Over the past eighteen months, the western world has begun to see the profound consequences of deindustrialisation, globalisation and austerity. Hard-working people are struggling to get by in a fast-changing world, and we have witnessed a reorientation of politics away from two-dimensional ideas of ‘left’ and ‘right’, and towards new perceptions of what is fair and just in the modern world.
Real news feels fake and fake news real, sometimes. In the short term, this has led to the election of populists and bullies, and our decision to leave the EU, to cut ourselves off and bury our heads in the sand, rather than working together to build a better future.
Once those of us who are passionate about fairness understand the new challenges we face, we can begin to rebuild, and we can fight for the important values of our society.
Here in Barking and Dagenham we have been grappling with these same challenges for over a decade.
Since the election of twelve BNP councillors in 2006, we have understood the importance of listening to the community, talking about the difficult issues, and taking practical steps to meet these challenges. This is why we should not fear change or growth, but work together to ensure it benefits everyone, and addresses the concerns of the community, rather than allowing it to further exploit the vulnerable, or widen the gap between rich and poor. Opportunists who exploit fear for self-interest do not always have to win.
Barking and Dagenham is living proof that there is always an alternative, and the approach to the New East offers hope and redemption and lesson from which the country can learn.
Together, we can build a New East; a radical urban vision of community which embraces growth but remains mixed, balanced and inclusive. A vision of a new kind of local authority fit for purpose in the 21st century, which is enabling, preventative and sustainable. A vision which empowers the citizen, to take pride in our borough and our history, and to participate in its future.
The New East will enable aspiration throughout the community, while combating division and gentrification. This is our vision of the New East, but we cannot achieve this alone. Now is the time for every proud resident of Barking and Dagenham to involve themselves in shaping this vision; in building the New East.
We also need the power and resource to make this vision a reality. Government must acknowledge the potential of local authorities, and drive real devolution across the United Kingdom, handing power back to those best placed to use it, and most capable of understanding local needs. Then our future will truly be ours to decide.
The end of the beginning
In August 2016 Jeremy Corbyn chose to come to Dagenham to launch his vision of this country’s future under a Labour government. He came here because of the challenges we face, but also because of the work we have already begun.
Our action to build the New East in Barking and Dagenham is a work-in-progress. It is the first step on a road to truly re-engaging with the community, because that is where the answers to the challenges of the 21st century lie. If we serve with this truth in mind the Labour Party – and everyone who cares about fairness and community – can reclaim our rightful place at the heart of the community.
Only then can we build a society centred around people, places and fairness; an inclusive society which empowers all; a strong and growing society in which no-one is left behind. Only then can we realise the New East.
We do not claim to have all the answers. Over the weeks, months and years to come we face crucial questions about our future, such as:
- How will Brexit impact our day-to-day lives, as well as our ability to deliver public services?
- How can we adapt to the changing age, mix and size of our community?
- How can we build integrated, sustainable health and social care services which maintain residents’ independence as well as their health and wellbeing?
- How can we ensure the community remains one, and is not divided?
- How can we ensure the community is inclusive, fair and free from all forms of prejudice?
- How can we enable every resident to gain the skills necessary for a successful career in the 21st century?
- How will automation change the makeup of our economy, workforce and labour market?
- How will our new and growing housing offer meet the changing needs of our community?
- How do we build equality of opportunity for all?
These are just a few of the pressing questions we face today, but together we will address these challenges and build the New East.
For further information on our vision please visit the following sites: