• Jo Bird

Two years as an elected Labour councillor

I was elected as Labour councillor for Bromborough two years ago today.

In my first year, I gained hardship payments for disaster victims in my ward and became secretary of Wirral Labour Group under new leadership. I experienced brief administrative suspension from the Labour Party, which helped me better represent my constituents, fellow Labour party members and councillors.

In my second year, I stood for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC). With the nomination of 118 CLPs and backing of many organisations, 46,150 members voted for me. I was briefly suspended and reinstated again. Here are some landmarks of my year.

This Just Jews video was released in September 2019 and viewed over 90,000 times. As a Jewish person, I’ve been very welcome in the Labour Party. Bromborough branch members voted overwhelmingly to re-select me in open selection for their Labour councillor candidate.

Last Autumn, my Birkenhead Labour Party moved the Palestine motion at Conference. A friend living in the occupied West Bank said “In the darkest part of the night when we begin to think the dawn will never come, a small sliver of light appears on the horizon”.

Then Dame Louise Ellman MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, resigned from Labour on the eve of a trigger ballot, making horrible allegations. Quite different from my lived experience, I made a quick video challenging her version of events. It was viewed over 37,000 times – a personal best!

Many members of Liverpool Riverside wanted me to stand as their MP. But I was uncharitably denounced by the unelected Jewish Leadership Council. The Party did not interview me for Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.

Co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, the brilliant Dr Gail Bradbrook, said one of the most important things that happened to her was meeting me.

Unfortunately, Labour didn’t win the General Election 2019 – and not for lack of grassroots effort. On the Wirral, the score was Labour 4, Tories 0. Still grieving our loss, I urged us to Defend, Attack, Build, Create in one of my best speeches.

With fellow cross-party back bench councillors, we scrutinised the lessons to be learned by our Council regarding the devastating explosion in my ward in March 2017. Wirral Cabinet accepted our straightforward recommendations such as 'put victims first’ and ‘record Major Incident meetings’.

In the new year, CLP nominations started and no centre-left slate had been agreed. A well placed comrade asked if I would stand for the NEC by-election. I said, “Hahahahahahaha! F*** off! er... Yes!” So with the backing of Jewish Voice for Labour and my branch, I stood for the NEC - fairness and natural justice - and quickly gained many CLP nominations.

At which point, a complaint was received and I was put into administrative suspension. Certain sections of the mainstream media vilified me. You know that injustice is super stressful, and I didn’t sleep much. During my suspension, I was lifted by the love and solidarity of thousands of members in over a hundred CLPs who continued to nominate me for the NEC. Some fellow candidates signed a letter to support free and fair elections.

I was pleased to be swiftly reinstated by a panel of the NEC who found my behaviour “did not amount to a breach of the Party’s Rules”.

Thank you to all 46,150 Labour members who voted for me for the NEC. Not quite enough to win, I came fourth. Thank you to organisations backing me including Jewish Voice for Labour, Labour Left Alliance, Labour Representation Committee, Red Labour, Skwawkbox and Welsh Labour Grassroots. Many of these organisations have formed the important new network, Don’t Leave, Organise.

The end of my UK speaking tour coincided with corona virus lockdown. So many preventable deaths have been caused by systemic failures, racism and poverty. On the Wirral, Labour councillors worked with trade unions to secure the Real Living Wage for frontline care workers, for schools to open only when safe, and local test and trace services.

Topple the Racists website list the Lord Leverhulme monument in Port Sunlight in the ward I’m elected to represent. Lord Leverhulme has a hidden history of forced labour in Congo plantations. I’m working with local residents, Black members, UniLever trade unions and other stakeholders to learn from all our history to build our better future together.

Full NEC elections started again in July. This time, the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance quickly agreed six candidates to back – but did not include me on their slate.

However, I’m still standing for the NEC – in the local government section. Only Labour councillors can vote for Cllr Matt White and I. We are standing for socialism in local Councils, backed by the new Socialist Campaign Group of Labour Councillors.

As Frederick Douglass said in 1857, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” And still we must sustain the struggle for our lives. There are plenty reasons why I remain a member of our Labour Party. Plus it’s one of the most fun places to organise! Vive La Resistance! Venceremos!

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