It’s the final day of online hustings for Old and Sad, with just one day before voting begins. Our first article is by Paul Cotterill, Labour councillor for Bickerstaffe Ward, West Lancashire. Paul blogs here at the Bickerstaffe Record.
Let’s clear the decks first.
This is not a post about why the election has been called for 13th January. In the time I’ve spent on the doorstep during the campaign, not a single voter has mentioned this to me as a factor in their decision-making about which way to vote. Indeed, the only person to refer to the legal case at all did so in terms of how infuriating they found it that the LibDem literature focused on it so much at the expense of anything substantive about politics.
While it’s understandable why the LibDems should the pushing the point, they are either too caught up in their own bubble-of-self-importance to notice that who said what about their candidate is irrelevant to most people, or they’ve not got much else to say. Or both.
Nor is this a post that seeks to persuade people to vote Labour as a way of punishing the LibDems nationally for the way the party has betrayed the country in the last nine months. There’s hectares of coverage of that, and that’s why national polls show support has fallen to single figures. It doesn’t need me to spell it out.
No, this is a post about why the Labour party, as represented in the person of candidate Debbie Abrahams, is best suited to serve the people of Oldham East & Saddleworth.
This election is held at a time when the Conservative-led government is wreaking havoc on our essential public services, and creating an environment in which Oldham is likely to suffer from years of unnecessary social and economic pain.
In these circumstances, the people of this constituency needs an MP who, pending its return of sensible national government, can best mitigate the effects of the government destruction agenda.
The person most suited to this task is Debbie Abrahams.
Both Debbie’s political instincts as a socialist and her professional background in public health mean that she has a sound understanding of how public, voluntary and private organizations can come together to maintain and create sustainable employment in the area even in the face of the government’s economic butchery.
In circumstances such as these the job of a good local MP is to ensure effective co-ordination of efforts, and the job of a good Labour MP is to ensure that all this happens with equity in mind. The clear purpose of the government is to divide those who have from those who have not; Debbie’s job, working alongside her colleague from Oldham West, Michael Meacher, will be to ensure that a local, town and borough level, regeneration and renewal efforts continue to be pursued in way which meets, as far as possible in the circumstances, the kind of benchmark tests she herself has helped establish through her well-regarded work on Health Impact Assessment.
Just as importantly, Debbie is the only candidate with experience of NHS governance, from her time as Chair of Rochdale Primary Care Trust. The government is making what is now largely recognized, even by the few Tory MPs who understand the NHS, massively destructive changes to the NHS. These include the abolition of PCTs and the transfer of commissioning powers to GPs who may neither want nor can cope with them, and who may therefore simply hand over these powers to unaccountable private firms. In the face of this backdoor privatization, and the knock on effect this will have for community and public health measures (often undertaken by the voluntary sector), having Debbie in place as the MP – to lead on the development of coherent local alternatives – is absolutely vital to everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, in the constituency.
This is the case for Debbie Abrahams. No doubt other candidates have some attributes of their own, but it is Debbie’s particular background, experience and political commitment to public health and social and economic cohesion which make her, by a margin, the best choice for Oldham East & Saddleworth.
And I don’t say this lightly. I’m brilliant, and even I lost out to her in the Labour PPC selection. So she must be good.