2016….. where to begin?

From a purely private and personal point, 2016 has been a hellish year, fraught with family issues that have impacted on all of us but have also shown how incredibly strong my family are, I continue to be awestruck at my wonderful children and their ability to focus and move forward. They are my inspiration and I will forever cherish their strength and integrity. As my children grow, I see them spreading their wings and preparing to fly… I’m very, very proud of them.

Throughout the year, I’ve been honoured to continue working alongside Chris Robinson, the councillor for Longton and Broadway East. Together we have continued to support the homeless and have worked together on a number of initiatives. Helping to create a free orchard at the Crescent Children’s Centre is one and we have been very lucky to work alongside the Parents Forum who are working really hard to create an end to end programme with the orchard- getting children involved in the whole process that starts with preparation of the land, planting, cultivating, picking and preparing and cooking… the Forum are a highly motivated team who we are proud to assist.

From a political point locally, I’ve been blessed with amazing support from a great team of socialists and unionist, including Chris Robinson, Chris Spence, Steve Jones, Tony Walley, Max Penkethman, Joe McClusky, Chris Wilson, Andrew Buttress, on a wider scale l’d like to thank those new friends and comrades who have had a massive impact on my thinking and working…. solidarity always. We’ve continued to work under the Red Labour banner, unapologetic in its left leaning belief and hugely supportive of Jeremy Corbyn. Last year we held the most democratic election within the Party. The result was overwhelming. In some ways, I could almost understand some of the MPs reactions…. They were now in a Party that was being led in a direction that was alien to the Party that they had been elected to under Miliband.

Rumblings and rumours started immediately and we were all aware that there were moves to undermine JC. At the precise time we had the ideal opportunity to attack the Tories, the attack turned on JC. It was a concerted effort, timed for maximum impact and damage. What the PLP didn’t expect was for the sterling jobs that the likes of Angela Rayner, Clive Lewis and Cat Smith did – they dug deep and held their own. Well done to them.

As expected, we were once again thrown into a Leadership campaign. One of the differences this year was the agreement to hold a rally in Stoke headed by Jeremy Corbyn, this was sheer determination from a group of us, with Chris Spence, Andy Buttress and myself being the main (but not only) driving force. We were thrilled to have confirmation late on a Friday evening of a bank holiday weekend! The event was to take place on the following Thursday afternoon (no pressure!).

The event went incredibly well, the sun shone, the crowds turned out (an estimated 2,000) and Stoke was blessed to hear a variety of articulate speakers from a variety of backgrounds, including my 17 year old daughter making her maiden public speech, other local speakers included Max Penkethman (CWU), Clare White (WEA) and James Fox-Hewitt (FBU) who were ably supported by Roger McKenzie of Unison. The reception that was given was truly moving, with all speakers being well received and JC given a rapturous welcome and thank you. Certainly a red letter day for politicos in Stoke-on-Trent.
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Throughout the campaign this year, we saw some terrible behaviour, from both sides, and we saw some underhand tactics. These are inexcusable and in my opinion still need to be investigated and dealt with. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the governance within the Party, discipline needs to be addressed as does the way that membership has been suspended/refused/denied. The whole sorry ‘purge’ needs to be addressed and explained as a matter of urgency. The ‘power of the few over the many’ much of which is led by regional offices needs to be addressed and the power they have held needs to be put back to the grassroots members. The sovereignty of the Party needs to have control of choosing who it elects to stand as its officers, Councillors and MPs. At that point we will have true democracy.

As a family, Labour will continue to build and grow, we will train people to go forward and spread the word, to develop and bring the message that JC extols ‘let no one and no community be left behind’. The youth are the future of our Party, we’ve engaged them and need to continue that. We should be proud of the achievement in re-electing JC , once again we reached out and our Party responded, it’s given the direction it wants to take…. I also think we have listened to our members and are starting to defend the things many outside the party also hold dear, such as education and our beloved NHS. On this point, I’d point out that as a left winger, I have great faith in the ‘broad church’ of our Party, and am immensely proud of the friendship and support I get from Tony Walley (who is most definitely not a Corbynista!), you won’t get a more moderate socialist, and we may well differ on the political spectrum, but we always walk away as mates, not because we have to…… because we can. Tony is one of those people who believe that the choice made by the membership should be upheld, and will support Labour ‘for the greater good’ – proof that all factions of the Party can work together!

