Election round up
Up and down the country, CWU members are out and about, knocking doors, distributing leaflets and working hard to win Labour victories in seats all across our nation…if you have some spare time between now and polling day, why not get in touch and offer to help?
This year’s CWU annual conference took place just days after Theresa May announced the General Election and delegates unanimously adopted a resolution committing the union to supporting the Labour Party and campaigning for a Labour victory.
And Labour’s 2017 Election Manifesto has fully justified the union’s faith in the party, with key pledges to renationalise Royal Mail, introduce a 30Mbit/s broadband universal service obligation, end the closure and franchising of Crown Post Offices, put significant investment into our national telecommunications infrastructure, set up a Post Bank, close the agency workers’ loophole, and radically improve workers’ rights.
Labour almost snatched the marginal seat of Bury North last time out – just losing out by an agonising 378 votes - and it’s no surprise that this seat is top of the region’s list for 2017.
The ‘bellweather’ of the North West, this traditional Lancashire market town has gone with the winner in every one of the last eight general elections – and Labour’s James Frith is being actively backed by CWU members, reports regional chair Dan Lewis.
“We have the candidates to replace the Tories and campaign teams across the region are busy knocking doors and spreading the message of politics that are fairer, socially just and equal for all,” he explains.
The other two top North West targets are both being contested by CWU members – Julie Gibson in South Ribble and Chris Webb in Blackpool North & Clevelys, who are aiming to overturn Conservative majorities of 5,945 and 3,340 respectively.
Defensive strategy in this region is focussing on fending off Conservative bids to snatch Labour seats in Wirral West - where Labour’s 417 majority makes it the number one blue target – and also Blackpool South (2015 Labour majority 2,585) and Wirral South (2015 Labour majority 4,559), and our activists have been out and about campaigning with incumbents Margaret Greenwood, Gordon Marsden and Alison McGovern.
“All of the campaigns have launched with a lot of noise and enthusiastically positive reactions from local residents,” says Dan, adding: “We’ve all been eagerly anticipating the publication of the manifesto.
“It’s been great to see some of our members coming out to help, and if any more members in the region want to volunteer – please get in touch and all help will be much appreciated.”
Number one target in London is Croydon Central, where Labour’s Sarah Jones just missed out by 165 votes in 2015 – but is determined to unseat Conservative Gavin Barwell this time.
“We’ve got the same candidate as last time and she’ll do a first-class job for the people of Croydon if she wins,” said CWU London political officer Alan Tate, who is acting as key-seat co-ordinator there on behalf of the trade union and Labour liaison organisation TULO.
While hopes are high for a Labour gain in that suburban seat, there are several others across the capital which face Conservative or Liberal Democrat challenges, Alan explains, citing Ealing Central & Acton as a priority for campaigning, where incumbent Rupa Huq defends a narrow 274-vote majority from the 2015 contest, when she pinched the seat from the Tories.
Brentford & Isleworth, Hampstead & Kilburn, and Tooting, are also seats where we’ll be focusing attention, he says.
“We’ve got leaflets, we’ve got our tactics and we’ve got plenty of resources to fight and hopefully win in London – what we now need are more volunteers on the ground to make sure London doesn’t go blue,” Alan points out.
“There’s something to do in every part of the London Region, so please get in touch with me if you’re able to volunteer any of your time for this vitally important election.”
North East CWU activists are targeting the West Yorkshire seat of Keighly, where Conservative Kris Hopkins won a 3,053 majority in 2015.
The seat has swung from blue to red and back again over the years, but has gone the way of the overall winner in 14 out of the last 15 general elections, making this one of the so-called ‘bellweather’ seats.
“If we can take Keighly, then this will indicate that we’re heading for a good national result,” said CWU regional secretary Paul Clays, who adds that Labour is also hoping to overturn the Conservatives’ 5,046 majority in Stockton South, while also fighting in some Labour-held seats, such as Dewsbury, where Labour are defending a 1,451 majority, and Hartlepool, where Labour won with 3,024 votes to spare in 2015.
