Never be satisfied

The Labour candidate in Sedgefield stresses his local credentials and says despite what he feels are

It’s been a privilege to stand for Parliament in my home area. I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me they remember me from school, or knew my dad from the mines, or who have a shared friend.

The mining tradition is still strong here, and gives us a real sense of community. My father was a miner at Fishburn colliery, and speaking at the unfurling of the new banner for the next door Deaf Hill pit, and marching into the Durham Miner’s Gala alongside miners from nearby Trimdon Grange are memories that will stay with me forever

People who don’t know the area might still associate us only with coal mining, but Sedgefield constituency is a diverse collection of former pit villages, market towns, and the new town, Newton Aycliffe.

I’m proud of what Labour’s achieved here over the last ten years, with new hospitals ringing the constituency, rebuilt schools and a thousand more businesses, but being a reformer and progressive means never, ever, being satisfied with what you’ve got. So I’ve been campaigning on the future- a regenerated town centre for Newton Aycliffe, more opportunities for our young people, and dealing with crime and the fear of crime that haunt so many of our communities.

The campaign itself has been hard fought but generally good natured. The Tory candidate told the local paper that Margaret Thatcher was his inspiration. I’m not sure that’s the right strategy to win votes in Sedgefield!

I’ve been unimpressed by the Lib Dems. Their “local” candidate actually lives, works and votes in Newcastle, and they’ve run the kind of campaign that’s designed to hide what they really stand for, with scare story after scare story. It’s pretty desperate stuff, and not convincing many voters.

I’m looking forward to the election night, and if the people of Sedgefield put their trust in me, I’ll start work right away to deliver investment, jobs and the strong public services our community needs.

Photo by Lisa Knight

Phil Wilson is the Labour MP for Sedgefield.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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