How did the Left get it so right in Canterbury?

At midnight on 9th June, a thunderstorm was rolling over Canterbury in Kent. This is not a metaphor. There was a literal thunderstorm. Something was changing in the air.

Beneath the thunderstorm, under the roof of the Westgate Hall in the city, something was changing too; for the first time in 176 years, the constituency seat was about to be won by someone who wasn’t a Conservative. Rosie Duffield MP, ended Julian Brazier’s 30-year stint as the representative for Canterbury, winning for the Labour Party with a tight 187-seat majority. No battle buses have ever visited Canterbury; no big politicians ever mentioned the constituency; everyone in Westminster seemed to have forgotten Canterbury even existed. This wasn’t a drive from Labour central office to take a seat but something stirred in the local waters off Whitstable’s Estuary coast; the people were demanding a change.

LeftCelebrates

So what happened in Canterbury, and in a night of ups-and-downs for all political parties, how did the Labour Party get it so right in this traditionally blue enclave of Kent?

  1. The Students Mobilized.

Canterbury is a university town. There are three universities there: The University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, and the University for the Creative Arts. The demographic has changed quickly over the past decade as the universities have expanded. Rumours on election night were that registrations of university students in the town were around 8000+. This was, in huge part, thanks to the amazing efforts of the Labour groups at those respective universities. Scores of young Labour members cheered and supported their friends and peers into registering. The mood in the Canterbury Labour Students’ camp was always ebullient; they knew something the rest of the town didn’t…yet.

The Labour manifesto offered great promises for students. Many of whom, after the betrayal and then abandonment by the Liberal Democrats, took the sunny rays of promise where they could find it. It wasn’t just the promise to abolish tuition fees though, it was (as the BBC says) the fact that Labour offered ‘them some positive politics and a little passion’. The Conservatives clearly forgot that happiness sells.

  1. Painting the Towns Red

There were two key towns in this constituency, Canterbury and Whitstable. A drive around either in the weeks leading up to the exam would have tricked any visitor into thinking this was a Labour stronghold. Teams of sign distributors took to the streets, even having competitions amongst themselves to see who could erect the biggest banner. All manner of houses (sometimes even including manors) had Labour signs outside. This was a constituency that put two fingers up to what people expected. If people wanted a sign, they got a sign. If you lived in a two-bedroom terrace you put a sign up, and if you lived in a ten-bedroom Georgian townhouse, you put a sign up. Being a Labour supporter in Canterbury is nothing to do with class and everything to do with passion and conviction.

  1. The Local Labour Party Dominated Social Media.

The local Labour Party campaigners really took it upon themselves to dominate the internet. Their e-savvy candidate Rosie Duffied, was happy to be photographed everywhere and with everyone. She used social media to reach those who couldn’t make the rallies or the street stalls, individually messaging lots of people through social media who expressed confusion about Labour’s ideas on various media platforms. She took the time to speak to all of those with questions and doubts, both in real life and electronically.

Furthermore others in her campaign team ruled the internet. There was a snappy local website, a score of people on local Facebook groups quick to the button with Memes, quips, good humour and advice. There were YouTube videos of Spoken Word poetry, videos of Rosie up and down the constituency and pushes on Twitter and Snapchat too.

  1. They Didn’t Give up on Good Old Fashioned Door Knocking

Yes, not everybody likes it. But you must admit there is something charming about knowing that your local party care enough to trudge around in the rain, knocking on your door and asking for your vote. If they are prepared to get bunions, they probably passionately believe in what they are ‘selling’.

DoorknockLabour

The Canterbury and Whitstable Constituency Labour party split into ward teams, often with up to 10-15 members per team. There were daily targets of streets, identified as possibly sympathetic or interested in Labour’s agenda from the 2015 data. There was a systematic, well-manned campaign, run by an organised central team of incredibly capable and business-like local party members.

  1. They Dressed Up

Labour looked the part on polling day. Everyone got the memo: ‘Smart with at least a smattering of red’. Labour representatives on polling stations wore jackets, fitted dresses, rosettes and sometimes (thanks June!) real red roses. They looked like winners, even if they never truly believed they would be.

  1. First Timers Got Involved.

Lots and lots of people volunteered to help out with the campaign even when they’d done nothing before. The turnouts at local Labour political meetings had been steadily rising for 10 years now and those numbers all translated to active feet and active minds when it came to campaigning season. This win began at least a decade ago.

That said, in Canterbury and Whitstable lots of new members and sometimes non-members joined in with specific tasks. Some mums formed a team to hand out flyers about proposed Tory spending cuts to education outside the school gates; some people were just delighted to be the honorary ‘Board Deliverer’ of the town, armed only with a van and a mallet. Some people were delighted to be the lucky bartender in town who got to pull a pint of ‘Red Rosie’ – a beer named after their candidate available in Whitstable. Everyone seemed to have a job.

  1. The Candidate and the Jez Effect

Last, but by no means least, Rosie Duffield was also an ideal candidate. Humble, kind and unassuming. She is instantly likable, a ready made best-friend to all, with none of the frostiness that Tory lady candidates (Teresa, Amber…) often show. Rosie was perfect combination of enough wisdom to have credibility and enough energy to campaign all the way to Westminster and beyond.

