So I’ve voted…

I have good friends working on both Labour leadership campaigns. 
And I know many of you on here have different views on who to back.
But as I set out previously said on this blog, I never wanted this election. 

Corbyn should have been given more time as leader. 

Nine months was nowhere near enough to prove himself.

And we’ve managed to achieve significant wins – especially on u-turns on cuts to tax credits and forced academisation of our schools.

Saying that, I respect Owen and his many supporters. 

It’s only right that they used their democratic right to put their case. 

And whoever wins, I’ll support the elected leader though they’ll really have to reach out to the other side. We can’t have recriminations and purges.

As I’ve said before, I want to see a much sharper operation in Corbyn’s office and an increased level of professionalism in being a Leader inside and outside the Commons. 

It will mean managing some people out and bringing more experienced people in. 

Suggestions from Corbyn’s team of a Shadow Cabinet part elected by MPs and a willingness to take on staff to work in the Leader’s office who rebel MPs respect are promising.

But I’ve decided. 

Please try and respect my decision, as I will respect yours. 

I really don’t want my comments used by people to make petty personal attacks against either candidate or their backers.

We’re not new Labour or old Labour.

We’re ALL Labour.

Why I spoke for Corbyn

So tonight we held our Newark Labour leadership nomination meeting.

It was a comradely, good natured affair and Corbyn won the CLP nomination 42 votes to Owen Smith’s 11.

We had many members speak for their preferred candidate. And I could see the merit in both Owen and Jeremy.

But I spoke and voted for Corbyn. 

Now I was proud to be part of Andy Burnham’s campaign team last year. And you could argue that my politics have more in common with Smith.

But I spoke for Jeremy because in my opinion nine months is far too short a period for him to be judged as a leader.

We didn’t expect it of Ed or Gordon. We shouldn’t for Corbyn.

And I have to respect someone who has single handedly doubled the party membership. 

From speaking to friends who’ve joined or rejoined in the last year, the big attractions are his values and beliefs.

As one mate said to me: “I’d run through walls for Corbyn. I’ve never felt that way about any political figure before.”

For many, the turning point was seeing the Shadow Cabinet initially consider supporting tax credit cuts before eventually abstaining.

Jeremy rightly opposed it. And from that moment, his campaign took off.

As Benn said, you’re either a weather vane or a signpost.

In these turbulent times, people want to see us set a political direction that’s truer to their own moral compass. 

However, as I said in my speech, I don’t want Jeremy to continue as he is.

I want to see a much sharper operation in Corbyn’s office and an increased level of professionalism in being a Leader inside and outside the Commons. 

It will mean managing some people out and bringing more experienced people in. Those who can build a consensus not a barrier.

It would also involve Jeremy and his team accepting some of the constructive criticisms made by certain MPs.

Likewise, the PLP must accept the result. 

I genuinely believe the majority of MPs who voted no confidence in Jeremy did so in haste after the brutal shock of Brexit.

The fear of an impending snap election in October with Boris as PM drove most of them to do it. 

But I sense the mood is slowly changing.

Sarah Champion returning to the front bench will hopefully be the first of many shadow ministers.

Because forcing another leadership election next year will only end up with the same result and an even more fractious relationship between the leader and the PLP.

I reckon most members would agree we can’t allow that to happen.

I’m neither a Corbynista or a ‘moderate.’

I’m Labour. 

And hopefully after this leadership election, we’ll all be Labour again.

No cliques or factions.

Just Labour.

Both sides will have to listen and work together. 

There will have to be some form of Truth and Reconcilliaton. 

Trust will need to be earned. Concerns must be acknowledged and acted upon.

If Labour can do that, it’ll become the effective opposition and Government-in-waiting this country desperately needs.

If not, Labour we’ll be out of power for at least decade.

Family sticks together

So fellow Labour Party members.

It looks like we’re in for a torrid time.
I hope there might be some last minute change of mind.

But sadly it really does look like we’re going to go through a bitter and divisive leadership contest.

So before it starts, I wanted to say this.

The Labour Party isn’t a ‘broad church.’

We’re family. 

Yes we’re a family that has more than its fair share of fall outs and disputes. 

