My Radio Suffolk interview at 8am was cancelled – I’m not sure whether that is because my interview with Andrew Sinclair had already been used, or because they decided that I was too “on message” and wanted to find someone who would say something more interesting. I hope people don’t find my message boring, but if they do I’m afraid that’s just too bad. The fact is everyone gets a bit of a thrill from watching a fight, but I feel no desire to provide any ammunition for that.
Walking over “Leaflet Bridge”, which is the only way onto the conference plaza and hence ideal territory for the Morning Star sellers etc, I found myself having a really interesting discussion with a comrade I have known for many years selling “Labour Briefing”, followed immediately by one of my fellow NPF members, who I believe was a Liz Kendall supporter last year. I’m not about to drop friendships or alliances with Labour members who supported one or other Leadership Candidate – I define myself by being a Democratic Socialist and I always have done, not primarily an Ed Miliband supporter or a Robin Cook supporter or an Andy Burnham supporter, notwithstanding the fact that I did support all of those Leaders or potential Leaders and still have an immense respect for all of them.
We need to move on from all the animosity that arose during the election this year, and so I think Polly Billington, General Election candidate for Thurrock in 2015, got it spot on when dealing with a heckler at my 8am fringe (that shows real dedication to heckling!) – “Let’s stop talking about 1983 and 1997” she said, “We need to talk about 2020 and 2025 and the things that will matter to the voters then”.
That fringe was a bit sobering. We are currently losing the support of the voters not just for the Party as a whole but also on every single issue. There is virtually nothing on which the voters trust us more now than they did at the time of the General Election. And if we face election on the currently-proposed new constituency boundaries (which we will, to all intents and purposes) with 600 Constituencies, our threshold seat for an overall majority is Basingstoke – which currently has a Tory majority of 11 thousand.
What should we do?
Well, again and again we are being called on, from all sides, to show unity. I absolutely support that call.
Secondly, we need to stop defining ourselves primarily by where we stand within the party, and start defining ourselves by where we stand in opposition to the Tories and their cuts agenda.
We need to talk about the things that the Tories are cutting and about the things that Labour Councils are doing or could do if they were elected.
We need to be ruthlessly practical when it comes to discussing politics with any non-Labour people – they may want to hear us say how left-wing we are, but that doesn’t mean anything to the vast majority of voters, other than being “bad” according to the Mail and the Sun.
What they will support us on is not our theoretical political positions, but whether we are fighting for the Health Service or Schools or safe Care Homes.
There’s still a long way to go and there is a lot that we still need to do, but it’s a fight that we are ready for.
Suffolk Labour Leader, Sandy Martin