Making the case
It’s tough being in opposition but we can make a real difference.
For many years North-west Leicestershire had been a tropical island of red in a sea of blue. Our district is one with a strong industrial heritage more akin to the factories of south Derbyshire and neighbouring cities than the rural idylls of the rest of Leicestershire (although we have beautiful countryside too). We were the only strong Labour borough in the county and then in 2007 it all changed.
In 2007 we were on the verge of being wiped out, down to our last five councillors, and in danger of being usurped by the Liberal Democrats as the official opposition. Things couldn’t get much worse.
But we didn’t give up. Local activists fought bravely to ensure our perspective received comparable attention with the Tory administration and against all hopes we thought there was a small glimmer that a Conservative administration may be a one-term aberration.
The truth was that in 2011 we nearly made it. We took seats from Tories, Liberal Democrats and BNP and ended election night with 16 out of 38 seats, just three short of at least a share in control.
It hurts now even more though. Every day we witness this Tory-led government posing new threats to local democracy and a weaker than ever administration eagerly participating by virtue of just a couple of votes. But Labour councillors are fighting back by doing what we have always done best. We serve our communities.
Every member of our Labour group has dedicated themselves, more than ever, to the central tenet of service. We, like countless Labour members up and down the country, have made casework an absolute priority. In effective casework we are not only able to show we support every part of our community we are able to determine trends very quickly where the administration is failing.
Only recently our group has used this technique to capitalise heavily with regional media on a campaign relating to rights of access, a campaign which has shown Labour to be in touch with local people, at the expense of the Tory administration, and has positively developed our relationships with media outlets.
But, of course, proactively representing your community is so much more than the single but vital aspect of casework – it is all about being a community leader. I am so proud of every one of my group members who are nominated to and represent community bodies whether they be parish councils, management committees or liaison groups. We make sure that a key part of such a nomination is to attend and play an active role in those bodies.
How many times do we see our Tory counterparts get nominated and then never turn up? The North-west Leicestershire Labour group is no different to many other groups up and down the country in what we do. The only difference, for me, is that collectively we have identified our strengths and seek to develop them.
Roll on 2015 when we know we will make that final breakthrough.
Leon Spence is leader of the Labour group on North-west Leicestershire council. He tweets @CllrLeonSpence
Photo: Dominic Campbell
BNP, Conservatives, Labour, Leicestershire, Liberal Democrats, local government