Sunday 10th September will be remembered as a turning point for the Labour Party in Shipley. During the election, we campaigned hard; we canvassed, leafleted, phonebanked, registered voters, knocked on doors and generally speaking – we worked our socks off. Because of this, Shipley is a marginal constituency. Because of this Shipley is gaining attention. Because of this, Shipley is winnable.
On Sunday 10th September we launched our next wave of campaign activities following the general election. And we did it in style with political commentator and activist Owen Jones spearheading the #unseat campaign, to get Labour MPs in seats held by big name Tory incumbents. Sunday 10th was when the Labour Party in Shipley showed its teeth.
It was clear to us early on that this event was going to be huge. By 11am the queues of people waiting to get in to Shipley District Social Club stretched out of the door, through the car park and down Saltaire Road. Inside the social club, there were over 300 people. The mood was jubilant with traditional brass band music playing, ready to welcome Sheffield born Owen Jones back to his native Yorkshire. People squeezed in to every corner to hear Owen speak and to find out about the plans for the day.
Owen started by summing up the damage that Philip Davies and Theresa May have done in our constituency and pointing out Davies’ shameful voting record.
“Philip Davies is a sexist opponent of women’ rights who has disgracefully used his position to talk out and undermine legislation to protect women from male violence and murder. He is an opponent of the civil rights of LGBTQ people. He is a supporter of the hated bedroom tax, which has forced disabled people to pay up money they don’t have because the Tories won’t build the housing Britain needs. He has championed cutting the taxes for the most well-off, and been a cheerleader for cuts which have caused misery and insecurity in Shipley, Yorkshire and across Britain.”
He captured the strength of feeling in the room when he said “Shipley deserves better and after Labour halved his majority at the last election, with more big campaigning days like this we can take Philip Davies’ seat next time.”
So with a renewed sense of determination local activists and first time canvassers were trained in canvassing and political campaigning. Then they went door-knocking with Jones across the Shipley constituency – from Burley, Menston, Denholme to Shipley and Baildon – to talk to people about their concerns for the area. With 300 Labour Party canvassers, we spoke to people who had never been canvassed before and we told people about the things Davies has said and the way he has voted. In a press interview I stated:
“We believe his views are archaic and out of step with ordinary decent people in Shipley. He has voted against laws that help people in rented accommodation, and that support people caring for relatives. He claims to support equality but votes against LGBT rights and thinks it is okay to pay disabled people less than everyone else. He has also voted against measures to regulate gambling, while accepting £5,617 in tickets and hospitality from Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill in 2016/17.”
We found many people who were unaware of Davies’ views and people who believed he was a good MP because he responds to correspondence. We argued that while he has good office staff who respond quickly to correspondence, our experience is that he only tends to reply politely to people who support him. A good MP should be able to do more than just respond to emails. We want an MP who represents all of us and will deliver a fair deal for everyone in Shipley.
We had a fantastic response to our campaign and the day was rounded off with a social event for the canvassers at the Kirkgate Centre, Shipley. We chatted into the night about our experiences enjoyed more music and some fabulous food cooked by local members.
Owen delivered a final speech announcing: “It’s been a pleasure to head back to my native Yorkshire to support the grassroots campaign to replace Philip Davies with a local Labour MP who will stand up for the community – not for bigots and for the rich. The turnout today has been amazing and it’s been a brilliant event.’
Shipley Labour party showed that we are more determined than ever to get rid of Philip Davies and Theresa May. With support from people like Owen Jones and our increased membership we will be taking the fight to Davies every day until the next election. And he better be ready because as the Telegraph and Argus said, in Shipley, the gloves are now well and truly off.
By Jo Pike, Campaign Co-ordinator 17 Sep 2017
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