Local people attempting to shake up local politics
On the 11th July the Ely Progressives Group held their first ever Public Meeting.
It’s safe to say that I had no idea what to expect from this meeting. I’ve never considered myself to be a massively political person (even though I have always voted since I know there are still people in this world dying for such a right). However, recent events have lit a fire in me, so I turned up at the Ely Museum at 7:30 on the dot, and squeezed myself into an already very crowded room to find out exactly what Ely Progressives were about.
As Andy Shaw opened up proceedings, he joked that at 7:15pm he and the other founders had started taking bets on how many people would show up, worried that it could just be them chewing the fat like they had been doing for the last 9 months. Luckily, this was by no means the case, as there were over 30 people packed into the room. Any more and we would have posed a fire safety risk.
Andy welcomed everyone to the meeting, giving the background to the Ely Progressives and how they came to be. Representatives from the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party were all in attendance, and each then gave a brief introduction to their reasons for being at the meeting. The general message quickly became clear – everyone at the meeting was frustrated by the current political situation, and wanted to know what they could do to make a genuine change.
It was obvious that with so many people in one room we would struggle to get everyone’s voices heard, so we split up into four spin out groups where everyone introduced themselves and discussed what they wanted from the Ely Progressives, and what they thought the organisation could potentially achieve.
Incredibly, when we all came back together it became strikingly clear that everyone was on the same page. We wanted the Ely Progressives to bring together the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in a way that could challenge the current status quo. Imagine a situation where the Progressive group becomes a kind of umbrella organisation where one representative from all the parties is chosen to be the “progressive” candidate, and whether you are Green, Labour or LD you vote for someone who represents the combined policies of all three? There is so much cross over in policies between these three parties, even if the wording is sometimes different. In her maiden speech to parliament Jo Cox said “We have far more in common than that which divides us”, and this became abundantly clear during the meeting.
Social housing, education, transport – these were just three issues that cropped up many times during the evening, but we all agreed that now was not the time to get mired in the details of the issues affecting East Cambridgeshire. That will come. Right now what we need to do is work on a structure for the group and the policies that we will focus on moving forward. And more importantly, we need to start getting the message about Ely Progressives out there. We need to build a community and make sure that those who are frustrated with the current situation know that there is something they can do about it, an organisation that they can join where their voices will be heard.
So what next? Ely Progressives are setting up two separate groups to focus on two main issues: structure and policy. The group needs to make sure that messages are concise and that anyone interested in the Ely Progressives can find out exactly what the group is about via a few simple sentences. Then once the foundations are in place we can all really start to spread the word and start raising the profile of Ely Progressives. These are exciting times, and I intend to stick around and see what happens next. Why don’t you join me?