Introducing “Labour: Coast and Country”

23rd November, 2012 2:03 pm

One Nation – Our nation, the nation this Labour generation seeks to represent and to serve, is a complex and varied place, stretching from coast to inner city, from wooded glade to urban park, from ports and estuaries to high-rise flats and terraced houses.

One Nation Labour is a powerful statement of a Party seeking to acknowledge, understand and to try and address the issues and opportunities of all of these places, and of each of their communities.

Sadly the Labour Party, and sometimes the wider Labour movement can be a bit stereotypical about those parts that we frankly don’t often reach – the market town, the village, the farm, the fishing port, the coastal resort…

History shows that in the momentous elections, 1945, 1997 where Britain faces a profound choice we have won these sorts of constituencies.

There is talk of the profound choice that will face the British public in 2015 – can we, again, engage, understand and address the issues and opportunities of those places we don’t often reach?  If we can, our ambition to be One Nation Labour will be realised with a powerful majority.

A good starting point is the policy review, another is these very communities and the many Labour members and Labour supporters that are at their heart.

I would set every member of the Shadow Cabinet the gentle challenge of describing their ambition for Britain, and any emerging policies as if they only applied to the communities living in the Counties of England.  Of course, contrary to the view of some London-based party members, next year isn’t a year off from electioneering, as it will see County Council elections.  In the corresponding elections in 2009 we didn’t do well: our momentum towards 2015 depends on good results next year.

If I were being more challenging I would ask the Shadow Cabinet to describe what their policy would do for people who live a market or coastal town, or in the ancient or planned countryside; what a policy would mean for those whose only means of transport, to get to work, school or any shop is a car that’s a bit long in the tooth with poor mpg; or the impact we would hope to have on the lives of those who can’t afford to live in the village where they grew up…

Thoughtful politicians will have good answers to these questions that show we have listened to real people in a great variety of places, understood their needs and come up with something that could work for them, in other words One Nation policies.

Some might say that we don’t really need the votes of people who live in such places – I would beg to differ.  From an election perspective we need a good showing in the County Council elections only months away.  More importantly a robust narrative that shows we value our villages, our fishing ports and our market towns will be a better narrative for anyone who might vote Labour.

Such a narrative would show we value those people and communities who live and work on the land and the sea, who create and manage our landscapes, who produce quality food for us to savour, and whose lives are lived over miles not meters.  And care for them as much as we value the produce and benefits they offer.

Many people will know of a beautiful Ash tree, there are thousands.  I know of one on the crest of a hill near the Brecon Beacons.  While we value it, the scene it enhances, and are rightly fearful of Ash dieback; we must also understand and value the sheep farmer on whose land it grows, the agricultural worker who tends the sheep and cuts the hay, and the men of the abattoir who bring the lamb to our table.  They are as important to that view as the Ash tree.

If, like me, Jim, Jonathan, Mark and Sally you feel the policy review must engage, understand and support these communities and address their issues properly then join us, the founder members of Labour: Coast and Country.  We know that understanding the issues of the people of the orchards of Suffolk, the coast of Dorset, the Dales of Yorkshire, the pit villages of the North East and the meadows of Carmarthenshire can ensure we can win in 2015, as One Nation Labour.

Hywel Lloyd, a Founder member of Labour: Coast and Country, was previously an advisor to the Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP and the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP.

This piece was commissioned as part of Jon Cruddas’s Guest Edit of LabourList

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

  • AlanGiles

    Good God it gets ever more desperate. Not only after the Green vote, but those in peril on the sea. Perhaps there should be a special One Nation Potholers Group too, to take care of all bases. That just leaves the sky …..

  • NT86

    There’s still Labour representation in coastal/semi-rural parts of Cumbria and I believe Derbyshire to an extent (the NE Derbyshire constituency). They lost seats in Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and several in Derbyshire in 2010 though. The problem is that Labour in government wedded itself to London far too much. Countryside and rural folk felt patronised by this urban metro-centric mentality.

  • TomFairfax

    It’s a start. A lot of good points, but I wonder if this article is really targeted at rural people or fantasists living in cities who believe in something off of one of John Constable’s paintings.

    Key issue is that every time a politician goes on about choice in schools, or hospitals, or doctors, or anything else, they mean choice for people in large towns and cities.

    The wealthy already have a choice, they pays their money and makes it. There’s no choice when the option is the facility that’s already there and supported by a bus route, or nothing.

    As for the descriptions of our country, I’m almost tempted to ask whether the author knows what his talking about, save for the Brecon Beacon’s bit which he’s clearly familiar with.

    Suffolk has lots of Corn (translated as wheat for Americans) and Barley fields. Even an abundance or pigs. Most of the orchards I know were ripped up years ago, I’m afraid, though there are enough to keep Aspal in cidre and James White in business. Capella might still be going as well. Not sure about Dan Neuterboom. Heard they’d closed, which is a shame for the people who brought the Discovery apple to us.