Rosie

Rosie was also  honest with her voters about her own beliefs, even when the material wasn’t in the Labour Manifesto. She was honest about supporting Proportional Representation; a passionate Remainer, she was honest about wanting a much, much softer Brexit; she was honest about the fact that she didn’t agree with 100% of the Labour Manifesto. Sometimes 80% is enough. People respect you for your honesty; after all, no-one is a robot, swallowing a document whole.

The Jez effect also had an effect on the result too of course. People want to embrace new radicalism; it has an energy about it and as the New Radicals put in their famous song, ‘You Get What You Give’. The problem with Teresa is that she has forgotten that people want to see and hear their candidates these days. You need to literally run and sing for your supper. Jeremy and Rosie have run a marathon. Willingly.

Corbyn Running

So that’s what happened in Canterbury. Perhaps the UK can learn a few lessons from this forgotten corner of East Kent. Perhaps the battle buses will be here next time? With a small majority of 187, Canterbury and Whitstable are going have to enjoy fighting, whenever the next time might be.

What Could the Cost of this Snap Election Have Bought Us?

This post is simple. Simple maths.

This snap election that Teresa May called is costing £116,650,000 from public funds to administer. On top of that the parties combined will likely spend a further £40,000,000 of their own funds on campaigning, propaganda, printing and rosette-making.

Do you know what we could have done with nearly ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY MILLION POUNDS?

We could have:

A. FED ALL THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILDREN IN BRITAIN FOR A MONTH.

schoolchildrencanteen

Lunch cost around £2.10 for two courses for each student. Times that by the current number of primary school-aged children (around 4.7 million). That covers the whole of the month of October for school lunches!

B. COVERED THE COST OF DEMENTIA CARE FOR NEARLY 4000 PEOPLE

Dementia

The average cost of the care per annum for a person with Dementia is £32,250. If Teresa May hadn’t called the election, funds would have been enough to cover the cost of almost 5000 vulnerable people’s care until mid-2018.

C. BUILT A BRAND NEW HOSPITAL

New Hospital

The cost of the Whitehaven Hospital was 90 Million pounds in 2015. Even allowing for a little inflation and costs of equipment, this should leave enough money to spare to staff a hospital for three years. We could have had an extra or new hospital instead of an election. Just when they are closing existing provision such as the Urgent Care Unit in Canterbury, Kent.

 

D. SENT EACH HOUSEHOLD IN THE UK A BOTTLE OF PROSECCO.

CANTI PROSECCO

There are around 26 million households in the UK. The current price of a bottle of Canti Prosecco at ASDA is £6, currently reduced from £8.98. We could all have a bottle, with some change to spare. There’s something to think about; perhaps people would have preferred one of these on their doorsteps, rather than a polling card…

Happy voting tomorrow everyone!

London Bridge (‘Build it Up’)

In 1014 King Olaf of Norway, failing to land in Danish-occupied London, fastened ropes around the pillars of London Bridge and, sailing away with the incoming tide, pulled the bridge down.

Early 20th London Bridge

Recalling this incident is the nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’; the rhyme has spanned the centuries far more effectively than any memory of King Olaf himself; a timely reminder to those who pursue the course of Islamic Fundamentalism that ideologies fade far faster than cities. Their twisted form of Jihad will be left, Ozymandias-style in the ‘lone and level sands’ of time. Indeed, there used to be a sundial on the old Medieval London Bridge that bore the engraved motto, ‘Time and Tide stay for no Man’; perhaps ISIS would do well to remember that the next time they think about trying to spread the ideals of their warped Caliphate.

London Bridge 2

It is important to note that despite the title, ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’, the most oft repeated phrase in that nursery rhyme are the simple words, ‘build it up’. The call to ‘build it up’ comes twelve times in the traditional verses of the rhyme, becoming a mantra of renaissance and resistance. And after each successful assault on London Bridge and its people, Londoners have indeed ‘buil(t) it up’. Today’s bridge, completed in 1973 and deemed ugly by most architectural standards, stands on the site occupied by at least ten predecessors bearing the same name. The simple message is that Londoners always build it up again; any assault against the beautiful thing, which is itself a design of unity, spanning and joining two sides whilst refuting the tides that batter her banks, will be pointless. Many metaphors can be read into the beauty of a bridge and here the bridge becomes the heart of a multicultural, all-spanning London and all her myriad Londoners.

Heads on London Bridge

London used to display the heads of traitors on the bridge too. Many lifeless eyes have gazed out from London Bridge onto the city their tried to destroy (sorry William Wallace, Thomas Cromwell, Guy Fawkes et al). Those dead eyes would ‘see’ the opposite of the poet Coleridge’s ‘mawkish sensibility’ when he too gazed from the bridge; they would see resistance, determination, and the fierce heart of the city, which burns against all who would seek to destroy her. “Build it up. Build it up. Build it up…” London always sings; only the foolish don’t take heed.

