Colchester Labour party stirs itself

SOMETIMES the most unlikely things happen in politics – and it seems that the Labour Party in Colchester is waking from its self-induced fratricide.The Labour Group on the borough council, supported by the local party, is launching tomorrow a policy document for Colchester entitled Back in the real world: better services – safer communities.

SOMETIMES the most unlikely things happen in politics – and it seems that the Labour Party in Colchester is waking from its self-induced fratricide.

The Labour Group on the borough council, supported by the local party, is launching tomorrow a policy document for Colchester entitled Back in the real world: better services – safer communities.

This ironic admission that Labour in Colchester has not been living in the real world is long overdue. Whether the spin put on it by council group leader Tim Young that it is "an important new document that will set Labour apart as the true voice of Colchester people" is for the voters to judge.

Labour could not really be in a worse mess in either the borough or the parliamentary constituency. Marginalised in the 2001 General Election and reduced to a mere handful of councillors, Colchester has been Labour's problem child for many years.


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Regional directors of the party have come and gone, all tearing their hair out at the childish antics of councillors and party activists that have allowed the Liberal Democrats to become the main beneficiaries of anti-Tory voters.

If Mr Young and his colleagues are to be believed, that's about to change. "We have been working on this document for some time after listening to the concerns of local residents and we are now ready to launch our proposals. We have adopted a raft of policies that we believe will have real appeal to the residents of the borough."

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He claims the joint Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition at the Town Hall "is now drifting and directionless" and has forgotten the first priority for a council – "to deliver decent basic services like clean streets and safe neighbourhoods.

"It disregards the views of the young and the elderly and has recently been wasting public money on hare-brained initiatives. Labour believes it's time that Colchester Council got back in the real world and started delivering for its residents. This document is a watershed for the new Labour Party in Colchester as we seek to regain the trust and support of local residents."

All of which must be music to the ears of Labour's newly appointed regional director Alan Olive. If councillors and activists can unite behind this document, he can turn his attention to the more pressing and daunting business of the re-election of Labour MPs in marginal seats, such as Alan Hurst and Braintree and Ivan Henderson in Colchester.

But before Tim Young and his colleagues get carried away, there's a long way to go before a Labour revival would lead to the election of a Labour MP for Colchester.

The party needs a capable, local candidate who will stick around for many years, even if, as is inevitable, he or she is defeated next time. The main aim must be a strong enough showing in 2005 that splits the centre-left vote, ensures Tory Kevin Bentley defeats Lib Dem MP Bob Russell, and restores Labour as the main challenger at the following election.

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