The Great Get Together
At the behest of the Jo Cox Foundation, this afternoon a constant stream of people dropped in to get together in Letchworth, to drink tea, eat cake and - more importantly - to talk to each other.
For this day at least, JC did not stand for Jeremy Corbyn, but for Jo Cox. Organized by Sue Ngwala (3rd from left) and the Letchworth and Baldock branch, the gathering drew in many people from Letchworth, Baldock and around the constituency, including Doug Swanney, our candidate in the general election, actually on his way back from a well-earned holiday.
It was good to hear today that the Bernard Kenny, the pensioner who tackled Jo's attacker in an attempt to save her, and was badly injured himself, has been awarded the George Cross.
17 June 2017
Remembering Jo Cox
All welcome at the Great Get Together
The Great Get Together is organised nationwide by
Brendan Cox and the Jo Cox Foundation. It commemorates the first
anniversary of Jo Cox’s murder on 16 June last year. Jo was
Labour MP for Batley & Spen in West Yorkshire and she believed
passionately in a kinder, fairer society for everyone.
In that spirit, we shall be baking cakes and making tea to share with the local community. Can you come along? Donate a cake? Or simply spread the word that all are welcome?
This Saturday, 17 June at 12noon - 3.00pm
Howard Garden Social Centre
Norton Way South
Letchworth Garden City SG6 1SU
13 June 2017
Relax at a Labour comedy night
Our comrades in the Hertford and Stortford constituency have organised a Stand Up for Labour comedy night next Sunday at 7.30 pm at Hertford Corn Exchange. We have been late in posting this - somehow we have had other things on our minds until a day or two ago, and that means that tickets are slightly dearer, but we can assure that these comedy nights are well worth the extra.
Buy tickets here.
13 June 2017
9.5 percentage points increase in Labour vote
Doug Swanney increased the Labour vote by 9.5 percentage points in North East Hertfordshire to 28.3%. Sir Oliver Heald's majority was cut by 2,245.
This really does look like the beginning of rebuilding the Labour vote in the constituency towards results like those in 1997 and 2001 (when Oliver Heald's majoritywas in the 3,000s), and maybe even beyond.
Doug Swanney's achievement is, in fact, greater than these figures show, for three reasons. First, although the constituency is largely the same as when it was formed in 1997, it has had some additional areas added (Walkern, Little Berkhamstead) which tend to have a large proportion of Conservative voters.
Second, we have seen in this election the collapse of the vote for smaller parties. The Liberal Democrat candidate held their vote steady at this election, but it was nevertheless less than half their vote in 2001. This time, there was not even a UKIP candidate, whereas in previous elections they have taken a proportion of the vote, especially two years ago when the UKIP vote was nearly 13%.
Third, this was a snap election and Doug Swanney was only confirmed as the Labour candidate about six weeks before the election. He had very little time to get his message over to the constituency, particularly as it covers a very large geographical area. In 2001, our candidate, Ivan Gibbons, had a much longer period and also benefited from having been the candidate in 1997 as well.
However, there remains a considerable hill to climb, but the vigour of our campaign, involving many new members, the national re-action to the unexpectedly good results won by the Labour Party, and the very significant increase in the standing of Jeremy Corby as leader augurs well for the future.
The result was:
Sir Oliver Heald
(Conservative): 32,587 (+3.3%)
Doug Swanney (Labour): 15,752 (+9.5%)
Nicky Shepard (Lib. Dem.): 4,276 (+0.1%)
Tim Lee (Green): 2,695 (no change)
9 June 2017 (added to on 12 June 2017)
Doug Swanney explains why you should vote Labour tomorrow for a better Britain
More about Doug Swanney here.
Read the Labour Party's manifesto here.
We have had reports that the Royal Mail have failed to deliver Doug Swanney's election adddress to a number of voters in North East Hertfordshire.
We very much regret this, but the delivery of election addresses is completely outside our control. At general elections all candidates have the opportunity of sending an election address postage-free to every elector. They can choose to post them individually addressed or allow the Royal Mail to deliver a leaflet to every household in the constituency.
Unfortunately, we had not expected an election to be called, since the Prime Minister had argued that an election would destabilise the economy in the run up to Brexit negotiations. We should have known better than to trust her word!
Because of this, we did not have a candidate in place in time to provide addressed leaflets, so that we were forced to use the option of allowing the Royal Mail to deliver unaddressed leaflets to every household. Clearly, they have not delivered them to every household. Indeed, some constituency officers have not received them.
On the other hand, they delivered some in the wrong constituency!
At this stage, we cannot do anything about this, but, if you are reading this, you can find Doug Swanney's five main pledges here.
Of course, one of Labour's manifesto commitments is to re-nationalise the Royal Mail ......
7 June 2017
What support can you give?
Headteachers throughout Hertfordshire have asked parents for support in the face of severe cuts in funding per pupil that were proposed by the Tory government shortly before the election was called.
They are saying that they will be forced to reduce the number of teachers, drop some courses and curtail other school activities.
One constituent, who had written to Sir Oliver Heald about this, shared Sir Oliver's response with us. In the response, Sir Oliver said that the new distribution proposed for school funding "created winners and losers within the constituency".
Since we were only hearing from "losers", Doug Swanney, our Labour candidate, wrote to Sir Oliver and asked which schools were "winners".
Sir Oliver merely asserted again that "a number" of schools would benefit. Out of more than 50 schools in the constituency we can only find THREE that do not lose!
Here are some examples of the scale of the cuts proposed by the Tories by 2022, according to figures compiled by the National Union of Teachers:
School, Letchworth: £290,453 (10%) or £681 per pupil.
Knights Templar School, Baldock: £502,459 (11%) or £484 per pupil.
Meridian School, Royston: £257,936 (12%) or £714 per pupil.
Freman College, Buntingford: £374,135 (16%) or £581 per pupil.
Roger de Clare First School, Puckeridge: £45,442 (8%) or £164 per pupil.
