On Thursday 29th March, Owen Jones, author, columnist and Labour Party campaigner, is coming to Portsmouth for a mass-canvassing session open to all, followed by a Q and A session. Cal Corkery, Chair of Portsmouth Momentum and Claire Udy, Vice-Chair of Portsmouth Momentum and Labour candidate in Charles Dickens ward, explain what led them to organise this event and what difference it might make to the local elections in May.
The 2017 General Election resulted in a host of shock Tory upsets with Labour making gains across the country, often in seemingly unlikely places such as Kensington, Canterbury and, of course, Portsmouth South.
But one of the other significant outcomes was the number of senior Conservative Party ministers who had their majorities slashed dramatically, often to just 2 or 3 digits. In Hastings and Rye, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd had her majority cut to just 346 votes.
The newly precarious position of such high profile Conservative MPs coupled with the prospect of Theresa May’s minority government collapsing at any moment was the catalyst for Owen Jones and Momentum to launch the Unseat campaign. Its basic premise is to attract big numbers of campaigners into the Conservative constituencies Labour needs to win at the next General Election, whenever that may be.
The Unseat campaign has already succeeded in directing thousands of Labour canvassers into Tory-held areas to win over local residents. The effectiveness of this tactic has been shown by recent reports detailing leaked messages from Iain Duncan Smith to Tory colleagues asking for help and complaining “we are under attack now from Labour all around us”.
Despite Duncan Smith’s high profile his majority was cut from 8,386 to just 2,438 so he’s right to be worried about our plan to Unseat him next time round. In order to keep up the pressure Momentum has now announced it will host a 2 day Unseat festival in his constituency featuring mass canvassing sessions as well as opportunities for activists to relax and enjoy a series of music and cultural events.
Here in Portsmouth, a combination of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party’s manifesto, strong local candidates and an impressive grassroots operation on the ground led to Labour picking up over 15,000 more votes at the 2017 General Election as compared to the 2015 poll result. This boost in support had the most significant effect in Portsmouth South where Stephen Morgan became the first ever Labour MP in the constituency’s 100 year history, ending decades of Conservative and Liberal Democrat dominance.
In Portsmouth North, we also made significant progress with our candidate Rumal Khan increasing the Labour vote by over 5,000 compared with the previous result. Although this didn’t dent the Tory incumbent Penny Mordaunt’s majority in the same way as other parts of the country it still certainly sets the stage for a radical grassroots campaign to Unseat her next time round.
But before the next General Election, local Labour activists and candidates have a Conservative council to unseat, and that’s why we’re bringing Owen Jones and the Unseat campaign to Portsmouth in the run up to May’s crucial local elections.
By bringing big numbers of Labour campaigners onto the streets to speak to local residents we want to make clear to Portsmouth voters that we’re now the main opposition to the Tories and the only party offering a radical alternative.
Huge numbers of people have joined the Labour Party nationally as well as here in Portsmouth. We believe by engaging our supporters and getting people politically active in their communities we can bring about a movement that will not just Unseat the Tories but go on to radically transform society in the interests of the many, not the few.
If you want to be part of the movement to Unseat the Tories in Portsmouth come and join our mass canvassing session with Owen Jones on Thursday 29th March. We’re meeting at 5.45pm opposite the Rifle Club on Goldsmith Avenue. More information can be found on the Facebook event here.
Main image – screenshot from Unseat campaign website.