Sometimes we here at the Waverley Web think everyone elsewhere in the country believes Surrey residents all live in multi-million-pound properties, play bridge and drink gin & tonics by the bucketful – some do – but many don’t.
Former MP Nick Palmer recently secured the seat for Binscombe in Godalming, along with one of his colleagues. He tells us below why, and how, he achieved his aim.
He says Labour in Surrey! Nothing strange about that…
Since I was elected as Waverley Labour councillor for Binscombe with George Wilson and subsequently joined the Borough Executive, I’ve talked to plenty of non-Labour people, who were not so much horrified as bemused, rather as though Waverley now had a representative from House of Stark. It’s 17 years since we had Labour councillors here, and I’m not sure we’ve ever had Labour Executive members. I’ve met a number of people who say they would have voted Labour but didn’t think we had a chance. “This is Surrey! It’s the stockbroker belt. How did you do it?”
Well, two things.
First, the belief that society should be mutually supportive is somewhere in every human heart, whether we live in a £10m mansion in Surrey or a desperate tenement in Glasgow (and over the years I’ve canvassed both). Life is short and precious, and it makes sense to spend some of it trying to help each other get the most out of it. That’s the fundamental theme of Labour, regardless of where we live. We need to keep that flame of idealism and optimism flaring afresh even in difficult times. More of our lives than we like to think is governed by chance – you and I are just a stroke away from depending on social care, a corporate decision away from losing our jobs, a bad council policy away from ruining our children’s school. Socialism is essentially collective insurance – if we do well, we help out; when things go wrong, we’re helped. It makes sense, even if you’re doing well – because you actually don’t want the world around you to be dark and full of terrors.
Labour has something to prove in Waverley: that we work hard and effectively for ordinary people.
Second, if we accept the principle, we need to try to make it a reality. Naturally, that’s a bit easier if we live in Manchester than in Surrey, but that merely means we try harder. During the local elections, we canvassed every home in Binscombe. Nobody else bothered. That doesn’t mean they were bad candidates: they put forward their views in leaflets and let people decide, and that’s fair enough. But Labour has something to prove in Waverley: that we work hard and effectively for ordinary people. And without being nasty about past council majorities, it does strike us that a little fresh energy and commitment is not a bad thing.
I’m not a fanatic about politics – I socialise, pursue a full-time managerial job, play poker, write books about board games, enjoy life. But I do think that a life worth living should contain a chunk of effort to make the world around us a better place, with more compassion at home and more solidarity globally. Labour doesn’t always get it right (Iraq! PFI!), but its virtue is consistency: a steady dedication to do our best to make life a little better and more hopeful for everyone – not just those who have rolled a double six in the snakes and ladders of our puzzling world.
I was an MP for Broxtowe for 13 years, the only Labour MP the seat has ever had, and when I moved to Surrey it was natural to keep going. The local Labour Party is thriving with the largest membership for many years, and I hope that many Waverley Web readers will join. Living in Surrey doesn’t mean that you give up on working for social justice. It just makes it more fun when you win. And then, of course, you’ve got to show that it really makes a difference. Watch this space!
PS “If people want to join Nick’s email list for updates, he’s on firstname.lastname@example.org.” He is trying to build up a borough-wide list of people to keep updated on what’s happening – not a party political thing.”
Nick Palmer is vice-chair of Surrey SW Labour Party. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Palmer
WW thinks Labour also had a little help from its friends. Surely the Compass political Alliance had something to do with it?! No Lib Dem or Greens stood in this ward.
A little more about one of our new Waverley councillors. We would like to hear from more?
Watch this space.