The Constituency Labour Party has begun the campaign to elect a Labour MP. We have an excellent candidate in Caroline Kolek and weak competition (other than Farmer Neil and the impacted mass of Conservative voters who support him. Back to them later.) Of the remainder, I hear that neither UKIP nor the Greens will be contesting the seat, so we only have the LibDems to consider.
The LibDem candidate is Dr Matthew Wilson, an entrepeneur from Paignton. His doctorate is in Robotics and he runs “companies that support businesses providing networks that allow them to access new markets and support public sector staff such as NHS works by providing them with retail discounts.” Better than foodbanks, I suppose. Anyway, he is not local and has no experience of the problems of our patch, so Caroline has the edge there.
There has been some talk on the media of a progressive alliance of parties opposed to the Tory hegemony and putting up a single progressive candidate. Whatever the merits of this idea, the Labour party is against it; however there is nothing in the rule books about tactical voting. That being so, I invite all potential LibDem voters to vote for Caroline as the stronger candidate to give us the greatest chance of throwing off the Tory yoke.
What can I say. Well, the only crumbs of comfort I can offer are that the Poll was low and biased towards older voters (like me) who tend to the right politically (not like me). A general election should be less biased.
Anyway, we have to go on; but in which direction? Do we (a) fight our seat, (b)transfer our efforts to nearby marginal seats or (c) arrange strategic voting with other parties opposed to the Tories.
Myself, I am going for option (a). What do others think? Email to email@example.com
At the BLP meeting in Honiton (see below) the agenda was set aside in favour of a pre-election session for the Constituency. We heard that, owing to the very short notice of the election, there was not enough time for branches to select their own candidates so the NEC would do it for us. Sitting MPs and previously adopted candidates were automatically endorsed, but anyone else would need to apply to the NEC.
Our 2015 candidate, Caroline Kolek, told us she was too busy to stand again and recommended Henry Brown. Henry then told us about himself and answered questions. He would apply and the NEC would decide who would be the official candidate.
Sonce then we hear that Caroline has changed her mind and agreed to stand again, so she is our official candidate. I shall try to arrange for her to come to Seaton to bring the Labour light of reason to the benighted Tories here.
The latest polls show that popular support for the Labour Party is at a very low ebb. What can we do to change that ?
To my mind the dissension between the Leader and the Parliamentary Labour Party is the reason. Squabbling, plotting, briefing against one another – they look more like a disputatious rabble than a prospective government. Granted, the Tories are also deeply divided, but they keep it quiet: Labour plotters ensure maximum publicity for their quarrels, to the serious detriment of the image of the Party.
One argument is – change the Leader. We cannot change the PLP, so get rid of the person who upsets them so much and perfect peace and electoral gravitas will magically return. Of course, this has been tried already. A complete unknown was pushed forward – and resoundingly defeated by a membership vote. But contention continues and public support declines.
In any decision process the literature teaches us that a continuous battle takes place at various levels of our minds. The surface decision, ostensibly derived from rational analysis is deeply affected by unconscious and unacknowledged drives. To understand a decision we need to look at all levels affecting it.
An example is my own reaction to the EU referendum, in which I was a passionate remainer. I campaigned vigorously on the rational case (economic statistics) and totally failed to acknowledge my irrational emotional drives. As an immigrant from the cultural deserts of South Africa, Europe represented to me a wonderland of art and sophistication to which I now had open access. I was desperate to preseve that link whatever the economic statistics had to say about it, and however easy it might be to travel there after Brexit. At the time, all this was hidden from me in the flurry of the campaign. However, afterwards reading analysis by various commentators of the differing reasons for Brexit voting I eventually understood my own decision better.
So, how does this apply to Labour’s travails ? Why are so many members thinking differently from the PLP and the electorate as a whole ?
We in Seaton are part of the Honiton and Axe Valley Branch of the constituency party: the other branch being Tiverton and, I think, Cullompton.
There will be a meeting of our branch at the Three Tuns in Honiton on 19th April from 7.30 pm. I shall be training up from Exeter for the occasion: hope to see you there.
This morning I had coffee with a Seaton member of the branch. We talked about the development of the town, the iniquities of the Tory administration, the structure and personalities of the Constituency party – and what was wrong with the Seaton Virtual Labour Party.
My companion was a psychology graduate with experience in marketing and public relations. He felt our major failure was in communications, with members feeling isolated and uninformed. Social media presented the only avenue for contact; but it was important to avoid self-referential echo chambers, such as closed Facebook groups. This website needed promotion and user analysis.
I presented my idea of celebrity lectures and regular table-top events in Seaton to engage with the town. He felt this was of limited value to the younger members forming the great majority of new entrants to the Party – busy, as they were, with earning a living. They were also less troubled by the collapse of the NHS than older members (such as myself) and more concerned about more general political issues.
We then went our separate ways: he to apply to join the closed CLP Facebook group and me to install Google Analytics on this site.
These elections take place in May and, so far, no Labour candidates have appeared for the Axminster, Honiton or Seaton seats.
Anyone interested should contact the branch secretary at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. If no local members apply the slots are open to members from outside these constituencies; but such candidates will lose the advantage of local knowledge and recognition, both powerful advantages.
Today’s Observer had a gloomy editorial on this topic – as, I am sure, do most periodicals. Seeing it all together is undeniably scary, but be of good cheer: with social upheaval comes opportunity.
Indeed, it is arguable that social change requires disruption. I used to teach Change Management and one of my favourite theorists compared an organisation to a nest of snakes tangled together and frozen solid. Before the snakes could move to new positions the ice had to be melted, which required a powerful surge of energy from outside. Then when they take up new positions they could be frozen again.
In politics that surge usually requires revolution or war; but Brexit and Trump come pretty close to these in many respects. What we must do is persuade the snakes to slither into new positions while still warm. As the largest political party in Western Europe this must be within our capabilities.
On Saturday 3rd December I attended the demo in Exeter in favour of the NHS (may it’s shade increase). There was a fairly good turnout of sympathisers and comrades, clad in red, waving banners and delivering speeches. I met people of like mind and old friends from previous campaigns.
This was gratifying, but I was conscious of surrounding drifts of Saturday shoppers, not clad in red, passing by – in all senses of the phrase. Some took a leaflet on defending regional hospitals out of politeness, but otherwise did not engage with the protest activities, which bubbled along regardless.
Nelson Mandela (among others) pointed out that in politics it is not enough to talk to your friends; you already know what they think: you need to talk to your enemies. Here in Devon that means talking to the hordes of citizens who voted Tory, but remain citizens and potential users of the NHS. So, we need fewer self-congratulatory rallys and more public engagement events, like the Honiton conversazione on the Saturday before.
It is no secret that the NHS – the last precious bloom from the socialist flowering after the war – is under threat. The wicked, privatising bandits currently in government are slicing and scraping away at it to release private profit for their chums. Plenty of money to bail out bankers, but not enough to safeguard the health of the nation.
Our constituency party is gathering in Honiton High Street on Saturday morning from 1030 to 1300 to raise the citizenry by leaflet and example against this monstrous undertaking.
See you there?