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.

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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.

The Country Tour, Day Two – The Midlands

A misty start in Gloucester soon gives way to sunshine as we head towards Worcester, to meet Labour’s candidate Joyce and her team. So much sunshine by 10am that sun cream is required before we set out to Charlie’s Cafe to meet members and local people to discuss local issues, not least flooding.

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Worcester has suffered serious flooding of the ‘once in a hundred years’ order – twice in the past decade, in 2007 and 2014 a flooding is a big issues for many local people including Mary Dhonau who has since been awarded an OBE for her activism to address the issues of flooding, flood risk and floor recovery.

A quick door knock later and off to Redditch to meet Rebecca Blake, to canvas the delightful village of Feckenham. Not only does it have an award winning volunteer run Village Shop, it also has plenty of Labour Stakes, put up by villages and a local farmer – A great sight!

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Promoting Labour’s love of local foods, a home-made pasty and BlackWatch Scotch Egg made for a filling lunch, then off to Tamworth and the campaign of Carol Dean.

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A canvas in the Fazeley area highlighted the importance of effective community engagement in securing good flood defence; the local community had been defended from flooding by a brook, yet surface water flooding continued to affect local streets after the lightest of rain – much to the irritation of local residents.

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Our last port of call was Litchfield with Chris Worsey. Again flooding is a local issue, here with a 200yr old dam that is at risk. After a good discussion of the local situation another hour saw 200 homes canvassed byan excellent team of well motivated Litchfield Labour people ! And, of course, Huw’s last contact saw yet another local resident come out and commit to voting Labour. Bring on May 7th.

Tomorrow High Peak and Rossendale,

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.

The Country Tour – day one – Gloucestershire

A glorious spring day, sunny with a gentle breeze, and lots of opportunities to meet with activists across the county.

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First stop Coleford to meet party activists in the Forest of Dean, including Labour’s PPC Steven Parry-Hearn, Baroness Royall, numerous party members, and other local activists including Free Miners and members of HOOF – Hands Off Our Forest – who had been instrumental in saving the public forest from being sold off earlier in this parliament.

A rousing speech, a wide-ranging Q&A and an opportunity to start the tour with a restatement of Labour’s commitment to the public forest staying public!

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Onwards to Gloucester to meet Sophy Gardner our PPC there, together with her colleagues and comrades – and the perfect chance to promote Labour’s Animal Welfare manifesto with local Animal protection groups. Followed swiftly by a good canvassing session in the Matson area of the city.

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The sunny weather certainly prompted quite a few conversations with the eight of us – including an introduction to the work of the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust.

The Trust have entered into an innovative partnership with the Westmorland family (who run the Tebay Service station in The Lake District) to create the new north-bound services on the M5 between Junctions 12 and 11. We had the great pleasure of being shown round a service station which is a real flagship for local produce, local recruitment, training and staff development, and engagement with its community. It looks and feels as good as Tebay, and even has its own butcher!

We would recommend it to anyone (and south bound opens soon).

Wednesday, and we will be off to Worcester, and further afield in the West Midlands.

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.