UKIP took second spot in Hartlepool last time out and, as is the case in other regions, the UKIP collapse will make a number of seats far tighter battles than the current majority suggests – and this explains why Theresa May has been in the North East recently.
But Paul points out that these trips up the A1have been more for the benefit of the television cameras than a genuine engagement with local residents, few of whom have actually caught a glimpse of her
“She’s sneaked in under cover to meet some of her friends and then sneaked straight out again,” he scoffs.
Since details of Labour’s bold manifesto started to come out towards the end of last week, morale among party volunteers has picked up noticeably, Paul reports, saying: “It’s cheered everyone up no end.
“And the feedback from the doorstep on some of these manifesto pledges has been great – people saying they were not going to vote are now saying they’ll definitely vote for us.
“We now need as many people to come out and help as we can get – so please get in touch if you do have some spare time,” urges Paul
Two CWU members are among the Labour candidates in Scotland battling to take back seats that were lost to the SNP nationalists in 2015.
Matt Kerr, a former postman standing in Glasgow South West is fighting a “relentlessly positive” campaign in this former shipbuilding heartland.
Hugh Gaffney, another postie and our Scottish Region’s political officer , reports that he is “getting a great response from local people” in his fight to win back the Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill a few miles east of Glasgow.
As well as these two key targets, the union is fighting hard to hold onto Labour's seat in Edinburgh South, where Ian Murray was the only Labour MP to fight off the nationalists last time.
John Brown, Scottish regional secretary reflected that “Scotland today is a very different political animal to the rest of the UK” and noted “there seems to be a bit of a mood-swing against the SNP as a reaction against the prospect of a second independence referendum.
“It’s something that many people up here just don’t seem to want to have to go through again – and not only from those who oppose independence. It’s been underestimated the extent to which that whole experience was a very divisive time – families and friends were split by it and it a lot of people found it all extremely upsetting on both sides of the debate.”
John concluded “we’re working hard and, although it’s a very difficult terrain at this time, we are noticing support for Labour’s manifesto pledges on the doorstep.
“Now we need more CWU members to volunteer if they can, to build that support into Labour votes on June 8th.”
“In the South East, our regional political committee has identified the key seats where we need to focus our efforts in this campaign,” Paul Carpenter tells us.
In Oxford East, Slough and Hove, Labour is fighting to see off challenges from the Conservatives, with the toughest fight likely to be in Hove, where Peter Kyle is defending a 1,236 majority.
But in Hastings and Brighton Kemptown, the roles are reversed and the aim is to turn Tory blue into Labour red – top target of these is Brighton Kemptown, where Conservative incumbent Simon Kirby won by a slim 690 margin in 2015.
“We’ve helped to provide mobilisation officers to help co-ordinate the work in these key seats – and we’re working closely with other unions in the region,” Paul reports.
“Local CWU branches have been contacting members with requests for leafletting and canvassing volunteers and many thanks to those who have come out so far.
“We need a big push in these key areas, so if any members in the region have any spare time, please get in touch…there’s plenty for you to do,” he says.
The two best chances for gains in Wales are Gower and Vale of Clwyd, both of which are Conservative held, with majorities of 27 and 237 respectively, according to Gary Watkins.
Vale of Clwyd, in the north of the country, was Labour held until 2015, while Gower in the south, is the most marginal seat in the country and, before 2015, had been held by Labour since 1910.
“The question is where is the UKIP vote going to go,” said Gary, who explains that, with the ‘Purple Party’ in meltdown, if their former voters drift to the Conservatives as they have in some parts on England, then several Labour-held seats will come under threat.
“We’re defending 25 seats – and there are 10 seats that we’ve identified as being particular opposition targets – nine of them are targeted by the Conservatives and the other one is being aimed at by the Plaid Cymru nationalists.
