Many people have asked me why, when deciding where to stand in the May local elections, I chose to become a candidate in Leyton – a ward that before last Thursday was perceived to be a totally unwinnable seat for the local Labour party.
Below is the speech I made to Leyton ward Labour party members at the local elections candidate selection meeting back in October.
It sets out the reasons why I would have never stood for election anywhere else.
Thank you for nominating me to the shortlist of candidates for this branch. I feel honoured to have got this far because this is the only ward I want to stand in next year’s elections and the only branch I want to work with to help Labour win a seat there.
All of you here have known me for a long time now. For the past couple of years I have been your vice chair, membership secretary and most recently your election organiser. I think we have worked well together and I know that we would work even better together if you chose me as your candidate for 2006.
Allow me to please briefly share with you why I ask for your vote to become one of Leyton ward’s three Labour party council candidates. There are so many reasons why but as I have only short time to talk with you I will focus on just three.
1) I want to become a Labour councillor because I believe passionately in our party’s values of equality, tolerance, community and solidarity. I want to help our current and future Labour councillors continue to put those values into action in Leyton ward and Waltham Forest borough as a whole.
2) I’ve chosen to put myself forward for Leyton because I feel totally passionate about this ward. I was born in Leyton and my family has lived in the same house in Lyttelton road for as long as I’ve been alive. I went to St Joseph’s primary school in Vicarage Rd and all my other schooling took place in this borough. The experiences which have shaped my politics are there and I can see how much needs to be done here to reverse the Liberal democrat councillors’ reign of neglect.
3) As a branch I think we need to be campaigning for more and better environmental improvements and even tougher measures against anti social behaviour which are blighting the lives of all of us who live here. Indeed, just the other day I saw two car windows smashed on my very own road. I live in a house with good street lightening – imagine what’s going on in those parts of the ward that do not.
We also need to work harder to lobby the council, our representatives at the GLA, Harry Cohen MP and Our Labour government for more funds for education and training for this ward because, even though unemployment has halved in Leyton since 1997, it is still far too high.
I also feel strongly that we need to be campaigning vigorously for better facilities for the ward’s youth who make up half the population of all the residents who live there. We can help get them away from thinking that the only path available to them is a life of crime. With you, myself and our other two candidates would lead a strong campaign to fight for these things that I think you would be proud to be part of.
But apart from my passion for campaigning why should you chose me?
Do I have the experience to be a councillor you might ask?
I know I do.
I am a good advocate, with a track record of standing up for rights of people and helping them solve their problems and concerns. I have already started to do case work for residents in Leyton ward and if selected by you today I will begin to hold surgeries for residents – especially those who live on the Grange and Beaumont estates – many of whom have some really serious problems.
I am also already active in the ward as a school governor at George Mitchell School in Farmer Rd and I have applied to become the ward’s Community Champion for jobs. This would mean that I would be the resident charged with fighting for more and better employment for people living in Leyton – a task that I would relish.
Every Wednesday morning too, I volunteer with the East London Community Recycling Project on the Grange Estate. With my fellow volunteers, I help residents who do not have gardens recycle their kitchen and household waste. The scheme is saving the council thousands of pounds in refuse collections and means that landfill sites are emptier and our environment that little bit safer.
Through all these community activities and others, I feel I am building up a really good relationship with Leyton’s residents and this has made me realise how much I really want to serve them and You as your local councillor.
If you select me I will eat, breathe and sleep this election campaign – in fact I have already started. I am so excited about Leyton ward and our potential as a party to finally win back a seat from the Liberals who I’m sure you’ll all agree with me have done NOTHING to engage Leyton ward’s youth or eradicate serious pockets of deprivation.
Instead of them doing any meaningful work, the Liberals would rather pretend that all the good things that Labour has brought to Leyton – the street wardens, weekly recycling, sure start and funding for Neighbourhood renewal – is because of them.
I think it’s time that Labour fought back against the Liberals in Leyton ward.
If you will vote for me to become one of your candidates today, I promise I will do just that.