It’s been over a month since the local and European elections in the UK and an opportune time to reflect on the results and how this bodes for Labour’s success in the general election in less than a year’s time.
I was privileged to be one of the MEP candidates for the London region for Labour and spent the past year campaigning with the London Labour across the region. The memories of meeting with party members and talking to voters across the capital is one’s I will never forget. Whilst campaigning with Labour party members, I was frequently asked my predictions for which party would win the Euro elections in the UK overall. It became clearer to me, especially during the short campaign where I worked full time on the campaign during the last month that Labour would have good results in London but that UKIP would beat us nationally and so I stated as such. The media coverage that was given to Nigel Farage and the euro-scepticism that was in the air all boosted his campaign. Turnout was disappointingly low at 36%. Labour did exceptionally well in London and we had good results in the West Midlands, North West and North East. However it was a disappointment that we did not pick up more than one seat in the largest region in the South East, East of England, East Midlands or Wales. Gaining these seats would have ensured Labour’s win in both the Euro and local elections last month and given a strong boost for the campaign next year.
The European parliament has an opportunity going forward to strengthen its legitimacy and develop more openness and transparency in how its primary institutions the European Council and Commission operate. Labour MEP’s will need to work hard to counter the Eurosceptic groups in the parliament and reach out to its constituents about the work they do and how it makes a difference to ordinary people’s lives. This will certainly be easier in London where Labour now has half the MEP’s.
Labour’s results were the best since 1971 and in order to win next year, the target seats in London should get the necessary support from the London Labour party and its local activists, as it’s here that we are most likely to gain the seats needed to have Ed Miliband as our prime minister next year. Labour had 37% of the vote in London, gained 203 new councillors, controls 20 out of the 32 London boroughs and is now in control of the Local Government Association for the first time in a decade. In Barking and Dagenham, where I re-stood as a councillor, even I was a little surprised that we took all 51 seats of the council again, as we did in 2010. We have been a strong campaigning force and realised after winning in 2010, that there was no room for complacency. We kept our Labour doorstep sessions every two weeks, which allowed us to keep that connection with our voters, hear their concerns and deal with them over the past four years, which gave the Barking Labour party a credible record of listening and acting on the priorities that mattered to our residents.
Labour needs to talk about the issues that will resonate with people including, jibs, growth and wage freezes. They also need to tackle the difficult issues such as immigration, but in the grounding that diversity is a source of our strength to us as a nation and with solutions to tackle the Labour makes effects of increased pressures on housing and school places. Labour can win just after one term out of power, if we keep working hard on the doorstep and show that we take a real interest into finding sustainable solutions that will make a real difference to people’s lives.
Well the European and local elections are now over and I have had a little time to rest. I was disappointed not to win a seat in the European elections, but delighted that I was part of a fantastic London Labour party campaign machine, where I was able to contribute to a triumphant result in London. The Labour party gained two extra MEP’s, with a swing of over 15% to become the first party in London. Congratulations to Claude Moraes, Mary Honeyball, Lucy Anderson and Seb Dance who will now represent us in the European Parliament. I will always treasure our memories on the campaign trail over the past year. Thank you to all my supporters, well wishers, family and friends. Without your support I could not have got through the hectic schedule that being a European candidate brings.
Labour also increased its share of the vote in all the other UK regions in the European elections and are now also the largest party in the local government association (LGA), which is fantastic news.
I stood for re-election in Barking and Dagenham and was delighted when the residents of Alibon ward voted for me to serve them for another four years. UKIP stood candidates in each ward in the borough but we saw them off just as we saw off the BNP in 2010 with a further 5% swing to Labour. I look forward to working hard in my ward and with my fellow councillors across the borough, during these tough times to make it a better place to live and work for everyone.
The countdown begins, only four days to go until the local and European elections on Thursday 22nd May. Please ensure you vote on Thursday as it’s your way of getting your voice heard for who will represent you in your local councils and European parliament. Last week I was very busy on the campaign trail with the London Labour European team in Haringey, Waltham Forest, Islington, Southwark, Lambeth, London School of Economics, Westminster, Tower Hamlets and Battersea as well as meeting with Andy Burnham MP to talk about the damaging changes to the NHS this Tory led government is imposing on us. I also represented the Labour party at the European Parliamentary debating event at London Sivan Kovil Trust – a leading Hindu community organization in Lewisham.
This the final week of the European campaign trail, I will be campaigning in Lewisham, Lambeth, Dulwich and West Norwood, various parts of West London and Barking, Newham and Tower Hamlets. If you wish to join in on any of the sessions then do drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org, I would be delighted to see you.
I was thrilled last week when I won a Grassroot Diplomat Initiative award under the Policy Driver category for my long-standing work on equalities and diversity issues, which still has a long way to go for improvement. Minority women are still underrepresented in the field of politics, maths, engineering and science . The awards were hosted by TV Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos. In partnership with The May Fair Hotel, the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards recognises the achievements of UK-based diplomats and politicians who are representing civilian interests at the highest level in areas of policy, social and business.
I was delighted when last month the Party of European Socialist’s (PES), Deputy Secretary General, Marije Laffeber invited me to speak to this year’s PES activists forum in Budapest from the 8th to the 10th of March. I spoke at the workshop on the topic “An alternative message to the far right”. To read my report about how the forum went click here.
I was excited to see that I had been shortlisted for my second award of the year. The Dods Women in Public Life Awards celebrate women leaders in society and seek to recognise and promote the work of women in politics, business, the civil service and community leadership. It is so important to highlight the achievement of women in public life as they are so under-represented in this area. I hope that by at least being shortlisted, other women will be encouraged to join me in this field.
The Awards which are now in their sixth year, aim to highlight the achievements of outstanding women role models amongst us. I have been shortlisted for Local Government Personality of the year. You can read the shortlist for this category here and for all the various categories here.
As part of the PRECIOUS Success Leadership series they asked a range of change management thinkers, business owners, experts, women and men from a range of industries: ‘What Does Leadership Mean to You?’ I wrote about the importance of political leadership. You can read the full article here.
I was thrilled to find out earlier this week that I had been shortlisted from over 250 entries for Young Councillor of the year in the annual Local Government information unit awards which will take place on the 25th February 2013. I am shortlisted with a field of exceptional young councillors (including those who did not make the shortlist), who have made a huge difference to their communities, which we were elected to serve. Two other councillors from Barking and Dagenham were shortlisted in other categories which really shows our borough is forging ahead in tough times.
You can read the full announcement and shortlisted candidates in all the categories here.
Last week I was invited as a guest speaker at the Tottenham GC meeting, to speak about how I successfully won my council seat from the BNP London Regional Coordinator, Robert Bailey to become the youngest woman on the council. I also spoke about the rise of the far right across Europe.
I was asked a number of questions ranging from how we engaged with BME communities, what I thought about David Cameron’s speech on Europe to what we could do to tackle the far right in Eastern Europe.
At the end of the meeting I was so pleased that members said that they felt inspired to go and reconnect with their local community, based on our success in Barking. It’s only by closly connecting with our electorate that a Labour government will be able to take control in 2015.
Last week I wrote an article for Left Foot forward about why nationalist political parties like the UK’s BNP and France’s Front National party would be rubbing their hands in glee. Their positions are set to be potentially strengthened by gaining monies of €400,000 for 2012, funded by the European Parliament. Monies are set to be allocated over the next two weeks. Read the article here.