“If we can hold onto all of these seats, then this will be a job well done,” explains Gary, “and if the polls do narrow, then the potential gains in Gower and Vale of Clwyd come into play.”
“The campaign is focussing on a very Welsh agenda – we’re keeping it all on the ‘bread and butter’ issues of jobs, public services, health and education.
“Please contact us for details of how you can help.”
“As the south west TULO chair I have been working with my fellow officers and with the wider trade union movement and the south west Labour Party to maximise the Labour vote in our region,” says regional secretary Kevin Beazer.
“CWU branches in our region have been absolutely fantastic in supporting the 2017 general election campaign and we’re working closely with headquarters to drive this forward” he adds.
“We currently have five Labour MPs across the region, in Bristol West, Bristol South, Bristol East, Exeter and Southampton Testand we are working hard to protect these seats, from the Greens in Bristol West and from the Conservatives in the others.”
Amid the concerns, there is also “a little bit of cautious optimism” from the recent local elections, in which the Labour vote held up better than expected in some of the target areas, Kevin continues, and adds that, if the tide does start to turn for the better, Labour will be working for possible gains in Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, where there is a 523 Conservative majority from 2015,Southampton Itchen (2,316) and Stroud in Gloucestershire (4,886).
“This will be a critically important election, and the more help we can get the better, so I’m urging all CWU members and their families and friends to come out and help if you can – we need people on the ground to fight this battle.”
It’s mainly a “defensive struggle” in our Eastern Region, reports secretary Paul Moffatt, who explains that Labour’s initial aims here are to hold on in their four Eastern seats – Luton South, Luton North, Cambridge and Norwich South.
“We’ve got to maintain them,” insists Paul, who identifies Cambridge as the biggest threat – from the Liberal Democrats.
However, the root cause of the challenge for Labour here is the uncertainty caused by the sudden collapse of the UKIP vote.
“This has been probably their strongest area of the country electorally, with some of the highest proportions of ‘leave’ voters in last year’s referendum” Paul says, adding that the danger of UKIP supporters decamping to the Conservatives on block will put pressure on Labour-held seats.
“This means we’ve got to do as much as we can over the next three weeks to campaign, talk to people and get the vote out."
“If we are able to go onto the attack, we’re looking at targeting seats like Bedford & Kempston, Peterborough, Stevenage, Thurrock and Waveney.”
Often the critical battleground of our general elections, the Midlands is, once again going to be a key indicator come polling day, and the CWU is spreading our efforts across 12 key constituencies in the region.
“We’re giving our active support to 12 Labour candidates and our aim is to return them all to Parliament on June 8th,” says Kate Hudson, adding: “All of them have given support to CWU campaigns and our values as a union. We need voices like this in Parliament and we’ll be giving them the practical support and help that they need.”
And there are a wide range of different challenges, from hoped-for gains to defensive battles of attrition.
Kate says that, in Mansfield, CWU members are “working hard to see off a Conservative attempt to snatch the seat from Labour’s Alan Meale, who has always been a friend of the trade union and has attended our CWU picket lines every time we’ve been on strike and publicly supported us in the media.”
Broxtowe Labour candidate Greg Marshall is aiming to unseat Anna Soubry, the Conservative former Minister of State, and needs to overturn her 4,287 majority from 2015 to take the Nottinghamshire seat.
While over in Wolverhampton South West, Labour’s Eleanor Smith faces a challenge from her Tory opponent as she seeks to defend her Labour predecessor Rob Marriss’s 801 majority, in a seat which has traditionally been a Conservative stronghold and was held by the notorious Enoch Powell back in the 1960s and 70s.
“The region has pulled together to support all of the candidates as best as we can,” Kate continues, and tells us about the phone banking and special CWU campaigning days have been a feature of the work so far.
“I hope more than anything else that our members have their say and use their vote to vote Labour – and if any Midlands members are able to assist us, then please get in touch.”
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