The Leadership election opened up opportunities for me to discuss my belief in the Corbyn ethos on both local and national media outlets, and I was pleased to be asked to do an interview regarding the Autumn Statement and the impact on Stoke to a Japanese newspaper with an audience of 7.2 million…

Following on from this we had the Brexit referendum and the fallout of that has been huge, including a rise in hate crimes which are totally unacceptable, when and who will initiate Article 50? We also had the farce that was the ‘election’ of the new PM, considering Labour held the most democratic elections in their Leadership challenge the Conservative membership must have felt well and truly miffed at having no choice whatsoever!!

Locally, we’ve campaigned on education, the NHS, the People’s Post and Chris Robinson and I put out leaflets from Hope not Hate with regards to Jo Cox and the #moreincommon initiative, especially important as we have seen some activity in Stoke-on-Trent from Albion First, a far right group hoping to create a divisive City.
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There has been and continues to be a veritable glut of elections within our unions, and (as usual) I’ve pinned my flag to who I think best to head Unite, I seriously hope that Len McClusky is re-elected as the General Secretary and continues to build our union. As a GS, he reflects the ethos that we the labour grassroots members chose to take, a reflection of JC, someone proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with its members…

From a local point, we are now seeing the second budget put forward by the City Independent/ Tory coalition. Last year saw a massive raid on our reserves so as not to make unpopular decisions on cuts. This year…. not so easy. Areas that absolutely work well in helping our young and our most vulnerable families are being decimated.. Cuts to our Children’s Centres are unbelievable and will render the centres unviable within a short time, Chris Robinson and I spent a really productive afternoon with some of the parents and careers from Crescent Children’s Centre and also some from Blurton and Bentilee. We agreed on a petition going out and that one petition across the City would be far more productive than a number of smaller ones, unfortunately time is our greatest enemy, but we will let the coalition know that we will not allow some cuts without a fight. I’d also like to thank the wonderful Nicki Howarth for all her time and effort at getting the e-petition to help save our Children’s Centres up and running on Stoke Councils website – what a star ⭐️

When Labour led the council we put forward the idea of ‘Cooperative Working’, it was our flagship initiative into helping troubled families access services at the earliest possible moment, one of the effects would be long-term savings… sadly the coalition are looking at short-term savings and not the real effect that decimating this service will have. They accept that it’s been successful, but keep throwing the line out that ‘partners need to do their part…’ Can they not see that ‘partners’ have also had funding cuts?

In the run up to Christmas, I put out a call for help in providing sanitary products for ladies using the local FoodBanks and the homeless, the response was tremendous, and I’d like to offer special thanks to Linda Allbutt, Emma Johnson and Linda Mummy Ackley. I supported the @ABagForKatie initiative with this.

As Christmas fast approached I had a lovely message from Kay D Keen, once again offering a massive amount of Christmas presents from the wonderful Tracy Slack, words can’t express my gratitude… I feel truly blessed to have so many wonderfully generous people around who help in making life a little bit better for so many.

I suppose, in a nutshell, I’ve been really productive in Labour nationally but continue to be somewhat in the wilderness locally… maybe it’s time to tackle that thorny issue, let’s see!

Little left to say, other than a huge thanks to those wonderful people who have continued to be supportive of me in both my personal and political life. One saying I’ve taken to heart goes like this….

It’s funny how someone who was just a stranger last year,

                                                                     can mean so much to you now.

It’s terrible that someone who meant so much to you last year,

                                                                    can be just a stranger now.

