Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why Labour Won in Southwark

So it’s been quite the 72 hours. At ten to four yesterday, by quirk of the alphabet, I had the pleasure of being the first councillor to be announced as elected in Southwark. I was by no means the last, followed not only by my fantastic comrades Dan Garfield and Lorraine Lauder in Faraday ward, but 47 other councillors across the borough of Southwark.

It was a win that brings together so many different stories.

Particularly in the Labour-held wards like mine, it represents an overwhelming endorsement of the radical promises made in 2010 and delivered across the borough. These include new council housing; making every current council home warm, dry and safe; regenerations that work for our communities and not big business – and of course a free healthy school meal for every primary school child. It was a humbling show of trust and support for a Labour council that has consistently delivered on its promises to voters from 2010.

Looking to the next four years, particularly in wards where we have made sweeping gains after decades of Liberal Democrat wins, it speaks volumes about the manifesto on which we stood. It’s not just a manifesto that will deliver free swimming and gymn use for all borough residents, 11,000 new council homes, a quality kitchen and bathroom for every council tenant, and so much more, but a manifesto that was written by our communities, for our communities.

Despite claims in the negative, empty and desperate Liberal Democrat propaganda in the closing week of the campaign, Labour has not just been in these wards at election time. Our candidates are hardworking ordinary people, already serving in local T&RAs, schools, charities, religious groups and trades unions. They’ve not just drearily canvassed support, they’ve built trust and respect through their actions before election-time; and more importantly they’ve brought their community’s concerns to our manifesto. I’m so proud to be in a Labour Party where our manifesto is written after an open conference, and with active dialogue with people both on the doorstep through community groups. I’m so humbled to be elected alongside such hard-working local people.

It’s tackling the cost of living crisis in Southwark that won us this election, and it’s a theme that our party is working hard on nationally – promising to scrap the bedroom tax, freeze energy prices, and rein in the chaotic private rented sector. Across the borough, people are saying that they know Labour is on their side, whether it be in Westminster or Tooley St.

And perhaps that’s the most humbling lesson of all. This election was a wholesale endorsement of Labour values; values of solidarity, collectivism and redistribution. People not only voted Labour because of what we promised to achieve, but why we promised it in the first place. They know that when difficult choices come, especially with the cuts and contempt that the ConDems have for local government, we’ll make decisions based on those values.

In giving us an overwhelming mandate to govern Southwark, people have embraced a positive manifesto for the many, and rejected the ideology of individualism; ideology that gives support for the bedroom tax for a seat in a ministerial car; ideology that believes racial and cultural differences are more important than standing together against social injustice wherever we find it; ideology that believes the electorate vote for you as an individual, and not the party you represent.

I know few people voted for me because I’m Paul William Fleming; everyone voted for me because I’m the Labour Party candidate. And that makes me proudest of all.

Thanks to all the voters of Faraday Ward! Labour won’t let you down.