Ashwell Primary School: £95,593 (10%) or £388 per pupil.
Check out the school that your children or grandchildren go to here.
Elsewhere in the country, headteachers have asked for money. They have stopped short of doing this, as far as we know, in Hertfordshire. So, what support can parents give to the school that is educating their children? They can use their vote.
Voting Liberal Democrat would not help. This would reduce the cuts, but nearly all our schools would still have reduced funding per pupil by 2022.
The only course open to parents who do not want schools to deteriorate is to Vote Labour.
5 June 2017
The Conservative Party have decided to reveal scant detail in their manifesto, so at first glance it can be hard to grasp exactly what their vision is for the people of North East Hertfordshire. But it seems that up to 90% of pensioners will be hit by cuts, as they plan to:
1. Scrap the “Triple Lock” on state pensions, without which pensioners would have been left at least £330 worse off in recent years.
2. Means-test Winter Fuel Payments, which almost certainly means 90% of pensioners in NE Hertfordshire will lose them.
3. Introduce the “Dementia Tax”, using the value of your property to pay towards the cost of your care in your own home.
Doug Swanney, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for NE Hertfordshire, is deeply concerned by these plans: "If you’re over 65, Sir Oliver Heald’s Party has a grim vision for your future. If, after years of contributing to our economy, you’re unlucky enough to become ill with a condition like dementia, you’ll have to use the value of your home to pay for your care. Despite hurried changes and talk of a “cap”, with Theresa May unable to provide details, this might mean that in our area you could be left with only a quarter of the value of your home to leave to your children. I can’t stand-by and see these burdens placed on retired people."
The Labour Party Manifesto stands in stark contrast, aside from the extra £45 billion for the NHS and social care, which will benefit all of us, they make clear pledges to older people:
1. Secure pensioner incomes with the Triple-Lock on state pensions.
2. Protect the Winter Fuel Allowance and free bus passes for pensioners.
3. Provide justice for women born in the 1950s, who have been badly hit by five-year rise in pension age, with very little time to prepare for the change.
1 June 2017
The Government's cuts in education are a scourge
on our society
Doug Swanney was in Baldock last night at the hustings arranged by Churches Together. Sir Oliver Heald was not there, nor was anyone else to represent Theresa May's party (formerly known as the Conservatives).
Doug showed himself to be passionate about building a better Britain. On no subject was he more passionate than on education. He said that he had talked to headteachers around the constituency and had seen the pain on their faces as they begin the process of laying off teachers. He described the cuts as one of greatest scourges on our society.
The Conservatives talk of putting extra money in, but it still results in a 7% cut in funding per pupil by 2022. By contrast, Labour would reverse the cuts - and not only reverse the cuts but also increase the funding per pupil over the next Parliament.
The Liberal Democrat candidate challenged the National Union of Teachers' figures that show that their plans also result in a cut in funding per pupil, though a smaller cut than under the Conservatives.
Missed this hustings?
You have another chance in Royston
31 May 2017
Local patients and staff deserve a brighter future
you need to pay a visit to the Lister Hospital, chances are the care
and attention you receive will be positive. The cost, however, can be
quite a shock. Not everyone can catch a bus, meaning paying parking
fees of over £5 if your visit lasts longer than a few hours.
It’s a problem which also affects doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. We have been hearing from staff at the Lister about how the startling cost of parking at the hospital is eating into their income. With medical staff reporting fees of £30 - £50 a month for parking permits, one nurse, Tracy, said: “With your parking permit, and professional registration and insurance costs, you end up working one or two shifts a month for free and I know of one nurse who was charged for her permit while she was off sick after an incident at work!” Emma added, “You can’t even be sure you’ll get a parking space when you’ve paid for your permit, the spaces are small and cars get damaged. I’ve been blocked in before – it’s just the last thing you need after a long shift.” *
Doug Swanney, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for North East Hertfordshire, wants staff and patients to know that their NHS can face a much brighter future: “Our plans for the NHS will reverse the marketisation of health, re-building the high quality, public NHS we’ve all paid for. Morale amongst NHS staff is at rock bottom after six years of being told to deliver more for less; with stagnating wages, they’ve been giving more of themselves to keep our hospitals going. We’ll abolish the cap on pay increases which caused this, and start properly rewarding them for their hard work. At the Lister, we could achieve one big improvement with our pledge to end parking charges for staff, patients and their visitors.”
Since 2010, the average household is paying more in both direct and indirect taxation: a total of nearly £2,000. And now they face the threat of further tax rises. For our hospital staff, whose pay has been held down below inflation by the Tories, the constant demand on their income is unrealistic.
continues:“When you’re unwell, especially long-term, these charges are
cruel, they hit people at their most vulnerable time. If you’re a nurse
or porter, struggling to make ends meet, working long shifts, day and
night, you can ill afford to be losing a chunk of your wages to parking
fees and it doesn’t have to be this way.”
NHS funding cuts hit Royston
Carefully worked out plans for transforming Royston Hospital into a health hub have been rejected as unaffordable, in spite of support from former MP, Sir Oliver Heald.
Swanney, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for North East Hertfordshire,
wants local campaigners to know that a Labour MP could fight harder for
the future of the Royston Hospital site. “While Conservative MP Sir
Oliver Heald supported campaigners looking to see the site developed
into a Health Hub, he’s been effectively working against his own
Party’s policy. So, despite his best efforts, campaigners have been
left feeling as though the last four years of hard work have been for
nothing, because unsurprisingly the Clinical Commissioning Group and
NHS Property Services have rejected their careful plans as
“Our plans for the NHS will reverse the marketisation of health, re-building the high quality, public NHS we’ve all paid for. While the Government continues to sign off new Private Finance Initiatives which can be a drain on resources, we’ll tackle the NHS funding crisis, so that we can spend tax-payers money on healthcare first and look at the future of sites like Royston Hospital on a long-term sustainable basis.”