It’s amazing what a year can do.

I think as we grow, we realise that we can let go and live… we don’t have a rehearsal to life, let’s make the best of it we can.

Looking for inspiration……

Two weeks ago, I travelled with some comrades down to Sparkhill in Birmingham to see Jeremy Corbyn at one of his rallies. It was the second rally of the day (he was in Coventry earlier) that he was addressing and followed a hectic week.

We arrived early (a good hour and half) to see some people had already arrived, and we helped with the setting up – making sure there was refreshments available, chairs were set out and that the ‘over-spill’ room was likewise set out. As the time passed, a growing feeling of anticipation grew, the room quickly filled, more chairs were brought in and as the appointed hour arrived there was no standing room left, let alone chairs. The over-spill room was likewise filled to capacity and was to share the event via a video link.

Arriving 15/20 minutes late, Jeremy was ushered into the large room as it erupted into cheers, whistles and a rousing standing ovation. The applause continued, rising as he slowly worked his way to the stage, shaking hands with observers as he passed.

Birmingham Rally - Corbyn Taking to the stage, Jeremy waited for the applause to lessen before he started speaking – he spoke of our loss at the election, the ‘deeply unpleasant’ Conservative Party agenda, which we all know will decimate public services, demonise the unemployed, the vulnerable, immigrants, yet provide tax cuts for the wealthy…. He spoke at length about the Labour manifesto in the run up to the 2015 election, but accepted that as a party Labour did not offer a real alternative to the austerity measures put forward by the Conservatives, we failed to oppose and challenge the rhetoric around our inability to be economically sound, we allowed the Conservatives to blame us for economic failure, which they said led to the banking crisis, when the reality was that the banking crisis led to the economic downturn.

Be under no illusion though, Jeremy did not focus solely on the negatives of the GE2015, he spoke eloquently of the many great initiatives that the Labour Government of 1997 had achieved, Sure Start, the introduction of the minimum wage, repealing section 28. He humbly stated that where we have been wrong, we should hold our hands up and accept that we were wrong, apologies do not make you weak…. Strength shone through his speech when he explained that rather than him being a return to the politics of the 1980’s, that was exactly what the Conservatives were doing – returning to the politics of Thatcher, attacking the poor, manufacturing, the welfare state and demonising the unions. He drew comparisons with the Labour Government of 1945 – the birth of the NHS, a massive house building programme all at a time of economic downturn – importantly he stated that we needed to stop blaming the victims – ‘there but for the grace of God‘ was the sentiment. He showed his disgust at the terminology used around immigration, and reiterated that when we have a shortage of housing, its because we haven’t built enough – NOT because of immigration. Building stronger communities can build prosperity for all.

Jeremy showed his sense of humour when he spoke of gaining the required amount of nominations to stand as a candidate for Labour Leader…’we had almost 2 minutes to spare‘ he quipped. Its sad really that whereas he had been asking for a debate on the direction of the Party post election we are now in the middle of a leadership election. What had he started his election campaign with? Not much. A diary and a list of places to visit. The campaign though grew, hustings, public meetings, interviews – in the first few weeks 6,000 volunteers came forward. Every meeting seems to grow bigger, Preston – the meeting had to be transferred to a car park, Camden, a huge conference centre had two over-spill rooms and still hundreds queued outside – so many that Jeremy gave another speech to those who could not get inside from the platform of a Fire Engine…

Jeremy spoke about his policies and how he would initiate the future under a Labour Government, a National Investment Bank – to invest in housing, rail, sustainable energy and high tech jobs. He spoke of the need to assist small and medium enterprises. The need for global movement towards combatting climate change. He spoke at length of the need for a major programme of council house building – this is a cyclical idea that by investing in house building, you provide jobs, a better environment for people to live in, better income, increased security, increased wellbeing…. increase in opportunities..

