THE LABOUR MEMBERSHIP in Chingford and Woodford Green has trebled over the last two years thanks to the Corbyn effect. Many opponents of Corbyn had asked: “where are these new members?” Those of us supporting the new leadership, and many in the centre, have tried to involve new members and activism has gradually increased to the point where we felt it necessary to split the Chingford branch into three new branches. The day we arranged to launch our new branch was the day that Theresa May called the General Election.
From that point on, it became clear exactly where those new members were. Dozens of activists were out campaigning almost every day, far outstripping the Tory campaign, and allowing us to organise stalls, leafleting and canvassing in areas where we haven’t been able to organise for years.
Iain Duncan Smith had a majority of 13,000 in 2010, which was reduced to 8,000 in 2010. This seat was not seen by anyone as winnable. So we committed to sending activists to what was seen as a neighbouring marginal of Ilford North. Despite its MP having been vocal in trying to undermine Corbyn, even the left in the constituency saw it as important to win that seat for Labour.
Wes Streeting’s majority has now gone up from 589 to nearly 10,000, turning Ilford North into a safe seat. In Chingford and Woodford Green, IDS’s vote increased to 23,000. However the vote of Labour candidate, Bilal Mahmood, shot up to over 20,000. Those of us at the count saw Tories in panic all evening, including a very worried looking IDS.
In five out of the eight wards Labour is now the biggest party, paving the way for a real fight in the council elections next year where we currently only have two councillors. Just as significantly, this is now a marginal constituency where IDS’s seat is under threat.
Whenever the next General Election is called we will be asking for help from activists in Ilford North and elsewhere in turning this long held Tory seat red.