30 September 2010

Ed's no mug

We don't ordinarily give much coverage to national politics on the Peckham Rye Labour Blog. Parochial to the last, you'll find more on this website about the Clock House pub than the House of Commons. That said, we thought we'd make an exception following the election of Ed Miliband as the new Leader of the Labour Party.

It's been a difficult time for supporters of the Labour Party watching a supposedly left-of-centre Liberal Democrat Party form a Coalition with the Tories, providing cover for cuts which are clearly too early and too deep for our recovering economy. In very testing circumstances our local MP Harriet Harman has done a fantastic job as the Acting Leader of the Labour Party, holding the Government to account every step of the way. Nevertheless, the people we've been talking to on the doorstep have been very curious to know who would be the new Leader of the Labour Party.

Victoria, Renata and I are delighted that Ed Miliband is now in the hot-seat. Rightly or wrongly some people judge a political party based on their view of its leader. We can do our best locally to show what the Labour Party is all about, but that task is made much easier when a permanent leader is in place, arguing for Labour values day in and day out in the national media and in Parliament.

There was one part of Ed Miliband's Party Conference speech which struck a chord with me and the issues that we are facing in Peckham Rye. He said:

"But what we should not do as a country is make a bad situation worse by embarking on deficit reduction at a pace and in a way that endangers our recovery. The starting point for a responsible plan is to halve the deficit over four years, but growth is our priority and we must remain vigilant against a downturn.

You see, it's obvious really, when you cancel thousands of new school buildings at a stroke, it isn't just bad for our kids, it's bad for construction companies at a time when their order books are empty. It's not responsible, it's irresponsible.

And nor should we reduce the deficit without learning the basic lessons of fairness. We must protect those on middle and low incomes. They did nothing to cause the crisis but are suffering the consequences"

The savagery and the timing of the cuts which the Lib Dems and Tories are imposing on local councils will inevitably damage services and regeneration projects in our area. Southwark's Labour run council is totally committed to protecting the most vulnerable from the severity of these cuts, but there will inevitably be difficulties ahead. It helps then to have a Labour Leader elected who is willing and capable of making the case for sane deficit reduction. We can only hope that the message will get through to the Lib Dems.

Perhaps some of Southwark's Lib Dem Councillors could have a word with local MP Simon Hughes (in his own words, a "rock solid" supporter of the coalition) and suggest that he might want to rethink the depth, pace and timing of these ideological cuts. Former Lib Dem supporters across the country now know that there is a credible and progressive alternative to the Coalition in Ed Miliband's Labour Party. Our local party has seen a dramatic rise in the number of members since the election. If you believe in a building a fairer society both locally and nationally, think about joining up.

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