By Canterbury Labour / 2020 News / / 0 Comments

On Wednesday 8th January we have our first meeting of the year for all Labour members from Canterbury, Whitstable and the villages and we invite you all to attend. It will be held at Friends Meeting House in Canterbury at 7.30pm.

2019 was a difficult year for us as a party. Happily, we’ve held Canterbury and returned Rosie Duffield as our MP, but there is much work to be done in 2020 to determine the future of the party. On Wednesday we will of course be discussing the leadership nominations and look forward to a healthy debate on this.

Locally, we should also be proud of the city council election campaign we ran early in the year which saw the number of Labour Councillors returned to serve as City Councillors increased from 3 to ten. We now have a much stronger Labour voice representing us across the district.

As a democratic party, the work we do at constituency level does really matter, we are a grass roots, membership led organisation. Our local meetings are designed to encourage political debate that translates into action. We debate motions that then get sent up to the National Executive Committee for consideration once passed. We work with other constituency parties to encourage them to pass motions we believe in to increase the pressure on the national party. We take motions to conference for them to be debated on a national stage and they receive national attention.

Some of the work that we’ve done as a local constituency party since the last AGM in June 2019 that I’m particularly proud of include:

 

  • Care reimbursement policy           

This started as a motion and was later brought into policy by an all members meeting. It was designed to remove some of the barriers to political participation for our many members who having caring responsibilities. It means that those of you who are carers for a parent, child or partner can claim back the cost of having someone else care for them while you attend a meeting. We are only the second constituency in the country to offer this, and the first to make it for all carers rather than childcare. The offer of reimbursement is not means tested, we trust our members, if you tell us you need it, we’ll provide it. Get in touch with me at: [email protected] if you need more information about it.

 

  • Sexual Harassment motion

This motion was passed as a strong critique of our current sexual harassment policy which this CLP deemed not fit for purpose. It is a radical motion calling for a new fully independent complaints process for dealing with cases of sexual harassment and assault within the party, and a culture change that prioritises members safety above the political advantage of high-profile members. In 2020 we’ll continue to encourage other constituencies to bring this motion before their all members meetings to bring about the change the party so desperately needs in this area.

 

  • Freedom of movement conference motion

The motion we put forward to conference in 2019 called for an end to all of the Tory’s hostile environment policies and stated that this constituency party backs free movement within the EU and beyond. As a Kent based party many of our members (including Kate Adams who brought this motion forward) work with migrants and refugees. So, this was a motion close to our hearts and we believed it important to affirm our belief that equality and rights for migrants are socialist values benefitting us all. Despite all expectations to the contrary, and after a lot of hard work by our delegation at conference, this motion was passed by national conference in September and we’ll be working hard this year to keep up the pressure on the new leadership to include in policy all the points that were agreed within this motion at conference.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/sep/25/labour-members-back-motion-give-all-uk-residents-full-voting-rights

 

  • Anti-Racism March Canterbury in June

In June 2019, Ben Hickman (our Canterbury Constituency Chair) organised an anti-racism rally in Canterbury – a response to the horrifying racist attack in Canterbury against Daniel Ezzedine. The march reflected to the strong feeling that local members wanted to show solidarity with Daniel and his family and to ensure that our local community understood that racism will not be tolerated here in Canterbury. Over 300 people turned out to march with us from Westgate Towers and the march was attended by Kent Refugee Action Network, Canterbury Mosque, Kent Union, our local Councillors, local Liberal Democrats as well as our own members from across East Kent.

https://www.kentlive.news/news/kent-news/live-canterbury-anti-racism-protest-2972394

 

  • Decriminalisation of sex work motion

In October we became the ninth constituency in the country to pass a motion for the full decriminalisation of sex work. This passed after impassioned talks in our meeting from two members of “Decrim Now,” a sex-worker led organisation. This constituency affirmed our belief that sex work is work and that sex workers are some of the most vulnerable workers in our society. We agreed that they deserve our support as a labour movement and an ability to unionise to achieve better working conditions and we believed them when they said that decriminalisation would make their work safer. We join Amnesty International, Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, Human Rights Watch, UN AIDS, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health and WHO amongst others in this call for decriminalisation.

 

  • Save our NHS Kent – Hospitals Motion

In 2019 there was much Tory misinformation about making money available to build a new hospital in Canterbury. It was clear to our local campaigners that this was never going to happen and was simply designed to bribe members of our constituency to vote for the Tory candidate in the 2019 general election. As a constituency we affirmed our support for the position of the campaign group SONIK (Save our NHS Kent) which supports the retention and upgrading of three excellent hospitals (QEQM, Kent & Canterbury and William Harvey) ensuring the best health services for all  residents of East Kent including full A&E and Maternity care. This is the position we’ll continue to be campaigning from on the NHS in 2020. We have a very active group of NHS campaigners working in this area across the constituency and East Kent.

