|Christine McGeary, Labour|
candidate for Gooshays
Christine Anne McGeary – the only woman to be standing in this by-election – is hoping to repaint the town red and increase the number of her party's councillors from 5 to 6.
Her campaign is based on opposing the parking charges at Hilldene shopping centre, the closure of the police front desk on Straight Road, and also highlighting the closure of King George Hospital's maternity ward and the fact Queen’s Hospital in Romford will be overstretched:
I was at the last council meeting where the ruling Conservative party refused to let Labour, the principle minority opposition, raise the issue of opposing parking charges at Hilldene, despite a petition with thousands of signatures.
This is why - ironically - council democracy contains within it an undemocratic streak when the majority can ignore and dismiss the minority, even though all councillors are as democratically elected by the people as each other.
On the other hand, Labour have been opposing cuts since the ConDem Coalition government came to power 3 years ago, and 3 years later their arguments are still as unconvincing. People have not forgotten how Labour mishandled our finances, including how Gordon Brown sold our country's gold reserves at a knock-down price.
|Labour leader Ed Miliband speaks at anti-cuts rally last year,|
despite not ruling out austerity himself
Let’s also not forget Labour’s dismal mishandling of our borders. As it stands, the Home Office doesn’t know how many people are coming in and going out, and we’ve learnt this week that a quarter of a million extra school places will be needed by 2014 to meet the rising demand. And Havering council had grossly underestimated the population figures when 4 years ago it closed and merged local primary schools – including Manor school.
When you vote on Thursday, just remember our legacy of 13 years of Labour government.
It’s not all bad though...
When it comes to publicity and public relations, Labour wins hands down, and all the other parties (including the Residents’ Association) could learn something from the following postcard:
This is how election literature should be! Her name is in big letters, she has a nice smile (if you're another candidate reading this, take note!), and her pledges are short, snappy and effective, especially for an audience which is probably turned off by politics.
All other campaign leaflets I’ve seen from the other candidates (including Labour’s other piece of literature above) read like a party manifesto for War and Peace. Unless you’re a die-hard political anorak (like me), I very much doubt you have either the time or the will in your busy life to read through that amount of detail!
|Labour has an effective social media strategy|
Cllr Keith Darvill, leader of the Labour group on the council, has used Twitter along with the official Romford Labour Party and other local activists to promote Christine’s campaign.
In contrast, I know of at least 3 Conservative councillors who use Twitter, yet none have even mentioned their candidate Marcus Llewellyn-Rothschild or this by-election on their accounts. Maybe they’ve just given up?
The only Residents' Association councillor I know who tweets is the leader of the RA group, Cllr Clarence Barrett (@clarence39533), and our Gooshays candidate Darren Wise (@darrenwiseRA) has also set one up (please follow both!).
Like in so many other by-elections since the ConDems came to power, Labour have missed numerous opportunities to make political capital out of being in opposition.
Christine’s reputation and hopes for Gooshays will be set back by her party's national record on the economy and immigration. In people's minds, she will be associated with this terrible record, and if voted in will join the relatively weak minority opposition on the council.
A vote for Darren Wise, however, will strengthen the council's main opposition leading to a more effective scrutiny and challenge to the Conservatives.
And whereas Christine will have to answer to a Labour party whip, the only people Darren Wise will have to answer to are the residents who elected him.
Next on the list is Lawrence James Webb standing for UKIP Local Residents…