Education is high on his list of important areas to address, from free schools to academies – he has said that they will all be returned to Local Authority control and that all teachers should be fully qualified. One of his main aims is to increase Corporation Tax, (already low) by 0.5% and use it to offset University fees. When we see those taking degrees now, know that they may leave University with a degree, but saddled with debts of around £53.000. Is it any wonder that Jeremy has engaged with our youth?

Following on from his speech, he sat down for a Q&A session which had broad headers, although they tended not to follow the headers, each question, comment and statement made from the floor was answered and addressed. Jeremy answered questions on the press, ISIS and the Middle East, Counter-terrorism, Nationalism, Education, Party unity and Calais.

As a left of centre activist, Jeremy enthused, enthralled and engaged me. As the end of the meeting was called a standing ovation again rang out loud and proud. The audience were reluctant to leave, but slowly they started to filter out of what was by this time a pretty stifling room, Jeremy spoke to some of the organisers and activist Salma Yaqoob, who tweeted from the meeting “So impressed with @jeremycorbyn rally in Birmingham, restored some faith I’d lost in politics“. there remained a considerable group of people all wanting to have a photograph with Jeremy or to ask a last question – he took the time to answer everyone who waited and all photographs were taken (my own photograph was taken by his son who insisted that it would be taken however much of a rush to the train they were in!)

So without hesitation my first preference will go to Jeremy Corbyn, the only one of the candidates that opposed the Welfare Reform Bill, the only one who has not resorted to personally attacking the other candidates and the one candidate that appears to be upsetting some of the Labour Party elite… which is resulting in the likes of Blair, Brown, Mandelson coming out with the ‘anyone but Corbyn’ lines,whether they are veiled statements or not. Do these work, or are voters going to use reverse psychology on the lines? My 16 year old daughter stated that she thought (Cooper) was unprofessional and unprincipled by attacking another candidate in the Labour Leadership contest, she then questioned whether Cooper thought that by attacking Corbyn she would gain support from his supporters….. My daughter isn’t impressed with the behaviour we have seen in this contest by some of the candidates and their backers.

So this Sunday I went to see Yvette Cooper at the Civic Centre, we were advised to arrive for 2 for a 2.30 start. We arrived at around 2.05 and the car park was fairly busy (especially for a Sunday), but then I noticed that there was a wedding on in the Kings Hall…

Why was I attending a different candidates rally? the voting system being used allows each member to put their preferences in order from 1 (favourite candidate) to 4 (least favourite candidate). I thought that if either Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper could inspire me then I would at least make a second preference on my voting slip. Although we arrived almost half an hour early for the start of the rally, we could have taken seats on the third row….not what I was expecting, as we were in a group of 6.

Ruth Smeeth, MP for Stoke North and a Cooper supporter was chairing the meeting and possibly didn’t make any friends by saying that Yvette was going to be a little late as she as in the vicinity but was struggling with SatNav and the City Centre v Stoke issue. As we had all signed in to the event, we were given slips to put any questions we may have on, so some of us duly wrote out our questions and returned them to the desk – non of these were taken at the meeting.

Yvette duly arrived probably as late as Jeremy had, but there was not a throng of people clamouring for a sight of the candidate, no rousing standing ovation and no feeling of anticipation… She thanked people for coming out on a Sunday afternoon. I looked around the room I think I generously tweeted that there was 140/150 in attendance. Unofficial figures for the Jeremy event two weeks previously had been 1400/1500

Ruth gave a brief introduction and then passed over to Yvette who started with a speech about who she was, her background and why she was standing, what was important to her and the party. What did I learn? that her grandfather was a miner, father was a trade unionist, her first job was driving a tractor, she was born in Scotland. Yvette accepted that Labour had messed up on objecting to the Welfare Reform – for most Labour activists it didn’t seem difficult, we opposed the majority of it, so oppose it – abstaining just didn’t cut it – but an admittance that mistakes were made….doesn’t make it right, but its a start. Getting elected into Government was seen as a must, as being in opposition wasn’t going to get us any of the gains we needed to be making. This point was made with a connection to Jeremy – are we to believe that someone who has engaged massively in Scotland would not bring back some of those lost seats? Jeremy has filled building after building, with far more capacity and engagement than even Nicola Sturgeon has commanded… but Corbyn isn’t flavour of the month with the Labour Party elite….

