Tuesday 26 September 2017

Labour has a good record on animal rights, and has to go further

Animal rights is an issue that is of the highest order of importance for some voters, admittedly a small minority. However, my experience suggests that for many, if not most, people it is something that does resonate at some level. Britain is characterised as a nature of animal lovers, and this is what my experience as an activist and candidate also tells me.

Needless cruelty sits ill with the many; whilst the few were pleased with the prospect of a David Cameron Government bringing back fox hunting; Theresa May also wishes for this barbarity to return. I cannot recall anyone contacting me celebrating to prospect of a return to hunting with dogs, yet I did receive a fair amount of correspondence aghast at the idea that we, the UK, could go backwards in respect of animal rights.

The last Labour Government introduced a number of animal welfare issues, which mercifully still remain intact. This includes the ban on hunting with dogs, a law that needs tightening if anything (not repealing). As Labour looks towards the next General Election, and the strong possibility of a return to Government, it will begin to look at what it wants to do with power. In my opinion, animal rights deserves a place in the manifesto, with a commitment to carrying on the good work of the previous Labour Government.

There are a number of reasons beyond the cruelty aspect why animal welfare matters. The environment and our health benefit from a number of initiatives in this area. Whilst Government should not be telling people what to eat, it already does encourage healthier lifestyles. This could be enhanced by pointing out the advantages of reduced meat consumption. Meat-free Mondays, for instance, could be encouraged in schools and the public sector.

The environment is a huge issue, one that we cannot afford to get wrong. There are demonstrable environmental gains from reduced meat consumption, both as regards to greenhouse gases and biodiversity.

We should also look at what cruel sports remain in the UK. An obvious example is game bird shooting. Killing just for the thrill of it belongs in the Middle Ages, not in the twenty-first century.

There are studies that link animal cruelty with abusive behaviour in general. Anything that reduces the latter is a gain for society as a whole.

The laws on vivisection were also tightened by the last Labour Government. These could and should be looked at again. I am not proposing a complete ban on vivisection - the advance of medicine and the consequential improvement in public health trump all in my opinion. However, vivisection must be provably medically important, and not just the cheap or easy option.

We all believe that a Labour Government is vital for the many, and reprehensible for the few. It is also vital for animals and those who love them. Labour has to appeal across a broad canvass of issues, and the protection of innocent animals against the worst excesses of cruelty must be a part of this.


Almost every political activist has delivered leaflets. It is less a rite of passage than the fact that it is the most popular form of political engagement. And, rather like the way we cast our votes, it harks back to bygone days – a thread of consistency in an ever changing world.

Leaflets have evolved in appearance as production techniques have improved, but the delivery system remains the same. Paper through letterboxes.

I guess those letterboxes have changed over the years; some appear designed to trash whatever is attempted to be delivered. Homes are also more difficult to access as more and more blocks of flats are designed with no access bar via an entry code.

The biggest challenge nowadays those is the sheer volume of competition from other leaflets. Do political leaflets get read at all nowadays? Of course they do – by some. But when so many leaflets get deposited straight into the recycling bin one wonders.

To print a leaflet to cover a ward one has to spend something like £100. That is a lot of money if it sees the vast majority discarded unread.
Councillors, candidates, etc. spend hours carefully crafting the content of these leaflets. These are proof read and passed through an approval process. Those leaflets, which often only survive the length of time it takes to walk from front door to bin, have had hours of labour put into their creation, let alone their delivery. So why is it the most popular form of engagement?

Well, for starters, some are read. I have no idea what the proportion is, but I would be delighted if it was as high as ten percent for mine.

It is an easy form of engagement; not everyone is comfortable dealing with voters face to face.

In terms of volume, delivering a hundred leaflets is far quicker than speaking to a hundred voters. And, no matter how assiduous a canvasser one is, there are many households that defy all attempts an engagement.

Whatever the shortcomings of leaflets and leafleting, it remains an integral part of modern campaigning. And, for those of us in desperate need of fitness, it is an excuse for some exercise.

Sunday 24 September 2017


It was meant to be a flying visit, but good conversation kept me at the Focal Point Gallery longer than planned. The event was Hilary Lloyd's "Theatre",

Yes, Cllr Bernard Arscott


Down in the river: Festival-on-Sea

Graham Burnett

 I paid two visits to Down in the river: Festival-on-Sea today.
Famous Potatoes

The Famous Potatoes were playing at the evening session, and were pretty good. However, Shephali Frost was amazing.

As always, many good friends there – always a nice time to catch up.

Great tea, even better cakes!

St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition