On Thursday May 6th Somerset voters will be going to the polls to elect their Police and Crime Commissioner for the Avon and Somerset Area. The office was created in 2012 and the only person elected throughout all those years was Independent Sue Mountstevens. This time she isn’t standing and this puts Labour’s candidate Kerry Barker , who came a close second last time, in a key position to take the seat. On Tuesday 9th March Kerry will be speaking to Bridgwater and West Somerset Labour members on zoom and with no other elections to fight in the county of Somerset, members will be focused on getting him elected.
Labour politicians have responded to today’s Tory budget with a barrage of criticism calling it a missed opportunity to make a difference while a smokescreen of ‘Dishy’ Rishi (a future Tory leader?) dominated the media. Labour leader Keir Starmer highlighted areas on which the Chancellor was silent, such as the NHS and social care, pointed to “glaring holes” in our public health response: the low level of statutory sick pay, which means some people can’t afford to self-isolate with coronavirus, and the inaccessibility of the isolation payment whilst calling out the fact that more than a decade of Conservative austerity left the UK economy in such a weak position going into the pandemic. The Tories claim to be the party to help it recover but after a decade of neglect that led to high levels of insecure work, stagnant wages and more than four million children living in poverty, Sunak clearly didn’t actually have a plan and, as people should realise by now, frontline workers are at the back of any Tory queue.
Every year around the world, millions of people celebrate International Women’s Day – and we at Yeovil Labour are no different. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day has occurred for well over a century with the first gathering held in 1911, and 110 years on, Yeovil Labour are proud to be leading the way and inviting you to our first ever Online Women’s Day event. We have organised an exciting day full of speakers on a wide range of women’s issues, including the wonderful Rachel Reeves MP who will be speaking to us about her Award Winning Book ‘Women of Westminster – The MPs who Changed Politics‘.
Yeovil Labour Party welcomed Keir Starmer’s call for the government to give people “ a stake in the national recovery”. Local party Chair Terry Ledlie said “ There is a clear need for a national recovery plan that supports the rebuilding of the economy .We need a new start that will deliver growing prosperity, with a fairer share for all. People want to see economic growth supporting the creation of decent jobs, with an end to zero hours contracts and other bad-boss practices. Our NHS has does brilliantly and is meeting the challenge of vaccinating millions of people. They are supported by other workers delivering public services, including those seconded from the District Council to help administer the vaccination programmes. The government needs to recognise the role that these key workers are playing in beating the virus. Yet for the last ten years the government has effectively frozen their pay. This is an insult to those who have worked so hard to save our country. The chancellor needs to reward them fairly in the March budget.”
At today’s budget set meeting of Sedgemoor District Council both the Labour and Lib Dem Groups had submitted alternative budgets to that of the ruling Tory Group. Labour had pushed for considerably more spend on Climate emergency projects including staff, regeneration work on Classic Buildings and the old Salmon Parade Hospital plus a programme of post-recovery festivals whilst the Lib Dems had urged spend on ASB in Cheddar and infrastructure support in Stockmoor and Willstock. The scene was set for a mighty battle. Then on the morning of the meeting the Tories amended their budget to include elements of both the Labour and Lib Dem ones. Leader of the Opposition Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) said “We were calling for almost half a million more from their substantial reserve to spend now on urgent things that had gone AWOL from previous budgets. Areas of neglect like Penel Orlieu, Salmon Parade and the Stockmoor estate. Suddenly the penny dropped and was made available. This is now the second year running we have backed the Sedgemoor budget and we are please to see almost 50% of what we asked for being delivered.”
In the late summer of 2019 one of the first announcements of the new Boris Johnson Government was the ‘Towns Fund’. A supposedly ‘new’ plan to regenerate towns that had been ‘left behind’. The fund would support ‘struggling’ towns across England. Civil servants then drew up a priority list of 541 towns based on need and potential for development. Government Ministers then picked a top 40 high priority, a medium-low 61. Bridgwater was in the 101 chosen and is now in a position to ‘bid’ for £25 million. However, there has been much criticism of this process. Of the 541 towns listed in order of deprivation it wasn’t in fact the ‘top’ 101 that were chosen but an odd mix which seemed to mainly include Tory ‘marginals’ and ‘places that voted Brexit’. One Town was ranked 535th on the list and still made it to the top 101. Even the minister in charge of the process, Robert Jenrick, had a concerned finger pointed at him when his own constituency of Newark suddenly found itself included and the cross-party Public Accounts Committee suggested the process ‘might not be impartial or transparent’. The Government of course denied this. And why look a gift horse in the mouth! Bridgwater’s going to be in the money….isn’t it? Shouldn’t we just take the money and run with it?
Keir Starmer has set out ‘a new chapter for Britain’ based on security and opportunity. In his speech the Labour Leader declared that there can be “no return to business as usual” or the “failed Conservative ideology” that “weakened the foundations of society.” The Labour leader outlined the choice between a failed Conservative ideology that was exposed by the pandemic or a more secure, prosperous future under Labour. The speech set out his vision of a “new partnership” between government and business that “tackles inequality, invests in the future and builds a more secure and prosperous economy.”
On Tuesday 9 February Somerset Labour members met with Welsh Labour MP Geraint Davies to look at the subject of ‘Air Pollution – the silent killer in Somerset & how we can save thousands of UK lives by WHO air quality limits in the Environment Bill’
Geraint said “Air pollution is responsible for 64,000 premature deaths in the UK each year and was registered as a cause of death of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah. For Somerset alone, Public Health England estimates 2356 life years are lost each year, due to PM2.5. These figures don’t include the impact of other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), but already match deaths linked to alcohol. This is a nationwide issue and as we approach COP 26, it’s more important than ever that we show leadership.”
Britain has just passed 100,000 Covid deaths and Boris Johnson says he accepts responsibility for all the decisions of his Tory government. Nearby Norway has had 550 and far away New Zealand has had just 25 and these are some of the countries that have now returned to a normal daily life. Here in the UK we’re amongst the worse in the world with no end in sight because there’s no strategy in sight just a bumbling ‘respond and see’. Johnson swung from herd immunity to testing then failing to test then opening all the restaurants then closing all the restaurants, then promoting Christmas then cancelling Christmas. Labour have been marking the sad day with calls for action and public inquiry.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer said “This is a national tragedy and a terrible reminder of all that we have lost as a country. We must never become numb to these numbers or treat them as just statistics. Every death is a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a partner or a colleague. It is an empty chair at the dinner table. To all those that are mourning, we must promise to learn the lessons of what went wrong and build a more resilient country. That day will come and we will get there together. But for now we must remember those that we have lost and be vigilant in the national effort to stay at home, protect our NHS and vaccinate Britain.”Continue reading “100,000 Covid Deaths is a National Tragedy”
Clive Lewis is the Leadership candidate that never was. After the excitement of his initially standing for the leadership in the post Jeremy Corbyn vote he failed to get the backing of enough Labour MPs to let his name go through to the final ballot. As a result the Leadership battle was fought out between Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long Bailey and Lisa Nandy with Starmer the clear winner on 56% of the members vote. Today Clive Lewis is a back bencher representing the Norwich South Constituency for Labour since 2015. But Clive stands out for his principled views on socialism, his track record of service whether its with the BBC as a journalist or in the army in Afghanistan and for being fearless in promoting new ideas such as proportional representation, cross party alliances and open borders. On January 20th he kept a promise to visit Bridgwater and spoke with members on zoom.