Geoff Lumley is Labour Councillor for Newport East on the Isle of Wight. He is the only Labour councillor on the island. Geoff spoke to Solidarity about the council elections on 2 May, which take place mostly in county councils like Isle of Wight rather than city councils.
In 2009 I stood for re-election in Newport East, a traditional working-class constituency, on a clear non-New Labour platform.
We achieved an 11% swing in our favour, on an evening when Labour councillors across the country were losing their seats because of their association with Gordon Brown’s New Labour government.
The 2 May council elections need to send a message to the Coalition and in particular to the Liberal Democrats that people are cheesed off with austerity. I expect to see Labour gains across the country and hope to see gains in the south. In particular I would like to see other Labour councillors elected on the Isle of Wight. The campaign is going well on the island, and we are hoping for a group of five or six Labour councillors that can have a greater influence over island politics. We have had eight years of a Tory council who have enjoyed themselves cutting services and jobs. I think they will lose their majority and we might hold the balance of power in a hung council.
I am not for entering coalitions. There are hardly any Liberal Democrat candidates on the island. The Labour Party is standing candidates in almost half the 40 wards. A lot of Lib Dems have gone into hiding as independents. The argument for tactical voting, which has been used heavily in the past on the Isle of Wight, has disappeared from the Liberal Democrats’ approach, but some of the independents still use it.
Ukip came second in the European elections in 2009. They will take votes off the Tories and they have 29 candidates. They are running a high profile campaign. The Tories are very scared about their potential impact.
Labour councillors wherever they may be have to argue very clearly for a different economic strategy. Austerity-lite will not work. We need a Keynesian strategy, with economic growth as our aim. Every year I propose alternative budgets to the Council, which are balanced budgets. They are usually supported by all the opposition councillors. I work to defend jobs and frontline services; I am less supportive of things such as the Council’s media service, which is a propaganda machine — I think things like that can be cut.
You don’t stand as a Labour politician to cut services. I’m not sure how comfortable I would be being a councillor in an area where Labour were in power and having to implement cuts.
This week, the right-wing media has been trying to whip up splits in the party. I respect Len McCluskey. I also supported Ed Miliband in the leadership election. I would rather have supported John McDonnell, but unfortunately he wasn’t on the ballot paper.
I have been an active trade unionist all my life, and I understand where McCluskey is coming from, but Miliband has to have one eye on being in government and I think he is doing okay.