“Nearly toppled the establishment….”

24th November, 2012 5:33 pm

…..Is what colleagues have said after my performance in the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections. I stood as the Labour Party candidate in Suffolk, a largely safe Conservative county with 7 Conservative MP’s.

Out of 4 Commissioner candidates (Labour, Conservative, Independent and UKIP) in Suffolk I was the only woman. I secured 162 more votes than my Conservative opponent in the 1st preference count. But this was not a ‘First Past the Post’ election; and by the time the 2nd preference votes were counted I came 2nd

Before I come back to real life from the excitement of active campaigning I can reflect on the experience …

Let me tell you a little about me. I have had an enjoyable, rewarding and varied 32 year career, to date. I have a strong private sector background mainly in large retail companies, and Senior Management experience in the police. I had never stood for election before and was a complete novice. I stood because I am politically active and believed I had the prerequisite skills to do the job. I felt the police should be able to be held more accountable to local people and that I understood how to do so. I stood for Labour because as a working class woman it is quite simply who I am. I believe in social and economic justice, equality and rights. It was this absolute belief that I think translated onto the doorstep and got people out to vote for me.

Turnout was low in these elections, just 16% in Suffolk. Voter identification work is important as is postal vote sign up. If we had more of this who knows we could have won. In Ipswich we know that just over 55% of votes cast were postal voters. We know too though that turnout of voters in strong Labour voter areas like Ipswich and Waveney was marginally lower (around 15%) than in other parts of Suffolk. Turnout in Suffolk Coastal was comparatively high at 18%, and a lot of Labour activism took place here.

Little work took place specifically on getting the vote out across Suffolk on the day, so I think there are other factors at work that resulted in Labour securing more votes in the 1st preference count.

  • From the outset I built strong and real relationships with UNISON and other Union members locally which led to additional support from UNISON by way of telephone bank and letters out to Labour affiliated members.
  • We got my information out to all 6th form schools; colleges; parish and town councils. Many did nothing with the information to my knowledge but the message was out there.
  • I met and spent real time, not just campaign soundbites, with people in Rape Crisis Centres, Refuges, Muslim young women’s groups, African supplementary schools, groups working with young people with Learning Disabilities, business women and men. When necessary I got some of my material translated or worked with an interpreter. My background in civil rights activism meant people told me they trusted me.
  • I built my prospectus on what people told me mattered, prioritising tackling violence against women and young girls, Hate Crime and vulnerable victims of crimes. I pledged also to address inequalities such as stop and search and the underrepresentation of women in policing.

Being a woman mattered. People told me they felt I was approachable, friendly and non-establishment.  I did not criticise the opposition, rather I talked about what I thought I could do. People were not unduly bothered by me standing for a political party, but whether I had the right skills and expertise.

I campaigned to win because I believed I could and worked full time on it from June onwards. This conviction I am told was contagious and people got involved, including younger people. I embraced social media and responded to each and every person that contacted me.

I believe I secured many Green and Independent votes, and more women and first time voters. Many, many, people told me it would be the 1st time they had voted for Labour but they were voting for me.

Together we developed a County wide team – with people campaigning like they had never done before. An unconfirmed result from the count shows that Labour ‘won’ in rural villages like Dunwich, Rendlesham and Wenhaston. I hope I have helped change the view that Suffolk is only ever going to be a 2 seat county.

That is defeatist talk.

  • TomFairfax

    Not only not a two seat county, but for those who can remember as far back as the late nineties, a county that had a Labour controlled county council.

    • http://twitter.com/honladymark Mark Valladares

      Tom,

      With respect, it doesn’t look as though you remember too well. I think that you’ll find that it was a Labour/Liberal Democrat joint administration from 1993 to 2005.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dan.Filson Daniel Filson

    The election was not about overturning the establishment but electing a police commissioner to run or oversee – we wait to see how the role boundaries pan out – the police service. I don’t for one moment imagine the voters looked at your managerial capabilities and so went for the Tory, who may be wholly useless for all I or they know, but we will find as we progress to the next elections that the incumbents learn to speak with authority backed by some facts, no doubt selectively used, and it will become progressively harder to shift them. That’s why the low turnout and general indifference in these elections is so sad. One always knew the Tories (and so-called Independents) would slip in under such circumstances. We must however be wary that those Labour commissioners elected in Labour areas do not also become part of the woodwork too and lose their zeal for directing scarce resources into the kind of policing we want rather than the kind Chief Constables want (keep an eye on ACPO subscriptions, for example)

  • http://twitter.com/_DaveTalbot David Talbot

    This is quite self-serving, in all honesty.

  • TomFairfax

    lol. Point well made. Still it rather puts the article in context.
    Seven years hardly makes for an ‘establishment’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      Oh, come on – Suffolk is definitely true-blue and the Tories are certainly the local County establishment

      • TomFairfax

        Since 1945 they have tended to dominate, but before that it was the Liberals. Same with many other areas outside the industrial centres at that time. Certainly Eye used to be a safe Liberal seat. It’s pretty much a case of how long do you consider. However, the main population centres are Ipswich, Bury, Haverhill, Lowestoft, and Newmarket. Though I’ll agree that the chances of Newmarket going for any type of radical politician is fairly remote, the others aren’t so far out of reach.

        The trick is to avoid the impression that Labour is anti-countryside which is the case now. Get past that obstacle, and maybe back to the nineties. Frankly this is the county where the Tory leader and Council chief Exec were ditched last year for being so aggressive in cutting services and trying to privatise the remaining ones. Local people prefered realism to unbridled and untested ideology. I’m sure that’s not just a local trait.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

          Fair point. Suffolk tends to be Labour-leaning towns and very true blue countryside – Suffolk West which includes Haverhill being an example

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    I think its always useful to find out how campaigns operated on the ground – we can learn a lot from different ways of reaching people

  • JoeDM

    Maybe if you had made the effort to talk to the normal hard-working people of Suffolk about the impact of crime on their families and their areas, rather than the minority groups you claim to have targeted, you may well have won !!!!

  • JoeDM

    Maybe if you had made the effort to talk to the normal hard-working people of Suffolk about the impact of crime on their families and their areas, rather than the minority groups you claim to have targeted, you may well have won !!!!

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    The majority of the people of the rural counties of England are not very much interested in rape crisis centres, refuges, muslim young women’s groups, African supplementary schools (whatever they are) and so on, probably because those issues are not ones which affect lives in the rural counties. This is probably a shame, but it does appear that you completely “misjudged your audience”.

    Ask them about the theft of electric fencing (now over £3 a metre to buy), or the £53 per animal inoculation charges to get a lamb ready for market, or the black market trade in red diesel, or gangmasters. then you may appear to at least be from “the same planet”.

    Alternatively, try to run in a nice safe metropolitan seat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      I think rape happens anywhere, as does domestic violence, and I think its bizarre to suggest that somehow rural people care less about those things than urban dwellers.
      Suffolk does include some towns which would have a multi-cultural element and clearly Labour is in a position to win those votes, so it makes sense to engage with those groups rather than ignore them.
      I’m not sure if any specific work was done on the issues you mention. personally, I’m not in favour of subsidy to large scale industrial farming.

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