Southern Comfort – Bromley and Thurrock

10th April, 2012 9:14 pm

Shadow cabinet meeting in Bromley for first time and Bromley girl Rachel Reeves had some of us up at the crack of dawn to leaflet at Bromley South station. Ivan Lewis, Vernon Coaker, Emily Thornberry and I made the 0707 train with coffees provided by Rachel. Stephen Twigg sent apologies for running late but his train had been made a crime scene and wasn’t moving. Up there with the great “I don’t want to come out and campaign” excuses of all time, but actually true. He caught up with us later.

At Bromley South, we handed out leaflets to those going into London for work. There are some wealthy streets and large houses and no doubt self made business people who may think voting Labour doesn’t sit comfortably with their status in Bromley. But at Bromley South I met ordinary people, hardworking, who don’t define themselves as well off. A generation or two before were probably seen as working class. Many moved to outer London for cheaper housing to buy and the chance to better themselves. In parts of the North and elsewhere many of these voters would be Labour. We have to ask ourselves: “why not here and in other parts of the South?”

Interesting fact: famous Labour people from Bromley include H.G.Wells for whom the Bromley Labour Party HQ 7 Social Club is named after.

Later that day I was in Thurrock which we lost by 92 votes at the last election. We lost, the Tories didn’t win. Our PPC Polly Billington has built up a revived campaign team of members and candidates, including a lot of women from what I could see on the day. They are determined to regain the trust and support of Thurrock voters. With red balloons outside Benyon Primary School in Ockendon, we were very popular. Nothing beats a balloon to start a conversation with parents of young children. There’s something rather lovely that, in this materialist world we live in, balloons still have a timeless appeal. Lots of talk about changes to tax credits for working parents.

20120410-211322.jpg

Later, I do a digital interview with YourThurrock where we cover the Budget, Granny tax, jobs and climate change. These interviews are good to do, but there is always a danger that you do or say something and suddenly what was a local interview goes viral on YouTube. That didn’t happen today.

Since covering the energy brief I have become more sensitised to looking out for anything that is linked. Solar panels are a prime example and Ockendon does not disappoint – on homes and the local academy they are shining beacons to people power taking control of their energy supply.

Knocking on doors in the daytime the number of “outs” suggested a community still at work. Of course, we have to get people who are unemployed into work, but we also have to be alive to the concerns and insecurities of working people too. Many I met were worried that their children would not have the same opportunities and chance to earn a living as they did.

One mum I met had recently been made redundant. She was doing what she could to find work but felt immigration was a problem for British people trying to find work. I asked her why. At the Jobcentre she attends she sees language services for those who speak little or no English. “With money tight why are we paying out for this? If people want to work it’s their responsibility to learn English.” She apologised to me if she sounded racist. She echoed different but similar concerns raised by people recently made unemployed in my own constituency. The stories they’ve told me – of people leaving open cans of lager on the doorstep of the job centre before they sign on at 9am, and people bantering with friends about cash-in-hand work they are off to later – might not be representative, but we have to understand why they make people so angry.

Another woman I met thought that although Labour had done more than the Tories to support carers, it still wasn’t enough. She had given the best of her working years to caring for her mother. Since she passed away, the financial support she once got was no longer available, and she couldn’t find a way back into work. She couldn’t understand why people like her, who had done the right thing, had to struggle, while money was still being spent to support overseas development. This was a woman who keeps up with current affairs, likes watching Question Time and wouldn’t vote Conservative. She was instinctively Labour, but felt we should have done more for people like her.

Although Bromley is in London, and Thurrock is in Eastern region, the messages I got at the train station and on the doorstep echoed what I’d heard so far in the south-east. Thinking back, what all the people I met were really talking about was fairness. Too often in Government, when we talked about fairness, we were actually talking about need. Of course, a fair and decent society must always protect the least well-off. But for the people I met in Thurrock, Bromley and in my own constituency, fairness is as much about exchange – taking out once you have put in – as it is about need. They want fairness for “my family as well”.

We have to show we get what the public mean by fairness, and why issues like immigration, abuse of the welfare system, and even overseas aid come up in the way they do on the doorstep, even when we know they’re not to blame for the lack of jobs and growth. We politicians always see and reflect things on a macro level and will provide reasoned and rational arguments about why something happens in the way it does. In doing so, we comfort ourselves and sometimes delude ourselves. But most voters don’t see things like that. They see politics through the media and their everyday experiences. Too often have I met voters whose support for a political party was ruined by an encounter with a Government agency or council department. Unfair though it may be for political parties to be held to account because of the “computer says no attitude” of an official, we need to be in touch with those everyday incidents and be as interested in them as much as the big number stuff.

Any MP worth their salt will know what I am talking about. They go into bat for their constituents with a few staff up against organisations both public and private with thousands of staff and budgets to match. MPs have deserved a lot of their bad press in recent years but it shouldn’t cloud the real service they provide when no one else will listen. Some MPs and others say we shouldn’t do this work and stick to the national not local. But it is one of the most powerful, unwritten, strengths of our parliamentary system. The insight it provides and the connection between decisions in Whitehall and delivery in neighbourhoods should keep us grounded.

The same goes for Councillors – out of the Town Hall and into the shopping mall. Thurrock’s Labour Team is doing just that and what they and others hear is important for Labour nationally.

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

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]
  • Daniel Speight

    Those terrible Boys from the Blackstuff. You know if it wasn’t for the likes of Yosser Britain would be a far fairer place.

  • treborc1

     At Bromley South, we handed out leaflets to those going into London for
    work. There are some wealthy streets and large houses and no doubt self
    made business people who may think voting Labour doesn’t sit comfortably
    with their status in Bromley. But at Bromley South I met ordinary
    people, hardworking, who don’t define themselves as well off. A
    generation or two before were probably seen as working class.

    Who said New labour was dead, obviously Flint does not agree.

    The working class is dead long live Newer labour.

    The working class, the middle class think voting Labour is a big of a step to far love.

    • GuyM

      Thank god it was a day that I wasn’t going through Bromley South as I’d likely have chucked my breakfast at them all.

Latest

  • News Whatever happened to the Angela Eagle leadership launch?

    Whatever happened to the Angela Eagle leadership launch?

    There is now unlikely to be a challenge to Jeremy Corbyn until next week, following the postponement of Angela Eagle’s leadership launch today. Eagle’s campaign was scheduled to kick off this afternoon, but was put on ice following a series of events this morning. Sources close to her campaign say that this is a delay rather than a cancellation, and that she still intends to go ahead with a challenge to Corbyn. They claim the delay is caused by several […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Uncategorized Corbyn critics aim to recruit “army of moderates” to win new leadership contest

    Corbyn critics aim to recruit “army of moderates” to win new leadership contest

      Labour MPs opposed to Jeremy Corbyn hope to replicate the success of last summer’s left-wing recruitment drive and sign up thousands of new members who will back a centrist candidate in a fresh leadership election. A series of high-profile politicians and activists, ranging from Jamie Reed to ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell and novelist Robert Harris, have indicated support for Saving Labour, an online initiative which says the party requires “new, strong leadership”. The project, whose origins are uncertain, appears designed […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Smeeth calls for Corbyn to quit in favour of leader with “backbone” to tackle anti-Semitism

    Smeeth calls for Corbyn to quit in favour of leader with “backbone” to tackle anti-Semitism

    Ruth Smeeth today called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign in favour of someone with the “backbone” to tackle anti-Semitism after the Labour leader provoked anger among activists with his comments over the State of Israel. Smeeth spoke out after being harassed by a voter today at the launch of Labour’s report into allegations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the party. The angry voter accused her of “colluding” with right-wing newspapers and being part of a media conspiracy against Corbyn, Smeeth, […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Reynolds issues complaint to Labour HQ over claims of a “secret” group of McDonnell advisors

    Reynolds issues complaint to Labour HQ over claims of a “secret” group of McDonnell advisors

      Backbencher Emma Reynolds has issued a complaint to Labour headquarters over claims John McDonnell has set up a “parallel organisation” to develop party health policy. Reynolds, chair of the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) health committee, said it was “surprising and disappointing” that McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, had apparently chosen to work with the campaigners, who have served as recent members of rival political parties. McDonnell has “set up a secret group of advisers to help shape Labour’s stance on the […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour is not “overrun” by anti-Semitism but Corbyn sparks dismay over Israel comments

    Labour is not “overrun” by anti-Semitism but Corbyn sparks dismay over Israel comments

    The Labour Party is “not overrun by anti-Semitism”, according to the findings of an urgent review published today. The Chakrabarti Inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism was commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn in April, following a series of damaging rows which were sparked by the comments of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and MP Naz Shah. Corbyn today once again condemned all forms of prejudice but provoked anger with comments which appeared to compare the state of Israel to Islamist terrorists. The […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit