Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Why the Labour Party did so well in Redbridge?

The London borough of Redbridge proved to be an area of huge advance for Labour in the council elections.


The incumbent Labour Council added 15 new seats to bring its total number up to 51. The Tories were reduced to a rump of 12.


The enormity of the achievement is further underlined when placed against the national result which saw Labour take a total of 77 seats, so Redbridge actually secured almost 20% of the gains.


The transformation seen in Redbridge over recent years can be measured by the almost total turn round in Labour’s fortunes over the past decades, whereby it has literally reversed roles with the Tories going from 51 seats in 1982 to 12 today, with Labour now holding the 51.


So why did Labour do so well in Redbridge? The council has done a good job over the preceding four years, balancing the budget, whilst absorbing more than 44% of cuts in budget from central government.


Not only has the council managed to retain most services unmolested but it has also set forth with a vision for a better future. New leisure centres and swimming pools have been built.


The borough is smack in the middle of the new Crossrail developments, with Ilford a major hub on that route. So the area is rising in demand, with house price rises reflecting that popularity.

House prices in Redbridge have risen at more than double the rate of any other London borough (8.9%).

At the same time there is real poverty in the borough that the council has also tried to address.

All of that said the results were remarkable. As one of the newly elected councillors for the ward of Wanstead Village, I can attest at first hand as to the positive response received to Labour’s message.

Testimony to the conservatism of Wanstead is that it used to be Winston Churchill’s old constituency. Now, it has five Labour ward councillors in addition to being represented in Parliament by Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead John Cryer. The red tide has really swept across the area.

There were other wins for Labour in areas where they were not expected to get anything. South Woodford and Churchfields for example, are deep in Iain Duncan Smith territory.

Labour took seats right across the borough.

Another contributory factor was no doubt a very poor and demoralised Tory Party. The Tory leader Paul Canal resigned after the carnage of election night, where he himself only just held onto his seat.

The Labour effort on the ground played a huge part in defeating the Tories. There was central control and co-ordination, yet room for innovation in the wards.

In Wanstead Village, we campaigned for six months, with canvass teams of in excess of ten going out increasingly over that period. There was some positive campaigns in the local media, such as one to restore the W12 bus service – its regularity had been cut by TFL.

The Tories were generally trying to play catch up, taking too long to come on board with the bus campaign and opposing popular proposals such as the new pool for Wanstead. They also failed to get the boots on the ground when it came to canvassing.

The negative national media coverage did not seem to make that much impact. Memorably, I remember one conversation with a former Tory voter, who initially was coming over because of the swimming pool. But when canvassed nearer the election itself, he said the media coverage was so blatantly anti-Corbyn that he could not vote anything but Labour.

The anti-semitism furore probably had some impact. In Wanstead Village, there were certainly a number of Jewish voters, who would not give us the time of day.

Labour in Redbridge is typical of the party in London generally. It is a broad church, with representatives from left to right of the party. Whatever underlying differences there maybe, all were put aside for the election, as the party united behind its local programme for change.

The past record of governing, together with a changing demographic in favour of Labour, both contributed to success. The Labour result in Redbridge was typical of the party’s showing in London, where the Tories divisive often racist policies found little support.

The results hopefully point the way forward to the day when Labour will win the next general election.

* Published in Briefing

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