Monday, 30 April 2018

Labour Party Rally in Park Ward

Park Ward Labour Party (and sympathisers) boost David McKenzie's
campaign for a Council seat. John Partington (TSSA, 4th from right)
and John Oversby (UCU, far right) represented the RTUC

On 30 April 2018, David McKenzie gave a boost to his electoral campaign in Park Ward by organising a panel of speakers to introduce a discussion on the issues faced by Labour candidates in Reading Borough. Due to a three-line whip at Westminster, the keynote speaker for the evening, Paul Sweeney MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, was unable to attend. But David's father, Ian McKenzie - former Labour MP for Inverclyde (2011-15) - ably filled the breach.

Keith Faulkner, Chair of Park Ward Labour Party, introduces the event
The evening was introduced by Labour's Park Ward Chair, Keith Faulkner, before David made his speech. David thanked the attendees for coming and for all the help and support he has been getting in the election campaign. After giving an overview of the political upbringing he had received in Scotland, he identified the key concerns in the ward as being students relying on food banks, parking and traffic congestion, and crime. He also recognised the need for the Labour Party to engage with cultural groups within the ward and he was pleased with the welcome he has received from the Pakistani and Nepali communities. In the face of an embedded Green Party bloc in the ward, David said the Labour Party needed to promote its achievements across the town, including in Park Ward, and show the Greens up for their narrow range of priorities. David's speech was well received and followed by a round of applause from the thirty or so persons present.

David McKenzie, Labour Party candidate for Park Ward
David was followed by his father Ian, who spoke about his time in local politics and his four years as Labour MP for Inverclyde. Ian stressed the importance of building a solid base in the local community, bemoaning the fact that, once sitting in the House of Commons, he missed the more personal nature of town hall politics. He stressed the need for local Councillors to build an intimate relationship with the community and to act as the local voice for that community in the council chamber.
Ian McKenzie, Labour MP for Inverclyde (2011-2015)
Following the speakers, questions and discussion arose from the floor. John Partington of the TSSA and Reading Trades Union Council made the point that - although we traditionally try to fight local elections narrowly on local issues - this election is different. The Conservative government has made such severe attacks on local services, slashing council budgets massively, that the Labour candidates cannot avoid highlighting the devastation wrought by the national government on local democracy. This bracketing of local and national politics will not only defend Reading's Labour Council from many policy criticisms but will also provide a springboard for the next general election when we hope to see Rachel Eden taking Reading West for Labour, joining Matt Rodda who will be defending Reading East for Labour. John Oversby of UCU and Reading trades Union Council followed, reinforcing John Partington's point by highlighting the global issues which we need to campaign on given their impact on local communities - immigration, climate change and global capitalist machinations. Several other speakers contributed before David wound up the evening and thanked the attendees once again for their support. The evening concluded with a group photo.