 

If you want to know more about campaigning with us in any of these areas or if you have ideas for motions or campaigns that you’d like to see in 2020 then please get in touch with me [email protected]. I hope to see you on Wednesday at our all members meeting to kick start our work for 2020.

Clare Connerton

Canterbury CLP Secretary

By Canterbury Labour / 2020 News / / 0 Comments

Our fourth election blog by Alison Dilnutt

 

There is one thing Canterbury Conservative candidate Anna Firth has said that I (sort of) agree with.  This election is a battle of the heart and soul, but not of our ‘country’, for us as a species. 

This election isn’t about Brexit, or the NHS, or the environment, it’s about who holds the power and it’s the oldest story in the book.  This election is about how information and communication – ‘news’ is used as a tool by the powerful to control ordinary people. 

And guess what?  It works. 

It may seem like an exaggeration to say we are at risk as a species, but this election is pivotal in so many ways.  Our identity, our free and precious health service, our hard-won democracy are in the balance.  Our very planet is in peril and those who want to protect it are up against the most powerful forces on earth, hell-bent on maintaining their wealth and influence. 

For a decade I taught Media Studies at Btec and A-Level in a local Further Education college.  To start, the subject was mocked as ‘sociology-lite’.  Later, as the subject grew in popularity and ordinary young people learnt tools to deconstruct the right-wing rhetoric in the newspapers and TV news, the government took notice. 

Media Studies was derided mainly in the very newspapers we studied as a ‘soft’ subject, a ‘mickey mouse’ subject.  A pointless, useless waste of time and effort when these young people could be learning something that would get them proper work.  Pressure was applied to headteachers and FE principles to shelve it in favour of ‘harder’ subjects.  Now those that study the media and criticise it are called ‘liberals’ and ‘snowflakes’.

In those pre-internet/social media days, analysing bias, misinformation and discrimination in the media now seems very straightforward, but the truth is nothing has really changed. 

The Media Reform Coalition recently published a report  which shows that ‘just three companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach) dominate 83% of the national newspaper market (up from 71% in 2015). When online readers are included, just five companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group, Reach, Guardian and Telegraph) dominate nearly 80% of the market. In the area of local news, just five companies (Gannett, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Tindle and Archant) account for 80% of titles (back in 2015, six companies had the same share). Two companies have 46% of all commercial local analogue radio stations and two-thirds of all commercial digital stations’.

In terms of the digital landscape, Google dominates, and Instagram and WhatsApp are of course owned by Facebook. 

And if you think Twitter balances that out then think again.  While it might seem like a safe space especially after Twitter came out to ban paid for political ads, political parties are using targeted Tweets and armies of digital ‘bots’ to push up damaging hashtags and convince swing or undecided voters that people and parties are toxic.  There is no law on fact checking and no recourse bar Twitter itself taking down a Tweet or banning an account. 

As for the BBC, its News service has come under increased criticism and allegations of favouritism, bias and poor balance, some saying it has broken the core principles of its public service remit throughout the election.  But what would be worse is losing our public service broadcaster altogether – as with the NHS, our universal broadcaster must be protected and kept separate from political influence.  I fear, as with the NHS that under a Tory government, the BBC too will be broken up in a piecemeal way, one station or service at a time in a method that the mainstream media will argue ‘makes sense’.

In this digital landscape, and with foreign powers intent on influencing our media and political system, our framework of media regulation is not fit for purpose and desperately needs reform.  It could be argued that media malpractice, illegal influence and deliberate misinformation are putting the very legitimacy of the election result at risk.

The ability to deconstruct, analyse and properly scrutinise the media is not ‘soft’ nor is it ‘mickey mouse’, it is crucial for democracy.  Without this scrutiny, powerful media owners are free to manipulate voters, distort the truth and destroy democracy as we know it.

There is a reason Media Studies has been rubbished, derided and ridiculed.  There is a reason why right-wing governments have tried to get rid of subjects from the national curriculum that develop the skills to question, analyse and challenge dominant ideologies.  It is because those in power – who own or use the media to control the way ordinary people think, behave and vote, are scared.

The old adage is true – knowledge is power.  With the General Election only hours away it is crucial that each and every one of us makes a concerted effort to become better informed. 

Here’s my checklist of what you can do to fight back against these media giants, stand up for democracy and stay sane on the countdown to the GE.

