Labour- A Dilapidated Warehouse?!

I have been moved to respond to this article that was in the Guardian today – This is what The Guardian said today 14th December 2016

“At the last general election, 9.3 million people voted Labour. That number should represent the foundation on which a successful challenge might be built for next time. It looks more like a resource for other parties to plunder. According to one recent poll, only 69% of those who last year endorsed Ed Miliband back Labour now.

In a byelection in the Lincolnshire seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham last week, Labour slipped from second to fourth place. In Richmond Park the previous week, the Labour candidate lost his deposit. After attending local meetings for months, one supporter found an optimism and spirit of unity absent among the leadership.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaigns promised to create a dynamic social movement, shoring up traditional support while mobilising battalions of eager converts. Instead, Britain’s main opposition party resembles a dilapidated warehouse storing heaps of votes behind rusted gates, guarded by a drowsy night watchman. With a modicum of ingenuity, other parties can break in and help themselves.”

Here is my response to that article….

There is a lot of debate around the Labour Party Leadership nationally, and where we are going as a Party. Jeremy is unassailable as the Party Leader. There are those that believe in him and there are those that don’t. Eventually at the next election the Public will determine Jeremy’s future, if he doesn’t do so himself.

But for those of us that are in The Labour Party and in Local Government there is a duty incumbent upon us not to lose a vote, not to lose a supporter. We the Councillors who are the foot soldiers in every Parliamentary constituency, are likely meet more local people and residents in a week, than does any of our MP’s.

It is us that face the finger wagging, and the soft admonishment when in the queue at the Post Office or the Butchers. It’s us that have the residents speak to them when they have a chastisement to make about Labours actions or inactions. They often lean forward and say “when you see our MP”. Its us they tell when they are annoyed by a news story on TV that talks about immigration, or Brexit, Soft Brexit or No -Brexit!

The Public see us as the ‘gatekeepers’ of Local Services a conduit to MP’s and often they believe that a word in your ear is all that it takes! The schools, the foot paths, Bins, Parks, Social Care, and so on. Our role in Local Government is invaluable to the Labour Party, both locally and nationally. We do as Councillors need to be active, and we do need to lead where we can.

Now I am not going to sit back and be plundered for votes by other Political Parties, as the Guardian writer suggests will happen!. I am of the opinion “We Labour Councillors” need to be visibly active, modern, relevant to the neighbourhoods of today, and not just of yesteryear!.

Labour Councillors are as locally elected members influential and have a huge impact on whether we hold a Parliamentary seat, or gain a Parliamentary seat. Our work really does matter to the Labour Party nationally.

Labour Councillors are so well placed that the public tell us what they think of our Parliamentary performance, Yes and they also scare the pants off us when they tell us what they really think of our Local Members!

Councillors are very well placed to receive and interpret all these messages,that the public make.

My view is that if at national level the doom and gloom continues to spread across the media like the article in the Guardian this morning. Then the future of the Labour Party will continue to drown in despair.

Now I cannot make a jot of difference to the way that Jeremy picks his Shadow Cabinet, decides to manage his News, What subject he wants to visit Prague and talk about. I cannot have any influence on that at all.

L- R Councillor Rita Potter - Phil Bateman MP and  Mary Bateman MP, Labour. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix

L- R Councillor Rita Potter – Phil Bateman MP and Mary Bateman MP, Labour. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix

But here in Wednesfield North – Rita, Mary and I can have a great deal of influence on how our neighbours see us, how our electorate and community view us as Labour. Its in our Labour Party visibility as we try and transform our communities that is important. As we try and protect our communities from Government cuts, and as we play our role in the wider City Council, Its  as we argue for beneficial change in our City, that we gain respect.

As Local Councillors we have a duty to win our community and our electorates respect. Labour Councillors can build support, and if we perform our tasks well we can maintain The Labour Party credibility. Electoral support in the UK has to be won. People are very independent minded, they make their minds up on what they see, what they hear, what contact they have.

The Labour Party needs to understand at all levels we need to be able to communicate more and better. It’s no good doing great deeds, and telling no one about them! It’s no good not explaining what is taking place when we have to axe services, or do something unpopular.

The Labour Party locally and nationally need to understand that news is flashed around the World by electronic communications in minutes. We know about a battle in Syria , while it is happening, while it is taking place!

Our great news industry here in the UK with all its resources is struggling to turn out relevant news quickly enough to survive, in the face of the social media revolution.

Labour must realise, waiting and organising a printed newsletter then getting the delivery done, will put weeks maybe months on what was great community news feature. But when its finally delivered its old news, it is yesterday’s chip paper! Yet that is still what we tend to rely on to get important information out.

Labour and Labour Councillors really must recognise that we can reach thousands of people in minutes by using the social media. I know it is an unwanted intrusion for many elected members. But the World is changing. It isn’t standing still. Neighbours see a message on Facebook and they tell others. People without Facebook will know about your great news feature via the ‘grapevine’ before you have it in newspaper or leaflet form if it is in Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

In keeping the lock on the gates and stopping the plundering of Labour Votes by other Political Parties we need to as Local Government embrace change. Because Change  will continue to take place.

I intend to ensure that we do our real best as Local Councillors to ensure that the Labour Party and its core ideals are continued to be promoted effectively and with vigour. I just hope that we all in Labour in Local Government do the same. I am confident that in that way we will be relevant, and we will not be a Dilapidated Warehouse to be plundered just for votes!

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more