These local elections have proved to me why I joined the Labour Party. A party on the up, which has the answers to the issues people face and are seen as the trusted alternative to government rather than the opposition. There has been much made in the media in snap judgements of how good or bad these set of results mean for Labour and Keir Starmer and much of the early analysis seemed short sighted to me, now that the dust has settled, I think it is worth revisiting what the facts are.
There has been much talk that Labour has done well in London and struggled elsewhere. If we look at the London question, Labour did exceptionally well at not only convincing Tory voters in areas like Westminster and Wandsworth but also in “Red Wall” areas like Rossendale, Cumberland and places like my constituency: Bury South. In Bury South itself, the Tories have lost half of their seats with Labour making gains not only from the Tories but also the Lib Dems, including in some of the most Jewish wards in the country. Pilkington Park ward itself is 33% Jewish.
What this shows is the work Keir is doing on antisemitism is really starting to land and Labour is starting to be a safer place for British Jews. It also echoes and vindicates the decision I made in January and the message I sent Boris Johnson when I defected. The Tories are increasingly out of touch and if these elections were a referendum on Johnson, as suggested by many, then the message is clear: go! The numbers are even clearer still: we have over double the number of councillors that the Tories have and as we see most years, the Lib Dems always tend to do well locally but struggle to replicate that at a general election when people know that only one of two parties are likely to end up in No 10.
The wider question to ask is why so many people are deserting the Tories in their droves? Of those who voted Tory in 2019 but not on Thursday, 81% said the cost of living was for them the most important issue, with 65% saying that issues with the NHS, such as increased waiting times for non-urgent operations. The government’s failure to convince voters it is addressing the cost-of-living crisis has isolated a significant portion of its 2019 electoral coalition. This shouldn’t really be surprising when more than seven million adults were living in households that had to buy less food in April or had to miss a meal.
These are not wealthy, elite, establishment, dyed-in-the-wool Tories. These are desperate people that voted Brexit in the hope that they would be somehow taking back control and have been left wanting with things only about to get worse. The Bank of England announced last week that inflation is set to reach 10% this year as fears about an impending recession grow. The energy price gap will, as expected, increase in the autumn – which begs the question of why Rishi Sunak doesn’t seem prepared to either act on Labour’s proposal of a windfall tax on energy company profits, or even more needed, an emergency Budget to really give hope and help to those that need it most.
Locally, Labour has been leading the way with Bury Council having committed £1m to help with the cost of living with £570,000 support for children on free school meals and £240,000 for school uniform grants for those families struggling. These things aren’t necessities but the absolute bare minimum for any functioning society to have, and shows the ambition Labour has at a local level – and can take forward nationally.
Student loan interest increases, energy price increase, inflation up, Covid rule breaking, the Rishi Sunak’s wife claiming non-dom status, food banks at breaking point, a cruel and immoral immigration scheme and continued cuts to the foreign aid budget – is it any wonder the British people are looking to Labour as an alternative to government? That is what I believe these election results show.
We may have only six months until a general election gives us that opportunity to implement the change needed to improve people’s lives. Something it seems the Conservatives are either unable or unwilling to do. I have no regrets about defecting. I’d do it again tomorrow. We have a government bereft of leadership and the public can no longer be conned. A government for the moment is needed and I think the moment is nearly here.
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