…..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.