Often our values of solidarity and co-operation are seen as irrelevant or impractical, sometimes Labour is felt to not embody these values. Either way, people across the country experience Labour as alien, remote and irrelevant and this experience has its consequences at elections. This alienation began before Jeremy Corbyn, indeed, in many ways it began before Tony Blair. The Party’s increasing lack of a clear, distinct, positive purpose can be seen as a consequence of the successful attempt to win elections under Blair while doing nothing to challenge the dominance of values hostile to our own. This worked electorally under Blair but the failure to assert and make practical our values meant deeper problems were never addressed and as a strategy it can no longer work. Corbyn’s election as Labour leader was a response to this moral crisis and his leadership offers the chance of addressing it.
MPs have, whether in government or opposition, a clear and vital task at Westminster, but they also have a task and opportunity as they are viewed as the political focus of their communities. If selected as Labour candidate for Lewisham West and Penge, and, subsequently, if elected MP, I will dedicate a significant amount of both my time and Parliamentary salary to helping to build on and politicise community capacities and to institutionalise solidarity in Lewisham West and Penge.
I will work to see the money, and any influence I have, to bring people together, whether they are Labour members or not (and one thing the excitement of Corbyn’s leadership has brought is a large new membership who could have a real, direct impact on their communities), initially to establish a network of Labour breakfast clubs where anyone can get a good, nutritious breakfast. I hope these clubs will begin to provide community focal points where skills and knowledge can be shared for mutual support and be a basis for popular participation to influence how we use the strength of the party membership and the community to meet people’s needs whether directly through things that might include, alongside Labour breakfast clubs, food banks, legal support or cultural education or through influencing our representatives both locally and nationally.
If we want to rebuild the trust in communities that will rebuild our support electorally, Labour must show that co-operation and solidarity are our values and that they are meaningful and practical values. In a context where cuts to benefits, welfare services, legal aid or other legal advice, ever narrower limits on entitlements to housing or lack of childcare and cultural and arts education for working class children limits the lives of thousands in every constituency, we have a duty to use our power to help and the opportunity to show we can be useful. If am selected then elected in Lewisham West and Penge, I will do everything I can to help prove the usefulness of Labour and of our values and, even more importantly, to support and encourage the Party and community to prove that for themselves.