I had a fantastic time today down the M3 in Eastleigh. There will be a parliamentary by-election there on 28 Feb because of the resignation of Chris Huhne. Huhne made his then wife take speeding points for him ten years ago then spent the next decade lying about it. He is awaiting sentencing for perverting the course of justice.
When a seat is vacated, the party of the previous MP gets to choose the timing of the by-election. The Lib Dems have called this one with indecent haste. They hope to bury the memory of Huhne’s disgrace quickly.
Below some famous names
The Labour candidate is John O’Farrell, the broadcaster, satirist, Spitting Image writer and author of Things Can Only Get Better, among other things. I don’t go in for hero worship, but if I’m totally honest with you, the fact that John is the candidate was the main reason I drove there today to help out. I’m so glad I did – it was a brilliant experience, which I highly recommend.
Anyone can turn up to help at 69 Leigh Rd, Eastleigh. I just walked in and as I was signing the vistors’ register, Amy, the amazingly competent organiser welcomed me and immediately set me to work.
To start with another volunteer, Will (a student), and I phoned through a list of local voters and chatted about the election to them. Once enough people were gathered we formed a team of about 8, one of many, and set off to knock on doors in our assigned area. We were led by Tom, a young full-time party worker from Southampton, who carried a clipboard and sent us to a door each. Once we had chatted to the residents, or if they were out posted a leaflet through the letter box, we reported back to Tom with our findings and were given the next address.
Me, Raj, Brian, Will and Kerry
We were a great team who immediately gelled, having so much in common already. Along with Will, Tom and me there was Brian, a former Eastleigh councillor, Jim and Angela from Fareham, Kerry, the Member of Parliament for Bristol East and Raj who is originally from Eastleigh and has come back to help out.
The weather was perfect and we had some really interesting conversations with voters, and with each other. Having such high morale in our team definitely rubbed off on the people were speaking to.
We had a break between canvassing sessions and talked politics the whole time. Kerry, a former lawyer, told us all about life as an MP and why she decided to stand for parliament. I haven’t met many MPs and it was great to have so much time to be able to ask about parliament and the Labour Party at the highest level. We discussed community organising, which is my priority, and which I pressed Ed Miliband on when I met him a while ago. I received lots of expert advice on campaigning issues I have come across in Surrey Heath.
Kerry McCathy MP and I met voters in Eastleigh today
Tom and Amy gave us advice on campaigning too. Tom talked about designing leaflets and Amy gave us some pointers on social media. We all swapped tips on leafleting, fundraising, organising, running elections and campaigning. We also gossiped furiously about the Tories and Lib Dems, especially Chris Huhne.
I had a great day and I’m going to go back soon. If you are a Labour supporter, I highly recommend going to Eastleigh for even an hour or two. If you are a Tory or Lib Dem, I think you should give it a miss.
With such great friendly young talented people driving the Labour Party forward, the future is inevitable: Things can only get better!
Vote Labour for a One Nation alternative in Eastleigh. Raj, Tom, Will, me and Kerry