Back in late January, I organised a Stand up for Labour show for Bolton West Labour Party that was sponsored by the Baker’s Union.
It was a great success with over 150 people attending, fantastic performances from stand-up poet Kate Fox, comedian Kevin Dewsbury and the Socialist Magician Ian Saville as well as a fiery speech from the Baker’s Union National President Ian Hodson plus some fantastic Carr’s pasties in the interval. In total, it raised over £2,000 for the constituency party and was a good way to get people together before the selection of the parliamentary candidate (Julie Hilling was selected the day after).
Key marginal seat
Bolton West is a seat that Labour lost in 2010 and must undoubtedly recapture if it is to form the next government. It is a town that we can all learn a lot from.
Along with director Alice Bragg and cameraman Jon Stonehouse, we decided to make a short film about Bolton and the thoughts of its residents.
Before the Stand up for Labour show, I got in touch with Bolton West Labour Party to find out if there were any locals who would be interested in putting their views across about their town.
The response was amazing. Over two days, we interviewed over a dozen people from different ages and backgrounds (and also found some non-Labour supporters) and we collected hours and hours of footage.
A Brexit town
Everyone’s story was different but some common themes emerged: attempts to create jobs after the decline of cotton manufacture have focused largely on retail where quality jobs are few and far between, unaffordable housing is being built by private companies bringing with them a workforce rather than employing local people, and diversity – although celebrated – has caused some tensions in the town. While there may have been some elements of xenophobia, the 58% pro-Brexit vote seemed more about the perception that government (whether in London or in Brussels) was holding back opportunity in the town.
Thursday’s local election results show that Labour must improve its vote in areas like Bolton (where Labour lost two councillors).
One thing Labour could do nationally is listen to the concerns of the pro-Brexit towns.
Labour would then be able to promote a positive vision of Brexit. This would involve pledging to support British businesses, particularly engineering businesses, up-skill local people to do skilled jobs and building council housing, using the local construction industry to do so.
We are planning to make more films about Brexit towns in the coming months as it is vital that we listen to the views of people who feel neglected by politicians in Westminster.