Doug continues: “While Sir Oliver seems to have given a great deal of support to local plans for the site, if his own Government don’t prioritise public investment in the NHS, it’s always going to be a futile struggle. As a Labour MP, I’ll be able to work to monitor unsuccessful private contracts, demand money is spent where it is needed and look to the long-term future of our hospitals.”
28 May 2017
Labour's plans do add up
The Tories seem no longer to be constantly repeating that Labour's plans are "unaffordable" - possibly because the costings in their own manifesto seem rather shaky. However, it is worth having a look at the costings in the Labour manifesto.
Spending commitments of £48.6 billion are set out in the supplementary document Funding Britain's Future by shadow chancellor, John McDonnell. These commitments cover proper funding for schools and colleges, for childcare, for healthcare and social care, for state pensions, for restoring police numbers and for lifting the public sector pay cap.
Doug Swanney with John McDonnell in Buntingford
Against this, he sets out the tax measures required to raise the money for these commitments. The big one is reversing the corporation tax give-aways made by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats since 2010. Even after this change, our rate will still be lower than Germany's, France's and Belgium's, whereas, after the cuts, the rate is now well below the EU average.
These are revenue costs. Nationalisation is different, because it involves the state acquiring assets, i.e. it is capital expenditure. In most cases, it involves the investment of a capital sum and, in return, the state receives an income.
The easiest renationalisation is the railways, known to be hugely popular. Network Rail, which provides the tracks, is already publicly owned. The train franchises do not have to be bought: they can revert to the state at the end of the franchise, or if the private company walks away from its franchise, as happened with East Coast mainline. Already there is a large investment in railways by the government, but there is no additional cost in taking over the franchises, and the profits go directly to the state, again as happened with East Coast mainline.
To restore majority public control to Royal Mail would involved buying 50.1% of its shares which at current prices would cost around £2.15 billion, but it has been paying out around £215 million a year in dividends to private shareholders, so that this looks like a good investment, especially at a time when the government can borrow very cheaply.
Water is more difficult. A complete buy-out could cost as much as £69 billion. However, Labour's plan is to swap shares for bonds, which involve paying interest, but probably at a rate below the profit margin of water companies.
On electricity and gas, where a complete buy-out would be even more costly, Labour would have a gradual process. Possibilities include supporting local suppliers - possibly co-operatives - to compete against the main suppliers. This could be linked with the very important process of drastically reducing the carbon footprint of generators and suppliers, by investing in new technologies.
This report is largely based on an article by Phillip Inman, economics editor of the i newspaper, which can be seen in full here.
25 May 2017
Another U-turn from Theresa May
First, Theresa May told us that an early election would destabilise our economy and make it more difficult to negotiate Brexit. Then she told us that we needed an election to stabilise the economy and give her a stronger hand in the negotiations.
Now, she has taken the unprecedented step of changing here mind about a commitment in her manifesto, just days after it was published. Such has been the outcry about her decision to change the way that assets are calculated for those who need care in their own home (the dementia tax), that she now says that she will consider a cap on what people have to pay if she gets back into government. Hardly, strong and stable leadership.
Yet, her sole pitch in the election address that some voters have been receiving - Sir Oliver Heald is very much relegated to the background, mentioned in passing as "her" candidate - is that she will provide strong and stable leadership. Repeating it often enough may get some people to believe it, but it does not make it true.
She has already made two concessions even before the negotiations have begun. We will not seek to be in the single market and we will not seek to be in the customs union. Nevertheless, we do know, on the authority of Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke, that she is a "bloody difficult woman".
Just consider whether this is the sort of person to get us the best Brexit deal. Whoever negotiates the deal has a fairly weak hand, because he or she has only one sanction to threaten to use - walking away from the negotiations. Whereas we export more than 40% of our goods to Europe, no European country exports more than 10% to us, except Ireland. Do we really want a weak and wobbly, yet difficult, woman in charge?
With such a weak hand, we need someone who is viewed as reasonable and sympathetic to win the goodwill of the EU negotiators: someone like Jeremy Corbyn, for example.
22 May 2017
There are fewer hustings meetings arranged by local organisations than at past general elections - no doubt, because of the limited amount of notice of the election. However, Doug Swanney will be at the following hustings:
May, 7.30 pm: Baldock Hustings, hosted by Churches
Together at Baldock Methodist Church, Whitehorse Street, Baldock SG7
Friday 2nd June, 7.30 pm: Royston Hustings, hosted by Churches Together at Royston Catholic Church, 6 Melbourn Road, Royston SG8 7DB.
The Tories propose that, when people need care at home and have assets above £100,000, the value of their house should be included in the assets. The value of their home is already taken into account if they need residential care.
They argue that this is fairer, because it purely a matter of luck whether you need to be cared for in your own home or cared for in residential care.
However, this is only a blinkered view of fairness. It is also only a matter of luck whether you need care at all. The fair way is to treat it like an insurance for everyone and that is what Labour proposes.
Amongst other measures, Labour will reverse the cut in inheritance tax, so that those with the resources help everyone to have care and dignity in old age.
21 May 2017
This morning Doug Swanney and his team spent the morning canvassing in Cambridge where Daniel Zeichner is defending a majority of 599. Alex Mayer, the MEP for the East of England, was also there and the picture shows the three of them in a moment off from door-knocking.
If you want to help Daniel, get in touch with his team at the Cambridge Labour office.
20 May 2017
A manifesto for your grandchildren - and for bees
None of Labour's aspirations for a better Britain mean anything if we continue to trash the planet. So, a manifesto for the many must, as an absolute precondition, include proposals to take measures to protect not just our environment, but the world's.
Do you remember the Tories' promise to be the "greenest government ever"? That has meant allowing fracking, even in national parks. It has meant air pollution at a level that is actually illegal. In some places we breached the air pollution limits for the year in the first few days of the year. They even tried to sell off our forest for commercial exploitation, but such was the public outcry that they performed one of their many U-turns.
Labour will introduce a Clean Air Act to deal with this. We will protect the seas around us with measures like plastic bottle deposits. Instead of cutting funding for flood defences, Labour will fund robust flood resilience.
This a manifesto for bees as well. You may have been signing petitions to ban neonicotinoids, as the evidence of the harm that they do to bees grows. Now you have a better course than signing petitiions - you can vote for a Labour government.
This is a manifesto for our children and grandchildren. It is not just a question of whether they will have a better future, but whether they will have a future at all.
17 May 2017
Last weekend Doug Swanney was at the Letchworth Chilli festival, the Baldock Street Fair and at Ashwell at Home. We would have said that in Baldock he was holding the mighty sword of truth, if that phrase had not been brought into disrepute by a certain Tory politician.
Saturday, 20 May:
Doug will be visiting the Farmers' Market in Letchworth at around 1 pm. Come and meet him and say hello.
In the time available between the announcement that Doug Swanney had been selected as our parliamentary candidate and the election, there is not a lot of time for voters to meet him. There are close on 40,000 properties in the constituency spread over a large geographical area and there are 26 days before the election. That would be over 1,500 each day, but Doug will be visiting places all over the constituency. If you would like him to come to any event that you are organizing, get in touch with his campaign co-ordinator to see if he is available.
Even members, who usually get the chance to meet candidates before their selection and, indeed, to vote for their choice of candidate, have not had this opportunity. So, if you are a member, and fancy a chilli lunch, a trip to Baldock street fair or a shop in Hitchin, go and make yourself known to him
13 May 2017 (updated)
Alex Mayer, Labour MEP for the East of England (in the green coat), got Doug Swanney's campaign off to a good start on the Jackmans estate in Letchworth.
After the canvass, party members filled the Grapevine Turkish and Mediterranean Restaurant in Letchworth to eat an excellent meal and to listen to Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, and to Doug Swanney himself. And, this being the Labour Party, the speeches were followed by a raffle.
Andrew, who was our Labour candidate in 2005, commented that he had never had so many members at a meeting. Based on his experience then, he offered some advice to Doug and drew a number of parallels between the problems that he faced then with the problems that Doug faced now. He went on to discuss how important it was to keep the Labour vote up in North East Hertfordshire, because the media would look at the proportion of Labour votes nationwide. In the face of the damage being done to the country by the Conservatives under Theresa May, he argued that it was imperative that the whole Labour Party united to oust them.
Doug followed with an impassioned speech, tracing the development of his own political philosophy back to his upbringing in Scotland. He particularly emphasised the five pledges which will appear on his election calling card:
Giving schools the funding that they need, without wasting money on educating only a privileged few in grammar schools.
Ending the destruction of the NHS and restoring proper funding.
Ending poverty amongst those in work with the banning of zero-hours contracts and a £10 minimum wage.
Providing genuinely affordable homes for local people, both to rent and to buy.
Accepting the democratic decision to leave the EU, but working sympathetically with our European neighbours to negotiate a deal that is fair for all.
He brought the audience to their feet at the end of his speech.
Andrew Harrop is pictured below in the restaurant with Doug
9 May 2017
On 7 May, Doug was in Stevenage, where Yvette Cooper launched Sharon Taylor's campaign. The picture shows Doug with Yvette Cooper.
Also there were John Hayes, the candidate for Hitchin and Harpenden, and Judi Billing, newly elected as the leader of the County Labour Group. Judi provided the most heartening news to come out of the disappointing county council election results, when we heard that she had increased her share of the vote to 51% and had a majority of 1008 over the Conservative candidate.
L. to r.: Doug, Yvette Cooper, Sharon Taylor, Judi Billing and John Hayes
8 May 2017
Doug Swanney is to be the Labour parliamentary candidate in the general election on 8 June. Doug has lived in the constituency for the last 11 years, so that he has a keen awareness of the local issues.
Speaking after learning of his selection, he said: "Our country has faced huges challenges in the last seven years, with big changes just around the corner. I see this next chapter as a chance for positive change - to once again create a Britain for the many, not the few. It's time to build a stronger Britain with a fairer economy, where people's voices are heard."
Welcoming Doug's selection, Clyde Millard, chair of the constituency Labour Party, said: "As someone sho lives in the constituency, if elected on the 8th June, he will put this area first and will be a talented and committed local MP, which is surely what local people deserve."
Alex Mayer MEP to launch the campaign
Doug's campaign will be launched by Alex Mayer, the Labour MEP for the East of England, who will be canvassing with us from 6 pm next Monday, 8 May 2017. Details of the canvass are on the members' page. If you are not a party member in this constituency, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Andrew Harrop to speak at the launch dinner
Following the canvass, there will be a launch dinner in
at 7.30 for 8 pm. Andrew Harrop, the general secretary of the Fabian
Society, will be the keynote speaker. Andrew was our parliamentary
candidate in 2005. For details of the dinner, which costs £20, and to
book, go to the members page or email email@example.com.
5 May 2017
Within the constituency all the results are in. Unfortunately, Doug Swanney failed to win Letchworth North. This is a new division, but is largely the same as Letchworth North-West, which Lorna Kercher won for Labour with a majority of 48 over the Conservatives in 2013. Doug lost to the Conservatives by a margin of107.
In fact, Doug had a slightly bigger proportion of the vote (40.6%), in a four-way fight, than Lorna did in 2013 (39.1%), in a five-way fight, so there is some comfort in that: the Tories benefited from the fact that there was no far right candidate (in 2013 the English Democrats had 11% of the vote).
The rest of North East Herts
Elsewhere in this constituency, the Conservatives won, except in Royston West and Rural, which was taken by the Liberal Democrats. These seats are listed below, showing the percentage of the vote taken by Labour
Letchworth South: Jean Andrews was second with 21% of the vote.
Baldock and Letchworth East: Anne Holland was second with 20% of the vote.