But we still share the same values. 

And when times are tough, we always pull together.

So however this ends, please remember we are all family. 

And family sticks together.

I don’t want to see us split. 

So let’s get through this in a comradely way.

Your fellow members aren’t traitors or trots.

They’re just people that have a slightly different view and perception of how we want to see democratic socialism.

If we fall out and fall apart, we’ll be giving a free pass to what could be the most right wing government this country has ever seen.

The public need us. 

So please let’s hold it together and get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible.

As it says on the back of all our cards…

“by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we do alone.”

Let’s stay positive.

And together.

After Brexit, let’s Fixit


Well, we tried our best but it still wasn’t good enough.

I’ve spent the last six months campaigning for us to stay in the EU, from running market stalls in Newark to touring the East Midlands doing debates and talking to people.

Now our country is divided, our economy is about to go into a severe shock and we could even see the collapse of the EU and Scotland leave the UK.

Cameron granting a referendum was never about staying in Europe. 

It was about remaining in Downing Street by winning over UKIP votes at the last General Election.

But what’s vital now is that we stick together. 

We’re in the driving seat to negotiate a new deal with the EU that will hopefully work in our favour. 

Not as good as what we have, but we must try and get something similar to secure the three million jobs that are linked to our trade in Europe.

But Labour must take the lead on this. It will take two years to engineer our divorce with the EU.

And if a week is a long time in politics, two years is an eternity.

So let’s set the pace in developing a framework that deals with people’s concerns.

I’d like to see an independent Royal Commission drawing from remainers, brexiteers, other parties, unions, businesses, civic society and actively engage the general public.

Let’s try and negotiate a program that can still give us access to the Single European Market.

But let’s also consider a fairer, not completely free, movement of people to allay concerns about uncontrolled migration.

And let’s bring back Labour’s Migration Impact Fund – that was axed by the Tories – to ease pressure on areas where migrants have put pressure on our services.

The EU and its member states will do all they can to keep us on board in some shape or form. The fears of France and Germany following our lead could see us drafting a template for a new Europe that could be replicated elsewhere.

Labour should be setting the debate and calling for a new deal and concessions that aren’t written on the back of a fag packet by Cameron but drafted by and for the people.

Let’s move on from Brexit and go on to Fixit! 

So don’t be downhearted this morning.

We’ve faced dark times before.

But it’s up to us to rise to the challenge and make a new EU relationship work for us.

I’m proud I fought to keep us in the EU.

And although the public said leave, I still remain a proud European. 

Nothing will change that.

And hey, look on the bright side. 

At least Farage is out of a job!

Learning from defeat


They say you only really learn from your defeats. Last Friday I found out.

Seeing your candidate win on the first round of voting only to lose on transfers is bad enough. When it’s your father, it’s a lot worse.

We knew it would be tough. The Humberside Police force area was technically a Tory marginal. Add to that the fact it was being held in November, there were no local elections on the same day or freepost to send out leaflets, it became herculean.

And thanks to a voting system that the Tories had campaigned against in the AV referendum, a little known Conservative councilor called Matthew Grove won by 2,231 votes on second preferences.

I blogged at the time about the problems we faced and that gut-wrenching feeling of falling short. 

As we walked out of the declaration at Bridlington Spa, I turned to Keith Hunter, the man who ran JP close in the selection to become our Humberside PCC candidate.

I said: “Keith. In four years time, we’ll be back here. And we’ll get you elected.”

There was no doubt that Keith would make an impressive candidate. 30 years in Humberside Police, he went from beat bobby to commander with a proven track record of reducing crime.

And even after losing out to John, he still came out to campaign for the man who beat him. He never knew this, but JP had lined him up to be his Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner. They would have made a great team.

Instead, Grove won and promptly appointed his mate as his Deputy. Neither had any experience of policing and sadly it showed.

After a hopeless police force reorganisation, Humberside Police was ranked ‘inadequate’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate.

I kept in touch with Keith over the years, hoping one day to convince him to run for it. Since that election, he’d been an advisor on criminal justice for the Foreign Office and out in Bosnia.

