Dylan Hampshire (Who To Vote For Is The Big Question, Letters and Opinion, Herne Bay Gazette, January 22) takes an interesting non-partisan view on the May elections for the city council. I cannot be so dispassionate, but I hope I can help him and other readers with a similar dilemma by providing a point of view.
Firstly, the local Conservatives are clearly trying to distance themselves from the disastrous last four years under John Gilbey, which has so poisoned their relationships with communities. But while they have some “new-blood” candidates standing, 15 of their candidates are sitting coundillors. It is preposterous for people like Simon Cook and Neil Baker to pretend that they had nothing to do with the last four years: en-bloc Conservative councillors have voted through every proposal put forward by the executive, and similarly opposed every alternative tabled by Labour and the Lib Dems. The two Ukip members, when they attended meetings, have rarely made any proposals at all, which rather gives the lie to the idea that they could provide a viable alternative.The Lib Dems, as Mr Hampshire says, are a spent force. Their vote nationally is down to below 7% and there is no sign of them actively campaigning in most of the wards in the district. The Greens not only have unrealistic utopian policies which will alarm many voters and harm employment, but are unlikely to attract much interest outside of the city’s student-dominated wards, and almost certainly won’t win a single seat.
Which brings me to my party, Labour. It’s a common, and understandable, mistake to assume Labour can’t win several wards. In 2010, which was generally very poor for Labour, our total share of the vote was only 0.5% behind the Lib Dems across the district, and we came very close to wining half a dozen seats more than we finally held. This year is a completely different proposition – although the Lib Dems will pretend their 2010 result has some relevance, it does not. We have a resurgent and re-energised Labour Party locally, and our local activists have set out a raft of policies based on local needs. Mr Hampshire, and anyone else who is interested, will be able to see these in our manifesto, which has been agreed and will be launched shortly. Our activists have been engaged with real grassroots campaigns across the district, especially the Campaign For Democracy in Canterbury District, and I urge anyone who is open-minded about politics and who wants to see real change to take a look and see what Labour has to offer the people of this district.
Chairman, Canterbury and District Labour Party, Belmont Road, Whitstable
Herne Bay Gazette, February 5th 2015