Luciana Berger is a strong, committed candidate for Liverpool Wavertree – others should join the campaign, not criticise
The fuss over the selection of Luciana Berger as PPC for Liverpool Wavertree is a storm in a very small, but enlarging, teacup. The storm symbolises Ricky Tomlinson’s pseudo-Scouse loyalty and the ‘regionalism’ of the prejudicial type; the teacup is our dear old collectively value-driven party.
Ricky is one thing, but one does wonder what drives Peter Kilfoyle to the local and national press on this issue. Admittedly, as the ‘mastermind’ of Blair’s leadership campaign, he may have a bitter taste in his mouth when he hears of up-and-coming ‘rising stars’. Peter has taken to backbench jeering in recent years and has told me so himself. But the student unions of Liverpool did not hold it against him when he failed to come sign a pledge asking him to “Come Clean” on fees as he promised, or when he didn’t turn up, as promised, to the NUS lobby of Parliament in November. Peter, if you want to sign the pledge committing yourself to supporting a fairer funding system, I have it ready for you. Ricky Tomlinson also said he would be in touch about speaking at our fees debate; he has still yet to send his apologies.
But this isn’t a critique of Peter Kilfoyle. Having a go at Government policy is one thing – Kilfoyle does it often enough and I have no doubt he generally means well – but to have a go at a recently selected PPC is unfair, particularly in this case. While myself and other students get out on the doorstep every week, many for Kilfoyle himself, he seems to think it’s OK to publicly criticise a candidate fighting to keep a key target seat for the Lib Dems in Labour’s column.
Students are a diverse bunch. The majority in Higher Education are part time, and almost a third here in Liverpool are over 26. They are not the stereo-typical 18-21 binge-drinking undergraduates. So it is unfair for Kilfoyle to criticse Luciana on the basis of her being what he calls a “student politician”.
Luciana’s experience outshone that of her opponents in the Parliamentary selection process – she has more than most people twice her age. Moreover, students represent 10% of the Wavertree constituency – that could easily swing the result here. Luciana is working hard to engage a cohort of society who often feel disaffected, and who vote proportionately less than other demographic groups. Yet she is criticised for it.
The assertion that she was selected merely on the basis that students supported her is a joke. For one thing, none of the other selection candidates ever approached us students for our support. If we therefore chose to support Luciana – who did ask for our support – that’s our prerogative. A few of us did get out on the doorstep for her in the run up to her selection, but surely other candidates should know that a selection, like a campaign, takes hard work, communication and organisation. Luciana worked very hard to get selected, approaching members who had never before been engaged in the local Party, and never previously spoken to a fellow member. Moreover, there were only a small handful – perhaps half a dozen – students who even voted in the selection. I have no doubt Luciana would have won whether students had campaigned for her or not.
These public outcries are not only unfairly damaging to the innocent individual – Luciana’s only ‘flaw’ is that she was born south of the Watford Gap – they are also unfairly perjorative of students. Imagine it the other way round. There’d be outage if remarks referred to any other group as if it were a homogeneous. Yet, some people within the Party think it’s perfectly acceptable to somehow blame students – who put hundreds of hours into Labour’s doorstep campaigning every week.
And on whether Luciana’s place on birth matters? Jane Kennedy, the incumbent MP here, wasn’t ‘local’. Luciana’s Lib Dem opponent Colin Eldridge certainly isn’t. Ricky Tomlinson hasn’t lived in Liverpoool for years, and he was born in Blackpool. People need to get over the post code obsession and realise that if Wavertree is going to put up a fight against the Lib Dems, we need the candidate who will fight the hardest. Luciana’s commitment has been proven during her selection campaign, as well as through her previous record within the NUS.
If we settle for second best for Labour, then the people of Liverpool Wavertree may well find themselves with a falky Lib Dem MP, and one who only signed NUS’s “Come Clean on Fees” pledge last week.
Most importantly of all, if we settle for second best in our Parliamentary selections, and if we split the vote at the election (that’s for you, Ricky), then we really will be handing power back to the Tories.