Friday evening saw a packed Ramsgate Custom House with late comers having to stand holding a hustings for the Labour Party Leadership contest. South Thanet Labour Party had opened up the meeting to our neighbours. We were delighted to be joined by Labour Party members from North Thanet and Dover and Deal.
South Thanet Constituency Labour Party Secretary Michelle Fenner (right of top table) had invited representatives from all 5 candidates. Regrettably despite ample notice neither Ed Balls nor Diane Abbott were able to provide representatives. I could not find anybody present who was considering voting for them. This inability to put their case to 3 Constituency Labour Parties 90 minutes from London brings into question the organisation of their campaigns. Was there nobody they could ask who could spare a Friday evening to press their case?
South Thanet constituency chair Alan Poole (second right) ran the meeting. He handed over to Cameron Miller (centre) who was representing Ed Miliband. Battersea based Cameron was a leading Labour students activist and worked for Martin Salter MP until the General Election. Perhaps a little earnest he was devoted to "Ed" and recounted stories of how he had been inspired by Ed's ability to relate to voters on the doorstep. Cameron saw Ed Miliband's Living Wage campaign as a key reason to support his favoured candidate.
The expenses scandal has damaged all people in politics. At a local level the commitment is often above and beyond the call of duty. Most impressive of the advocates was longstanding Aldershot Councillor Keith Dibble (second left). Keith had only had a few hours sleep so had been driven from Hampshire by Howard Linsley who fought Meon Valley at the last General Election. Both were then due to drive back with just the propsect of stopping for a sandwich somewhere to break the journely up. Keith used the S word, socialism advocating Andy's aspirational socialism. He also argued that with his northern working class roots Andy was the candidate best placed to appeal to the wider electorate.
An informal survey suggests that the most famous person to visit the Custom House since Ramsgate Town Council moved in is David Miliband's representative David Rowntree (far left) Blur drummer, trainee lawyer and losing candidate in the Cities of London and Westminster seat at the general election. David kept to a short prepared speech emphasising David Miliband's experience and standing with the electorate.
All three took questions from the audience and there was some debate followed by drinks and nibbles. Several of those present in the audience talked about becoming more involved with the Labour Party and possibly standing as candidates in next year's local elections. It was a very successful evening raising funds.
As to a result, Diane Abbott and Ed Balls both missed an opportunity and trailing in the polls need better organisation. All three representatives came out well. The winner from those who were new to the venue was the Customs House. Several people said what a brilliant vista it provides. Ramsgate Harbour can be taken for granted perhaps by locals, but seeing it through other eyes the Customs House is a pearl of a venue.
My thanks to Dave Green for the photograph.