Anatomy of a letter: Thangam Debbonnaire (Labour Party candidate for Bristol West)

Postal votes have started going out to houses across the country, so political parties will also be sending out letters pleading for your support.

I got this one…

Thangam letter

…from the Labour candidate in my area, Thangam Debbonnaire.

I used to be quite friendly with Thangam. I sometimes see her in the shop (we both live in St Werburghs) and have a bit of a “councillor-candidate” conversation, which was nice. Her local concerns seem to be about the poor standard of buses and the ending of the 25 service by First Bus. So it’s good that we agree on this, and I’m sure a lot of other things.

However, and unfortunately, she seems to have slotted straight into the mould of a tribal Labour politician during this campaign, dancing to the national Labour tune. It was always to be expected, but it’s still disappointing.

Here we go…

“On May 7th we’ll decide whether or not to keep a Tory/Lib Dem government.”

No, we won’t. We’ll decide on who we think is the best person and/or party to represent us for the next five years in the House of Commons. (Some people might have their eye on this, but it’s impossible to predict.) I know that political parties aren’t the only vessels for good political education, but this is misleading information. It may well be that the Liberal Democrats end up in Coalition with the Labour Party, for instance.

“I’m writing to you because I understand you’ve talked to a Labour volunteer and told them that, on balance, you would prefer a Labour government to a Tory government on May 8th.”

No, I have not spoken to a volunteer, so I don’t know where you’re getting that from!

The only time I’ve ever spoken to a Labour volunteer on the doorstep was two or three years ago when I was living around the corner for a time with my Labour-supporting friend and you (well, an older bloke) came a-knocking. I swiftly explained that I was the Green candidate for the local area, to which your canvasser said “I hope you get annihilated”. Pleasant! So, I’m pleased you’re now trying to charm me, but you’ve got a lot to claw back.

Yes, you’re right, on balance I would prefer a Labour to a Tory government – but I didn’t say it to any volunteers. I’d really prefer a Green government. That’s why I spend a lot of time trying to get more Green councillors, MPs and MEPs elected.

“Since the last election, I have been out almost every day in Bristol West talking to voters about the impact of this government.”

You were selected in 2012. Even allowing for the fact you stood (unsuccessfully) to be a local councillor in 2011 in Ashley ward and all of the associated campaigning that implies, that still means there was probably a year – 2011 to 2012 – where you weren’t actively campaigning in the constituency. So, even with the best will in the world, this is misleading.

“People are suffering under the Bedroom Tax…”

Which Labour wanted to introduce in the last parliament:

“…struggling in exploitative zero hours contracts…”

Yeah, fair play, you will end these.

“…and watching the NHS being sold before their eyes.”

Labour introduced Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) into the NHS, so I wouldn’t talk about this too much…

“Bristol’s Lib Dem MP voted for all these things, as well as for tax cuts for the rich, against a Bankers’ Bonus Tax, against a Mansion Tax to fund improvements to the NHS, and against greater protection for tenants.”

That’s true, but then he’s doing what his party and the government tell him to do, otherwise he’ll lose his ministerial salary. I think that’s completely wrong in terms of behaviour and approach, and effectively we’ve been without an MP for the last couple of years as a result. But what will you do to reform Labour’s (or parliament in general’s) whipping system, that demands slavish loyalty or a halt to any promotion to a position of responsibility? I haven’t seen anything in any of your literature about reforming the political system, except maybe votes at 16.

There is a great fear that you would do exactly as Stephen Williams has done if elected – just follow the party line, even if the Labour Party’s leadership is indulging in one of their right-wing flights of fancy in an attempt to appease their tabloid suitors.

It’s all very well acting left-wing before the election, but it’s hugely out of keeping with Labour’s national narrative of stigmatising migrants and toadying to economic orthodoxy. I profoundly disagree with the economic stance of the Lib Dems and Conservatives, but at least Stephen Williams and Claire Hiscott are honest enough to put their position forward in public debate and take the resulting booing and heckling.

“You don’t have to take my word for it. You can check his voting record at…”

*HIDEOUSLY LONG WEB-LINK THAT NO ONE WILL BE BOTHERED TO ENTER.* Is accessibility for people with low-reading ages and who are digitally excluded a Labour value?

“He even voted for the notorious Health and Social Care.”

Yeah, fair point. I really don’t want to see Stephen returned as the MP for our area. That’s why I’m campaigning so hard to get a Green one, because Labour’s previously privatised the NHS.

“In 2010 the Lib Dems could promise whatever they liked because they thought they weren’t going to be in government – just like the Green Party today.”

Scared much? Surprised we get a mention, if you’re not concerned about people voting for a party that actually IS of the left.

Also, they couldn’t promise whatever they liked – they have clearly become completely unstuck because of it. Equally, the Green Party is beginning to be placed under the same level of scrutiny, and will have to refine and show how implementable our policies in a much clearer way in the coming years. Long may that lens of scrutiny be trained on us – we relish the challenge.

“In the Labour Party, we know we’ll have to make difficult decisions.”

i.e. “we know we’re going to continue the failed ideology of austerity to appease the mythical centre ground of British politics and the tabloid press and corporate masters, who we are even more scared of than the Greens”

The vast majority of Labour MPs voted for £30 billion of additional austerity cuts in January. The Labour manifesto openly admits that it will be slashing local government budgets even further, which will lead to a further decimation of local public services.

I have given up trying to count the number of emails I get from people frustrated by the council’s inaction, when I know that the largest reason for it is fewer staff, leading to slower uptake of new schemes or services, leading to desperation, anger and anxiety amongst the public.

Labour will not help this situation one bit if they continue the ideological attack – begun by the Lib Dems and Tories, orchestrated by George Osborne and Eric Pickles – on local government services.

The Green Party’s MPs will not vote for austerity budgets in the next Parliament. We officially made this a red line at our spring conference this year. Our MPs will also do everything in our power to get rid of the Tories from government, in partnership with other willing parties. (Labour seem to be the least willing, at the time of writing.)

The Green Party’s MPs will continue to push the Labour Party left, keep them honest, and represent the views of our constituents first – NOT the interests of our party’s leadership, big business, or tabloid newspapers.


3 thoughts on “Anatomy of a letter: Thangam Debbonnaire (Labour Party candidate for Bristol West)”

  1. Keep being different, the domenance of capitalism, with it’s destructive need to comodify everything at the expense of communities, is slowly slipping as people become aware of the pain it causes, and realise both Labor & Conservatives sing from the same exploitative hymn sheet.


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