Have this year’s local election results any significance for Aycliffe?
We have not won yet
I think the first thing to realise is that Labour’s lead of 8% is not enough to win in 2015 – to win the next general election, history shows, you need to be 18-20% ahead in the mid-term local elections.
If there is any message here, it is that we have all got to work a lot harder in the coming year. Labour has a long way to go still, before we can breathe easy.
We MUST increase engagement
Connected to this, my second point is that a turnout of 32% is shamefully low (it was only 20% in the last Aycliffe by-election), and we must find a way to re-engage people with the electoral process. This is not a politicians’ problem, it is a community problem, but we cannot ignore it and get "stuck in low turn-out election strategies, with a race to the bottom: whose vote gets suppressed least wins" (Karin Christiansen).
Many of those people who stayed at home will have been the very people-on-benefits and low-paid-workers whom this government is hammering the hardest - personally, I am flabbergasted so few of them vote. I suppose the task here is to convince people that we are NOT ‘all the same’ - that we are not all sleazebags in it for ourselves. Labour is the Party which tries to PROTECT the poor and the vulnerable, but we still have some way to go to motivate the poor and the vulnerable that they need to go out and vote Labour if Labour are to get the opportunity to protect them!
And what about those people who are not ‘poor’ or ‘vulnerable’? Today I went Labour leafleting in a very affluent part of town – and what struck me in fact was how many of the people there already support Labour. Most well-off people in Aycliffe have earned their wealth by the sweat of their brow … many accept a philanthropic obligation to care for the poor and vulnerable, and even those who do not can see that the Tories are impoverishing their customer-base. Very few dispute the need to spend on society’s needs – but Labour is tarred with the taint of profligacy and waste, and we desperately need to find a way to reassure them that Labour can be trusted to spend their council tax wisely.
We need more workers
Finally, as I watched on the TV all those people working for election, I realised that it is nearly 20 years since that the injustices and damage done by a Tory government swelled the activist-base of Aycliffe’s Labour Party.
Nearly two decades on, the ‘class_of_1995’ needs a fresh influx of motivated people in the prime of life who see politics – not as a disreputable way to ‘get on’ – but as a way to make Aycliffe a better place. Aycliffe IS in need – not of people who are prepared to be ‘Labour’ in order to become a Councillor – but of people who want to become a councillor because they realise that Aycliffe needs Labour principles at the helm.
There is a still a year before we have our local elections in Aycliffe and – if you want to have a positive impact on your community – now is the time to get involved.