    Biggest obstacle is the perception of Labour due to Foot and Mouth and the hunting with hounds issues. Neither affected Suffolk particularly, but the mood music these created was abysmal. As was the bigotted approach John Prescott took to complaints about rural bus services being cut back (seemed he thought that only the wealthy who chose to do so lived in the countryside).

  • TomFairfax

    It’s a start. A lot of good points, but I wonder if this article is really targeted at rural people or fantasists living in cities who believe in something off of one of John Constable’s paintings.

    Key issue is that every time a politician goes on about choice in schools, or hospitals, or doctors, or anything else, they mean choice for people in large towns and cities.

    The wealthy already have a choice, they pays their money and makes it. There’s no choice when the option is the facility that’s already there and supported by a bus route, or nothing.

    As for the descriptions of our country, I’m almost tempted to ask whether the author knows what his talking about, save for the Brecon Beacon’s bit which he’s clearly familiar with.

    Suffolk has lots of Corn (translated as wheat for Americans) and Barley fields. Even an abundance or pigs. Most of the orchards I know were ripped up years ago, I’m afraid, though there are enough to keep Aspal in cidre and James White in business. Capella might still be going as well. Not sure about Dan Neuterboom. Heard they’d closed, which is a shame for the people who brought the Discovery apple to us.

    Biggest obstacle is the perception of Labour due to Foot and Mouth and the hunting with hounds issues. Neither affected Suffolk particularly, but the mood music these created was abysmal. As was the bigotted approach John Prescott took to complaints about rural bus services being cut back (seemed he thought that only the wealthy who chose to do so lived in the countryside).

  • TomFairfax

    It’s a start. A lot of good points, but I wonder if this article is really targeted at rural people or fantasists living in cities who believe in something off of one of John Constable’s paintings.

    Key issue is that every time a politician goes on about choice in schools, or hospitals, or doctors, or anything else, they mean choice for people in large towns and cities.

    The wealthy already have a choice, they pays their money and makes it. There’s no choice when the option is the facility that’s already there and supported by a bus route, or nothing.

    As for the descriptions of our country, I’m almost tempted to ask whether the author knows what his talking about, save for the Brecon Beacon’s bit which he’s clearly familiar with.

    Suffolk has lots of Corn (translated as wheat for Americans) and Barley fields. Even an abundance or pigs. Most of the orchards I know were ripped up years ago, I’m afraid, though there are enough to keep Aspal in cidre and James White in business. Capella might still be going as well. Not sure about Dan Neuterboom. Heard they’d closed, which is a shame for the people who brought the Discovery apple to us.

    Biggest obstacle is the perception of Labour due to Foot and Mouth and the hunting with hounds issues. Neither affected Suffolk particularly, but the mood music these created was abysmal. As was the bigotted approach John Prescott took to complaints about rural bus services being cut back (seemed he thought that only the wealthy who chose to do so lived in the countryside).

    • Hi Tom, thanks for this. Trust me, we understand where you’re coming from. The perception of Labour that you’re talking of will only be changed when Labour changes its approach to the countryside, and to do that we need more people within the party to understand it. That’s in part what this group is about. For too long Labour’s view of the countryside has been to look down its nose at the way of life. Being from a rural community in Yorkshire (with strong links to a rural North Wales community too), I know as well as anyone the long journey we have to go on, especially as there are many people from larger towns/cities who think they understand the countryside, but really do not. But the journey is worth taking!! The more people from rural backgrounds we can get to be involved in this group, the better. So please do get involved if you wish. It sounds like you’d have something to contribute.

      • TomFairfax

        Hi Jonathan, Thank you.I took the liberty of replying on the ‘Interested?’ link from the blog site you’ve set up for this yesterday. The problem is that numbers count in decision making. How to build those numbers so that the people taking decisions feel the need to pay attention is I think important.

        • Great news! You’re right. Part of this campaign is to organise those within the party who understand and feel passionate about rural and/or coastal communities. It’s also about finding ways of bringing new people into the party to boost those numbers and utilise their expertise in policy making. I think Mark is handling the responses to the website, so I’m sure you’ll hear from us soon – but great to have you on board. J.

  • Hopefully this will be more successful than the Conservative Cooperative Movement.

  • Nowhere should be off-limits. Indeed, many coastal areas are now marginal – Morecambe, Hastings, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, and of course the coastal cities.
    But lets be realistic. We are not about to win Bournemouth. Neither will we storm North Yorkshire’s huge rural village seats, or Penrith and the Border. It is very important that we encourage a presence, though, in particular standing in council elections when possible. When we don’t do that we simply remove ourselves from the public consciousness and allow it to become a Con-LD contest

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