Monday, 8 June 2009

A majority of minorities (pulling and polling together)

Despite fighting 7 elections over the last 18 years at local and national level ( Won 6 Lost 1) Last Thursday's win on Northamptonshire County Council is a contender for my most memorable and the most enjoyable.

Fighting the seat as an Independent, against the Labour Party was always going to be tricky, even with the Labour Party's current difficulties.

Castle Ward was arguably (until now) the safest Labour seat in the County and up until I won one of the two Borough Council seats in 2007 it had known nothing but success for the "peoples party", with many of it's ex councillors remaining my friends to this day, and ex council leader John Dickie proving once again to be a fine agent (apart form calling me a d*ckhead on Polling day, when the in car microphone and loudspeakers were still switched on)

But this time those lovely regional party officers in Nottingham did their very best to assist me in my campaign. First of all they imposed their candidate on the Ward (as they did in 2007) and then tried to run the campaign through their regional office, and it seems through the hapless stewardship of the absent parliamentary candidate Clyde Loakes.

Their campaign was lack lustre, their work ethic miserable and their message? Well I am still not sure what their message was other than "The Independent and the Lib Dems can't win in Castle Ward, A vote for the Independent or the Lib Dems simply lets the Tories in" hardly a vote winner and not even credible.

But it wasn't the Labour Party's regional office's incompetence which cheered me most, it was all those who came out and supported our campaign which made me smile.

In true Obama style, we won the election pure and simply on constructing a majority from minorities in Castle Ward who we have been working with over the last two years. For those of you not local we polled 760 votes against Labours 440, with the Tories on 361 and the Greens with a credible 201. The Lib Dems who in fairness did not really contest the seat came in 5th on 194 votes.

A low overall turnout in the ward was bolstered by a higher than usual turn out of minority groups willing to support a candidate who had supported them over a long time.

On election day the number of Women Muslim voters was a particular joy to see at each Polling Station, and our newest community in Northampton the Somalian community also came out in support and in force. In addition other interest groups in the area, our pensioners, our young and our gay community all equally helped out during the campaign and turned out in support on polling day. It was joy to behold and a ray of bright sunshine in a somewhat overcast election overshadowed by the BNP's successes in the Euro Vote.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every individual who lent their support or registered their vote last Thursday It proves beyond any doubt the old adage "United We Stand" and also shows that when we stick together and work for the common good that small communities with big hearts can win massive victories.

But my gold medal for loyalty and perseverance came from a tale relayed to me, related to our eve of poll leafleting team in Spring Boroughs. The team was made up of three pensioners, an 11 year old girl and a 14 year old boy, and they were faced with delivering 1000+ leaflets across a large area dominated by high rise flats. I told them to only do what they felt they could and not overdo it as we could finish off the task on Polling Day morning.

But when I rang for an update on the Wednesday evening I was told "it's all done" that in itself was a massive achievement, but on polling day I learnt a little more about their exploits. You see one of our tower blocks Barnabus House has no lift at present due to refurbishment works, so the task of carrying themselves and bundles of heavy leaflets up such a concrete mountain should have been enough to stop them in their tracks, so did it deter them? No, instead our eldest volunteer 87 climbed the stairs to the top floor, resting at each level whilst her accomplice a spring chicken at 76 waited at the bottom. once the summit was reached the 89 year old then lowered a rope to the bottom where the bags of leaflets were duly tied on ready for hauling up and stuffing through letterboxes.

Loyalty like that can never be bought, and it just goes to show what can be achieved if people work together and are given a reason to feel part of a much broader collective family. Across the patch similar things are happening, tenants are digging up unkempt council land outside their flats to grow vegetables and young and old working together on community projects, residents are adopting "potholes" in order to shame the authorities into action, leisure space is being reclaimed from the drug users and drinkers and used by families and dog walkers.

Not all of this can be connected with last weeks election, in fact much of it has its roots much deeper in Northampton's proud Independent past stretching from the Civil War through to Bradlaugh's election in the late 1800's. But it has me proud to be elected to serve the area and delighted to have such people in my Ward.

And who said Politics couldn't still be enjoyable?



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