After the speech, there was a Q&A session, Ruth took questions from the floor, many of which seemed to be from Stoke North. Questions varied, from banking and the economy, to is £3 what my vote is worth, party unity and the Scotland issue, the bedroom tax and university fees.

Yvette Cooper  Civic Centre

What did I get from this session – sadly not much, I didn’t feel inspired, I didn’t feel motivated, I felt almost like Yvette was ‘going through the motions‘ That may well be a response to the polls we are seeing that seem indicative of a Corbyn win (but we all know that the polls can get it disastrously wrong). Maybe the telling part is the bookies odds starting as a rank outsider of 100/1 Corbyn is currently 3/1 on… how often do they get it wrong?

Interestingly Yvette mentioned Jeremy by name four times throughout the afternoon, Andy and Liz didn’t get a mention. It seems that Jeremy is on everyones mind, in one way or another. I’m sure that some of those supporting Yvette will say that she was inspiring and they felt motivated by her speech – maybe she knew it was only my second preference that was on offer, and didn’t think it was worth fighting for…

What is different about Jeremy is the way he engages, his open, honest way of answering the question you ask. Every question put forward by the audience was answered by Jeremy, Yvette failed to answer the Scotland question asked by Andrew Buttress, yet surely its one of the most important questions, as without regaining at least 30 of the seats in Scotland a Labour Party led by any of our candidates is going to have one hell of a job trying to get control. One local reporter asked where the support for Corbyn was from our MPs – they have the same voting rights as I do. I agree, locally the four MPs have shown their support for any of the other three candidates. They have offered phone banking sessions to support those candidates. What have we done, as supporters of Jeremy? we have spoken with our union comrades and have been lucky to have their support. At our sessions, we all do what we can, we turn up with laptops, tablets (iPads), mobiles and enthusiasm – by the bucket load. We all make tea and coffee, we all support each other and we have a grand time. When we can’t make a session, you know what? We make calls from home, why? because we care.

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Tony Blair said that anyone who was thinking of voting for Corbyn should get a heart transplant… how sad is that? A socialist party saying don’t use your heart… I’m proud of being a socialist, I’m proud that I care – I don’t like inequality, and I absolutely believe that we should look after those who can’t look after themselves for what ever the reason – as Jeremy inferred at his meeting ‘there but for the grace of God go I

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Labour – a broad church of belief.

Who is leading the Labour leadership pack? If we look at any number of polls, it appears that the underdog Jeremy Corbyn is.

Taking findings from CLP and Councillor endorsements, Union support along with a number of newspaper and a recent YouGov poll, its obvious that Storming Corbyn is leading the race. From being ranked as a 100/1 outsider to now being the bookies favourite is a credit to Team Corbyn. On a note of caution, we all know, especially if we harp back to the GE2015 polls are never wrong.

Its obvious that some people are getting somewhat uneasy at the increasing support that Corbyn is building, but what are the reasons for the mass support that Jeremy Corbyn is undoubtably attracting and causing some people to get a touch worried. What is the driving force behind this support? Is it the Tories, playing games with polls, pushing someone who they feel will damage brand labour? What impact are the broadsheets having, with their anti Corbyn stance?

Inside the Labour Party, Corbyn appears to have split the membership, on the right of the party, we hear that he will make Labour unelectable for a generation, reverting to the dismal electoral performance of Michael Foot. In fairness to Foot, there has rarely been a man of such intelligence in office, his ‘sin’ – the inability to share his vision in a way that the ‘average Joe’ could understand. The term ‘before his time’ springs to mind, should he have been saying the same thing today, would we have embraced it? would the ‘spin doctors’ made it more legible? would he still have been scorned?