Royston West and Rural: a new division, taken by the Liberal Democrats, with the Tories second. Ken Garland had 8% of the vote.
Royston East and Ermine: also a new division, taken by the Tories with the Liberal Democrats second. John Rees had 12% of the vote.
Hertford Rural*: Catherine Henderson was second with 11% of the vote.
Buntingford: Steven Stone was second with 12% of the vote.
Ware North*: Murray Sackwild was third, behind the Liberal Democrats, but had 14% of the vote.
Bishop's Stortford Rural*: Alex Young was third, behind the Liberal Democrats, with 11% of the vote.
* These divisions are partly in other constituencies.
The whole county
Labour now has nine county councillors. In 2013, we won 15 seats. The worst blow was that Leon Reefe, the previous leader of the Labour Group, lost his Borehamwood North seat by 273 votes.
It is pleasing to note that Judi Billing won Hitchin North, in our neighbouring constituency, resoundingly, with 51% of the voteand a majority of 1008, an increase of 3 percentage points on the by-election at which she won the seat in 2013.
You can see the full results here.
5 May 2017
County Council elections
With the media full of the general election, it is all too easy to forget that you vote on Thursday, 4 May to elect your County Councillor. The picture shows Doug Swanney, Labour candidate for Letchworth North.
These elections are important. Of course, a change of control on the County Council will not halt the continuing cuts in funding for local councils whilst we have a Conservative government, but a Labour council would make different choices with the money available. The Tories, as their election leaflets show, meekly accept every cut without a word of protest.
A simple choice
Your choice is simple:
You can vote for a further deterioration in services for the elderly and the disabled, or you can vote Labour.
You can vote to do nothing about the crisis in Hertfordshire schools, clearly explained to parents by many headteachers, or you can vote Labour.
You can vote for potholes and noisy road surfaces with flying chips, or you can vote Labour.
You can vote for cuts in recycling sites and more fly-tipping, or you can vote Labour.
You can vote not to fund the Home Start service, or you can vote Labour.
You can vote to keep street lights turned off at midnight everywhere, or you can vote Labour.
You can decide that you do not think this part of Hertfordshire needs any changes in transport provision until after 2050, or you can vote Labour.
The choice is simple and the choice is yours. Read more about Labour's fully costed programme for Hertfordshire in Labour's county manifesto.
Labour's manifesto for the County Council elections on 4 May 2017 is on the election page.
information on these pledges - click here
Are you registered to vote?
If you are not registered, it is too late for the county council elections, but you can register for the General Election up to 22 May 2017. More information on this and on postal and proxy votes here.
Are you wondering who our parliamentary candidate will be?
The Labour Party has agreed a special procedure for selecting candidates for this unexpected general election. Normally, potential candidates are interviewed to be accepted on to the panel of candidates. They can then apply to any constituency which is seeking a candidate. There is then a short-listing procedure and the process culminates in a hustings meeting where every member has a vote.
Clearly, this is not a viable selection method in the time available. So, sitting MPs are automaticaly re-selected unless they do not wish to stand. Other candidates are being selected by a joint panel consisting of two representatives of the National Executive Committee and one of the Regional Board.
Candidates who stood in 2015 are being asked if they want to be considered to stand again, but Chris York does not feel able to do so, for health reasons.
We expect to hear who our candidate is during next week. In the meantime, we have appointed a campaign manager and an agent, as well as a new communications co-ordinator.
28 April 2017
"Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, deliverd falling standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS," Jeremy Corbyn said, in response to the Prime Minister's announcement of a general election on 8 June 2017.
"In the last couple of weeks," he said, "Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain."
Labour's ten pledges are above, with more detail here. As a reminder, the policies that Jeremy refers to as having just been announced are:
Free school meals in primary schools, paid for by charging VAT on private school fees.
A £10 minimum wage by 2020.
Maintaining the "triple lock" for pensions until 2025, i.e. increasing pensions annually by the highest of wage inflation, price inflation or 2.5%, and compensating women hardest hit by the changes in retirement date.
Tackling the scandal of late payments by large businesses to their suppliers, requiring companies bidding for public contracts to pay suppliers within 30 days.
Using the power of public purchasing also to get businesses to cut the ratio between the pay of the highest and lowest paid workers,with the eventual aim of 20:1, and allowing councils to prioritise local suppliers.
Requiring large companies to publish full tax returns.
Added on 18 April:
Increase of £10 per week in carer's allowance, paid for by scrapping the Tories' cut in inheritance tax.
18 April 2017 (amended 19 April)
Doug Swanney is the Labour candidate for the County Council division of Letchworth North. Boundary changes mean that this division is similar to the Letchworth NW division, currently held for Labour by Lorna Kercher, but not exactly the same.
You are in Letchworth North if you live in the district wards of Letchworth Wilbury, Letchworth Grange or that part of Letchworth East which is north of the railway line.
11 April 2017
Hertfordshire headteachers are so alarmed by the reductions in secondary school funding that they have taken the unprecedented step of writing to parents sharing their problems and appealing for help.
The North East Hertfordshire Labour Party is demanding an urgent increase in funding to protect our children's education and to reverse the 35% to 45% funding per pupil that our headteachers report.
"The Conservative Council continue to make these cuts to our schools, without questioning or challenging those in Westminister," says Doug Swanney (pictured), who is the Labour candidate for Letchworth North in the forthcoming County Council elections on 4 May. "These cuts have gone too far - a decent education isn't 'jam today'; it's a basic service, for which we all pay taxes and which children deserve," he adds.
Fearnhill School in Letchworth Garden City is one of the schools that have written to parents, setting out the school's problems and asking them to lobby their MP and to ministers, as well as to their county councillors. Ms Ellis, the headteacher, says that the school is "facing a vastly reduced capacity to ensure that all children's needs are met". She sets out the increases in local government and teachers' pension costs, National Insurance employer contributions, four years of teachers' pay increases at 1% p.a., and the staff training costs arising from ther government's changes to GCSE and A-level courses.
