LABOUR DEMANDS A MILLION new homes with fair rents, a comprehensive public health service, free education for all, the immediate nationalisation of vital public services and better pay and conditions for workers. Sound familiar? That’s because it is from the Labour Party manifesto. The 1918 Labour Party manifesto.
One hundred years later in Harrow, we have the worst level of low pay in London, the lowest number of council homes and the second highest rate of evictions. Our health service is at the point of collapse. Every school in Harrow is affected by government cuts. Our young people work hard at school only to enter a working world of zero-hours contracts and low pay, often in debt to the tune of £50k. When we have families with young children sleeping on the street or in cars and people working two or three jobs yet still struggling to make ends meet, and when residents are having to choose between heating or eating, something has to change.
I am a proud socialist and trade unionist recently selected as Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Harrow East. I stood because I want to see a fundamental and irreversible change in favour of working people and their families. Only a socialist society will be able to ensure that Labour are not having to repeat these same demands in another 100 years’ time.
I was asked to put myself forward as the candidate for Harrow East by members who wanted change. From the start, it was a grassroots campaign; a collective and positive effort built by the members.
A team of over 30 local members worked tirelessly, meeting every night.
Our campaign involved a combination of phone banking and taking to the streets in our battle bus, a 20-year-old VW camper van. My union, Unite, produced and posted leaflets to members and Momentum provided an organiser, who supplied invaluable support and guidance along the way.
There were, however, many obstacles. The selection panel decided that candidates would not be able to address members at branch meetings; the membership list only became available at shortlisting stage; the closing date for applications for postal votes was set the day after the membership list became available; and candidates were not allowed a list of those who applied for a postal vote.
Most importantly, the selection panel decided that the campaign period would be restricted to just two weeks. Limiting the formal engagement with members in this way meant it was even more important to get out and meet all the members. A difficult task but despite all these hurdles our positive campaign won through.
The task now is to win back Harrow East to Labour. The key to doing so is to provide a radical manifesto which will bring real change to the lives of Harrow East residents. It was the radical manifesto, leaked by the right of the party, which led to Labour shooting up in the polls, and inspiring many to come out and campaign for us.
The popular image of Harrow is that of a leafy, picturesque suburb surrounding one of the most exclusive schools in the world. Nevertheless, it is also a borough where many residents face a revolving door of homelessness and poverty. Labour’s policies of free school meals, rent controls and abolishing the two-child benefit cap would improve the lives of many Harrow residents immeasurably. But the wider policies of genuinely affordable homes, properly funded NHS and public services and free higher education will be popular with all voters.
In the context of the rise of Corbyn, Sanders and Mélenchon, it is clear that working class people across the world are fed up with the status quo of austerity politics. Labour may not have won the last election, but we shot up in the polls because we rejected austerity-lite politics.
We should learn the lessons from these events that are taking place globally and come out with a more radical manifesto. In this way, we will inspire our mass membership to come out boldly on to the streets, kick out the Tories and begin the socialist transformation of society.
is Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harrow East and Labour councillor in Harrow