Portrait of Charlie Zahra

Welcome Message

I would like to introduce myself as the newly elected Branch Secretary for Swanley Labour Party. Some of you may recognise me from standing in the recent local elections in the White Oak Ward and for District council. For those of you who don’t, I have been raised and lived in Swanley for 25 years since I was 5 years old, attended St Bartholomew’s school, Holy Apostles church and have been a Labour party member for 4 years.

I must begin by mentioning Labour’s, and my own, disappointment in the recent local and European elections. Whilst we are tremendously proud and encouraged by the elections of the fantastic Jackie Griffiths and Connie Lee in the St. Mary’s ward, these were our only elected councillors. I am absolutely certain that both Jackie and Connie Lee will do a great job representing the people of Swanley, having both lived within the community for many. Our job as members over the next 4 years should be to understand how to increase our turnout to ensure we elect more Labour councillors and take control of Swanley Town Council again.

However, whilst results have been disappointing in both the local and euro elections where turnout is relatively low, we should be encouraged by the effort of activists and incoming MP Lisa Forbes for their result in the Peterborough by-election. They beat back the Brexit Party in an area that voted leave in the referendum and for the Brexit party in the Euro elections just 2 weeks previous. This time however, their 1 trick pony message did not cut through as Labour focused on local issues such as fly tipping, crime rates and crippling Tory austerity winning with 31% of the vote in a seat that has been marginal for decades. The active effort to ‘Get the Vote Out’ on the day by grassroot activists was superb and was likely the difference between victory and defeat.

Whilst I am new to the role of Branch secretary, I have a few aims that I wish to focus on over the next 12 months. The first should be to increase our membership in Swanley and to get more members active in any way possible. We will be continuing our street stall in Swanley every last Saturday of the month and encourage you all to come over for a chat. We will also be stepping up efforts to get out on the doorsteps, not just at election time, but all year round.

Secondly, as a relatively younger member of the local party I would like to drive a younger engagement with the Swanley Labour Party. We have a fantastic army of veteran members who work tirelessly year on year for the residents of Swanley, but they need help too. Help to keep the pressure on this Tory council and engagement on the doorsteps as we aim to speak to more people in Swanley and encourage them to take more interest in Labour policies than ever before.

Finally, we as a local branch aim to attack and oppose the current re-development plans in Swanley and stand up for its local residents against these profit driven developers. As we all know the plans to build an 11 storey tower block in Swanley has already been accepted by Sevenoaks District Council and consultations around the project are ongoing. We need to be louder than anyone else in our opposition to these plans and raise the hypocrisy of the Tory councillors who claim to oppose the plans but tacitly allow them to go ahead without any legal challenge.

By Charlie Zahra
Swanley & District Labour Party Branch Secretary

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