better deal for many of the communities of coast and country, based as they are on the periphery and dealing with degrees of isolation, lower density and distance that city dweller might struggle to understand. How do we think the emerging trends for sharing and coproduction would play out in these areas? And perhaps broadband deployment should be the responsibility of DfT as part of their role in ensuring connectivity for all the communities of Britain.

Finally while conference duties as Chair had, ultimately, prevented Angela Eagle attending she did send a message of support “I’m terribly sorry I can’t be with you . . . As Chair of the National Policy Forum I’ve worked to ensure that we reach out beyond Westminster . . . Ed Miliband’s commitment at the NPF to produce a rural manifesto is yet another indication that the Labour Party is the only true national party!“ which was relayed to the audience.

The Q&A session covered a huge array of issues, including education and access to FE; what housing would be built where: how CAP could really help country communities; how rural mental health services were often the Cinderella to urban mental health services let alone compared to services for physical health; how we had to ensure better wages and work was available, with better terms conditions; how the cost and lack of public transport would be the death knell of many communities and see the departure of too many young people . . . to capture just a few. The panel was clear that in some areas the party had worked up good solutions, e.g. early distribution of the winter fuel allowance to off-grid pensions, while in others more work was required.

All reinforced the idea that policies for the coast and country are every department’s business.

Finally the panel closed requesting delegates asked the same questions at every fringe they were to attend, that we work together to create a Coast & Country Manifesto that would help the party win, and that winning ‘the politics of the periphery’ could be the difference between being the largest party or a party with a majority to govern.

To coin a phrase ‘we are all in it together and we will be better together’.

Hywel Lloyd, founder of Labour: Coast & Country | Conference 2014

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.

Towards a More Resilient, SME Friendly Rural Economy

As a One Nation Labour Party we need to expand our horizons beyond haphazard thinking on rural issues in order to secure a sustainable economy for Britain’s countryside and reach out to the rural electorate.

What must be recognised is that rural areas are subject to an intrinsic ‘separation’, a root cause of so many rural problems. Some have referred to this as ‘rural isolation’, but this is an insufficient term with an insufficient focus.

Where does this feeling of separation come from? Through my work, I have heard complaints and concerns up and down the UK and what is interesting is that there is a regular theme: Distance – distance from services, distance from health and social care, distance from employment and areas of opportunity, distance from entertainment, distance from education and training facilities. Where there exists a distance to these essentials of life, work and aspiration, there comes a vacuum – an inherent disconnection of what is needed from what is attainable.

Because of this, there is a marked difference between services being “available” and services being genuinely “accessible” – this difference makes policies based around “choice” untenable. After all, the rural vacuum dictates that if it is a choice between using a hospital 25 miles away or another hospital 75 miles away; or applying for a part-time job 12 miles away, or applying for a full-time job in the same town, but that requires you to work at times not covered by public transport, then there is no choice. What we must focus on is language and policy of growth, opportunity and accessibility.

In a practical sense, the ‘vacuum’ can take what is a difficult, common problem and make it impossible to overcome.

Looking specifically at rural Businesses and Employment, the difficulties faced in the countryside are numerous. Not all rural residents are wealthy, with rural poverty a serious problem – over 1.6 million rural people live in poverty after housing costs and 2.2 million live in fuel poverty. However, this is not the accepted view of rural living because rural poverty is not found in whole areas, but at an individual level, hidden and often next to great wealth.

It must be appreciated that Rural Poverty is not necessarily caused by unemployment, but by low pay and underemployment, combined and exacerbated by higher costs in rural areas, so that a single person living in a village would need to earn at least 50% above the minimum wage to make ends meet.

And when we also consider that anywhere between 54-80% of new jobs created since 2010 have been in London, the lack of opportunities and inability to access new full-time jobs, predominantly becoming available in London or (to a lesser extent) regional cities, adds to the ‘Rural Cost of Living Crisis’.

In order to tackle this problem, and so increase pay and full-time employment opportunities, Labour needs to allow jobs and businesses to come to villages, rather than just expecting rural residents to commute to them.

The willingness of people to create new enterprises in rural areas and the ability for these enterprises to grow is, in part, connected to the quality of life within each community. Increasingly, as regional economies are sacrificed to safeguard the growth of London, and austerity continues to bite, public services are harder to come by, even in relatively large rural towns.

So, the impact of public spending cuts on bus services, libraries, the Royal Mail service hits rural businesses harder, as a lack of infrastructure inevitably results in higher business costs and by causing potential customers to move to areas where there are more opportunities. What is more, entrepreneurs themselves are not attracted to live in a village or market town if it lacks for shops, pubs, post offices, health services, schools and training, broadband and connectivity to other areas.

Therefore, services underpin the opportunities for rural growth, employment and pay, and so must be safeguarded and encouraged.

One suggestion, floated by Lord Jim Knight, is for the Department for Transport to be given responsibility for broadband roll-out. This will enable a more strategic appreciation and approach to fibre optic roll-out, as the DfT would be better able to recognise areas the ‘market’ won’t reach – through initiatives like HS2 – and encourage the faster introduction of fibre-optic broadband in areas most in need.