So as the selection was about to open at the end of last year, I and others convinced him to go for it. He breezed through the selection as members knew he was the most experienced person for the job.

He also managed to secure a fantastic agent and campaign manager in former Brigg and Goole MP Ian Cawsey. There was also a team of people across the force area who’d campaigned in 2012 and knew where we went wrong and how we could do better.

People like Shona McIssac, George McManus, Shelagh Finlay, Paul McCartan and Victoria Mumby. Added to that, we had some very talented young people – Rich Newlove, Terence Smith to name but a few. Then there was the sterling support from our MPs; Melanie Onn, Nic Dakin, Karl Turner, Alan Johnson and Diana Johnson.

And then there was Keith himself. Thirty years in Humerside Police, from the beat to the boardroom, gave him an unrivalled level of knowledge of how the force works and how to set the strategic direction.

That’s why we developed the slogan ‘It’s time for a professional.’ His action plan was rich in the kind of detail that only a criminal justice expert could bring.

So what did we learn from that loss in 2012 to try and secure a win in 2016? I wrote some initial thoughts on what we could do back in 2012

But this election was going to be tougher because it was clear the Government had decided to hold on to as many Tory PCCs as possible by not promoting.

With Welsh, Scottish, Mayoral and local elections all on the same day, the PCC contests were the Cinderella races.

£3m was spent promoting the inaugural PCC elections in 2012. This time, that cost was £2,700.

In light of it being an even harder election, I think these are the key reasons why Keith won.

Firstly, it’s all about the candidate. John is marmite – you love him or hate him. That works for first-past-the-post elections but not when you’re looking for second preferences.

Nearly every PCC candidate – from UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom to the Lib and the Tory, all attacked JP. On their leaflets, on the airwaves and in the newspapers.

Keith, on the other hand, didn’t come across as political with a big P. Experience, knowledge and being less partisan, proved to be very appealing to the electorate.

Secondly, we did more on digital. Last time we used Twitter a lot but didn’t engage enough on Facebook. Technology and targeting has advanced since 2012.

As I discovered at a Facebook training session for fellow General Election candidates last year, we could target the news feeds of potential voters on a constituency basis.  

So I crafted a bit of content to reach them. This short film, made with Jack Slater, got more than 10,000 Facebook views in the constituency.

I used Jack again to make this film about Keith. 

We felt it was important that he was seen on the street, introducing himself, highlighting the problems and making his case.

Targeting the Humberside Police force area, it received more than 32,000 Facebook views.

Thirdly, Keith’s campaign did the basics a lot better. A better postal vote strategy, better liaison with the local Labour parties and better rebuttal.

This third point proved to be crucial when the Conservatives did one almighty ‘Hail Mary pass’ to try and knock Keith out of the contest.

A week before the election, Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy stood up in the House of Commons and asked Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling if PCC candidates who were former police officers should publicly release their service record.

Grayling, not surprisingly agreed, but went further to say – under parliamentary privilege – that he had heard ‘allegations about the Labour PCC candidate for Humberside.

He added: “If the stories alleged about the candidate are true, he is unfit for public office, and it is a matter of public interest that the truth should be known before election day.”

It was a cowardly act. Keith’s response was perfect – he calmly published his service record which proved he’d been nothing but a brilliant officer.

Faced with such a swift and categorical denial, Percy backtracked to say he wasn’t referring to Keith and Grayling failed to say what the unfounded allegations were.

On the doorstep, this smear actually had the reverse of the intended effect. True blue voters told Keith they were angry and it just strengthened their resolve to vote for him.

And as the polling booths opened, this story was splashed on front pages across Hull and the East Riding. It seems what goes around, comes around.


As we were getting out the vote in Hull on election day, I had people stopping their cars to talk to Keith and shake his hand. In the city of Hull alone, over 20,000 people voted for Keith – 15,000 more than Grove.

He also led in North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire. Our big worry was East Riding, a solid Tory area that proved our undoing in 2012. But even here, Keith’s vote was competitive – Grove got 19,933 votes to Hunter’s 18,458.

So when the first preference figures were declared for the whole region, we knew we’d done it. Keith had a first round majority of over 21,000.

Only half of the 48,000 or so UKIP and Lib Dem second preferences came into play – and Keith got almost 60% of them.

His final majority over Grove was 24,353. In 2012, the Tory sneaked in with a 2,231 majority. We’d managed to get a swing to Labour of 11% on 2012 and a 9.3% swing on the General Election result.

Needless to say we were quite happy.


There are still concerns that need to be addressed. Our turnout, 22.84%, was higher than 2012’s 19.15%. But it’s still way too low.

That’s because many people refused to vote because they hadn’t heard from the candidates.

Like 2012, the Home Office refused to pay the Freepost for the candidates’ leaflets, in spite of a warning from the Electoral Commission that turnout  would continue to be low if they didn’t fund them.

A simple booklet featuring a page from each candidate would have helped and kept the costs down.

In conclusion, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Keith has many people who can righty claim to have helped secure that victory. If I’ve left names out, please forgive me.

And Keith deserves huge credit for being a great candidate, who kept his dignity and composure when his opponents started throwing mud.

But as an electoral orphan, I’ve carried that lonely guilt since 2012 that we could have done better.

So to see Keith declared the victor in the very same hall where we lost, made the win so much sweeter.

It allowed me to lay a ghost to rest.

And Matthew Grove finally got beat by a Prescott.


An indulgence we can ill afford

  

So on the day Corbyn’s satisfaction rating overtook Cameron, 60% of people are dissatisfied with Osborne as Chancellor and we start to draw level with the Tories in the polls, up pops John Woodcock rallying Labour MPs against Corbyn.

People like Woodcock are deliberately short-selling Labour ahead of crucial elections exactly six weeks today – two by-elections, elections in England, Wales, Scotland, London Mayoral and Assembly and for Police and Crime Commissioners.

And then there’s the little matter of the European Referendum in June. I’ve been helping to man our market stall in Newark because Labour has a crucial role to play in helping decide the result.

It’s clear these Bitterites deliberately want to drive Labour down in the polls and public support in a vain attempt to oust Corbyn.

Tonight candidates are texting and DMing me to say how much they fear Woodcock’s actions will harm their elections.

These aren’t hardcore Corbynistas. They’re people some would describe as ‘moderates.’

Woodcock says in his article: “We can’t go on like this.” And on that point I agree.

Because these tactics won’t work. It makes us look divisive in the eyes of the public and good candidates – who really want Labour to do well in May – see their electoral chances sabotaged.

Not by Corbyn. 

But by the reckless indulgence of people like Woodcock.

This is an indulgence we can ill afford.

Remembering Tosin

  
I’ve only just heard of Tosin Olusoga’s passing.

Whilst I can’t claim to have had the pleasure of knowing him as well as his friends and family, I just wanted to share my memory of him.
I was standing as the Labour candidate for Gainsborough at the last election. I noticed on our membership list that we had a 17 year-old member at De Aston. 

I finally met him and it turned out that he was going to stand for Labour too – in his school mock election.  I gave him some tips – I suggested a pledge card – but I don’t think he needed it. 
Tosin was a humble and warm person who I hear was loved by teachers and fellow pupils alike.So much so that come Mock Election Day in a staunchly Tory, he did much better than me! He won years 12 and 13, drew year 11 and only lost out from winning out overall by 33 votes!

The last time I saw him, was at De Aston to speak to the Sixth Form days before our elections.

At the end, I made a beeline to him. He was surrounded by his campaign team so I used my selfie stick to capture the moment.

I understand he interned at the House of Commons was studying politics at the UEA.

I have no doubt that his passion for social justice and helping others would have led him to stand for election again. And I bet next time he would have won.

I was hoping to see Tosin when I spoke at De Aston’s speech and awards day last year but he couldn’t make it.

But the words I read out that day could sum up Toisin and his short life.

President Teddy Roosevelt once said: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

In his 19 years, it seems Tosin was not a person to dwell in that grey twilight.

He was keen to live his life in a vivid and vibrant manner.

The challenge to all of us who met Tosin, is to paint the story of our lives in the same brilliant colours he would have gone on to do himself.

Rest In Peace Tosin.