Labour candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset Oliver Thornton launched his campaign on Friday night to a packed Charter Hall in the Municipal HQ of Labour run Bridgwater and the next morning was in Minehead at the heart of Tory West Somerset with a host of supporters in Wellington Square and then on to the streets and estates of the town meeting voters and stressing the seriousness of his campaign to win the seat from Tory Lidell-Grainger. Labour is in a strong second place in the constituency and with the Liberal vote split between 2 rival parties are the obvious choice for anyone who can see beyond Brexit and remove the Conservatives to give us all a future. Oliver was joined on stage by Cllr Brian Smedley, leader of the Labour council, Cllr Glen Burrows who spoke about the ‘hope’ that a Labour Government would bring, Cllr Mick Lerry, who spoke about the need for affordable housing and well paid and meaningful employment and Andrew Jefferey, who spoke about young people and the Green New Deal.
Speaking at the Bridgwater Town Hall Oliver Thornton said ” It’s a huge privilege to stand before you as the Labour party candidate, for this lively and warm spirited community. I grew up in rural North Yorkshire, one of 5 children. Both my parents worked for the NHS. My Dad as a GP and my mum as a nurse. I studied at our local comprehensive school and read Law at university. I’ve dedicated my working life to combating financial crime.
My wife brought me here to the south west. I married one of your own, a beautiful farmers’ daughter.
Getting into Politics and the Environmental Catastrophe
I have a young son. His name is Frank. He’s the reason I entered politics. We are faced with an environmental catastrophe that will leave Frank and all our children with a poorer future than the lives we that have enjoyed. A catastrophe that left unchecked may leave our children with no future at all.
We are distracted from this greatest challenge of our generation, because our nation and our community is divided. Divided by the politics of fear and anger, and divided by the Brexit crisis.
We are being encouraged to turn on one another as if our differences are the cause of our hardship .
More in Common
But as one of our own – Jo Cox – used to say, we have far more in common than that which divides us.
We all believe in leaving a healthy natural world for our children, full of hope and opportunity
We all believe in health and social care for everyone, no matter their circumstances
We all believe that no child should go hungry, that our young people should have a good education and equal opportunity to find work
We all believe that everyone deserves to live with dignity when they fall on hard times, that everyone deserves a safe roof over their heads.
Our Values Undermined
These are the values that all of use share. But these values are being undermined
Global corporations exploit our environment, pushing us to the point of no return. We see the impacts locally with ever more flooding and livelihoods lost.
Our NHS is underfunded and struggling to survive. 15,000 beds cut. 80,000 cancelled operations. The longest wait times for AE and operations on record.
We’ve suffered punishing cuts to public services, as much as 60p in every £1 in our area; our classes are crowded, Sure Start abandoned, parents chipping in to by books for our schools.
Public transport has disappeared for many here, we have the lowest investment in the whole country.
How can our young get out there and educate themselves and find work? How can our elderly get to the hospital, the dentist or simply spend time in the company of others?
The introduction Universal Credit, the benefits cap, the benefit delay and sanctions is dismantling our welfare, driving our vulnerable citizens into poverty and worse.
We have Record use of foodbanks, record in work poverty, record child poverty.
But there is hope. The Labour Party offers us an opportunity for change at this election, and when we win it – I want to work with all of you to find the local solutions that we need.
Our Green Industrial revolution will combat the climate emergency, creating skilled local jobs, renewable energy, warm homes and lower bills.
We can build the tidal barrier at the Parrett and return trees to the Quantocks and Exmoor to protect us from flooding.
We can rescue our NHS, with over £26bn real terms investment. We can rebuild facilities, invest in equipment and secure the staff we need. 5000 GPs. 28000 nurses. We can bring back our maternity ward and local services.
We can resolve Brexit with a simple, democratic solution, bringing communities and families back together again
Our national education service will return Sure Start to every community, fund our schools, pay our teachers and allow our young people to study without the burden of massive debt.
We can build 100k affordable homes a year and local authority owned social housing, so that local people can stay in their communities and vulnerable people can live in safety
Our National Infrastructure Fund will provide all our local communities with regular and reliable public transport
We will return the compassion and the humanity to our welfare system.
Done it Before
Our critics say it can’t be done, real change isn’t possible. But we say it can be done, because we’ve done it before and we will do it again.
250 years ago it was the people of Bridgwater who led the call for the abolition of slavery.
120 years ago it was the brick makers of Bridgwater who stood up for workers’ rights and fair pay, who fought the police and the army in these treets
100 years ago the brave suffragettes lay down their lives so our women could determine their own futures at the ballot box
80 years, after devastating war, we rebuilt this country around the NHS, Social Housing and Welfare – so all our citizens would be looked after
60 years ago we began in Law the long journey towards LGBT equality
20 years ago we founded the minimum wage, to fight against the exploitation of working people
Throughout our history ordinary people have come together to demand real change, it was possible then and it remains possible now – because we are the many, and we are strong. Thank you “