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.  

Latest

  • Featured News Labour have been “in denial” about threat from UKIP, says Dan Jarvis

    Labour have been “in denial” about threat from UKIP, says Dan Jarvis

    Dan Jarvis has slammed Labour for being “in denial” about the threat caused by UKIP, in a new report published this weekend. ‘Reconnecting Labour’, which was commissioned by Andy Burnham in July as part of his campaign to become leader, looks specifically at how Labour wins back votes lost to the anti-EU party. Jarvis raises concerns that the EU referendum a new high-profile platform that could cause further problems for Labour. He says that Labour were too relaxed about the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Labour leadership contest: too much politics and not enough personality

    The Labour leadership contest: too much politics and not enough personality

    Our recent prime ministers were not elected to lead their parties following general election defeats, and there are many problems with electing leaders whilst on the rebound. One of the biggest is that everyone is still in General Election Mode, presenting manifestos rather than their qualities as a leader. Policies and ideas are not wedded to any one person – any candidate could institute a policy suggested by any other candidate. Having good ideas qualifies one for the top table, […]

    Read more →
  • Comment What lessons does Lynton Crosby have for Labour?

    What lessons does Lynton Crosby have for Labour?

    After May’s general election, it appeared everyone in the party who tweeted or blogged was sure they knew why Labour had lost. By some weird coincidence, these opinions always seemed to mirror the prejudices of the author. You know the type of thing – our policies were too right wing, our policies were too left wing, our policies were too centrist, etc. Not very enlightening. So, to get a more balanced view, I turned to Lynton Crosby. I appreciate that’s […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Labour is in “mortal danger” – “we need to save it again”, says Peter Mandelson

    Labour is in “mortal danger” – “we need to save it again”, says Peter Mandelson

    Peter Mandelson has argued that Labour is in “mortal danger” . In an article in the Financial Times (£), the former cabinet minister and Labour campaigns director has warned against a Jeremy Corbyn victory. If the Islington North MP wins the leadership election, “that would be a very bad outcome for anyone who cares about fairness in our society or Britain’s place in the world”, Mandelson writes. Mandelson has called for a tightening of the rules over the leadership election […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Attracting people who didn’t vote at the last election is key to winning in 2020, say LabourList readers

    Attracting people who didn’t vote at the last election is key to winning in 2020, say LabourList readers

    In recent weeks there has been building concern from some over who has been deemed eligible to vote in the leadership election. Under new rules, members of the public can sign up as party ‘supporters’ for £3, this buys them a vote in the leadership election. However, it’s been reported that some Conservative and other non-Labour supporters have been given a vote. Labour say they have a vigorous vetting process to weed such people out. Yet some Labour supporters and […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit