Labour’s parliamentary hopeful for South Thanet says residents will help to shape local party policy

Labour's Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt

Putting together a local economic plan for South Thanet, continuing to campaign against cuts in the health service and tackling poverty are some of the issues new Labour parliamentary hopeful Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt will be working on.

The parliamentary researcher, who has lived in Ramsgate for the last four years, will also be talking to members and residents about the issues they face and what action they want taken to make life in the constituency better.

Dr Gordon Nesbitt was selected for South Thanet at a Labour vote last month, beating an initial list of five other hopefuls to become the party’s MP in waiting.

She will be hoping to take the seat at the next General Election, scheduled for May 5, 2022, or sooner if a by-election is forced as a result of legal action against the current MP, Tory Craig Mackinlay.

Dr Gordon Nesbitt registered as a supporter of the Labour Party in July 2015 so she could vote for Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

She says many of those involved in her campaign were also relative newcomers brought to the party due to support for Corbyn.

She said: “We know what the traditional Labour Party looked like but with Jeremy Corbyn we  now have people who were not party members before. Most had been involved in demonstrations against issues such as austerity but were not affiliated to the party. I count myself as part of that influx and many of my team feel the same way.”

The campaign

Dr Gordon Nesbitt says the Corbyn factor has seen party membership swell five-fold, adding: “I represent four-fifths of the party as they are all similar to me.”

She is a member of the Ramsgate branch of the South Thanet constituency Labour Party, taking a role as auditor and delegate to the General Committee, alongside her research work for Lord Howarth of Newport, a Labour peer and former MP.

Her work involves interrogating Government policy, scrutinising evidence, consulting people from diverse backgrounds, drafting reports and briefing documents, advocating culture change and making submissions to Select Committee and other public-sector inquiries.

She says this experience has given her knowledge of the processes of Parliament, and perhaps put her ahead of the other candidates.

Although policies will be decided after speaking to residents there are issues Dr Gordon Nesbitt would hope to tackle.

She said: “We have been actively campaigning with SONIK (Save Our NHS in Kent) over Kent & Medway’s planned £450million in cuts, the possible loss of our stroke service and upcoming reviews for A&E and GP services.

In an area of deprivation it is tantamount to criminal. They (NHS) have a strong duty to look after people and iron out health inequalities.”

The economic plan, first tabled during a visit by John McDonnell to Thanet, is another project Dr Gordon Nesbitt want to explore.

She said: “I want to proactively campaign as we urgently need a viable economy in South Thanet.

“We will do our best to develop the local economic plan to produce locally and environmentally sustainable jobs and look at housing and infrastructure.”

Guido Fawkes

The first weeks as the parliamentary candidate have not been all smooth sailing. On April 18 political blogger Guido Fawkes published an article questioning the defence of Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker during their anti-Semitism scandals by think tank The Centre for Cultural Change. The website for the think tank is registered to Dr Gordon Nesbitt.

In defence she issued a statement, saying: “In 2016, I registered the url for The Centre for Cultural Change, an anonymous blog and twitter group run by activists from the Kent area. I am sincerely sorry for any hurt and offence caused by tweets from the account and regret that I did not understand this at the time they were posted.

“I have since developed a deeper understanding of antisemitism and the prevalence of antisemitic tropes, and I believe the expansion of political education on antisemitism within our movement is an essential step forward.

“ I fully support the efforts the Party is taking to stamp out antisemitism, and I look forward to working with the Jewish community in my constituency to raise awareness of antisemitism within our Party and within wider society.”

Open book

Dr Gordon Nesbitt hopes the statement will resolve that issue so she can get on with her plan to talk to residents and shape new policies.

She said: “I want to talk to as many people as possible. We will be knocking on doors and asking people what they want to see the next MP doing. We want policies to benefit the maximum number of people, not just Labour Party members but all the people in Thanet.

“Anyone can come to us with issues, we want everything to be an open book.”

Current MP Craig Mackinlay goes on trial at Southwark Crown Court on May 14 accused of two counts of making a false election expenses. He denies the charges.

The last Labour MP for Thanet was Stephen Ladyman who held the seat from 1997, taking it from Tory Jonathan Aitken, until 2010 when Tory Laura Sandys was voted in with a 7,600 majority .