MEMBERS of the local Labour Party launched their county council campaign in Tunbridge Wells last week with the aim of making inroads into the staunchly Conservative borough.
Despite membership of the organisation reaching its highest levels ‘in living memory’, party chiefs admitted they were fighting to win votes in the shadow of Labour’s national ‘challenges’.
But Local Campaign Co-ordinator Martin Betts, who is standing in Tunbridge Wells North, is confident the message will resonate with those he says have been negatively affected by ‘Tory austerity’.
“Our focus in on showing people that austerity is not working and it is to the detriment of the lower and middle classes,” Mr Betts said, adding: “We have seen the significant destruction of public services and the most vulnerable have been hit.”
Issues the party will be focusing on include congestion – particularly along the A26 – ‘poor road maintenance’ and the funding of schools. They also believe they can tap into ‘widespread’ dissatisfaction in Tunbridge Wells North, which encompasses Southborough, caused by plans to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall.
“We aim to give the Conservatives a run for their money. The demolition of the hall is symbolic of their destruction of local services,” said Mr Betts.
The party is hoping its large local membership, now totalling 700 people, will give it an edge during this campaign. The elections for Kent County Council will take place on May 4.
Andrew Sharp, Chairman of Tunbridge Wells Constituency Labour Party, believes this is the highest it had been in ‘living memory’ and will be used to canvas opinion and distribute around 15,000 leaflets in the coming weeks.
He said: “We have a large number of new members and there is a significant amount of enthusiasm. But we understand the challenges of fighting in Tunbridge Wells.”
These ‘challenges’ are not made any easier by the national party’s problems, he admits.
“Labour is facing difficulties nationally, although we have a very resilient membership.”