Standing for Parliament
For most of my life I’ve cared about how politics – the decisions taken on our behalf – affects each and all of us, and for most of my life I’ve campaigned to ensure Labour is elected to make life fairer for all of us. A few years ago I decided to find out if I had what it takes to fight a seat for Labour in Parliament.
Between 2007 and the 2010 General Election, I campaigned as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Rochford & Southend East. This was of course a tough time for Labour, which made my task all the more challenging in a seat that has so far only ever elected a Tory MP. But it was also a privilege to work with such a vibrant local Labour Party and be their representative as we reached out to the wider local community.
Looking back on my experience, there were many roles:
Campaigning as a team
A good candidate is part of team, whose members look out for each other, especially in tough political times. Across three years I knocked on thousands of doors on behalf of council candidates across the two towns, which also helped me relate to the really local issues that matter to people.
Supporting the nearby Labour MP
I was lucky to have Angela Smith as the nearest Labour MP to Southend. We organised regular canvass sessions in Angela’s Basildon seat and campaigned together against Boris Johnson’s ill-thought out scheme for an airport in the Thames estuary.
Fighting for the local community
I made sure that Labour was properly engaged with the issues that mattered locally, whether it was the closure of the main public swimming pool, the destruction of green spaces for road widening schemes, or the expansion of Southend Airport. Perhaps my proudest involvement was helping ensure the future funding of the trail-blazing community warden project called Turning Tides.
We achieve more together than we do alone – this was my motivation in encouraging Labour members to join in and reaching out to new members as well. I organised fundraiser events in London as well as Southend, which attracted lots of attention and resulted in more active members. I also helped build a network of younger members across South Essex to campaign together on issues of common interest.
Offering a better alternative
Finally, down to the literal role description – parliamentary candidate. The 2010 General Election was tough – no doubt about it – but I relished the role and thoroughly enjoyed taking on the Tories. My Tory opponent wasn’t so keen the other way round – after our first public hustings debate, the others were mysteriously cancelled! Here I am with just a few hours to go before the polls opened.
Overall, the parliamentary campaign was definitely worth the hard work. I know I am a tougher and more rounded campaigner as a result.