Southern Comfort – Southampton

31st March, 2012 2:57 pm

Fresh on the heels of our trip to Reading and Slough, my tour of the south-east picked up pace last week with a visit to Southampton.

Delays on the Jubilee Line (#sackboris) might have raised our stress levels, but nothing was going to stop us catching the 09:05 train from Waterloo, or dampen our spirits. Joining me on the campaign trail this week were Julie Elliott, David Hanson, Kerry McCarthy, and Huw Irranca-Davies, as well local MPs John Denham and Alan Whitehead.

Southampton is another crucial battleground for Labour. Wining seats like Southampton Test and Southampton Itchen denied the Tories an outright majority at the last General Election. This year’s local elections are the most important in a decade. It’s the first chance people in Southampton will have to kick out the Tories who have run the council since 2008. 16 seats are up for grabs, and we must win 8 to deliver a Labour council. Whoever wins in May will face tough choices. But Labour Group leader Richard Williams is already showing how a Labour Council would be different. Unlike the Tories, who seem intent on provoking the council workforce and unions, a Labour Council in Southampton would be honest and up-front about the challenges they face, and work with staff and unions to take decisions in the smartest, fairest way possible.

A sunny Southampton greeted us on our arrival.  Our first stop was Sholing, one of the wards we need to win. We were joined by an army of local councillors and activists. Southampton Labour Group are on their fourth round of councillor contracts, which set out what the job and responsibilities of a councillor are. This has really helped to embed Labour councillors in the community and create a strong campaign force, and is a model for what we should be doing across the country.

Talking to people on the doorstep there was anger about the Granny Tax. A real sense of injustice that people who have played by the rules, worked hard their whole lives are now being forced to pick up the tab for this Government’s failing policies, while those with the broadest shoulders seem to be getting off scot-free.

After a quick sandwich lunch courtesy of Cllr Carol Cunio, we were back out again. While everyone else headed to Freemantle ward, I took the chance to visit Southampton’s District Energy Scheme with local MP Alan Whitehead. One of the details buried in the Budget was a cut to support for Combined Heat and Power Plants, which experts think could lead to half our plants closing down. It might sound a bit techy, but its impact on families and businesses already struggling with their energy bills could be hard-felt.

In Freemantle, everyone else was out on the doorstep, supporting our council candidate Dave Shields. Dave helped to recruit my husband Phil to the Labour Party at Kingston Poly in the early eighties. Thirty years later, Dave and Phil are both standing to become Labour councillors in May.

As the day drew to a close, the race to get the most Labour posters up in people’s windows became more intense. I wouldn’t describe myself as especially competitive, but I was happy to settle for a score draw for first place with Huw.

Leaving Southampton on the train from London, my thoughts turned to the importance of our coastal towns seaside constituencies, not just in the south, but across the country. From Blackpool to Brighton, and lots of other places in between, we lost ground at the last election. Seats like Cleethorpes, Dover, Great Yarmouth, Hove, Hastings, Morecambe and Lunesdale, Portsmouth North, Plymouth Sutton and Devenport, South Thanet and Waveney all fell to the Tories in 2010.  To win in 2015, we must win them back.

Our coastal towns and seaside resorts have a special place in Britain’s history, conjuring images of family holidays and beautiful coastline. But they must be more than simply attractive locations to visit – they should be great places to live and work, centres of entrepreneurship and incubators of new creative businesses. With their natural advantages, seaside towns should be at the forefront of the shift to a low carbon economy.

In Southampton, no one thought the Budget would do the local economy much good. But in coastal towns and seaside resorts, people are worried about other issues too. They tend to have higher levels of immigration, and their economies have large service industries, often with seasonal work and sometimes with low pay. We lost at the last election because people didn’t think we cared about the things they cared about, with issues like immigration, low-pay and welfare at the top of their list of concerns. To win in the south-east, and in our seaside towns across the country in 2015, we will put the issues that matter to the people we seek to serve at the top of our agenda.

Next stop: Thurrock.

Caroline Flint is Labour’s Regional Champion for the south-east

  • Jeff_Harvey

    Please consider resigning as an MP and standing as a Mayoral candidate à la your colleague Liam Byrne if the opportunity should ever present itself, Ms Flint.  


  • Comment Featured Now is the time to renew, not retreat

    Now is the time to renew, not retreat

    When the exit poll appeared on our screens at 10pm on 7 May, the floor gave way beneath the Labour Party. Like me, every candidate, activist and supporter across the country felt a sickening sense of disappointment and disbelief. It got worse than we all feared at that moment. We got a majority Conservative government. Since that fateful night Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise to the leadership has had a profound and far-reaching impact on the Labour Party, and on the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

    What is Momentum? It means not waiting until we’re in Government to get things done

    Labour is in opposition and I hate it. This week I’ve been in Manchester where the Conservative Party had their annual Conference. It would be easy to feel impotent watching the government crow over how they are “making work pay” while cutting tax credits that clobber the working poor. According to the trade union Unison, the Tory policy will see a teaching assistant with one child earning £16,300 per year lose £1,845.20 per year. Or announce “affordable starter homes” that […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s not enough to put equality into your speech, you need to put it in your legislation too

    It’s not enough to put equality into your speech, you need to put it in your legislation too

    Equality formed a prominent part of Cameron’s speech yesterday. I waited with bated breath for the end of his section on equality, expecting an announcement of some sort – something bold to help make tangible, real progress on tackling discrimination and achieving equality. As the applause died down, Cameron swiftly moved on to the next subject. This really does sum up the Conservative party on equality – all sound bites and no action. Equality is not just a buzzword with […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Jeremy Corbyn campaigners set up new Momentum group

    Jeremy Corbyn campaigners set up new Momentum group

    Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign have organised to set up a new “grassroots network”, called Momentum. The group plans to organise events, rallies and policy consultations, hoping to tap into the large numbers energised by Corbyn’s leadership bid, and begin campaigning on local issues and within Labour. They plan on Momentum nationally acting as an umbrella organisation for local groups across the country, encouraging people to join Labour and help build a party with the “policies and collective will” […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Has Jeremy Corbyn really snubbed the Queen?

    Has Jeremy Corbyn really snubbed the Queen?

    Today’s Telegraph front page runs with the story that Jeremy Corbyn has “snubbed” the Queen today by refusing to meet her. Corbyn could today have joined the Privy Council, which would mean him being given the title Right Honourable, but has had to miss the opportunity, citing “prior engagements”. The story has been widely picked up by other media outlets, and used as further proof that the Labour leader is unpatriotic. This follows Corbyn standing in silence for the national anthem […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends