MY FIRST FOUR YEARS in the Labour Party have been intense.
I grew up on a council estate in the West Midlands, where my political views were built on a furious refusal to accept the inequality and injustice I saw around me. Aged six, I would campaign and fund raise for charities on the evils of poverty, climate change and animal cruelty – to the bewilderment of school mates and family.
I’ve always been political, but not party political. After a lifetime of abject disappointment in politicians, I was knocked sideways in 2015 by Jeremy Corbyn as he made a bid to become Labour leader. Finally, a politician who stands up to the establishment, to corruption and for the working class. Finally, a leader who is honest, selfless, and courageous. Finally, hope! I immediately joined and have campaigned for Labour every day since.
In May 2018 I was proud to be overwhelmingly elected as the parliamentary candidate for my home seat of Bournemouth East. I was advised to run in a more ‘winnable’ seat – but I’m not a politician, I’m a working class resident of Bournemouth and above all, I love my town.
I see the damage politicians have caused society and working people, from Thatcher through to Johnson. Capitalist, individualistic policy has increased inequality to the unthinkable level where working families rely on food banks to eat, while the top 1% can literally burn money. In Bournemouth we have the perfect storm: significantly inflated house prices, accompanied by lower than average wages in largely insecure work. Young people and working families are being priced out of their home town. Our naturally beautiful but highly congested conurbation also sits above the largest onshore oil field in western Europe. This, along with gas, is currently being sucked out by global investors, as our local economy dwindles. The only choice I see is to fight. I do not accept that Bournemouth East is an unwinnable seat. It is an uncontested seat – or it was.
Since 1885, there have only been two cases of a Labour MP in Dorset. Out of a total of 216 terms in office, only 27 have been held by an MP who wasn’t Conservative. Bournemouth East has only ever had a Conservative MP. Imagine the shock then, when 2017 saw an increase in the Labour vote share of 18.6% – one of the highest in the UK.
This was purely on the back of Corbyn’s leadership and our incredible manifesto, since local activity was only in its infancy. In our sea of Tory blue, a small but determined and ever growing team of volunteers is now fighting for the future of Bournemouth East. We are not politicians trying to sell a lie for our own careers – we are people’s friends, colleagues and neighbours, giving our time to get the best for our town.
I don’t underestimate the task of winning a newly marginal seat. Building our local party and a campaign from the ground up is time consuming. This has become my life. Without pay, time off, thanks or any guarantee of victory, I have gladly and without hesitation given up my career and personal life. This is something the establishment Tories will never understand.
For far too long it has been the rich who have ascended to power, since they have the resources to campaign. Ours is a grassroots campaign, with working class volunteers who know the need for a Labour government as well as they know the personal cost of winning it.
We know our campaign is working, as we see door after door opening with a surprised and grateful smile. No one has asked them their views before, no one has asked for their vote. The Conservatives have coasted by for decades on the assumption that Bournemouth, and Dorset as a whole, will support them. They haven’t done a thing to earn it. The incumbent in my seat barely mentions Bournemouth East, let alone sets foot here.
In the age of social media and online information, the political silence in Bournemouth is being broken. People want to be listened to and represented and they know they won’t get that from an upper class Tory, parachuted into a ‘safe’ seat as a gift from his party.
Against all odds we fight not only to win the next election, but to inspire others. Never again let us allow a person’s class to be a barrier to politics. Never again let us accept any seat as safe for the Tories. It’s time for Bournemouth.
is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bournemouth East,