Public meetings of their sort in recent years have failed to ignite the interest and flare of old, but Thursday’s Labour rally held at the East Winchester Social Club offered welcome unite – although from a specific political angle.
Myself and my journalism colleague attended the evening gathering, witnessing at first hand the passion of the one hundred or so attendees, predominantly Labour followers and socialist group leaders whose hot topic of discussion could be guessed a mile off – the coalition’s public spending cuts.
In the old fashioned styled club, its intimate atmosphere released elements of freedom and tension, for members of the local community to tackle freely the issues they felt needed addressing to the wider public. In attendance, Labour MP John McDonnell and several party activists talked through honestly where the land lies currently for Labour, the parties’ mistakes in the past and the crucial steps it has to take in the future.
This was definitely not a House of Commons typical punch-up when the leader of the opposition usually canes every chess move made by the majority, but a sincere discussion where meeting attendees reflected, criticised and spoke out – regardless of their political persuasion.
After the conclusion of the event – apparently the first of many in and around the South-East region, I caught up with Mr McDonnell.
The Member of Parliament for well over a decade flagged up how he felt Labour’s representation in Hampshire (in Winchester there are no Labour councillors) has dwindled too much – with people seemingly scared to put any trust in the party – especially with accusations over Britain’s monumental deficit falling into their side of the court.
The politician for Hayes and Harlington also revealed how close he indeed was himself to vying for the empty Labour Leader role a month or so ago, and how he did not support Ed Milliband in the contest – instead he voted for Diane Abbott.
In a defining time for UK politics where long term strategies, short term measures, the pressure of cutbacks, union strikes, opposition attack, majority defence and media scrutiny are the norm then just maybe the forthright approach and return to favour of public meetings, rallies and community get-togethers can help address and push forward the real problems, quicker than the quangos which have infiltrated parliament.