"We have now faced several years of budget reductions," writes Ms Ellis. "The Government would have you believe otherwise – they say school funding is protected. The Government tells us that there is more money in the education system than ever before, which there is, for the simple reason that there are more children in the system. The truth for our schools is that we are receiving the same amount per pupil for an 11-16 year-old as we have done for a number of years – the so called ‘flat cash settlement’, whilst the costs of running our schools has been rising year on year. Our funding for post 16 students has been reduced in real terms for a number of years."
"Failure to invest in our children is devastating for them and also for the future of the the United Kingdom" says David Bell, our parliamentary spokesperson. "Our Tory county council meekly goes along with this. We must shake them out of their complacency on 4 May."
9 April 2017
Anne Holland, the Labour candidate for the County Council division of Baldock and Letchworth East, is campaigning to get the District Council to change its mind about closing our children's playgrounds throughout the district.
Anne knows what she is talking about. She is a retired primary school teacher, who has lived in Baldock for over 20 years, and is well aware of the important role that play has in the development of children.
The elections are on 4 May 2017 for all the divisions throughout Hertfordshire. Go to the election page for more information about Anne and to read her election address. There is also more information on the other Labour candidates in North East Hertfordshire..
22 March 2017
The Chancellor certainly took this advice in presenting his budget to Parliament. You have to read the small print to know that he does not expect to see the deficit eliminated until well after this Parliament - maybe around 2025.
The reason, of course, is that the Tories have failed miserably in their aim - you might say it was their flagship aim - in eliminating the deficit.
They used to say that Britain would become a "basket case", like Greece, if it was not eliminated by 2015. On a generous interpretation of their promise, they failed by 50% to achieve this. So, they put the target back to 2018/19. Now we know clearly that this will not be achieved either. The deficit is actually predictedd to rise next year. What more do the Tories have to do to lose their reputation for financial competence?
We should remember that the last time we had a budget surplus was 1998 to 2001 - for four years under a Labour government. Attlee's Labour government reached a surplus only a couple of years after the Second World War and their surplus peaked at 6.3% in 1950. It peaked again under Harold Wilson at a record 7.6%. Deficits were the norm under Margaret Thatcher and John Major apart from three years in 1998/90 and rocketed to 5.7% in 1994.
Doug Swanney, candidate for Letchworth North (second from left), canvassing yesterday on Labour's national campaign day on the budget
Most people have been suffering from the Tories' austerity measures since 2010. It would perhaps have been more tolerable if they had worked. In fact, the measures themselves held back recovery.
The fact is that Labour is the government of economic competence and we need to persuade the British voters that this is a fact.
The self-employed National Insurance contribution "omnishambles" also shows a lack of competence. Whilst there is an element of truth in the Chancellor's argument about unfairness, this needs tackling in an overall review of contributions and benefits. The biggest unfairness is that high earners pay a smaller proportion of their income than those further down the line. This was corrected for the employers' contributions, but not the employees'.
As for money for selective free schools, perhaps the most worrying aspect is that the Prime Minister - for it would seem to be the Prime Minister who is driving this policy - is willing to ignore all the evidence that selection favours a few at the expense of the many. No longer does the country need a small élite to manage large manual work-forces, but rather a well-educated work-force to take up the jobs that are now being created.
12 March 2017
Labour's 10 promises for the county elections
The government has cut council budgets severely. Nevertheless, by making different choices from the Tories, Labour can provide much better services for you - as long as you vote for the Labour candidate on 4 May 2017.
We are one of the most prosperous counties in the country. Our country is the sixth biggest economy in the world. We could have first class services, but the Tories want to "shrink the state".
Speaking at the County Council meeting on next year's budget, Leon Reefe, leader of the Labour Group (pictured), said: "The sign reading Hertfordshire is the County of Opportunity is now in danger of reading The County of the Bare Minimum."
Starting on 4 March, we published a promise a day to send the Tories away. These ten promises constitute the Labour manifesto for Hertfordshire.
The full manifesto is mow on the election page.
15 March 2017
Today is International Women's Day. Below we are building up Labour's 10 promises for Hertfordshire. It is worth noting that the majority of Labour's county councillors are women. At present, due to the sad death of Sherma Batson, we currently have only 14 councillors. Of thoses 14 councillors, 10 are women.
Similarly, the constituency party has six executive officers, of whom four are women.
8 March 2017
Tory County budget proposals
The Tories claimed that their budget for the County in 2017/8 was to help elderly and vulnerable people. "It was nothing of the kind!" says Cllr Judi Billing, deputy leader of the Labour Group.
Elderly people need social care, but the council has implemented the government's cuts without protest.
Elderly people need public transport. Again, this is being cut to the bone.
All of us need to feel safe at night with street lights on. We now have the technology to turn lights on in the locations where they are needed. Labour would do this.
The council is now the lead authority for flood prevention, but is doing nothing about it. Elderly and vulnerable people will suffer most.
We need better mental health services, especially for vulnerable young people.
We certainly do not need a council that pursues costly court cases against parents over special educational needs. Labour would set up a sensible mediation service to reach agreement in such disputes.
"Everyone needs a County Council that will go into battle for them in order to achieve these things," Judi says. "But this Tory Council is too complacent to confront its own government about the disastrous cuts to public expenditure.
"They shrug their shoulders," she adds, "whilst Labour looks for creative solutions to help people."
We desperately need a Labour Council to be elected in May.
26 February 2017
John McDonnell, Labour's shadow Chancellor, was on the panel of BBC Any Questions? at Edwinstree School in Buntingford yesterday evening.
A group of Labour Party members, mainly from the local branch, were invited to join the audience, although unfortunately none of us was selected to ask a question.
Afterwards, in spite of having had a very busy 24 hours and being in great need of sleep, John was kind enough to talk to us. He is shown above with Doug Swanney, the Labour candidate for the key seat of Letchworth North.
