The Labour Party pulls a fast one in Hebburn

Since October of last year, myself and a handful of fellow residents from the Lukes Lane Estate, Hebburn (South Tyneside) have organised as the Lukes Lane Community Action Group (our motto: “putting the unity back in the community”). We have undergone ‘participatory appraisal’ training with others involved in community work through the PEANuT Project at the University of Northumbria and with a view to sorting out some of the myriad problems on the estate.

For months, we have been out and about on the estate interviewing residents about the issues on the estate they feel most strongly about. During this period we spoken to about 160 people of all ages, and received close on 600 responses during 15 interview sessions. The group recently came together to assemble all the information and group it under themes in preparation for the next stage.

Having collated the information from the interview sessions with the residents of the esate, the Community Action Group identified 11 improvements that residents feel most strongly about: i.e. improved shopping facilities, better public transport, improved social and leisure facilities, safer streets etc. Plans were made for future group sessions and the next stage of interviews.

From the outset, the residents involved in the PA work made it clear that our work was non-party political, our sole concern being to help improve facilities and services on the estate and create an environment beneficial to everyone.
Tonight all of this work and good intentions have been undermined by the local Labour Party. Tonight we received through our letter boxes Labour News, this being an A4 double-sided newsletter. The first page is a rant about how hard Labour have been working locally, though minus recent press reports about the closure of schools, community centres and 200 redundancies at the local town hall.
Page two had the headline “LABOUR LISTENING TO LUKE’S LANE” above a photo of Monkton Ward’s three Labour Party councillors, with an ensuing paragraph about the work of the Community Action Group. Another paragraph is given over to two community houses that will be created on the estate and this is followed by a two line statement referring to the hard work carried out by our “listening local Labour councillors.” (You cannot beat a bit of alliteration). Cleverly worded, this account of developments on the estate gives the reader the impression that it is the local Labour Party who are to be thanked.

Tonight I spoke with other members of the group and they were as livid as I was; angry that our work was now part of Labour Party propaganda and in the run-up to the local elections in three-months. Needless to say we feel betrayed, conned and used. Our work has been credited to the bloody Labour Party. Hoping to work on behalf of the residents of the estate, we have, it seems, been unwittingly recruited as Labour Party election workers. I spoke with other residents on the estate tonight and they agreed that this is an attempt by the Labour Party to claim praise for work done by others.
I’m pulling out of the PA work. Though useful for the future and no doubt a basis for real improvements, it is tarnished, sullied and undermined by the political aspirations of Blair’s local henchmen.

You have to credit the opportunists in the local Labour Party for this stunt, though – capitalising on the well-meaning work of others. They’re not as daft as they look, are they? They’ll argue that I am mistaken and that they are not aiming to make political capital here, but I’ve watched how Labour operate on South Tyneside for many years and am more than familiar with their underhand shenanigans.

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