  • Forget how many likes/followers/friends you have. It’s all meaningless
  • Check the sources of stories you read and facts behind them – get better informed
  • Challenge misinformed people with verified facts and evidence
  • Don’t repeat, retweet or repost any stories that cannot be verified
  • Beware the hashtag – Twitter bots are there to get damaging stories and misinformation trending. Don’t help them.
  • Visit or call any family members or friends you know only get their ‘facts’ from traditional media (newspapers/radio/TV) and talk to them about the key issues armed with verified facts and evidence
  • If you are being trolled on Twitter block and report
  • If you come across a bot on Twitter (usually no profile pic and very few followers) block them
  • Actively share/re-post/Tweet/talk about positive facts and stories about our candidate, our party and our manifesto
  • Take a break – have a walk in the woods and turn everything off!

My parents are a good example.  My dad (86) is a life-long socialist and was a TGWU branch secretary.  My mum (79) a dedicated liberal thinker and a classic swing voter.  They read the Daily Mail every day ‘for the crossword’ and the Sunday Times at the weekend ‘for the magazine’.  Had my sister, myself and my eldest son not had conversations with them, I am convinced their view of Johnson would have been ‘silly harmless old buffoon’, that Brexit meant they ‘took back control’ and probably that dipping in and out of private health care ‘helped the NHS’.  All narratives peddled by the dominant media.  I’m pleased to say, uncomfortable as it was to challenge and unpick these adopted untruths, they have a more informed view now and are both going to vote for Labour on Thursday.

It might seem that standing up to billionaire run corporations is an insurmountable task and a battle we are not equipped to fight.  I do believe, however that our people powered movement, fuelled as it is with compassion, a love of equality and the sense of duty to our communities will win ultimately.  It’s down to us to do all we can to resist the tide of misinformation and seek out and highlight the truth whenever and wherever we can.

You can read the Media Reform Coalition’s assessment of political parties manifesto pledges for media reform here.  You can follow the Media Reform Coalition here @mediareformUK

 

Our third election blog post by Canterbury Labour Party member Mike Blamires.  Edited by Ali Dilnutt

We have a climate emergency. 

Drastic changes must be made to how we travel, and slashing our use of cars is at the forefront.  With an announcement today from the British Heart Foundation that air pollution is damaging our hearts to the equivalent of smoking 150 cigarettes a year, the evidence of how poisonous our air has become couldn’t be more stark.

One move we must make is to get traffic out of our city centres and the go-to solution for most councils is to build or expand a park and ride bus service.  But this does not address the core problem – we have too many cars, we make too many car journeys, we are car dependent and that has to change.

In Canterbury, our Wincheap Water Meadows are under threat from the creation of more park and ride spaces.  This is the solution our Tory council have found to encourage the use of public transport.  Clean, accessible, integrated public transport is vital if we are to combat the very real climate crisis we face.  But at what cost to our existing environment?

Wincheap Water Meadows and Hambrook Marshes would be significantly impacted by the development of a new car park.  This impact wouldn’t be just the destruction of plants, mature trees and the habitat which supports the diverse wildlife there, but also people’s enjoyment of a beautiful and peaceful public space.

Then there’s the issue of flooding.  The river Stour has burst its banks already in recent weeks, the water flooding out across the marshes preventing further flooding downstream.  If there was a carpark there, it would have been submerged and a significant volume of water would have been forced elsewhere. 

Marshes such as the one in Wincheap must form an important part of our planning for the future and the Labour Party manifesto sets out promises to protect and restore our natural environment, alongside bold plans to create a cleaner public transport system. 

The reality is that once Wincheap marshes are covered in concrete, there will be no restoration or recovery – they will be lost.

People from across the political spectrum may regret these losses and some might argue they are the price to pay for progress.  It is clear, however, that party politics have a role to play in the quality of our lives and the lives of future generations of Canterbury citizens.

Environmental Stewardship is a grand old Conservative value enshrined in David Cameron’s Tory Oak Tree logo, but in practice, action appears to be lacking.  In Canterbury, it is the Tory Councillors from the rural wards outside of Canterbury (apart from Neil Baker) who are prepared to be rigid in their thinking and are likely to vote for a park and ride next to Wincheap Water Meadows and the Hambrook Marshes that have long been an iconic resource for Canterbury people. 

Rosie Duffield, our local Labour candidate has been vocal about her support to save this precious marsh land.  She already made a video at the Meadows to highlight the threat and also appeared on local radio to argue the case for both these locations.

Vote for Rosie on December the 12th and you will vote for a candidate that understands that our climate emergency means it’s not business as usual and we need Real Change to tackle it.

The next Canterbury Council meeting to discuss the park and ride development at Wincheap will be on January 8th 2020 at 7pm at the Guildhall in Canterbury.  All welcome.

You can read more about the campaign to save the marshes here.

You can follow the Facebook campaign to save the marshes here.

You can sign the petition to support the campaign to Save Wincheap Marshes here.

You can write to Conservative Councillors with your objections to the development of the marshes here.