Following the decisive re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader this weekend calls for party unity are ringing out across the county today.
Out of a voting membership of 654,006 the result announced at Party Conference on saturday 24 September was Jeremy Corbyn 313,209 against Owen Smith 193,229.
Speaking on BBC Radio Somerset this morning Bridgwater Town Council Labour Leader Cllr Brian Smedley said “Corbyn’s victory is clear, we have a socialist Labour party and we now need to unite to take on the real enemies, the Tories.”
When questioned about if the party could unite in the wake of the divisions of the last few months cllr Smedley said “We MUST unite. If we want to stop the privatisation of the NHS, the re-introduction of grammar schools, the running down of social housing or any more disastrous wars, we need to be seen to be the only opposition to the Conservatives and we need to be able to form a government.”
Cllr Smedley continued “What is important now is that the thousands of new members get active and bring that enthusiasm into the heart of the party and that the old hands with their dedication and experience welcome them in and embrace the changes”.
Let’s work together to get elected
Speaking on the BBC from the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool Cllr Leigh Redman, leader of Somerset County Labour group, said. ”The feeling at conference is absolutely wonderful. Jeremy’s increased his mandate. In his acceptance speech he started as he means to go on, the slate is clean let’s work together to get elected. I think Jeremy will be the next prime minister.”
Cllr Redman added “Jeremy increased his percentage of the vote across all sections of the party. He’s got the people on board and now it’s up to the membership to get him elected. I’ve got a union background and he speaks my language. He wants to work with the membership to take us forward. The important thing is the knowledge and experience he has behind him, it’s not just all about Jeremy Corbyn it’s about the whole party.”
Now let’s concentrate on policy
Andy Lewis West Somerset Labour Party Secretary said “The leadership has been settled. Now let’s concentrate on policy. Britain needs investment in the future, with state intervention to unlock the true potential of the economy. The slide towards privatisation in the health service must be halted and assets such as the railways should be run for the benefit of the public. Rural areas like West Somerset have suffered because of the blinkered attitude of the Tories and their attacks on rural transport and social housing. At the county council elections next year, we must be united in our opposition to the mindless austerity that has done so much damage to vital services.”
People are still hurting under this Tory Government
Gail Freeman-Bell, Yeovil Labour Town Councillor, said “Austerity is an ideology that has been driven by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, It has led to public services being decimated, massive public sector job losses, the freezing and reduction of welfare benefits and public sector wages. Across Somerset we have seen services closed or reduced, the poorest required to pay council tax, we have more pot holes than ever, we have reduced policing, libraries have been closed, people can’t get access to GP surgeries, children do not have local school places. These are the effects of this Government’s austerity agenda. We have people struggling to live whilst having to pay the bedroom tax. We must never forget that people are still hurting under this Tory Government. The electorate aren’t interested in our internal battles, they need and deserve a united Labour Party to fight for THEM. As a united party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership we must oppose austerity.”
Uncertainty is over
Michael Sawdon-Smith secretary of the Glastonbury & Street Branch Labour Party said “ Now that the uncertainty of the leadership election is over we are looking forward to welcoming members old and new into the labour family and learning how we can work together to get labour values back into local and national government and how Labour can again become a fundamental cornerstone of our local communities”.
Prepare for the next election
Leader of Sedgemoor Labour Group Cllr Mick Lerry, however, issued a warning “The party is divided and it is now important for the Leader to take action and allow the PLP to elect the shadow cabinet, so that the party can unite behind a strong opposition and prepare for the next election. Gaining power is important if Labour is going to make a difference for the many and not the few. The people cannot afford to see Labour as just a protest party”
2017 will see the Somerset County Council elections and Labour are now in the process of selecting their candidates. There are also suggestions that Theresa May could call an early General Election.