What do I really think of Nancy Platt’s defence of Labour’s record?

My dig at New Labour for its legacy in increasing the number of  lap dancing clubs, reduction in public toilets, libraries and, of course, post offices, has provoked a spirited response from the rather wonderful Nancy Platts who left a comment under that post providing a fuller picture of Labour’s record.  Do I agree with Nancy.  Of course I do and I feel that I was rather unfair in my characterisation of Labour’s record.  So, to rebalance the debate, I am repeating Nancy’s comment in full:

“I think I ought to balance BPB’s post with some of Labour’s achievements. What about over 3,000 Sure Start children’s centres and the fact we’re on target to deliver one in every community by 2010? Free childcare, the rise in child benefit, extended maternity leave, paternity leave, flexible working, emergency time off for carers. What about the million pensioners lifted out of poverty, Winter Fuel Payments, free bus travel, free TV licenses, free eye tests for older people?

“What about 149 new hospitals, £96bn investment in NHS, over 80,000 more nurses, 38,000 more doctors, 4,500 more dentists (and remember all the dental schools the Tories closed?), shorter waits for treatment, GPs open longer hours, walk-in healthcare centres, free prescriptions for cancer patients, our cancer pledge to see a specialist within a week of diagnosis, free health checks for everyone in England aged 40-74.

“What about the fact education spending has doubled since 1997, 36,000 more teachers, 172,000 classroom assistants, better exam results, more young people going to university than ever before, the job, apprenticeship or training guarantee so young people aren’t left on the dole as they were in the recession under the Tories?  What about crime dropping by a third thanks to over 16,000 more police, neighbourhood policing and our Community Support Officers?

“What about over £20bn investment in rail, the Crossrail project, high speed rail – more passengers are using our trains than at any other time since the Second World War – over a billion last year. 

“I think it is right to challenge and ask for more, to campaign for a fairer and more equal society but ask yourself this – would all this have happened under the Tories?  It’s a Labour MP that will campaign for more and a Labour government that will deliver more.”

Well said Nancy. Your response characterises your many strengths, not least your passion!  Of course none of the above would have been achieved under a Tory government.  An ideal result in the general election would be a small Labour majority that would force the Executive to listen to its back benchers. 

One of the areas that Nancy did not defend Labour’s record during the financial crisis which was, largely excellent.  The voters will weigh this up and when compared to the excitable youth that is George Osborne, they will realise that the economy is safer in Labour’s hands.

Defending the Greens Record of Campaigning

I have received a robust defence from Green Amy Kennedy of the Green Party’s record in campaigning against the closure of post offices. (see “Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single [Post Office)”. She writes:

“When the Brighton & Hove PO closures were announced in October 2007, Greens cllrs were appalled to find that no less than four of the six doomed B&H sub-POs were located in our wards (Trafalgar Street in St Peter’s & North Laine, Elm Grove in Hanover & Elm Grove, and Preston Circus and Preston Road in Preston Park).

“Subsequently, Brighton & Hove Greens were the only political party locally to call a public meeting to try and hold Post Office Ltd to account (http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/2007/11/28/greens-fight-post-office-closures/), which was held on 6th December 2007 at the Friends Meeting House.

“The meeting was Chaired by Peter Crowhurst (North Laine Community Association), and the panel consisted of Caroline Lucas, Selma Montford MBE, David Bull (then Conservative PPC for Brighton Pavilion) Gary Herbert (Post Office Ltd), Malcolm Butler (Postwatch – consumer watchdog), and a CWU rep (sorry, name escapes me). Invitations were also issued to local Labour MPs, but in the event this offer was not taken up.

“Green councillors also organised petitions in all the condemned B&H POs (including the two in Hove), amassing several thousand signatures, in addition to supplying free template letters for customers to send to Post Office Ltd, Postwatch, and their respective MPs. We sent the original petitions to Hazel Blears MP (then CLG minister), and forwarded copies to PO Ltd and Postwatch.

“Needless to say, the axe fell regardless, thanks to the Labour government’s relentless drive to introduce “efficiency” into public services, regardless of the (not necessarily intangible) cost to communities. I have to say it was pretty ironic watching Nancy Platts running around trying to “save the Post Offices” when (if I recall correctly) both David Lepper and Des Turner voted for the proposals to close the B&H sub-POs, and hundreds like them across the country.

“We are still working to try and progress an “Essex model” at local authority level, so watch this space. And we have and will continue to picket with the CWU. So it’s not fair really to suggest that Greens aren’t doing anything to protect post offices and public mail services”.

Thanks, Green Amy. I stand corrected regarding the campaigning of the Greens.

She is right about the role of the Labour government in driving through post office closures. It truly is the Labour version of the Poll Tax. And given reference to the Poll Tax, now that was a real campaign. Not only did we ultimately get the Poll Tax thrown out, we brought down Margaret Thatcher.

Notwithstanding the activities of the Greens, Nancy Platts and others, post offices closed, remain closed and is unlikely to be a massive part of the general election. The campaign has not been successful.

Nominate your community campaigner

I recently blogged about the lack of any meaningful campaign against the closure of post offices. From the responses received, comments made to me, and my own observations, we seem to have a generation of politicians who lack an understanding of what campaigning is.

Dan Wilson, in support of Nancy Platts, said: “There has been activity in Brighton: Nancy Platts has been supporting the CWU campaign against Royal Mail privatisation and post office closures” and provides a link to Nancy’s website

Nancy is quoted on her website as saying, “Recently, I was pleased to join colleagues from the CWU and support their campaign against the privatisation of Royal Mail. Unfortunatly, as you can see, the elements were against us. It’s such an important issue that we braved the rain nonetheless.  Post Offices and the Royal Mail are at the core of our communities and I oppose anything that weakens their important social role”.

The picture she has posted underlines the point I am making – a trade union banner on the seafront (in appalling weather). Being photographed on the seafront is not campaigning. It is a photo opportunity.  A campaign would have been gathering signatures outside a threatened post office for days, even weeks, galvanising local people (not party activists) to form a campaign group, and then allowing them to lead it, true community empowerment. Nothing short of this is tokenism.

Scott Redding talks up the Greens record on post office closure, that “not just in Brighton, but around the country, Greens have campaigned against post office closures. The first two pages of hits describe Green campaigns in Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancaster, Leamington, Leicester, London, St Ives, Stroud and Sutton”. Impressive, Scott, but not in Brighton. We have had so many post offices closed and the Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single one of them. I don’t expect Caroline Lucas to take the lead (I am often told by Green friends that she is fully occupied in Brussels and as Party Leader), but where have the local Green councillors been? Bill Randall understands activism, but do many of the other Greens?

I go to community meetings where both Green and Labour councillors display a stunning lack of awareness that scoring party political points off each other is one of the great killers of enthusiasm for the party political process.

What we need are exmples of true community activists who can pull together a good community campaign. Would anyone like to nominate a good example?