Labour and the challenge from UKIP

ukipMany questions will be asked about UKIP and their impact on the political scene in the coming weeks, and what the implications are for the General Election in twelve month’s time,  particularly for Labour.

Its claimed that voters are looking for something new, something outside of the political establishment. UKIP is made up of many like Farage who are rooted in the Establishment, contested elections within the Tory Party for years, and whose ultra-conservative policies hark back to a golden era that never was, rather than a hope for a better future.

Voters still believe that the recovery isn’t benefiting them and their families, but the right-wing owned press is happy to persuade them that it isn’t the wealthy and their tax-avoiding multi-nationals driving the UK into a low-wage economy that are to blame. Instead it is migrants coming here in ever larger numbers, taking housing and benefits, whilst causing a disproportionate amount of crime. In fact net migration is static, migration has a positive effect on the economy, and the Eastern European crime wave is a myth. In fact, perceptions of the public on many of the issues on which UKIP campaign do not match reality.

Voters are told that UKIP “won” the local elections when they came fourth, that they are a new force in British politics when they have fewer MPs than the Respect Party (none) and fewer councillors than Plaid Cymru.

Overall Labour won more councillors on May 22nd than the Tories, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP put together. It gained well over double the number UKIP did. The Lib Dems and Tories did badly, yet the media claimed it was Labour that had performed poorly. Labour all but wiped out the opposition in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and elsewhere, with its best results in the capital for decades. Labour gains in Crawley, Cambridge, Hastings, Ipswich and other towns have been played down.

It is claimed UKIP have connected with the voters where others have not, when in fact they have very little in the way of a ground operation, relying instead on big donations to buy billboard posters and full-page newspaper advertisements.

Meanwhile on the doorstep it is harder than ever for any party  to connect with voters. Fewer read local papers than ever before. Leaflets get lost between estate agent and takeaway flyers, fewer people attend community meetings or are contactable by phone, the costs of direct mail are becoming prohibitive, and when voters are in and do answer the door, many are unhappy at being disturbed. All these factors can be overcome, but it takes time, hard work and money.

UKIPs policies would deny many voters workplace rights to maternity leave, sick pay and holidays built up over generations, and have them paying more tax for the privilege. However, beyond the EU and immigration most voters have no idea what UKIPs policies are. They are portrayed as being more honest than other parties, yet patently and demonstrably untrue claims about migration and the number of laws made by the EU go unchallenged.

Having given UKIP unprecedented exposure the media seem surprised at their “success”, and delight in saying what bad news it is for Labour, when half the UKIP vote comes from the Tories and just one in seven from Labour. A strong UKIP performance is far more likely to deny the Tories a majority than Labour. Unless they can focus more than 30% support in any one seat, as the Greens did in 2010, they will remain unrepresented in the Commons.

The polls have narrowed and UKIP have, for now, won some support from Labour. Yet Lord Ashcroft’s poll shows that where it matters – in the key marginals – Labour is well ahead and set to have a majority. Despite everything, Labour is still ahead. The results in the elections to the European Parliament, on a 35% turnout, are unlikely to be a predictor for next May’s General Election.

No one in Labour can take any vote for granted, and we should work to gain the support and trust of every resident based on good leadership, excellent community contact, and sound and realistic policies.

However we are up against a hostile media either defending some vested interests, or looking for something new, some drama and competition ahead of next May. Now we are also up against a populist party winning support on arguments that are false, policies that are uncosted, promises that are undeliverable. A level playing field this is not. Was it ever?



Can Labour win in Brighton and Hove? Part Two: Labour’s priorities for 2015

seafrontIn a year’s time the residents of Brighton and Hove will elect 54 councillors to run the city until 2019, in a time of unprecedented challenges for our local council.

The task of a Labour council under my leadership, if Labour wins the most seats on May 7th 2015, will be to restore confidence in local government in the city, to ensure the council gets the basics right, and to begin delivering the solutions on jobs, homes, schools and cost of living challenges that Brighton and Hove needs.

Getting the basics right is vital if we are to win back the trust in our local council that the Greens have squandered. We will listen to residents and work with them and their communities, our communities, not impose the solutions we think best as the Greens have done. Satisfaction with the Green council stands at under 50%. Labour in Hackney has taken resident satisfaction levels with the Council from 23% in 2001 to 74% last year. Labour in Brighton and Hove want to do the same.

As one of our first priorities, during our first year we will ensure that rubbish is collected, that streets are kept clean and that recycling levels begin to climb again. Less recycling is collected now than in 2007, and Brighton and Hove is recycling less than half the waste of most similar cities. This must change. Residents expect their refuse and recycling to be collected, and their streets cleaned; the most basic and universal of services people expect in return for their council tax.

Brighton and Hove has weathered the recession well but too many people are in jobs that don’t use the talents they have, or are in jobs that don’t give them the pay and security they need to get on the housing ladder or avoid falling into debt. We will promote the creation of jobs paying the Living Wage or more in all parts of the city and all sectors of the economy, not just the city centre. No young person should be unemployed for more than a year; we will help meet the commitment made by Ed Miliband that a Labour government will provide jobs and training for people under 26 and out of work.

Labour will work with communities, developers, tenants, landlords and other partners to deliver more affordable housing. It is not right that the city has dropped into the bottom ten places for new housing starts under the Greens. We want to make sure that fair rents and decent, affordable rented accommodation are within reach for those that need it in the city. Labour has pledged action on this that will benefit thousands of private sector tenants in Brighton and Hove. Homelessness in our city is simply unacceptable, and a Labour council will do whatever it can to help people off the streets and into secure housing.

The demands and rising costs of social care are a challenge for the city, and Labour will not shirk it’s responsibilities to the vulnerable residents who rely on care services the council provides. Working with partners in the NHS we must ensure care focuses on the person.

We need schools providing enough places, enough choice and the highest standards of education for our young people. We will end the political games played by the Greens and the Conservatives with our schools. If elected Labour will strive to ensure children are taught in excellent schools where staff are valued and qualified, and the potential of every pupil is brought out. The new strategy announced this week is a way forward we support.


Council funding is being cut by tens of millions, but Labour councils around Britain have shown that local services can be protected and run in a financially responsible way, and we will do that here. A responsible council, delivering the basics, focussing on jobs, homes and schools, and helping those that need it most; that is what Labour will seek to deliver for Brighton and Hove.

A recent local BBC poll put Labour in the city on 38% of the vote, the Conservatives on 24%, and the Greens on 21%, so Labour is best placed to get the Greens out next May on the same day as the General Election. (UPDATE: Labour came top in the European elections in the city, winning well over 20,000 votes – up from 9,000 in 2009 – and beating the Greens into second place, with the Tories some way back in third.) So Labour can win, but that victory must be earned. We will show, in the coming twelve months and in our election manifesto, how we will achieve these goals and why we deserve the trust of residents to run the city.

Our candidates and volunteers are knocking on doors across the city every day listening to residents and sharing thoughts and ideas on how to get our city back on track. You can have your say via