Nelson’s Column: Farage’s tanks never fired blanks this time in Thurrock
Aveley resident, Scott Nelson, explains why, despite being what he would describe as a "committed socialist" he voted for UKIP at the recent local elections.
THE recent local elections in Thurrock were a disappointing result for Labour. In fact, it was devastating considering the good progress Labour made last year, knocking UKIP to third place in the parliamentary election. But now the tables have turned.
A few months ago I read an article in The Independent about a group of Labour MPs that toured the country talking to people about Ed Miliband’s defeat to David Cameron and Thurrock was one of the areas they visited. The MPs said that Thurrock was the only area in the country where they received a hostile reception and also said that Thurrock was the only area that raised issues about immigration and the EU.
When I campaigned for Labour in Thurrock back in 2014 and 2015, the two biggest issues that residents regularly raised on the streets and doorsteps were immigration and the EU. But it is wrong to solely blame immigration for the problems in Thurrock.
Over the last 25 years current and successive governments have failed to ensure adequate infrastructure has been in place for expanding communities. Thurrock’s community has expanded but not just because of immigration, the London overspill is also playing its part. People are being priced out of London and are relocating to Thurrock because the cost of living is cheaper.
A good example of governments failing on infrastructure was the closure of Orsett Hospital in the 1990s by the Conservatives despite the development of Chafford Hundred. Labour has also failed on infrastructure by not ensuring GP surgeries and schools were able to cope with Thurrock’s expanding community and this problem has continued under David Cameron.
The recent UKIP victory in Thurrock was because the Labour-led council became complacent and out of touch with the borough, but the main reason was immigration and the effects it has had on Thurrock. When I campaigned with Labour in 2014 and 2015 many residents complained about the Labour council and immigration and they felt that Labour was not listening to their concerns. It was also a huge mistake when Ed Miliband refused to honour an EU referendum and this angered a lot of Thurrock residents.
The UKIP victories are also the result of Labour not listening to residents and failing to engage with them. Immigration and the EU are not taboo subjects and Labour needs to accept that Party supporters and people on the Left do have concerns and issues with immigration and the EU. Many are also backing Brexit and this is why Labour has lost supporters to UKIP, and it does not help when Alan Johnson, leader of the Labour ‘In’ campaign labels Brexit supporters as ‘extremists’. This is very insulting and proves Labour is out of touch.
I have had issues with the EU for a long time now and share the concerns of Thurrock residents and millions of other people across the country alike. I will therefore be voting for Brexit on 23 June and I am also pleased that Thurrock Council is backing Brexit.
Moving back to last week’s local elections, I made a very difficult decision at the ballot box in Aveley and this was because of Labour’s failure to campaign in the ward ahead of the election. Despite my criticisms of UKIP, I decided to vote for their candidate Luke Spillman and I will explain why.
UKIP was the only party that canvassed in Aveley while Labour and the Conservatives failed to make an appearance and I was impressed by Luke Spillman’s commitment and enthusiasm.
I have been a Labour supporter since I first became eligible to vote in 1996 and this was the first time I had ever voted for another party. Voting UKIP was a very difficult decision to make, but I felt compelled to because Labour failed to canvass for votes in Aveley and I felt the party was taking me and all other Labour supporters for granted.
Labour failed to post any leaflets to the residents of Aveley detailing who the candidate was and what they intended to do for the community, and this has made Aveley residents very angry and bitter. I was not prepared to vote for a candidate who showed no commitment during the election. A candidate has a duty to meet the community they are intending to represent and post literature giving details of who they are and what they intend to do for the community.
In 2015, Labour received 996 votes in Aveley and that was because the party campaigned hard, talked to residents and posted leaflets through doors. This proved that the party’s campaigning worked. Yet, in last week’s elections Labour’s vote collapsed to 449 votes and that was because of Labour’s failure to campaign and Aveley residents feel that the Party does not care.
UKIP received 1,011 votes and won the Aveley seat by a majority of 562 votes; had Labour campaigned on the 996 votes received last year, only 16 votes would have been needed to beat UKIP and I am confident Labour could have won the Aveley seat. It would have also been the first time in about decade since Aveley had a Labour Councillor.
I have written to Jeremy Corbyn, a politician I greatly admire, expressing my disappointment that Labour failed to campaign in Aveley. Labour’s failure to talk to residents and voters is why the Party has lost touch with Thurrock. I hope that Labour learns by the UKIP victories and this has taught the Party a valuable lesson: never take voters for granted.
Jeremy Corbyn needs to visit Thurrock urgently, after all Thurrock used to be solid Labour and I am confident that the Party will bounce back – but only if it takes the people of Thurrock seriously.
Written by Scott Nelson, Thurrock resident and former Labour Party activist. Follow me on Twitter @SocialistVoice