They say all politics are local. In East Finchley that is almost certainly true. While we may sometimes struggle nationally to get airtime, and the mayoral campaign is being overshadowed by side issues of no real importance, voters in a small corner of north London backed the Labour party stronger than they ever have before. We were on the side of the people on every issue they cared about, be it school places, playing fields, safer walking routes for schoolchildren or antisocial behaviour. We were also gifted an open goal by the arrogant Tory council introducing a highly unpopular pay-by-phone parking scheme and hiking up parking charges by up to 300 per cent in one year.
The local Labour party and ward councillors have always been a hardworking and dedicated bunch, and people saw us fighting their corner against the council. They appreciated our campaigns and our messages resonated with voters horrified at what they were seeing and hearing from the Tories on the biggest issue – parking. The parking supremo, Brian Coleman, branded members of the public ‘hysterical’ for protesting against the eye-watering charge hikes and another time said they needed to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. This is not what people want to hear when the council puts up parking permit charges from £42 to £100 in one go.
But we were not complacent. In the month that the campaign was fought, we worked hard to try and talk to as many of the 11,000 voters as possible. We knocked on every door at least once, most places twice. We listened to voters and campaigned on the issues they found important.
They rewarded us with a 16.6 per cent swing. We got almost 68 per cent of the vote – the highest we have ever received. We held on to most of our vote from the last elections, where turnout was boosted by the general election held on the same day. The Tory vote collapsed and at one point we thought they might come third. Our majority was over half the votes cast.
What the result shows is that people appreciate hard-working local teams who listen to them, rather than tell them what’s important. They want to hear that we care, that we work hard for them, and that we are there for them all year round, not just at election time. To win the next election, we need to be local champions who fight their corner.
‘With you through tough times’ is a good start to earning back trust and eventually support. We need to be on the side of ordinary people – they want to see the changes our policies bring to their front doors, and when you can demonstrate that, they thank you.
Arjun Mittra is Labour councillor for East Finchley
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.