Following the events of the weeks post-election, I joined the Labour party as an enthused young person ready for the fight against the Con-Lib Dem government and their lust for cuts.
The party have suffered immensely without a leader to fight the government and its austerity package. While selecting somebody on merit and without debate would have been a mistake, the subsequent infighting – both in the leadership race and between the candidates to represent Labour in the London mayoral elections – is putting us on a slippery slope.
Opposing parties see us and those who represent us in parliament as no threat at all. We appear uncoordinated; we are stale and out of ideas.
I was surprised and disappointed at how defeated local members were by the election result.
Eastbourne, where I currently live, has never been a hub of socialism – other than the few occasions when Marx and Engels holidayed here. Our last local Labour councillor was elected the year I was born: 1989. But that is not to say that we are unelectable there, as in some areas like Eastbourne. In fact, constituencies like Brighton, Hastings, Dover, Chatham and others were only lost to the Tories in May.
Still, the south east and especially Sussex is considered out of the reach of Labour – particularly to those in London. But with a good fight and with the right resources, expertise and willpower, there are pockets of the area that could be won. Meeting residents, campaigning on local issues and widening our membership base would take work and commitment, but it would win back old ground lost. Working our way up and electing more councillors in the spring local elections would be a terrific achievement. Currently we have representation in Brighton and Hove city council. Hastings Borough Council is Labour run and there are representatives for Hastings in East Sussex County Council. By the next general election we need to have built the momentum to win back the seats we lost in May 2010.
In Eastbourne as with the rest of the country we are being unscrupulously hit by cuts that affect the young, the old and the unwell. Instead of creating factions between ourselves in terms of locality and leadership contestants, we must look back at the socialist roots that the movement was first created upon: solidarity, cooperation, fairness.
Forgetting our values left us nearly wiped out. Now is the time to begin to rebuild the foundations – which is why I am beginning my campaign to win back the heart of the South. As Tony Benn so rightly said: “all progress begins at the bottom”.