I remember tentatively walking into my first ever local Labour Party meeting in October 2016. Little did I know then that in three years I’d have been a candidate in not one, but two General Elections, that certainly wasn’t the plan!
The result was shockingly bad for the Labour Party and a new leader will take over. I voted for Jeremy Corbyn in both leadership elections and believe he is a principled person with empathy for people and a deep-seated drive to fight injustice and inequality in our society. I and many others share those values. Unlike Johnson who feels he was born to lead, leadership was thrust upon Corbyn and it didn’t always sit comfortably on his shoulders.
We still await the first train driver to be elected to parliament for over 50 years, however there was one bit of good news with Mohammad Yasin being re-elected as MP for Bedford, well done to the brilliant campaign that took place in the constituency.
Looking forwards rather than looking back, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the rights and wrongs of the campaign, but perhaps our manifesto was too much, too quickly and it lost credibility among an electorate who had (incorrectly) laid the blame on the 2008 Global Crash at Labour’s feet. This argument was lost by the Labour Party in the years after the crash and I believe it was a major error on Labour’s part not to contest this more vigorously at the time. Therefore, each additional announcement was seen as an additional financial burden rather than an enlightened policy of investment which would reduce inequality across the UK.
Of course most people aren’t interested in politics and just want clear simple messages and there’s no denying that ‘Get Brexit Done’ was a clear message, in fact it was pretty much the only message coming from the Conservatives. After years of paralysis it was an easy one to sell to a fatigued electorate. After being up all night I’m too tired to go into the rights and wrongs of this choice, how it will be done and the effect on the UK – and besides the choice has been made so it’s a moot point.
New leader? I think it’s time for a woman to lead the Labour Party and at this time I believe Angela Rayner would be an excellent choice, passionate, has personal experience of the harsher side of life and would have appeal among a wide range of the electorate.
On a personal level I’m proud of how we conducted the campaign locally. I couldn’t be prouder of my team; the campaign committee including Andy, Sam, Conny, Martyn, Nick, Connell, Paul, Helen and Sarah who met every week and our army of leafleters co-ordinated by Sarah, who did such a sterling job getting out our message across the huge expanse of North East Bedfordshire. Thanks to the film crew and editors, a tough job with the material I gave them, our printers who met every deadline, our print designer Jenni and my ASLEF union colleagues who gave so much support.
A special mention must go to Fiona my agent. Every candidate needs someone who can tell you exactly how it is and not tell you what they think you want to hear. Fiona excelled in this department! Fiona has immense integrity a no-nonsense approach and her advice was considered, direct and invaluable, I could not have received better counsel. I knew she would be good, she was brilliant.
Since I first walked through the door of the Labour Hall in 2016 my life has changed immeasurably and I’m privileged to have met so many people who do such excellent work in the community and were prepared to endorse me for this General Election campaign. I’m acutely aware that when people endorse me they were putting a part of their reputation on the line, I hope I didn’t let them down.
Thank you to: Kathy Lewis, Director of the Preen food bank who does such amazing work for the most vulnerable in our community; Mark Lee, Chair of Bedfordshire Fire Brigades Union who’s firefighters keep us all safe; Emily Yates, co-founder of the Association of British Commuters, who is an incredible campaigner for commuter rights and Jacob Hawley, comedian and now presenter on BBC Sounds, who I know will go far as someone who thinks deeply about issues affecting young people in our society. I was humbled to receive endorsements from these people. I had hoped that I could champion these people as an MP, but I can assure them that I’ll continue to do all I can to help them.
I’d also like to thank the other candidates who took part in the NE Bedfordshire election which, in contrast to an often toxic atmosphere nationally, was conducted in good spirit and humour at our local level. I thoroughly enjoyed the three hustings that took place and a special thanks to Martyn for once again organising the hustings at Riseley. I know like with Alistair, Richard Fuller and I will disagree on most things politically, but I hope and trust we’ll be able to work together as I did with Alistair on issues that benefit the community. Richard has indicated the door will always be open and I’ll hold him to that.
I must also thank my wife Juliette and my daughter Natasha. Your family doesn’t choose to enter politics, but they suffer the consequences of you making that decision. I met Juliette at one of the lowest points of my life and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d given up on me those 23 years ago. Whatever I have achieved I could not have done it without her. I look forward to spending some time with them both over the Xmas period and Juliette will look forward to not having papers everywhere and me being at home more than one evening a week.
I always try and be upbeat, but I have to talk about Boris Johnson. I believe he ran an absolutely shocking campaign, talking about ‘one nation’ Toryism, while at the same time playing to the hard right with his disgraceful views on minorities in this country. Politicians should be accountable and his avoidance of the Andrew Neil interview, among others, was spineless and not befitting of a leader of the United Kingdom. I believe the majority of politicians from all parties enter politics for the right reasons, to help people, but I don’t see this with Johnson, for whom it just seems to be a game without the need for any complications such as principles. While he may think he’s Winston Churchill, I believe his ‘sunlit uplands’ are an illusion and I have grave concerns for the vulnerable in our society. I believe he is a fraud lacks any moral compass or empathy and will be found out in the years to come as the inevitable challenges and, as Harold MacMillan said, “events” occur.
Many Labour members and supporters will be despondent. This is the time to step up not down. When Priti Patel states poverty is not down to government it’s clear where their priorities are and what lies ahead. It’s now up to us to help protect the most vulnerable.
How can we do this? Support your local food bank, volunteer for local charities, even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, call out injustice wherever you see it, not just by sticking it on social media and forgetting about it, but organise to fight it. Write to your local councillor, your MP, your local paper and get others to do the same, be a thorn in their side. Many people see ‘politics’ as a separate entity that is not related to their everyday lives – everything is political. Talk to people about how politics can and does change things and how it relates to our day to day living, tell them how they can get involved, ask them to join the Labour Party. Always a supporter, I joined the Labour Party in 2010, not to bask in the glory of a victory, but to help out at a low ebb after an election defeat. Don’t mourn, organise.
You can join the Labour Party here: https://join.labour.org.uk/
What lies ahead for me? I’m not done, whatever drives me is still there I can’t switch it off. Politics is a funny old world, let’s see what happens!
Finally, a thank you to our NHS staff, our emergency services, our teachers, our carers, all our public sector workers and our food bank volunteers. A special thank you to all the immigrants to the UK who contribute so much to our society. I hope you all get some time with your families over the Xmas period.