If you checked out from political news over the weekend, or spent the last few days knocking on doors in key target seats, there is a lot of catching up to do. New Labour candidates were selected by panels to replace retiring or defected MPs in West Bromwich West, Jarrow, Dudley North, West Bromwich East, Bassetlaw (again), Derby North, plus deselection seat Birmingham Hall Green. Almost all offer surprising results or controversial ones, and they are well worth a read.
Why such a last-minute rush? Partly because many of the 21 retirees announced their decisions late – the latest being Keith Vaz, who has taken the opportunity to jump before risking an official push by the national executive committee (NEC). That means the next interesting contest is in the now-safe seat of Leicester East. Names being floated include Paul Mason, Katy Clark, Laura Parker and Claudia Webbe (who is from Leicester). The seat has one of the largest BAME populations in the country – and Vaz campaigned for the Bernie Grant Leadership Programme, so the panel may want to think about giving one of its graduates an opportunity.
On Armistice Day, Labour is focussing on two policy areas: better working conditions for veterans and mental health. Scrapping the public sector pay cap, providing decent housing for forces and their families, consulting on the creation of a new representative body, ending privatisation and ensuring better access to schools for forces children make up Labor’s five key pledges for the armed forces. Unfortunately for Jeremy Corbyn, any mention of defence policy means the conversation is soon side-tracked by questions over whether the Labour leader would press the nuclear button. Emily Thornberry has made headlines already by suggesting that the cabinet as a whole would take such a decision, which is certain to be reported as a sign of weakness rather than a general comment on Corbyn’s leadership style.
Welsh Labour is highlighting their Veterans NHS Service – the only one of its kind in the UK – which offers ex-service personnel priority care with their GP and particularly support to any experiencing mental health problems as a result of their service. Scottish Labour is promising a new social contract with veterans, including compensation for veterans of nuclear tests from the 1950s onwards.
UK Labour has announced that the party would introduce a counsellor in every school. Jeremy Corbyn and frontbencher Barbara Keeley are pledging an extra £845m a year for a ‘healthy young minds’ plan to ensure early prevention and mental health support. As the Labour leader says: “As a country, we have to start treating mental health as seriously as physical health. If we don’t help our young people, we are not only failing them, but storing up problems for the future for a whole generation.”Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.