‘Unseat the Tories!’: Labour seeking student votes in Beeston

Labour hopes to win back the seat they lost in 2010.

Broxtowe General Election labour

Labour canvassers believe Broxtowe (the seat which encompasses Beeston) is theirs for the taking; only 800 votes separated them and the Conservatives in 2017. But they know the journey to re-taking the seat they lost in 2010 won’t be smooth sailing either.

Labour faces tough competition for votes from the former Conservative Anna Soubry—now The Independent Group for Change—who is seeking re-election and from Darren Henry, the Conservative Party’s candidate.

Organisers were very pleased with the turnout to Labour’s event “Unseat the Tories!”. Political commentator Owen Jones was set to visit and the campaign in Broxtowe was buzzing. One person quietly suggested that the local movement in Broxtowe could be one of the biggest in the country right now.

Labour members are nothing but quiet when it comes to Greg Marshall, their candidate “For Broxtowe, From Broxtowe”. They’re excited.

Sam, a Youth Officer on the campaign, described Greg as “a real working man who should be in Parliament” and was full of praise for Greg’s support on climate action, desire to abolish tuition fees and aims to improve worker’s rights by ending zero-hour contracts. The other Youth Officers back Greg because of the years he spent working as a local councillor—a time that Broxtowe, they say, saw much positive change. And they all universally love the thought of bringing an end to privatisation, including democratising universities.

When asked about what he’d say to students who are unsure of who to vote for in the upcoming election, Sam answered by posing a question (eluding to the fact that Anna Soubry was once a Conservative herself, along with Darren Henry),

“Do you want Labour, or do you want a Tory?” – Sam, Labour Youth Officer

Packed into a gym in Beeston, Labour canvassers anticipated the emergence of Greg Marshall and Owen Jones. The room erupted at the pair’s entry along with Saier, a local party member, who opened the afternoon.

Saier spoke mostly of her personal experiences—how she has £63,000 in student debt compared to some of her colleagues, only a year older, with less than a third of that, and about the “cold-hearted nature” of austerity cuts in schools.

The speeches from Saier and Greg told a similar story: austerity has disproportionately affected the working class, tuition fees are unjustifiable, and Labour is needed now to sort it out. Though Brexit was mentioned, the topic went largely undiscussed in comparison to the prevalence it usually has on a national level.

“We know it is not just a Brexit election… [People] are worried about accident and emergency times; they’re worried about pensioners languishing on trolleys at QMC.” – Greg Marshall

Greg admitted that Labour has had a difficult time talking about Brexit with its supporters. Labour must appeal to a broad-church to win; Brexit is a deeply dividing issue. He spoke passionately of stopping a “Trump-esque” no deal and his website mentions that, as an MP, he’d strive for a Brexit deal which would put jobs, wages and the economy first. (*His website has since been updated after the release of this article.) Meanwhile, he also insists that he is a candidate Remainers can get behind. In his speech, Greg mentioned that he supports Labour’s Brexit policy—though he did not mention any words akin to 'referendum' or linger on the subject too long.

The party's stance on Brexit is to negotiate a new deal and then have a second referendum within six months. Despite the feasibility of legislating and holding a referendum, as well as negotiating a brand new deal, within the timeframe of six months being heavily criticised, it remains Labour policy. The vote in 2016 took just under 7 months to organise—although this period includes Parliament's summer recess when the House was not sitting to legislate, nor was the legislation fast-tracked as a matter of priority as the Labour party have suggested they will do if elected to form the next government.

The Labour PPC for Broxtowe prefers to talk about other topics instead. Much of Greg’s speech was focused on thanking his supporters and criticising the other candidates as he explained why he is the better candidate. Anna Soubry “voted relentlessly” for the bedroom tax and cuts to disability payments; Darren Henry attempted to become the candidate in other constituencies before settling for Broxtowe.

“[Darren Henry] says that he has always loved it around Broxtowe. Well, there’s only one person who’s always loved it in Broxtowe, and that is me.” – Greg Marshall

The language in Owen Jones’ event-concluding speech, as he tried to inspire the crowd, could be described as emotive. Spirited and combative words such as “defeat” and “demand” were used often.

In line with Labour’s campaign so far, Owen pledged large scale renationalisation of services—from high-speed internet to rail nationalisation, as well as a green new deal for a cleaner future. He told the canvassers that the campaign will be hard. He believes that the mainstream media is not on Labour’s side and that “dirty, vicious, [and] nasty” attacks will be made. But this will not stop them, he said. The room was electric.

“The way we win change is not through the good-will, generosity and charity of the powerful. It is won through the courage and determination of people from below.” – Owen Jones

The topics of borrowing and taxation in order to fund nationalisation have been hot in the press across the nation. Owen implied that most of the projects, alongside borrowing, can be funded through a “fair amount of tax” on the rich, but he did not expand further. The exact change in tax is not clarified in Labour’s manifesto. However, Greg confirmed to The Tab before the release of Labour's manifesto that corporation tax will be restored to the higher pre-2010 levels under a Labour government.

Speaking to The Tab, Anna Soubry, who is seeking re-election in Broxtowe as the candidate for The Independent Group for Change, said people will “basically promise you anything for your vote” and that Labour’s “wild promise” to scrap tuition fees “would be profoundly irresponsible to keep”.

The Conservative Party estimates that Labour’s socialist agenda will cost £1.2 trillion and cites renationalisation a key contributor to this sum. The claim has been met with lash back and Full Fact recently concluded that there are “serious problems” with this estimate. The true cost of renationalisation is unknown, although it is unlikely to be cheap.

When asked by The Tab why students should vote for Labour, Owen Jones said, “[Students should vote Labour] to fight to have an affordable home, to fight to have a properly paid job, to fight to have public services that are properly funded, to fight to take on the climate emergency, and to build a society whose wealth can unlock their potential and the potential of the country in which we live.”

Most students based in Beeston will be eligible to in the constituency of Broxtowe on December 12th. For more details on how to register to vote, go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Image provided by BroxtoweLabour.

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Labour plan to abolish tuition fees a ‘unicorn’, says Beeston’s Anna Soubry