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Finally The Shard, the UK’s tallest building which overlooks London Bridge, was designed to represent many things: the church spires that dot the London landscape; the masts of the ships that once rested in its docks and finally, the hope of all humanity, reaching to skies, looking to better itself, like a giant finger pointing to the sun. Today it sits, framed by London Bridge hospital; it is another symbol, in a city of symbols, of the enduring power of hope, and of London’s ability to pierce the clouds that threaten it.

First 2017 Election Interview with Mr. J. Brazier Esquire.

Oh Goodie! I do like a good old General. Election that is… Nothing like those piles of paper to warm the blood. Little mountains of votes, just for me and my mountain is always the tallest of the mountains. I am an Everest amidst a sea of hillocks.

conservative-party-rosette

‘Hillock’, I said. You clearly misheard.

Anyway, good old May (Tezza to her chums) has said that she also fancies a bit of a General, so off we go. First past the post, reigns to the ready, Whips whipping what they need to whip.

You see, I hail from Canterbury. That’s where I reign. The thing about Canterbury is that even if I beat a small scraggy child in the street, said I supported the ambitions of Kim Jong-un and mowed over an old lady with my motor, they’d still elect me. Fools.

[What’s that Kate? Of course, I’d love a bit of crumpet. Yes, the more butter the better. Layer it on.]

Policies? Not a clue sorry. Next question.

Retire? Never. When I see the pearly gates, I’ll hand in my notice. Next.

Opposition? Ha. Well, Labour did come close once, but those were the dark days, you know… [shudder] Blair. I suppose if they really did their act together and form some sort of alliance with those Liberal Demo-prats and Greenies, they might just mount some sort of challenge, but even then, I’m pretty sure I’d romp home.

‘Romp’, I said. Do you enjoy romping? What do you mean that’s an inappropriate question?

Anyway, must go. Got to dust off the rosette and take off my slippers. Kate! Kate, can you help me pull of my slippers. Always nice to have a woman to hand, if you know what I mean [snort].

Toodle-pip.

See you in 2022.

[Warning: Mr. J. Brazier is a fictional creation. Any similarities to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental]

Last Rites for Kent’s NHS

A&E provision in East Kent is among the worst in the country. Not only have the closure of Emergency Departments in Dover and Canterbury left outlying communities with a potentially 40-minute drive to their nearest A&E, but recent figures released also show that poor consultant provision and huge waits that welcome the injured when they do arrive.

Ambulances struggling to cope with winter illness

Each time that LabourMum checked online to ascertain the current waiting times at East Kent A&Es (checking 8 times in the past week), William Harvey Hospital in Ashford was posting waiting times of ‘Over 4 Hours’. Even with only 10 patients in A&E in Ashford, a new arrival would typically have to wait over 4 hours.

More scandalously, figures released recently in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that the A&E department at William Harvey Hospital was without any consultant provision during ordinary working hours Monday-Friday for a total of 250 hours in 2016. This means, there are an average 5 hours in every Monday-Friday week where you could turn up to A&E to find absolutely no consultants ready to help treat you.

busy-ae

Reviews of William Harvey A&E care in January on www.nhs.uk show that some vulnerable patients have been left on trollies overnight, without food, drink and assistance with toileting. Other reviewers talk about being treated with an abject lack of ‘dignity and respect’. A further review from December 2016 wrote from the waiting room: ‘I arrived at the William Harvey hospital at 11.30pm’ the anonymous reviewer said, ‘and am still waiting to be seen at 6am it’s not the doctors or nurses fault I know there doing the best they can its all down to the government… (sic)’

The picture is of course, even more perilous at weekends. Some hospital trusts have no consultants at all working at weekends in Emergency Departments, although across East Kent Universities Trust (QEQM in Margate and William Harvey in Ashford) there is a consultant present in A&E for 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday. This is still not good enough. A friend’s daughter recently admitted to A&E on a Sunday evening at 9pm, waited 4 hours, despite only two other souls seemingly waiting (endlessly) for their own treatment.

With a 23.3% increase in the over 65 population of East Kent forecast for the next 10 years, the Emergency Care situation is now intolerable. Facilities (QEQM in Margate) are archaic and need re-building completely. Which political party is going to say it? We need to raise taxes, perhaps even a specific new tax or complete reformation of National Insurance, to pay for our NHS. Missed appointments with ordinary G.P.s should be paid for (some exceptions of course for those whose illnesses actually prevented attendance) and G.P. facilities absolutely should stretch to at least Saturdays. All G.P. surgeries should aim for turn-up-on-the-morning-and-be-seen provision, as is proving immensely successful in Whitstable, Kent. Further suggestions include raising VISA fees for visitors to the UK with the specific aim of balancing the cost of health tourism upon our shattered and broken health system.

beveridge

In 1942 the Beverage report identifies the ‘Giants’ of the day as being Want, Ignorance, Disease, Squalor and Idleness. Times have changed and the diseases of ’46 (Tuberculosis, Polio, Measles) have been replaced by the new problems of an increasingly elderly and obese population (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Diabetes). Want, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness continue to afflict the U.K. It is time for a new ‘Beverage Report’ for the Twenty-First Century. We are not too late to save our NHS, but this time next year we might well be.