Labour offer an ‘anti-austerity alternative’ in Brecon and Radnorshire byelection
Thursday’s Brecon and Radnorshire byelection is largely seen by political pundits as a battle between a resurgent Liberal Democrats and a Conservative party enjoying a ‘Boris bounce’.
For the Labour party candidate in the seat however, both parties represent a commitment to austerity that only a vote for the Labour party can do away with.
“I’ve had enough of the austerity policies that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat coalition government put in place,” says Tom Davies, a “Brecon born and bred” town councillor and qualified barrister.
“I don’t think it’s right we’ve seen increases in food bank usage, homelessness and hard-working families really struggling to make ends meet. I’ve certainly had enough of that,” he said.
According to the Trussell Trust, Foodbank usage in Wales is up by 14% this year and last year homelessness grew by 3% last year according to Shelter.
“I think what people want is a hard-working MP, one that will fight to end austerity, invest in our public services and someone who is relatable someone they can trust to get the job done,” Tom Davies says.
The Labour candidate, however, faces an uphill struggle. Labour hasn’t won the seat since 1974 as since then it always been between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.
At the last election in 2017, Labour came in third place with 17% of the vote.
However, Tom Davies was confident that as the only socialist option on the ballot paper, after Plaid Cymru had stepped aside, he could appeal to voters.
“There’s clearly an appetite for a Welsh Labour option and indeed a socialist option on the ballot paper,” he said.
He also blamed tactical voting on their lower vote share in previous elections.
“What we have seen in the last few elections and for a while is that a lot of our supporters tend to vote for the Liberal Democrats because people think that they have the best opportunity to beat the Tories.
“We’ve seen in the last three elections – people who would normally vote Lab have voted tactically.
“But tactical voting doesn’t work anymore in this constituency. It didn’t work in 2015, it didn’t work in 2017 because Chris Davies got in on both occasions.”
Tom says he accepted the result of the Brexit referendum but follows his party calling for a confirmatory vote – which major Labour affiliated unions have signed up to.
“What we’ve said as a party was that we’d respect the result of the referendum and push for a deal that would safeguard access to a customs union, access to the single market and would protect jobs and the economy,” he says.
“We, therefore, have to have a confirmatory vote on any deal and there must be the option to remain on that ballot and we are going to be campaigning for Remain on that.
“If it’s a leave or remain option as it was in 2016 and if Leave won again – then we’d be in the same position we were. So, there’s no finality in that – what we’re offering is that final decision.”
One issue that he would focus on as MP would be the funding that Wales receives and how much of that then reaches local councils, he says.
“We’ve had a 9.5% council tax increase across Powys… and that’s to pay for cuts. The reason those cuts are in place is because of the Tory government in Westminster,” he said.
“The Welsh Government has lost about £850 million from the Tories. That certainly needs to be reinstated so that money can be sent to councils. So that they can pay for things like community services… like libraries… like community centres that have all been cut.”
He was also concerned about the closure of banks in rural communities.
“What we have in place as the Labour party is an idea for Post Bank. What that entails is that we see community banks as being services that could be provided by the post office system,” he says.
“By providing about 3,500 more post offices across the country – I would like to see quite a lot of those in the constituency… The idea behind it is that it would replace a lot of the community banks that are being lost.
“I’m also keen to fight rural crime and the reason for that is we’ve seen a cut in about 21,000 police officers across the UK what I’d like to see is an effort to re-introduce those police officers and effectively work to combat theft and fly-tipping.”
Boris Johnson pledged to recruit an extra 20,000 new police officers when he became the Prime Minister earlier this month and that recruitment will start “within weeks”.
The Labour hopeful was also concerned about the effects of Brexit on farmers – a group vital to the economy of the rural community.
“And – of course, we’ve got Brexit and the issues around agriculture in this community… This constituency relies heavily on or has a large agricultural following… A no-deal Brexit would devastate those communities,” he said.
“We’d see a 46% tariff on lamb straight away and a 60% tariff on beef if we have no-deal and Brexit does happen. So that’s certainly something we need to fight against.
”And, in the same way, the farmers in Wales receive around £350 million pounds from the European Union. The Tory Government has only guaranteed that until 2021. That needs to be guaranteed for a lot longer”.
When quizzed further on how he’d like Brexit to go, his stance was similar to that of the Liberal Democrat candidate on a no-deal.
“Boris Johnson has come in with a gung-ho approach to Brexit. He’s prepared to put a no-deal forward. We’re not going to accept that.”
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