The broadsheets are demanding a move away from the ‘hard left’ that Corbyn will bring to politics, but who has decided that he extolls hard left tendencies? As far as I’m concerned, being hard left means being a communist, and there isn’t anyone in the Labour Leadership contest that can be classed as a commie. So, the argument here has to be flipped. Why is there a massive movement calling out for the left wing candidate?
Surely, the Labour Party, borne of the Union movement needs to make strong representation against the austerity measures that are hurting people, people who generally would be the supporters of Labour? The two largest unions, Unite and Unison have both urged their members to support the campaign by Corbyn to become the Labour Leader. Other unions supporting Corby include CWU, TSSA, RMT, ASLEF and BFAAW.
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What exactly is it that has ignited the passions of the left? Social media is awash with #JezWeCan and #jeremy4leader, every other post on FaceBook is a statement from Corbyn. Whilst Corbyn may not exude the polished finish that we see from Burnham and Cooper, what we do see is passion, open, from the heart politics… and they touch a chord with many. Students, working parents, disabled…. He engages with them all and says what they want to hear, along with how he will turn austerity into anti-austerity. For many, the debate on the Welfare Bill was a telling time, labour supporters were expecting a strong rebuttal of the austerity driven Bill. Many were bitterly disappointed.
A glimmer of hope was ignited though. 48 Labour MP’s did vote against the Bill – http://labourlist.org/2015/07/48-mps-break-whip-to-vote-against-welfare-bill-full-list/ whereas 184 abstained. Many felt totally bereft by what they saw as betrayal by the Labour Party by those abstentions. There have been many of those 184 MP’s that have justified WHY they abstained and explaining that they will oppose at the third reading – http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/Stoke-Trent-Labour-MPs-clarify-welfare-position/story-27456474-detail/story.html  but for many party members this is seen as too little too late. So, what of the 48?one of those MP’s opposing the Bill was a candidate for the Leadership – one Jeremy Corbyn, doing what he has consistently done, standing up for his socialist principles and defending the most vulnerable. Not a publicity stunt, Corbyn doing what Corbyn does.

What have we done whilst we have been in opposition? How have we performed? When we had the opportunity to renounce much of Thatchers legacies under the Blair leadership, we didn’t. We had the chance to reverse and restore many of the damaging plans and policies that she initiated, we didn’t. Thatcher decimated our pits, pots, manufacturing heritage and steel works and reformed the Unions – stripping them of their powers and there numbers, halving the membership of unions.

Lets look at Scotland, they absolutely understood that anti-austerity politics can be electorally attractive. They showed that they took politics seriously and they wanted someone speaking out for them. There are many good Labour people up and down the country that feel the party doesn’t care about people like them any more – this opens the door to the likes of UKIP. And they rightly believe that the job of the opposition is to pose an alternative choice to the Tories at election time and beyond.
So what of the other candidates? Are the party members shying away from the centre ground, moving away from the centre right of Blairism? Is one of the reasons we lost the GE that people genuinely couldn’t distinguish between the main parties? that we were all fighting the middle ground and therefore lost our core support? Supposedly it has been necessary to avoid appearing too left in every election since 1997 in order to win- does this mean that we have lost the support of the ‘working man’? Did we lose it on the economy? On immigration?… but, I digress, this isn’t meant to look at why we lost the GE, but at the contenders for Leader of my beloved party and the reasons why the outsider has become favourite.
Andy Burnham, who had been seen by many as the front runner accepted that Labour messed up when it came to the vote against the Welfare Bill – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33608826.  Along with Yvette Cooper he was accused of ‘flip flopping’ on the vote, stating prior to the vote that he would oppose, only to abstain when it came to the vote. The remaining candidate, Liz Kendall has baffled many Labour Party members by her apparent support of the austerity measures and all but a few have seen how immoral and politically stupid backing benefit caps and tax credits cuts is, this may well be the reason why she is lagging so far behind the other candidates.