He was the only panel member to join his supporters after the meeting. The other panel members were Lord Lamont, Arron Banks (who has donated large sums to UKIP) and Ayesha Hazarika, who is a stand-up comedian and who has previously worked for Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman.
You can listen to Any Questions? at 2.10 pm today on Radio 4, on BBC iPlayer Radio and you can also download the podcast if you want to hear us clapping and sometimes groaning - or, indeed, if you want to hear the discussion.
25 February 2017
Why do we put people in prison? This is the question Sara Hyde opened with at a meeting of Party members in Letchworth yesterday evening. The answers ranged over the whole spectrum from rehabilitation to punishment, which made Sara's point very clearly that we have no consensus on this. Nevertheless, the Labour view would be to put a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation.
Sara Hyde has been a counsellor in prisons and currently works with women on their release from custody, as well a serving on a Ministry of Justice Board that recommends magistrates for appointment. She made the point that it is often "habilitation", since they have never in their lives fitted into society.
She emphasised the importance of the context in which the prisoners became involved in crime. For example, nearly one-third of female prisoners were brought up in the care system. Half of female prisoners attempt suicide, an indication of the high level of mental health problems. There is a high level of drug and alcohol abuse, and a high level of illiteracy.
They need help in prison from experienced prison officers, and help after they leave prison. Yet, the number of prison officers has been cut from 25,000 to 18,000, and much experience was lost in this exercise. New prisons have been contracted out to companies like G4S and the improvement in building design have been regarded solely as a way of cutting costs, rather than improving the outcomes.
It is not too fanciful to attribute prison riots to this cut in staff. Deaths in custody now run at their highest level ever and suicides run at two per week. Deaths from natural causes have also risen and the lack of staff can exacerbate this, when prison officers are not there when a prisoner collapses or are not available to accompany the to hospital for treatment.
There was a glimmer of hope, because the Tory chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill, has recognised that there is indeed a crisis and Liz Truss, the Secretary of State, has indicated a plan to increase the number of prison officers.
There was a lively discussion afterwards about ways of reducing the prison population, the employment of ex-prisoners and restorative justice amongst other topics.
23 February 2017
As the financial year-end approaches, we can expect our local hospitals to be reporting yet again that they are in deficit.
In 2015/6, the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which runs the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, the QE II in Welwyn Garden City and Mount Vernon, reported an overspend of well over £16 million.
Rumour has it that this year its overspend will be much more, at around £28 million.
Meanwhile, the government expects all hospitals to make "cost improvements" year-on-year - that means cuts - in spite of the aging population which puts greater demands on them. Will they allow such deficits to continue?
We can count ourselves lucky that, in 2015/6, the Trust managed to meet the 18-week waiting time standards, unlike most of England and Wales, and improve its mortality rate. Nevertheless, it failed to maintain the A&E standard (95% of patients within four hours) and the 62-day standard for cancer patients (time to first treatment).
So, next year, with a mounting deficit hanging over the Trust and the requirement for further "cost improvements", we can expect cuts.
The Tories are pursuing their policy of reducing "the size of the state" and apparently are not concerned if this impacts on our health. Yet, this policy is not even succeeding in reducing the government deficit.
Our NHS is slowly, but definitely, disappearing before our eyes. It is difficult not to conclude that this is the government's intention.
18 February 2017
in Letchworth on 25/26 February.
Labour has 15 county councillors in Hertfordshire. We must retain all those seats on 4 May and add some more. This is what we can do to save social care, which in turn helps to save the NHS, from the depradations of this government and its obsession with "making the state smaller".
There will be three canvassing sessions:
Saturday, 25 February: 11 am
to 1 pm
Saturday, 25 February: 2 pm to 4 pm
Sunday, 26 February: 11 am to 1 pm
17 February 2017
The East Herts Rural branch dinner was held on 16 February 2017 at the Viceroy Indian Restaurant in Buntingford.
David Evans engaged in the key task of selling raffle tickets
In welcoming branch members, as well as members from elsewhere in the constituency and from the neighbouring Hertford and Ware branch,David Bell, the East Herts Rural branch chair, said that he was deeply worried about the future of the country.
"Everything that has been achieved in my lifetime, since the Second World War, has been or is being dismantled," he said. He attributed the peace in Europe in that period to the European Union and he singled out the ongoing destruction of the NHS, on which we spend less than the European average, and the cuts to social services.
"What can we do?" he asked and his answer was: "Promote, promote and promote again the Party that we love." He added that right now we had to elect Labour county councillors, in particular, Doug Swanney, our excellent candidate for Letchworth North - a county division which we already held on slightly different boundaries - and also promote the Party in Baldock and Letchworth East, which we had held when its boundaries were considerably different.
He asked for support in promoting the Labour Party in Letchworth on 25 and 26 February. Details in the preceding item.
17 February 2017
We joined forces with comrades in Hitchin and Harpenden Labour Party to run a canvassing training session in Letchworth Garden City on 28 January 2017. The picture above shows Cllr Judi Billing, deputy leader of the County Labour Group, talking to some of those taking part. The other tutors were Deborah Segalini (Hitchin & Harpenden CLP) and the Letchworth and Baldock branch's canvassing co-ordinator, Cei Whitehouse.
After the very successful training session, the trainees were joined by some more experienced canvassers for the first canvass of 2017, as part of our county council election campaign. Our candidate for Letchworth North, Doug Swanney, was one of the canvass team.
County council elections take place on Thursday, 4 May 2017.
We were delighted to be joined for the canvass by our Labour MEP for the East of England, Alex Mayer, who recently replaced Richard Howitt in this role.
Alex is third from the left (wearing a red scarf). Doug Swanney is next to her, wearing a red rosette.
30 January 2017
Donald Trump has signed an executive order to begin the process of dismantling "Obamacare" in the United States. Meanwhile, Theresa May is continuing the process of dismantling the NHS by stealth.
