Councillor Joe Dromey has been on the campaign trail over the past few weeks, urging his young constituency to make their voices heard in the upcoming General Election. Dromey’s been canvassing hard for Labour politician Vicky Foxcroft to be re-elected to her Lewisham Deptford seat, held since 2015.
For Dromey this is almost a way of life. He joined the Labour Party at was just 16 years old, striving for an outlet to expand his passion for social justice and equality.
But it is not surprising that Dromey was an adolescent socialist. His childhood was distinctly political; his parents are Labour politicians Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey who met on the picket line of the Grunswick dispute in 1977.
Harman has served as a Member of Parliament since 1982 and is the longest-serving female MP in the House of Commons. She has also been dubbed the “Mother of the House.” Her husband, Jack Dromey has been an MP since 2010 and was previously Treasurer of the Labour party.
Yet, despite this background, Dromey does not aspire to any parliamentary positions; at least not yet. “We have three fantastic Labour candidates in Lewisham in Vicky Foxcroft, Ellie Reeves and Janet Daby, and I hope they will represent our community for many years to come.”
According to Dromey, students could be decisive in dozens of seats on December 12. He told Eastlondonlines, “Politicians are failing young people. Students leaving university today face tens and thousands of pounds of debt, insecurity at work, a chronic housing crisis, and a growing climate emergency.”
In his role as Councillor for New Cross ward and Cabinet Member for Culture, Jobs and Skills in Lewisham Council, Dromey has been acutely aware of the potential impact of Brexit on the area.
60 per cent of people aged 65 and over voted to leave in the Brexit referendum while 73 per cent of 18-24-year old’s voted to remain. Dromey added, “if young people voted in the same numbers as older voters, they would be more powerful, and our politics would be better.”
Those in New Cross voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU and Dromey believes Brexit will be a disaster for New Cross. “It would hit our economy, and it would mean less funding for public services,” he said.
Dromey and the council are determined to represent the views of those in the area. They are thus committed to fighting a hard-Conservative Brexit, campaigning for a people’s vote and most importantly, to remain in the EU.
Alongside the council, Dromey has been committed to ensuring everyone is registered to vote so they can have their say in the election. “Labour has set out a radical and transformative offer for young people, with free education for all, a £10/hour minimum wage, and bold action to tackle both the housing crisis and the climate emergency.”
Growing up in Camberwell and Herne Hill, Dromey is a long-standing native to South East London. He moved to New Cross after studying history and politics at Warwick University. “New Cross is a fantastic place to live. It has an exciting, vibrant and diverse community, a lively arts scene, and a fascinating history.”
Much of this history is embedded in politicism. Dromey notes an interesting piece of trivia: The socialist anthem ‘The Red Flag’ was written on a train on the way to New Cross!” ‘The Red Flag’, an anthem of the British Labour party, was written by New Cross Road resident Jim Connell on a train home from a Social Democratic Federation meeting in 1889.
Amongst Dromey’s pressing concerns as a Councillor and as a citizen in New Cross is the housing crisis and rising levels of poverty. He told Eastlondonlines, “We are facing the worst housing crisis in generations, with two thousand homeless households in the borough. We desperately need to build more social housing and to tackle insecurity, exploitation and high rents in the private rented sector.”
Despite London’s wealth, New Cross faces high and dangerous levels of poverty and child poverty. Dromey told Eastlondonlines, “We need to tackle low pay, promote the Living Wage, and reverse the cuts to social security that have forced so many people into poverty.”
Dromey has seen firsthand the impact of austerity on the local community, he added: “The Conservative Government has cut funding to the council in half over the last decade, while demand for our services has only been growing. This forces us to make impossible decisions and to cut services when we should be investing in our communities.” A recent report blamed 130,000 ‘preventable’ deaths in the UK since 2012 on austerity and cuts to public health services.
He cites the climate emergency as a mounting and dangerous concern that is failing to be adequately addressed. In May, MPs approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency.
In New Cross, Dromey believes the toxic air pollution plaguing the area needs to be addressed. “It blights people’s lives.” In 2013, a nine-year-old girl from Lewisham died from a fatal asthma attack believed to be linked to illegal levels of air pollution.
The GLA have repeatedly identified the New Cross Road as one of their air quality focus areas. Research in 2017 by professors at Goldsmiths University revealed air pollution levels in Lewisham, Deptford and New Cross to be six times higher than the recommended limit.
There is yet to be substantial moves by the government to curb fossil fuel use, commit to zero-emissions and to promote green alternatives in any meaningful way. An immediate and head-on attack upon climate change is necessary, and Dromey implores we need to “rapidly decarbonise our economy to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate collapse.”