The Corbyn campaign condenses all these frustrations and combines it with the hope for something better. It’s not that supporters don’t care about winning power in 2020 – they do, but they absolutely see the need to challenge and oppose in the meantime. There has to be questions around whether we will be in a position to win in 2020 whoever leads our party, but its imperative that our performance assists that wish to regain confidence in our ability to lead the country. If the Labour right wants to win members over – and the assumption is that they do, they need to change their approach and learn.

Following on from the GE, many Labour supporters were annoyed, despairing, unenthused and uncaring of the Leadership outcome – until Jeremy got his name on the ballot paper. Is it any surprising then that those on the left, and some not so left persuasions, have grasped the Corbyn campaign with some vigour? In interview after interview, Corbyn has given straight answers to questions where the other candidates have dithered and digressed, often answering a question that wasn’t asked – its been another string in Corbyns bow – honest and open politics. Nevertheless Jeremy’s presence has forced the candidates to tack moderately to the left.
All have denounced Cameron’s plans for the unions, and if they hadn’t, there is a distinct possibility that Team Jez could be doing even better.
For me, I can’t remember being so enthused by politics, unashamedly and unapologetically left wing, I will help In the campaign  to elect Corbyn for Labour leader as far as possible. His mantra throughout this campaign has been to refrain from damaging any of the other candidates and remaining positive about them. He has so far been the only one who has said that he would find a place around his table for all the candidates – showing an acceptance and understanding of their political attraction.

The strength to change.

All change for Labour…..
At a time when the rich got richer, with tax breaks and opportunities and the poor got, well not just poorer. They were, in many ways victimised, driven to despair and in some tragic cases to take their life. The ConDem coalition inflicted so many detrimental plans and policies on the poorest, the disabled and sick, the unemployed, the young.

And yet, our great nation returned a Conservative government. Labour lost support at a time when those who would previously have put their mark against a Labour candidate chose to put it elsewhere.
People knew the real threats, knew that cruel changes would remain. We can’t pretend that the bedroom tax didn’t happen, didn’t affect people, didn’t create life changing and sometimes life ending situations. Our people went through various emotions, some were confused, they couldn’t understand why the home they had created suddenly became a major financial burden on them, some were hurt and upset, realisation that they couldn’t afford to stay in the place they called home, even when they had the same amount of money coming in…. Some were angry, when they understood the cruelty of the situation, how many were told to downsize to smaller properties that didn’t exist? To allow a stranger to move in. really? How many were told that a child, parent, loved one had to share a room or weren’t allowed an extra room for a disabled person with needs and equipment? And some, whatever the real number, could not face the cruelty and so felt no option but to end their life.

The threat to our NHS will continue. Privatisation by stealth, the rich profiting from the ill.

The increase in university fees. Making a university education more difficult to gain or knowing that the debt on leaving will take years to pay off. Another way of creating an elitist society within the walls of our Universities.

What little we retain in public ownership will be sold off, we have already seen the threat to sell off the remainder of the Royal Mail, now the stake in RBS – the stake that the British tax payer baled out to the tune of £46 billion we now own around 80% of the business worth approximately £32billion. Any sale in the early stages will be sold at a loss which will put incredible pressure on gaining a surplus in the later stages.

So we need to look at our party and ask those questions that will provide us with the opportunity to rebuild the Labour Party. Why did people not support us at the ballot? But more importantly, why did they chose to support other political groups?

Whether we look top down or bottom up, we need a moratorium and a need to be brutally honest in our findings.

Let’s look at the top…. What did Ed Miliband cost us? Do we need to see the Labour Leader as the winner of a popularity contest? If we look historically, in the last 50 years Labour has only produced 2 leaders who succeeded in winning an overall majority in a general election – Harold Wilson and Tony Blair. Do we need to admit that Miliband and Balls never had the confidence of the public when it came to economic issues?
Undoubtedly the meltdown of Labour in Scotland had a huge impact, the loss we took in Scotland was not levelled out with wins in England and Wales. We also did not take our swing wins from the Conservatives, netting only a 4 seat swing. It was widely believed that UKIP would take votes from the Conservatives, but again, this didn’t hold and UKIP damaged Labour.

