Happy new year to everyone in Dartford Labour Party.
For many of us on the progressive side of politics, saying goodbye to 2016 was the best thing about it. Many column inches have been devoted to the disastrous setbacks of Brexit and Trump, but what's clear is the challenge for all of us on the left is to renew our politics and produce new answers for the decades to come. We know those answers can’t come from the cheap populism of Farage or Tory backbenchers – and with Theresa May floundering around with no plan – Labour has the chance to set the post Brexit agenda in 2017.
For our Labour family, 2016 will always be scarred by the senseless, political murder of Jo Cox. Jo made such a difference to so many people – as a dedicated MP, as a campaigner on human rights, but most of all as wife and mother. The courage and dignity shown by Brendan in the weeks and months following Jo’s death was incredible and still humbles. There can be no more worthy reason to continue to fight for our values than the memory of Jo and her conviction that we have more in common than divides. Let it be all our mottos as we enter 2017.
There were positives to celebrate – most notably the election of Sadiq Khan as London Mayor. Running a campaign that sought to unite, not divide Londoners, his victory showed that progressives win when we deliver a positive message that speaks to the majority. The action Sadiq is taking on tacking the housing crisis, pollution and affordable transport reminds us of the changes we get to make when Labour wins elections.
In Dartford, 2016 may well be remembered for what didn’t happen. We still did not get a decision from the government on the building of a new Lower Thames Crossing and previously promised progress on our neglected town centre once again failed to materialise. However, as a community, we came together to celebrate the fantastic achievements of Adam Gemilli at the Rio Olympics and we once again showed the generosity of our town with another successful Christmas Toy Appeal – organised by our very own Kelly Grehan.
As Leader of the Labour Group, I am enormously proud of the work our Labour Councillors do at County, Borough and Parish level. Standing up for residents, standing up for Labour values and holding the Conservative administration to account. We punch above our weight and the Tories know that everything they do will be subject to robust scrutiny.
At this time of year our thoughts are with those who find themselves on the streets. In light of the tragic deaths of two rough sleepers in Chatham, Dartford Labour Councillors have called on the Conservative Council to do more to protect those left in vulnerable and dangerous conditions when the temperatures drop close to freezing. However, the Tories have not triggered an emergency protocol designed to prevent the deaths of homeless people on the streets – despite a request to do so from Labour. We'll continue to press the council to do the right thing, but you can also help by volunteering for the Dartford Churches Winter Shelter. This project depends entirely on volunteers and does fantastic work supporting the homeless in Dartford. The Volunteer Information Sheet and Volunteer Application Form are attached.
Dartford's a great town - but it could be so much better. We see potentially exciting growth all around us. Sadly, we have a council that have their heads in the sand when it comes managing that growth so it benefits our community and addresses the challenges of a modern town. Where will our children go to school? Where will our sick and elderly be cared for? How do we get Dartford moving? How do we create new local businesses and welcome newcomers to our town so that people moving here want to stay and raise their families, creating a new generation of proud Dartfordians?
I want to lead Dartford Borough Council because I believe it’s us - The Labour Party - who have the right answers to these questions. It’s only a Labour Council who will take Dartford forward as a modern, optimistic and vibrant 21st century town. It’s only a Labour Council that knows that our town prospers when we are more inclusive, more equal and provide opportunities for everyone.
Everything I see from the Tories in Dartford – from Gareth Johnson, to KCC, to Dartford Borough Council tells me they will continue to hold this town back. Dartford has not been served well by the Tories. We deserve better than more years of no ambition, no vision and a council that continues to be more interested in PR stunts than doing the day job and getting the basics right.
Let's make 2017 the year of Labour in Dartford. That starts with Kent County Council elections in May. We've got fantastic candidates across Dartford, and in our target seats Tom Maddison will make a strong defence of the seat he's served so well. In Catherine Stafford and Claire Pearce we have a fantastic chance to make gains. They all need your support to make that happen so I look forward to seeing you out on the campaign trail - we'll be out talking to residents every Saturday from mid- January. If you've not campaigned before - why not make it your new year resolution in 2017? We've got great candidates, a great team of activists and a message that needs to be heard.
2016 may have been tough year but 2017 can be the year our politics and our values fight back. I look forward to working with you all to make it happen.