While alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was still congratulating himself and his new MPs for their victory in last December’s General Election - but, being Bozo, mainly congratulating himself - the campaign to put the Labour Party back in a position where it could be ready to consign the Tories to a nice long period in opposition was beginning. And, as ever, such campaigns begin at the grassroots.
Laura says My Soapbox Is Bigger Than Yours
In Crewe and Nantwich, that meant holding the Tories to account while making sure that Labour maintained a strong presence on Crewe Town and Cheshire East Councils. This campaign had to begin with a tricky Cheshire East by-election in Crewe South ward, the seat being vacant after Labour stalwart Dorothy Flude passed away late last year.
So who would Labour choose to succeed her? There was only one real choice, and that was former MP Laura Smith. The weather was frequently atrocious, but campaigners turned out to do the whole canvassing nine yards once again. There was also help from outside the area. Because Laura is a very popular Labour figure.
Angela Rayner visited twice: for those sceptics wondering if she only came the first time to make sure the CLP nominated her for the Deputy Leadership (they did, by one vote), she made a second visit only yesterday to help in getting out the vote. Mike Amesbury came from Weaver Vale. Nav Mishra visited from Stockport. And Bambos Charalambous made the round trip from London - just to go out door-knocking.
But for the Tories, this was personal: they decided they fancied the seat, and Laura being their opposition seemed to fire them up. They actually canvassed, at least in part of the ward, something that the Zelo Street household has never experienced before. They deposited three rounds of leaflets, the last of which saw the grammar slipping, with “Lower carparking [sic] charges”, and “Its [sic] up to you”.
Sadly, fielding a candidate who gave the impression of being yet another from the Young Tory Boy production line did not help their cause. Martin Deakin was endorsed by new Tory MP Kieran Mullan; it didn’t help him. Perhaps the gloss is wearing off the General Election win rather faster than The Blue Team would like. Because they lost.
All that effort they threw at trying to beat Ms Smith came to nothing as she garnered three votes for every two the Tories managed. What swung the result? Partly the demographic, partly voters returning to Labour after seeing the Tories not “getting Brexit done”, partly that EU nationals are eligible to vote in local elections, and partly because the Lib Dems, who in the past had held two seats in the ward, did not turn up.
So when the Tories told the electorate to “Vote for change”, they did just that. They voted to change to Dorothy Flude’s young protégée. Which means Laura Smith is back doing what she does best - campaigning. And holding the Tories to account.
Because someone has to. Never mind the deLorean - fire up the soapbox!
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