This would alter the role of the DfT to one of actively promoting ‘connectability’ and ‘accessibility’ of people.

What about the sustainability of local community shops?

This links in well with the concept of promoting community action as a way of safeguarding services and businesses – and thereby contributing to rural living standards and maintaining the economy. With the help of initiatives such as the Plunkett Foundation, communities themselves are beginning to take control of their services through community-owned co-operatives. As it stands, there are currently 319 community-owned shops and 22 co-operative pubs. A future Labour Government would need to think how best to encourage such community action in ways that make them more widespread and increase their sustainability .

New Rural Housing

There is a clear need for significant amounts of new housing in the countryside, particularly to allow young people to stay in areas close to their families. Such additional housing also contributes to the sustainability of rural settlements by providing additional users for facilities such as schools, village shops, community facilities and bus services. Labour has already pledged a massive house-building programme should they come to Government. However, whilst this is positive, we must be cautious. Although concern for local areas and opposition to new housing can (frequently with good reason) be seen as NIMBYISM, it should not mask the genuine and justifiable anxiety for the greenbelt, community character and social infrastructure.

Tourism remains a major factor in Britain’s rural economy and the loss of the green-belt has the potential to harmfully effect the tourist industry in some areas. What is more, there is little point to constructing housing in a village or town that lacks the social infrastructure – be it schools, jobs, transport etc – to cope with the inevitable influx of new people. Likewise, there is little point in building the wrong type of housing to meet the needs of the area – although the focus should most often be on social/rental builds, rather than “affordable” housing (which in the current climate is rarely that “affordable”), that may not always be the case everywhere. So, whilst a building plan is needed urgently in rural areas, it must be undertaken gradually, with these factors in mind and with the consensus of local people.

In addition to this, there is a lot that is good for the countryside in the policy areas that Labour has already mapped out: Labour’s plan to devolve government, for economic growth throughout the UK, is good for rural areas; likewise, the creation of a regional banking system to help and encourage SMEs is a positive step and sorely needed.

Greater Resilience from Shocks Needed

However, let us not forget agriculture and horticulture, which remain important industries in rural areas contributing around 17.5% to these economies. Despite difficulties, both still offer excellent opportunities, as well as a little acknowledged need, for improvement and innovation. There are serious weaknesses in our supply chains for all manner of produce and we are over-dependent on the import of foodstuffs and the distribution of supplies via supermarkets. This leaves us very vulnerable to shocks in the system – such as fuel shortages or financial breakdown – which inevitably affects prices and only worsens the cost of living crisis. Somewhat ironically, this usually has an adverse affect on rural households.

It goes without saying that farming and agriculture are undergoing particularly tough times. Income and output continue to fall and, across Europe, the permanent workforce continues to grow older . The abolition of the Agriculture Wages Board (AWB) by the Coalition will only serve to drive down pay and thus render already unpopular industries even more unappealing or unapproachable to prospective new workers.

And so, we need a revitalisation of the farming industries and greater resilience within our local supply chains. One suggestion involves local authorities carrying out an audit of land available in the public sector that could be allocated to new entrepreneur horticulturists. They could then be aided in establishing a business either as individuals or through social co-ops. Another suggestion I have long-championed is a cultural re-branding of farming and other horticultural industries, to entice new blood in to entering agricultural work.

More could be done in schools to promote greater understanding of the range of attractive opportunities farming presents as a career choice to both rural and urban youngsters and to make better links between subjects – such as geography, chemistry or biology – and their applications in agriculture.

Apprenticeships, already outlined by Labour as a key policy, would be an important part of this endeavour. Labour will need to do more to make apprenticeships applicable to agriculture, as well as to rural Britain in general. The Farming for the Future initiative (launched by Marks & Spencer) provides training through bursaries, graduate placements, scholarships for sustainable and innovation projects and postgraduate programmes . Labour would need to expand initiatives like these – talent and skill should be rewarded if agriculture is to recruit people with entrepreneurial ambition and the ability to make a positive impact both socially and environmentally.

We also need to explore the possibility of a nation-wide roll-out (delivered and structured on a regional level) of the ‘Farming Connect’ initiative, launched by the Labour Government in Wales. This initiative, among many other things, helps deliver training and supply equipment by covering 80% of costs to entrepreneurs that make use of the service. This encourages new blood in to the farming profession, as well as enabling greater diversity and innovation in businesses that are already established. If launched at a regional level across the UK, it is through this enterprise that Labour can deliver new ideas and initiatives to encourage the Agricultural & Horticultural industries.

One possible solution to encourage shorter local supply chains, and which could be delivered by a nation-wide “Farming Connect”, is greater use of polytunnel farming, in order to supply specific fruits and vegetables for local markets (or sold via an expanded farmer’s market, rather than go to big supermarkets). However, this idea requires further thought. Polytunnels certainly allow the possibility to be very efficient and innovative – increasing yields and allowing entrepreneurs to specialise in produce that may not be easy to grow outside.

