For the first time in many years, the Labour Party has a local presence in Berwickshire.
A local branch of the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirkshire Constituency Labour Party was agreed at the end of the year, and it will be holding meetings open to all members in 2012, with Coldingham resident, Kenryck Lloyd-Jones at the helm as branch chair. Other office bearers are to be elected in the coming weeks.
Mr Lloyd-Jones said: “The current Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirkshire Constituency Labour Party holds well-attended meetings in Galashiels, but there are now considerable numbers of Berwickshire members who would like to meet more locally.
“Living in Berwickshire, I know that there is now the membership and the support in the area. With the current economic climate and the real challenges we face locally, people are turning to the Labour party, many for the first time.
“Holding meetings along the route of the A1 will make the new branch more accessible to party members and really strengthen our organisation and fund raising.
“With the capacity to organise more locally, we can better support people to protect local jobs and public services, and offer an alternative with a greater fighting chance across the region.”
Although in recent times Berwickshire has not been seen as a strong hunting ground for Labour, the party claims to have seen a steady increase in membership since the 2010 UK General Election.
After boundary changes in 1983, which split the previous Berwickshire/East Lothian constituency and joined Berwickshire with Roxburghshire, Labour’s fortunes in Berwickshire have varied in General Elections.
In 1983 they took 2,326 votes, and four years later increased slightly to 2,944. By 1997 they had increased their share of the vote to 15 per cent with 5,226 followers, reducing slightly in 2001 to 4,498.
They were on the up again in 2005 with 16 per cent of the vote in the General Election (7,206 votes) but the 2010 General Election saw them knocked back to 5,003 votes, and a share of ten per cent.
In the Scottish Parliament elections Labour’s share of the vote has fluctuated less: in 1999 they got 2,802; in 2003 they got exactly the same number of 2,802, in 2007 2,108 and in 2011, 2,986.
At local council level Labour have never performed strongly in the region and of the 34 Scottish Borders Council councillors there isn’t a single Labour Party councillor among them - currently there are 12 Conservatives, 10 Liberal Democrats, six SNP, four independents and two Borders Party councillors.
Nationally the party has reported that 55,000 people have joined the Labour party since the 2010 General Election, with thousands of members joining Labour after Ed Miliband’s leadership election victory.
Locally the first test for the newly invigorated Berwickshire branch of the party will be at the Scottish Borders Council elections in May this year.
Mr Lloyd Jones goes on: “Growing disillusionment with the coalition government means that the numbers now joining Labour are making the re-establishment of the branch in Berwickshire a viable option.”
Michael Grieve, Constituency Labour Party (CLP) chair, said,: “We are greatly encouraged by the growing support for Labour across the region, and not least in those areas that have not been our strongholds for Labour of late, such as Berwickshire.
“The recreation of the Berwickshire branch will boost our support further and means that we can better represent the interests of working people across the region.”
The next meeting of the Berwickshire Branch will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday, January 11, at the Anchor Inn in Coldingham. Anyone wishing more information should contact the CLP website at http://brslabourparty.wordpress.com/