Diane Abbott MP: What is at stake in the local government elections?

'Representation at all levels of government matters because of what we can deliver.'

Voting Ballot Box

Local elections are only a matter of weeks away, but you would be hard-pressed to know it if you are not closely involved in politics. Manifestos have been launched and speeches made, but there are precious few posters in windows and callers to radio talk-ins clearly have other things on their minds.

It is widely understood that many members of the public don’t become as enthusiastic about local, regional and mayoral elections as they do about a general election.

It is not so unusual and is perhaps only natural in our political system, when so much power is still centralised by the Westminster government.  But we have to explain to people, patiently and clearly, why these elections matter to them and why they should vote Labour.

Representation at all levels of government matters because of what we can deliver. Labour always strives to deliver for working people. Where I live, Hackney Labour council is delivering for residents. Our Labour mayor is delivering for Londoners.

The political backdrop is bleak, and with war, plummeting living standards, resurgent Covid, the NHS in crisis and precious little being done to tackle climate change, it should be no surprise that potential voters have other priorities. Ordinary people are suffering from these hammer blows.  We can show them that Labour is on their side, and that we understand their problems and are here to help them try to overcome them.

This is true at the borough level, and at the London level. And we must be able to show people that a strong and united Labour party can deliver for them at national level too. So, these elections are not just about local matters, as important as they are. They are also about preparing for government, showing people what we can do for them in government, not simply telling them.

Whoever said ‘all politics is local’ was wrong. Across the world many governments are in trouble because they have failed to reverse or even soften the slump in living standards. As an opposition, we have a duty to put this government here under the maximum pressure, in defence of ordinary people.

This government is one of the most vicious governments in living memory. I believe it is actually the worst. Over one hundred and eighty-thousand people have died from Covid in this country – and the numbers are rising once more.

At the same time, people are really struggling badly with the cost of living crisis. Taxes, energy bills, rents and food prices are all going higher. But wages, pensions and benefits are not going up at the same pace. Poverty and even hunger are on the increase. All of these are a product of government policy either directly or indirectly.

In addition, this reactionary government still refuses to settle the Windrush claims, it treats refugees worse than animals and we have the scandal of the treatment of Child Q.

But I’m pleased to say there are people in our party who did not stand idly by while all this was being unleashed, despite enormous Tory cuts to local spending.

We supported the vaccine roll-out programme including to our very diverse communities. Some of them cut bus fares. Others built new, genuinely affordable homes. Others took important Green initiatives. In London, we also held the police accountable at local and London level over the level of racism and misogyny in their ranks.

These are real achievements. It is labour people standing up for our communities. That is what voters want to see. That is what they appreciate.

There is so much more to do, and so much more than can be done. But none of it will be done without you and none of it can be done without elected Labour candidates. This is what is at stake in these elections.

Of course, we want to give the Tories locally and nationally a bloody nose. So, we must go out there and fight for ordinary people, fight for Labour and fight for every vote.

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