AS ELSEWHERE, the Labour group has had to manage unprecedented cuts imposed by Westminster since 2010, but that alone does not explain why Labour lost ground in Derby. The outcome is explained by the unpopularity of the council’s leadership.
The legacy of a long-running industrial dispute with teaching assistants over pay cuts, following a job evaluation exercise, played a major role, as did the decision to hand the city’s libraries over to the voluntary sector. Many Labour supporters in Derby told me they were not voting because they opposed a number of the council’s decisions.
The party therefore faced a perfect storm. The government’s devious plan to devolve responsibility for cuts did have an effect, but it was the Labour group’s response to those cuts that alienated once loyal supporters. So on top of those who are normally hostile to Labour, trade unionists and community activists, who normally back the party, were disaffected. This was compounded by additional numbers of voters who were motivated to turn out to remove the Labour leadership in Derby.
But this does not reflect how people would vote in a general election. Support for Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive agenda remains strong. It was precisely because many supporters felt that the Derby Labour group was out of step with Jeremy’s programme that they stayed away from the polls. I’d urged the Labour group to consider adopting the progressive council tax idea to regain the initiative and stop simply administering Tory cuts. This would have enabled them to raise the finance to backfill the cuts imposed by government by asking the wealthiest citizens to shoulder the burden, while simultaneously freezing council tax for 85% of the city’s residents. This would have required support in a local referendum. I am convinced they could have won this and used the momentum to go on to not just hold the council, but take seats from UKIP and the Tories.
The lesson from Derby is that we need to be bold to win support by offering a genuinely progressive alternative to relentless Tory cuts.
Member of Parliament for Derby North