How Portsmouth is on the way to kicking the Tories out

A young woman is giving the Tories a run for their money in a campaign to unseat the party at the local elections.

Portsmouth was just a normal naval city on the south coast of England last year. Then something spectacular happened.

Utilising our newly grown membership, we managed to elect the first ever Labour Member of Parliament in Portsmouth South in the June general elections.

Overnight we became one of the famous constituencies that elected a Labour MP in traditional Conservative territory.

Thinking back to that last week of the campaign, in the glorious summer sunshine, people that had ever met before were pounding the streets together and getting involved. This was the grassroots movement that we were all dreaming of.

We now have plans to utilise that movement again and take the Tories to task during the 2018 local elections.

A few months prior to Stephen Morgan’s election I was nominated to stand in the 2018 local elections in Charles Dickens ward. At the time of my selection, we only had (and still do) two Labour councillors in the whole of the Portsmouth Unitary Authority.

Charles Dickens was a priority, and at the time we had an idea of roughly two other seats we might win.

With Stephen’s victory in June that all changed. With the help of polling from the night of the general election, and the sheer enthusiasm and love for Stephen from the population of Portsmouth, we decided to seize our moment and start a campaign. One where every seat is winnable.

The #Unseat campaign was officially launched in February by journalist Owen Jones, supported by Momentum, in an attempt to unseat Tory MPs in marginal constituencies. A strategy adopted to some local councils too.

The council here has been under minority Tory rule since 2014, when UKIP victories allowed them to take control. In the last twenty years it has fluttered between Labour administrations and No Overall Control, with the Lib Dems holding court for years previous to 2014.

The Tories have wrecked havoc in Portsmouth.

Leader Donna Jones – an ex-investment banker – brought her experience to the role and started using government money to buy property in England. A supermarket here, a car garage there. Money that could have been invested in social housing here in Portsmouth.

Domestic violence services have been savagely cut. Tory councillors have even made the national press over their plans to smear domestic violence campaigners, amongst others. The councillor named in that article is still on the council. His seat is up for re-election next year. Please take that as an official invite to come down and help campaign.

The council has been in the grip of a drug and homelessness epidemic where little is being done to address the causes.

Conservative reliance on the third-sector has prompted local community groups to form themselves in the last two years, to look after the street homeless because services have been cut to the absolute bone.

I am running for election in the most deprived ward in Portsmouth. An area where over one third of adults and half of children live in poverty.

The majority of properties in the ward are social housing, owned by the council. Doorstep conversations include residents who have failed the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment and are losing crucial benefits. Some are feeling suicidal.

Another major concern for local constituents is how secure areas in flat blocks are continually being broken into by addicts, where they are using drugs and leaving behind hazardous material. One block, that has been desperately campaigning for CCTV and secure doors, has been told this week they will finally get covert security cameras. But not for the reason they wanted them. Rather, because someone fly-tipped a mattress up there.

I hope this year propels a lot of us candidates into council. I’m the youngest candidate (at 30), and all I’ve wanted to do is help.

I put myself forward because I am tired of Tory rule locally and nationally.

I also want to inspire more women to come forward. Anonymous accounts on social media have already tried to smear and threaten me. All I have to is: I do not care.

I am taking this one for the team because next year lots of inspired young members (women especially), from all
manner of different backgrounds will feel empowered to step forward, and when they do we will be here to support and protect them.

The Tories have ruled here long enough, damaged enough. Not anymore. 

Claire Udy is the Vice-Chair of Portsmouth Momentum, LGBT Officer for Portsmouth Labour and a council candidate at the May 3 local elections. You can follow her on Twitter.

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