That said, persistent criticisms of their use include a potentially negative impact on the tourist industry, due to their “ugly” design (although it should be noted that tourism in Spain seems unaffected, despite large-scale polytunnel farming being a frequent sight in the country).

Perhaps then, greater use of High or Solar Roof Tunnels offers a more viable alternative to the polytunnel, given that they are designed to blend in to scenery. What is more, Solar Tunnels provide similar flexibility to polytunnels – easily constructed, de-constructed and moved – whilst being more secure and less prone to irreparable damage. If rolled-out via “Farming Connect”, a Labour Government would be able to encourage greater use of High or Solar Tunnels in farming by helping to meet most of the costs in acquiring the knowledge and equipment necessary – other incentives may be required, but this is a good first step.

Over all, more needs to be done to show how the Party’s existing ideas apply to rural areas. Rural questions need to be answered and to do that we need to give policy a specifically rural dimension. And so we must ask: how will Labour ensure policies around businesses, skills and employment will be rural-proofed?

Prior to 2010, the office of the Rural Advocate and the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) did a lot of good work in ensuring the rural perspective was considered at all levels of Government and that detailed research in to rural problems was carried out. In a very unpopular move, even among the Government’s backbenchers, both the Rural Advocate and the CRC were scrapped in 2010 by this coalition government. An incoming Labour Government should re-form this office, but with an increased budget and slightly wider jurisdiction.

Another suggestion for ensuring the countryside is at the heart of Government policy development, put forward by a Labour member at the Labour: Coast & Country Conference, is for the use of Equality Impact Assessments – similar to those used in the Health service – on the basis of ensuring rural equality. Adding to Labour’s Agenda for greater devolution, with regional Ministers to safeguard regional issues and maintain even growth, Rural EIAs could potentially be utilised as part of that initiative.

Now is the time for the Labour Party to develop and promote a Rural Manifesto for the 2015 General Election. Only through an initiative of this kind will we be able to communicate the party’s ideas to rural areas, laying down the foundations of long-term prosperity in the countryside. Such a project not only holds the potential for a Labour Government to ensure rural areas are a place of opportunity and growth, but would also see us reach out to rural Britain in a way not attempted by Labour since the great Government of 1945.

This article was also published at:http://lfig.org/towards-a-more-resilient-sme-friendly-rural-economy/

Jack Eddy is Co-ordinator for Labour: Coast & Country and author of ‘The Proposal for Labour’s Rural Manifesto’.

@NorfolkJackEddy

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.

Delivering for coast and country to deliver a majority

Heartlands, 35%, core vote . . . most people in the Labour Party know where to find many of our voters. And yet when we have won the defining elections of the past 70 years, in 1945, in 1964, and in 1997 we have won with Labour votes and Labour MPs in seats like Hastings.

Communities of the coast and the countryside helped deliver a significant majority on each of those occasions, providing the platform for Labour to govern on our terms.

We will need them again if we are going to form a majority government in 2015. Within the Party’s 106 target seats more than 21, or one in five of these constituencies has a sizeable coastal or country element to the seat; and that’s without considering those seats such as South Swindon or Southampton Itchen where communities have close connections to their coast or country hinterland.

So even if you are happy to put aside the rural history of the Labour movement, and the Tolpuddle Martyrs; or ignore the implications of One Nation, there is an electoral imperative to hearing, reflecting and representing Labour on the coast and in the country.

Labour Coast & Country is one part of addressing that electoral imperative.

It is important to acknowledge and build on the work of others including those who have interrogated Labour’s so called “Southern Discomfort” or worked on the Southern Taskforce, or Third Place First. These have all helps focus on some elements of the challenge of representing non-urban Britain, or the organizing that’s required from members, CLPs and the Party centrally.

Labour Coast & Country (LCC) aims to add continuity and reach. The continuity will come from being a dedicated organization set up to work within and across the Labour movement, a sort of SERA for non-urban Britain. LCC will support Labour candidates and CLPs across non-urban Britain and campaign on the issues that concern the millions of people who live outside the major cities of Britain. After all Labour is on their side as much as it is those who live in cities.

And it is important to have national reach. While the local political response of people in coastal and community areas might vary from east to west the substance of many of their issues is the same. As a national party Labour needs to understand those issues to have any chance of crafting a political narrative and policy offer that will engage and deliver.

And we can do it, Hastings is just one example where Labour has succeeded, has delivered for that community and is well place to succeed again.

Labour Coast & Country is a growing network of activists from all parts of non-urban Britain, working together to promote One Nation Labour, to reflect the issues and opportunities of the coast and countryside and to help delivery the Labour representation these communities deserve.

Such Labour representation will deliver a majority Labour government and deliver for them, as well as our heartlands, the 35% and our core vote.

Hywel Lloyd | Founder Member, Labour Coast & Country

See more at: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2014/06/27/delivering-for-coast-and-country-to-deliver-a-majority/

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.