I was out on the doorstep tonight, campaigning for Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s candidate for MP in Deptford. I met a number of interesting people and these are my notes, thanks to those who spoke to me about tactical voting, the middle east, racism, welfare and Labour’s representation of its core suport, the working class.I met one person recently moved from Enfield asking for advise as to where to vote, and one from Bristol West who believed that the Greens were best placed to replace the LibDem incumbent. (I looked this up the following morning, and discovered that actually Labour were in the lead; a lesson to me is to be in touch with these facts.)
Otherwise I met someone voting for Labour, won to Labour by Vicky’s support for justice in the Middle East. They were also committed to the anti-racist fight and vehemently opposed to New Labour; I don’t think she’ll be signing up yet. I met one person arguing that welfare policy proposals by both Labour and the Tories was too harsh; the obvious retort is that we propose to abolish the Bedroom Tax but otherwise all I could say that we would look to improve the Disability Allowance tests. Otherwise we have a macro-economic target, which doesn’t speak to the politics. It allows us to say we wouldn’t spend the money without saying what we wouldn’t do.
My evening ended up talking to a young mother, who with her husband planned not to vote; she felt that Labour had stopped listening to people like them. I was able to reassure her that Vicky Foxcroft, Labour’s candidate had worked as a Trade Union official fighting for the decent pay for working people, and that her record on the council, which was the first to introduce a living wage on the payroll, later extended to the council supply chain suggested otherwise.
After the campaign, in the pub, we discussed the politics of Labour’s promises and policy on immigration. The policy is a labour market policy; so it’s the language that’s the problem and it legitimises the racism, the policy on labour market protection is fine, although there’s a problem with the benefits policy, I am not sure I want to eliminate non-contributory poverty based benefits because you end up starving children. We are getting massive private criticism of this policy from our supporters and voters.
In an article, in the Guardian, of course, Professor Leszek Borysiewicz, the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge talks about the racist language surrounding Britain’s immigration debate and argues that there was an emerging perception, particularly in India, that Britain was not welcoming.
“When I think of how my parents were welcomed to this country, I find that actually quite saddening. I do feel we are an open, democratic country and we should be setting the standards for the rest of the world, not hindering them.”