UKIP did better where there were fewer people with degrees, more economically depressed areas with more pensioners, routine manual workers and those with no educational qualifications. Whereas the polls had been showing that UKIP support was drawn from 2010 Conservative voters, often these are the kinds of anti-immigration, Eurosceptic and socially conservative voters who are from a working class or other socio-economic background that suggests they may be more likely to vote Labour on economic left-right issues.

If we look at an area specific breakdown, there were areas that the Labour vote held up, Yorkshire and the Humber but we did relatively poorly in East Midlands. Our vote held up in London, but that had much to do with the strong base and excellent campaign – but we need to understand that building on our strongholds doesn’t generally convert to an increase in the amount of seats in Parliament.
Tessa Jowell today said that we were in danger of “losing the art of winning”. So, we know we need to change, we need to engage, we need to be speaking to and for those who have disengaged…

Currently three candidates have secured the necessary 15% of our MPs support, @Andyburnhammp @YvetteCooperMP and @leicesterliz with @jeremycorbyn hopeful of securing the necessary votes by midday tomorrow (Monday).

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Andy Burnham has proved a popular candidate, well liked and working with a simple agenda of “helping everyone get on”, whether they are on middle incomes or “people with the least”. Supported the inquiry into Hillsborough and is pushing for an inquiry into Orgreave.

Yvette Cooper is again a respected and likeable MP, who may have previously been in the shadow of her husband Ed Balls. Her pledge is to end child poverty within a generation.

Liz Kendall, classed as the Blairite pitching for the centre ground, has pledged to fight defence cuts, back free schools and give “radial devolution” to England. She has said that although a member of a trade union and passionately wanting a strong, modern trade union movement that can advance the interests of the working people across the country, she did not think that the next Labour Leader should be chosen by the General Secretaries of our Unions.

Of the four, grass roots support appears to be for Jeremy Corbyn, unashamedly left wing a fervent believer in workers’ rights, and an opponent of austerity whoever peddles it. Speaking of our members and supporters Corbyn is on record as saying “The more we involve them the stronger we will be.”

If Labour MPs deny the party and the country a genuine debate, it will reflect disastrously on them. It will do whoever emerges victorious no good, either. Labour has just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history. If the party doesn’t have the good sense to have a meaningful debate now, you might wonder why we don’t just pack up.

Is this a reflection of what’s happening at a local level? Locally we took a much bigger hit than nationally, and to move forward Labour needs to take some pretty big steps into unknown territory for many of our members. Do we have faith in any of our elected members to turn the tide of apathy and distrust?

From within the group, there seems an unwillingness to change steer, to bravely look at where we went wrong – and we monumentally went wrong, we only have to look at the level of votes we took. Being a general election year, our votes should have more or less doubled from the last election, based on an higher turnout. This didn’t happen, and some of our more prominent senior councillors took the smallest increase in votes.

Do we need to change? Can we remain as we are? Who can lead Labour in Stoke to a place where our electorate trust us to have control?

I don’t think many will argue that we need to change, remaining as we are cannot bring back trust or inspire new voters to come out and support us. So is the biggest issue who leads us as a group? The elected members of the Labour group voted to keep the leadership unchanged, not a unanimous decision, but a decision taken by 21 people, they chose, no one else had a choice.

This is the disparity between Labour at a national level and that locally. At a national level, we ‘all’ get a choice, a chance to vote for that leadership team, using the One Member One Vote (OMOV) system, this means candidates will be elected by members and registered and affiliated supporters – each has a maximum of one vote.

Maybe one thing the Labour group in Stoke could look at is opening up the vote for the leadership team to the members across the City. But that may be a brave step too far for many.