Taunton Councillor, Martin Peters (not the 1966 England world cup goal scorer) has crossed the floor of the Somerset West and Taunton District Council Chamber and joined the Labour Group. Elected for the Lib Dems in 2019, he previously fronted the ‘Stronger In’ campaign in Taunton during the EU referendum and has organised meetings of the centre left Compass organisation, which favours a “progressive alliance” and electoral reform. He is taking part in the current wave of strikes in the Health Service, where he works. Martin, who grew up in Bridgwater and was part of the radical ‘Sheep Worrying’ Theatre company back in the 80s now exclusively reveals his reasons to Somerset Labour.
SL- So Martin, what have you done now?
MP – I’ve now rejoined Labour after a 14 year gap.
SL – And you had a Labour background for many years though didn’t you?
MP -I first joined 40 years ago in 1983! I was a member through the Foot, Kinnock and Blair years and left under Brown. I attended a few conferences, campaigned in Bristol for the 1997 election. I set up a Socialist Society at college in Cheltenham form 1984-87 and there were various speakers from Labour Students. I attended the NUS conference in 1985 when the Federation of Conservative Students demanded the hanging of Arthur Scargill and the Communist students went “baa” “baa” to the NUS President, Labour Student, Phil Woolas.
SL -So whats gone wrong for you with the Lib Dems?
MP -The Liberal Democrats haven’t made much progress nationally in the 7 years, since it suffered a disastrous defeat in 2015. The party has basically continued in the same vein and is mainly just a repository for anti-Tory votes in some areas. I’m now unclear where the party is either more liberal or has better economic policies.
A Vast National Movement
SL- And what appeals to you about Labour today?
MP -I have confidence in Keir Starmer and the shadow cabinet. I’m a social democrat not a centrist or economic liberal. It is very clear that there won’t be any change without the Labour Party. Unlike the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party is a vast national movement (over 5 times the membership even without the trade unions!) with many party groups to join and influence/debate national policy.
SL – So how does it feel to be ‘coming home’ ?
MP I was a member from 1983-2008. In 1997 I campaigned in Bristol for Labour and I now expect to do the same again. I am happy that the Labour Party is now essentially to the left of New Labour but clearly to the right of its position under Jeremy Corbyn. I’ve organised Compass events and I still believe in cooperation between the progressive parties on the centre left and the defeat of the Tories wherever possible. The Compass Facebook page I organise is here https://www.facebook.com/compasstaunton/
Country Needs Renewal
SL – So what is important for you right now on the political agenda?
MP -The country needs renewal after 12 years of Tory government, Brexit, Covid and the cost of living crisis. We need a Labour government that will make radical decisions to help fund public services. I work in the NHS and I believe it needs far more resources. Labour’s recent policy announcements have impressed me, ie private schools, a nationalised energy company, de-centralisation and the House of Lords. As an activist in the Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Matter and Compass I want to abolish FPTP and have an electoral system that is fair to the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Labour voters in seats like Taunton. This would also help keep the Tories out. I am pleased that the Labour Party conference finally voted for PR in September. In the end, the reality is that only the Labour Party can fundamentally reform the constitution! I will now campaign for PR within the Labour Party and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. I hope the Labour Pary forms a new government that will transform Britain for the better.