” I realised very quickly that in order to make real change, we needed an MP from the town, ready & willing to fight for the town. I was frustrated that people in Parliament, on both sides, on the whole do not represent regular working class communities like Harlow. “Laura McAlpine
Labour Outlook spoke to Laura McAlpine about her campaign to get elected in Harlow, as part of a series of interviews with candidates in the run up to the General Election. Details of how you can get involved can be found at the bottom of the piece.
Q: Since you’ve been selected as PPC in Harlow, you’ve built up a great reputation across the Labour Party as a formidable campaigner and voice for social justice, and you’re engaged in a really important battle at the moment if we’re going to win a Labour Government. Tell us a bit more about the political background in the seat?
A: The Harlow seat was created for the February 1974 general election. The seat has been a bellwether seat since the result in 1983, but Labour built Harlow New Town. I speak to so many people on the doorstep and they absolutely agree with Labour’s policies, but the conditioning and constant attacks from the MSM is making our battle so much harder.
In Harlow New Town, the vote for Labour is there, but in the Villages, it’s a harder battle – but they are still facing cuts to their schools, a depleted bus service and a rise in crime. I believe the tide is starting to change. For example, I was speaking to a lady in the Village of Sheering, she is a Conservative party member, but will be voting for me. She loves our policies and my passion and is in despair that the Conservatives, under Johnson has moved so far to the right.
Q: And your own background as a Labour member and campaigner?
A: I come from a long line of Labour Party campaigners and political activists. My granny was a Labour councillor for over 20 years. I was stuffing envelopes in committee rooms in Harlow when I was 5 years old. I was a Labour member, but left when we went to war with Iraq.
I rejoined under Ed Miliband, but when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, I was so inspired. That gave me the kick up the backside that I needed. It’s very easy to get drunk in pubs and to rant and debate, but when you are properly involved, when you campaign and canvass, there is no need for the drunken debates. I campaigned in Hackney, when I was living there, but Hackney is not short of activists, so when I moved back to Harlow about three years ago I instantly became very active in our CLP.
I started Harlow Young Labour and Momentum Harlow. We are very focussed on community. In the past two years, we have been involved in a massive campaign of community engagement. We have helped to organise a film screenings to benefit our local food bank, hospital garden makeovers, family cyclothons, a festival to mark the NHS’ seventieth anniversary, as well as open mic nights in support of our local homeless charity and bingo nights raising money for dementia patients. We have also pursued political education, with lectures about the history of the Labour Party, Q&A stands with councillors, and forums to educate people on the functions of our councils. Standing to be the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Harlow was the natural step. I realised very quickly that in order to make real change, we needed an MP from the town, ready & willing to fight for the town. I was frustrated that people in Parliament, on both sides, on the whole do not represent regular working class communities like Harlow.
So I’m standing on a Labour platform as a working class woman, as a new mum, who is from Harlow and willing to fight for Harlow in Westminster.
Q: And what are the key issues voters are raising on the doorstep in the campaign and what are you saying to them about how labour will address them ?
A: Permitted Developments (office to residential conversions) are a big problem. These office-to residential conversions in Harlow are private developments, which have been actively promoted to councils in London and other areas as a cheap answer to social housing shortages. Planning permission is not needed due to permitted development rights – introduced by the Conservatives in 2013. Lots of vulnerable people living in very small units, quite often stuck in the middle of an industrial estate, with no outdoor space, no shops and no bus service. The most common reason for poor attendance in primary schools in Harlow is because families living in these units have no way to get their children to school. I’ve spoken to Jeremy about this problem many times and I’m pleased that Labour has committed to ban permitted developments.
We need truly affordable housing and not just in Harlow. It’s a national problem. I’m a member of Labour Campaign for Council Housing. We were instrumental in Labour committing to building 100,000 council homes per year and ending the right to buy. This is a game changer in Harlow. Residents in their 30s are living with their parents as they can’t afford private rents, cannot save for a deposit on a mortgage and won’t get a Council home. Our policy is bold, exciting and will literally change people’s lives in the UK.
Labour is introducing a statutory youth service and in Harlow I’m pushing to reopen our play schemes – they are so missed, and so needed. It’s proving very popular amongst local residents and I’m absolutely confident that I can deliver on this!
Q: Obviously they’re all important and fantastic (!) , but what are is your favourite policy in Labour’s manifesto ?
A: Building 100,000 council homes per year and the Green Industrial Revolution. I’m pushing for a chunk of those decent, well paid jobs in the renewable energy sector to come to Harlow. I can’t wait for it!
Q: It feels like in a lot of areas a real momentum is building up behind Labour’s campaign. What kind of response have you had in terms of people coming out to help, both locally and from other areas ?
A: Our campaign has attracted CLPs from across London, such as Putney, Camberwell, Tottenham. Hackney, plus Leyton and Wanstead. Each weekend we have attracted around 50 campaigners each day. We have campaigners from Seattle and across Europe who will move into our house the week before the General Election.
But what I am most proud of is the activity of two new members in Harlow, Sam and Liam. They work for a big wholesale store in Harlow and until this election had never campaigned or voted in their lives. Every day they work around their shifts to help me out. They want change, they’ve suffered under the Tories. Their energy and enthusiasm has blown me away. These are the people I want on my side. The Sams and Liams are the people I want to represent. They are Harlow.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS & HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER FOR LAURA: