An invitation to leadership contenders – visit my ward in Barnet

Anne Clarke
© Victoria M Gardner/Shutterstock.com

In 2018, I was the only Labour gain in Barnet on a night which saw our awful Conservative council returned to power. The ward I represent, Childs Hill, is a three way marginal and an area characterised by its diversity. I would like to invite all the Labour leadership candidates to visit.

Most of the leadership contenders have acknowledged the work of local councillors and the need to rebuild the party from the local level. It is particularly important in wards like mine that we have a leader who will set the example and harness the community networks local councillors establish and nurture. At the heart of our movement are people who want better for everyone. We win when we have the trust of communities and connect with people as a party.

In the 19 months since being elected, I’ve helped establish new residents’ associations, helped grow the local community police panel and brought people together who share a passion for our community. I’ve supported campaigns from saving a GP practice from moving miles away and to keep our local NHS walk-in centre open, along with fighting for a better local environment and helping to empower the local community who deserve better from a massive regeneration project.

I’ve also used my councillor allowance to pay for food for residents in desperate financial need, fought alongside a dying mother for a better care plan for her disabled son and secured more suitable accommodation for residents living in horrific conditions. I’m doing all I can as an opposition councillor in a sea of Tories – but things will continue to get worse so long as the Conservatives are in power.

As the only Labour councillor serving a Jewish population over 15% in London, I see first hand the response to the antisemitism within the Labour Party. I don’t want to be told I’m brave ever again for visiting Jewish care homes, schools, synagogues, nurseries or even homes in the ward I serve.

As a councillor, the great joy of the job is celebrating with communities and fighting for residents; it’s hugs on the street and really getting stuck in when things are not going well for residents. It should never be comforting fearful residents as they cry in their own homes about racism in our party. I need to know that our new leader will do all he or she can to rebuild our relationship with Jewish communities, not for their votes but because it is a moral imperative, and utterly shameful if we do not.

This crisis in our party will not be solved at one house blessing in Golders Green or Shabbat service in a local synagogue alone, but it is a very good place to start. Our next leader will need to listen, act swiftly and value the Jewish communities as they would any other group. No matter how hard we work at a local level, we need the new leadership to get the party into a position where communities see us as fit to govern.

Being a councillor in Childs Hill, I remain struck by the value of meeting people where they are, and engaging in a way that is meaningful to them. We have so much diversity here – and it is vital that Labour never stops listening, or takes the votes of any individual or community for granted.

I believe there are valuable lessons that Labour can learn from what we have achieved in Childs Hill; about how to truly connect with people and bring people and communities together. I’d be delighted to welcome our leadership candidates here and exhaust them with my enthusiasm for the wonderfully complex area I represent.

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