Campaign diary: Manuel Cortes visits TSSA-backed candidates

Manuel Cortes

The first part of my LabourList campaign diary saw me visit Sutton and Cheam, then Ealing Central. Next, I went to Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster and Chingford for a rollercoaster week, travelling up and down the country by train to meet as many of our TSSA-supported candidates as possible.

I also went to Milton Keynes, where I met local Labour woman Charlynne Pullen. Our union is backing her attempt to win Milton Keynes North, a seat held by the Tories since it was created nine years ago.

Like so many aspiring MPs, Charlynne has put her job and life on hold to try and turn this – the home of the MK Dons – red. With the help of her team of dedicated volunteers (including her dad Ivan, who manages the canvassing board like a pro), we hit one of the estates that was sold off under the Tory policy of Right To Buy.

“We’re the Buy To Let capital of Britain now,” said Charlynne, explaining how many of these former family homes are now used by well-paid workers who only stay for a short while before moving on. “We’ve seen a real dismantling of the community here and austerity means that the Labour council has had to fight tooth and nail to keep our facilities open,” she told us while entering another block of empty flats.

It’s one of those door-knocking days when most people are out or not answering. But when we do find people at home, they are mostly staunch Labour supporters who are pleased that the young woman who wants to represent them is coming to meet them in person. “We’ve not seen any other candidates here, a young professional on her way out tells us. “She’s got my vote.”

But there are still many undecideds. A lot of people seem confused about the key issues at stake. Not so one retired lady who opened the door, and on seeing my leaflet, bursts out: “I hate what Boris has done to us girls!”

She’s thrilled at the position Labour has taken on standing up for the thousands of older women who found out too late that they won’t be receiving their pensions when they had thought they would. “I paid in for years and I still have to wait another two until I can get any money. Only Corbyn has bothered about us oldies.”

Two hours later, I pull into Crewe, a once proud railway town where our TSSA union used to have many members. With the loss of industry and the unionised jobs that went along with that, people are looking for someone to blame – and Brexit is being used to divide.

One woman shouts and shuts the door in my face. But another thanks me for coming and asks if me and the rest of the Crewe crew fighting to re-elect Laura Smith in the seat she won in 2017 need a cuppa. On a cold, rainy afternoon it is gestures of solidarity such as this that keep me going.

The highlight of the day was meeting one of the TSSA’s longest standing members. Nanette Wilton – or Nan, as she is universally known – is an inspiration to the young team of canvassers made up of locals and those who have moved up in a bid to bolster Laura’s plan to build on her achievements of the past two years.

Nan is certainly of an age when she should be enjoying her overdue pension. But here she is, out in the cold, walking faster than the youngest member of the group. She has more energy than the rest of us put together, and has just opened a twitter account that has racked up almost 800 followers in just a few days – @RedNan3.

She’s pinning all her hopes on a Labour win this Thursday, so I leave her my TSSA hat. I hope it won’t be too cold in Lancaster – where, if the posters in the windows are anything to go by, Cat Smith is heading for another term in Westminster.

Then it’s north and into Scotland for a rally, where I share a stage with John McDonnell and Richard Leonard. I start the final week of campaigning with (and I’m guessing I’m not the only one) a wee tickle in the throat and renewed determination to take the fight for our nation’s future all the way.

Every day since the final leaders’ debate, the gap between Labour and Boris Johnson’s pathetic excuse for a Tory Party has narrowed. Every day more people are realising it is a clear choice between a proven liar and a party that embraces all ages, all genders and cares enough to want a better future for them all.

This is our incredible Labour Party. For the many, not the few. On Thursday – no matter who you are – make sure you are part of the Real Change we all so desperately need. Vote Labour.

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