By Mark Nottingham
Although the general campaign could be anytime up until June 2010, the reality is that the campaign could start tomorrow. That’s why we are working in South Thanet now to re-elect the constituency’s best ever MP Steve Ladyman (majority 664).
Leadership comes from the top. Steve had a massive personal following in the seat from a decade of hard work and delivery. Everybody knows how hard he has worked for the new fast trains on High Speed 1 to London that will start operating in December. Not just fast trains, there is also a new depot at Ramsgate that has secured even more jobs for the future. Knocking up on election day is a pleasure, as person after person comes out to vote for Dr. Ladyman, and tells you what he has done for them, or their family, or how many times they have met him at local events.
Every evening he is at Parliament, Steve sends out key briefings from the day’s political activities to activists so we can campaign with the facts, write letters and rebut quickly in the lively local blogosphere. On Thanet Council 3 of the 19 Labour councillors are bloggers posting regularly. Does any other Labour Group have a higher proportion of bloggers? We bloggers are helped by local party activists, and fellow councillors with information and research.
When the Tories slip up by putting up election-style posters without planning permission, a blog, some press and local activists making complaints has the Tory PPC apologising unequivocally in days. So the Conservative candidate who wants to go to Westminster to make laws, does not even know his or her way around local planning law. Not ready for the job.
We also have a Tory Council that makes mistake after mistake, has a leader whom the Standards Board has condemned for misconduct, and who is in a financial crisis at a time when even nearby Tory Councils do not have the same problems and announce low increases in their budgets.
Local people live daily with a Council that fails to deliver despite the Labour government’s generous budget settlements. You may well remember the previous Tory MP, Jonathon Aitken. Local people do. Forget the criminal conviction.
The difference a hard working Labour MP provides is that Steve has delivered to build thousands of personal votes.
Steve Ladyman MP, by contrast, has regular packed surgeries, attends masses of constituency events, and kick started this New Year by emailing activists and offering to help councillors get their regular newsletters out. Living in the constituency provides insights that a parachuted-in, A-List candidate can never catch up with.
There is campaigning activity every weekend. Activists and councillors from neighbouring North Thanet come over for a traditional cooked English breakfast at 8.30 in a café and then it is knocking on doors, helping with councillors surgeries or delivering more literature. Some of our members who prefer it get busy on the phones. Other people start later if that suits them.
We feature in the Party’s ‘Key Seats’ guide as a one where we regularly hold social events binding together members, and bringing out more people who can help as well as raise funds for the campaign. We have excellent links with USDAW and their campaign team regularly comes to the constituency.
Thanet South CLP has packed General Committees where we have at least an hour of political debate at every meeting. We all enjoy talking politics, that’s why we come to the meetings. We recharge our political batteries with more knowledge to go out and explain what Labour has done and what we want to do. Left to right, we are united.
Our campaigning is integrated for the June elections, where we will have Ramsgate Town Council elections, and Kent County Council elections as well as the European Elections. Our County Councillors are also District Councillors and are rooted deep in the community. Our MEP, Peter Skinner, is known for having come down to every key by-election we have had for years.
Our Conservatives know the price of everything, but they do not how much people value our history. With more Georgian buildings than Bath in Ramsgate, history is all around us. So we will continue to petition on the streets when the Council tries to close the much loved maritime museum, so they can – surprise, surprise – sell it off.
We know we have a tough fight but on the doorsteps there are thousands of people for whom Labour has delivered locally: with new and rebuilt schools; new buildings at the local hospital; pensioners with winter heating payments; and tax credits that have assisted families. They acknowledge what we have done and we know we can offer them more. That’s what drives us on.
If anybody would like to come down for a weekend of seaside campaigning we’ll make you very welcome. Just get in touch!