Tories have cut £4.6 billion from social care budgets. They cannot really be surprised that this means that hospitals cannot discharge patients. The minimal increases to the NHS budget mean that it is not keeping pace with the needs of an aging population. They cannot really be surprised that this means that waiting times in A&E and waiting lists for operations have soared.
Soon, they will tell us that we cannot afford the NHS and we shall have to have insurance for a private system. Yet, we currently pay out less for the NHS than the EU average. And we pay out very much less than the USA does on medical care. Somehow they can afford it!
That's why we were out in order to bring to people's attention what is happening to our NHS. The picture shows the campaign team, with county council candidate Doug Swanney (fourth from right) and North Herts district councillor for Wilbury Deepak Sangha (holding poster, left).
Labour created the NHS. Only Labour can get it back for you.
21 January 2017
In the first week of January, all our local hospitals were on "red alert", as were four out of ten other hospitals throughout England.This means that there are major pressures compromising patient flow and further urgent actions are required.
East and North Herts Trust (Lister, QE II and Mount Vernon) was on red alert for five days in the week, Addenbrooke's for six days and the Princess Alexandra, Harlow for three days. At least, none was on "black alert", which indicates that they were unable to cope, but four hospitals around the country were.
Yet, the government believes that it can cure the problem by forcing GPs to open at weekends, by altering junior hospital doctors' contracts and changing the targets for seeing patients in A&E departments. Apparently, the government believes that it has nothing to do with the fact that the we spend a lower proportion of our wealth on health than the European average and much less than the USA.
Or does it really believe that? The fact is it wants you to believe that a publicly funded health service is not viable. The only question is: how bad does it have to get before we are offered a privatised insurance scheme where those who pay more will get a better service?
Do something about it
If you want to save the NHS, come out with us in Letchworth North next Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 10.30 am as part of Labour's national NHS campaign day. Most people do not realise that the NHS is disappearing before their eyes. We must open their eyes before it is too late.
15 January 2017
Political debate in North East Hertfordshire
During the last year, our members have enjoyed having debates, addressing political issues important to us, at both branch and constituency level. We have discussed many issues including the national housing crisis, so-called Austerity and Brexit. Sometimes discussions have been impassioned, but have brought great focus on the values we all share.
Discussion has led to action – such as collecting donations to the local Food Bank, pounding the streets on our NHS Day of Action and campaigning for the by-election win in Hitchin Oughton. Members have been willing and able to find uniting consensus and work together.
This year, at constituency level, we intend to stick more closely to our aim of holding monthly meetings which alternate political discussion with management committee meetings. Sometimes, however, this is knocked off course by pressing business or by the need to find suitable dates for speakers.
We are pleased we have two impressive speakers to start 2017.
We hope all members and affiliated supporters will join us to hear them
speak, ask questions and share ideas for any local action.
Jess Phillips: Women in the
Friday, 3 February 2017 - 7.30pm – 9pm
Jess is very sorry but she has to attend a funeral
to be a remarkable woman to get to the top … average men get there all
An outspoken feminist, Jess Phillips is MP for Birmingham Yardley, as well as Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party Women’s Group and winner of Parliamentarian of the Year.
Sara Hyde: Prison Reform - Imagining Positive Outcomes for Offenders and Society
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 – 7.30pm – 9pm
prisons crisis shows how austerity has ripped the soul out of
Britain... we could
make our country a safer place to live rather than just holding people
Sara Hyde is a leading left-wing thinker on women and the criminal justice system; she has worked in prisons for six years, sits on a Ministry of Justice board appointing magistrates and, passionate about grassroots social change, is an active member of the Labour Party.
Both meetings are open only to Labour Party members and affiliated supporters. Members should bring their membership cards with them. Go to the members' page for more details. Members from other constituencies who wish to come should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 January 2017
It is with great sadness that we report the death of Sherma Batson, who will be known to many Labour members in this constituency and throughout Hertfordshire. She died yesterday whilst away on a "jazz weekend" in Blackpool, at the age of 59.
Sherma was a Stevenage Borough Councillor and a Hertfordshire County Councillor and was a member of the Police and Crime Panel for Hertfordshire. She was also a Deputy Lieutenant of the County.
She was Labour's first candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner and many members canvassed with her during that campaign. In the second round, she had 40% of the vote. The picture shows her speaking at the East Herts Rural branch's Red Rose Party during that campaign.
She had been Mayor of Stevenage and was a member of the Police Authority, which oversaw the Hertfordshire Constabulary before the advent of Police and Crime Commissioners. She received an MBE for her service to local government and the community in 2008.
Our sympathy goes to her husband Howard Rooke, to her mother Yvonne and to her daughter and grandson, as well as her many friends.
9 January 2017
It is not as difficult as you think
We are not seeking doorstep conversions. The main aim of canvassing is to identify supporters, so that we can try to ensure that they vote on election day. Also, the mere fact that a Labour member has knocked on the door or rung up helps to get Labour supporters out to vote.
We are starting the year with a canvassing training session on Saturday, 28 January 2017 in Letchworth, followed by some real canvassing supported by experienced canvassers. If you have never canvassed or have not done so recently, this is for you.
This is a joint initiative with the Hitchin & Harpenden Constituency Labour Party and is open to all members in the two constituencies.
Details are on the members' page.
7 January 2017
Jeremy Corbyn's New Year message
"Decisions made in Westminster are making people's lives harder," Jeremy Corbyn said in his New Year message. He went on to say that the elderly were not getting the care they deserved, people were waiting longer in A&E because the NHS and social care is at breaking point, and homeless families were being priced out of the housing market.
"This Christmas 120,000 children didn't have a home to call their own," he said.
"We now have the chance to do things differently. To build an economy that invests and works for everyone.... We are the party that listens to you and makes Britain better. Let's do that, together, in 2017."
Listen to his message here.