Georgia Gould, a young Labour activist who sought to be a Labour candidate in Erith and Thamesmead, is standing for the party in Camden council elections.
After hearing some of her stories about the way the Tories and the Lib Dems work together, I asked her to write a guest blog. Here it is.
Who is Nick Clegg pulling in on his coat tails?
So Nick Clegg is prepared to back up a Conservative government. As a Camden activist where the Liberal Democrats have been in coalition with the Conservatives for the last four years this comes as no surprise. Campaigning yesterday one of my colleagues bumped into a Lib Dem councillor barely able to contain his excitement at the prospect of Nick Clegg’s poll success translating to Liberal Democrat votes locally. But who is Nick Clegg pulling in on his coat tails? In Camden it is a coalition that’s sold off council housing, hiked up prices for meals on wheels, privatised cleaning on estates, cut youth provision, summer play schemes, UK online centres and practically anything else that effects the most vulnerable. All that before the economic crisis constrained spending. This is a familiar story for residents in Leeds, Ipswich and Birmingham a few of the 18 councils run by a Liberal Conservative pact (only 8 are Lib-Lab coalitions)
At the moment the Liberal Democrats are providing a home for the collective frustrations of a country understandably disappointed in politics. However we can’t let Nick Clegg get away with playing the role of outsider. The fact remains his party is in power across the country and time and time again his councils don’t quite live up to Clegg’s shiny rhetoric.
Nick Clegg’s new buzzword is fairness but in the Labour Party we don’t need anyone to remind us that fairness is at the heart of our politics. It’s why we all joined in the first place. No one needs to tell my colleagues in Camden – new or old Labour – that cutting recycling on estates or online centres serving those without access to the Internet is a bad thing. We may not always agree on the means but we all subscribe to a set of values that put public services and the needs of every person including the most vulnerable at their heart.
At the end of the day we have a huge amount to be proud of in the pursuit of a fairer country. It is only a Labour government that would ever have possessed the political will to bring in the minimum wage. No Conservative threats of economic decline we’re going to get in the way of a policy Labour activists had been campaigning for since 1900! Record hospital building could only have come from the party that fought tooth and nail to give us a national healthcare system in the first place. Labour have revolutionised childcare with Sure Start freeing millions from the burden of paying for private care and this started in the most economically deprived areas. Labour built a Britain where equal social rights started to become a reality. These changes came from a collective will of 1000s of committed MPs, councillors and activists and these are the people to protect them in difficult times.
Yes there is so much more we could have done. And yes we do need to reform our political system. I am looking to the new candidates in the Labour Party to offer those new ideas but with a clear set of values not a Liberal Democrat party struggling to work out exactly what they stand for. Over 100 Labour MPs stood down at this election leaving the door open for a new generation of candidates who if elected have the opportunity to create a different kind of parliament. Ed Miliband’s green manifesto launched offers a radical new strategy to build a green economy while his brother David enjoys the respect of the rest of the world as he carves out a new approach to foreign affairs.
On the economy it is only Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling who have been brave enough to tell the country that yes unpopular decisions need to be made and they will have to put up national insurance. But in return they’ll also ring fence spending on the NHS, education and policing. They won’t promise pie in the sky election tax cuts but will fight like anything to ensure that the cuts we make don’t affect your safety, your kid’s education or your family’s healthcare. The Conservative threat is real and they appear to have stopped even pretending to be progressive allying themselves with fringe parties in Europe, tax breaks for the most wealthy and cuts that could see thousands out of work. Let’s not forget that we’re not voting for a president here – we’re voting for a party. I want to be sure the person in charge of healthcare, education, childcare and local youth provision has a strong set of progressive values. Unfortunately with the Conservatives and the Liiberal Democrats it’s a big risk.
At election time parties are very fond of constantly reminding you that there is a two horse race but this is one time that a vote for the Liberal democrats really might just mean you wake up with a Conservative government. And in Camden, we know what that means.
*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.