Rosie-tinted look at Labour’s most un­ex­pected vic­tory

Can­ter­bury’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape was turned on its head fol­low­ing Rosie Duffield’s shock elec­tion win in June. A de­bate on Fri­day night ex­am­ined the rea­sons for her win. Alex Clar­idge re­ports…

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Bridge Place -

The last time Labour’s Rosie Duffield walked into Can­ter­bury Christ Church Univer­sity’s Michael Berry lec­ture theatre in the dy­ing days of May, she stood be­fore the au­di­ence as a can­di­date many thought would run the Con­ser­va­tives close, but not win.

At the dais in the well of the room last Thursday evening, she stood as a land­mark atop a new po­lit­i­cal land­scape, a maker of his­tory no less.

Four months on from the June 8 gen­eral elec­tion vic­tory in Can­ter­bury and Whit­stable, Ms Duffield was at the univer­sity to dis­cuss ex­actly that at an event called Why Labour Won.

It was sup­posed to start at 5pm, but ap­par­ently our MP was run­ning a lit­tle late and there was no warm-up act. Would a Bernard Man­ning-like stand-up have gone down well in a room like this?

I doubt it. As we waited I scanned the room for signs of any­one whom I be­lieved might not be of the left.

I spied the Con­ser­va­tive Joe Eger­ton, the only blue to be de­feated at the KCC elec­tions in Can­ter­bury in May.

Mo­ments later Ms Duffield walked down the stairs into the room. We got our first clue as to the com­po­si­tion of the au­di­ence as her ar­rival was greeted by cheers and a burst of ap­plause.

After an in­tro­duc­tion from Dr Mark Ben­nis­ter, a reader in pol­i­tics at the univer­sity, we were away.

Ms Duffield told the au­di­ence that she wasn’t going to give any of her se­crets away, but pointed to the “chang­ing de­mo­graphic” in Can­ter­bury and men­tioned the NHS.

With the Kent and Can­ter­bury Hos­pi­tal in cri­sis and its fate un­cer­tain, a thou­sand lo­cal Con- ser­va­tives must have in uni­son yelled “nooooo!” when the Prime Min­is­ter an­nounced she was call­ing a snap elec­tion.

To her credit, Ms Duffield was not un­aware that her vic­tory came in part from Greens and Lib Dems whom she ac­knowl­edged had “lent me your votes”.

After her ini­tial re­marks, she was joined for a dis­cus­sion by a trio of pan­el­lists, in­clud­ing KM Group po­lit­i­cal editor Paul Francis.

He agreed that the data showed that many on the non-labour left had ral­lied around Miss Duffield’s cause with a view to un­seat­ing Con­ser­va­tive Sir Ju­lian Bra­zier, who had rep­re­sented the con­stituency for the pre­vi­ous three decades.

But he ad­mit­ted that he had not seen Ms Duffield’s vic­tory com­ing.

Ben Hick­man, a po­etry lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Kent and the Can­ter­bury sec­re­tary of grass roots left-wing move­ment Mo­men­tum, was up next.

He pinned the vic­tory on the sup­port of Can­ter­bury’s stu­dents, the fact that peo­ple on hous­ing es­tates came out for Labour, as did vil­lages such as Lit­tle­bourne and Chartham.

Dr Hick­man also raised the national party’s “rad­i­cal princi- ples” and its young (Ms Duffield is 46) can­di­date as key fac­tors.

Next at the mi­cro­phone was Clare Con­ner­ton, who or­gan­ised the so­cial me­dia cam­paign Can­ter­burynot­con­ser­va­tive. She en­dorsed Dr Hick­man’s re­marks to the let­ter, adding that her group’s ef­forts had suc­ceeded in mo­bil­is­ing sup­port against Sir Ju­lian.

As the evening drew to a close, I felt there was an el­e­ment miss­ing from the nar­ra­tive.

He was in fact sit­ting in the au­di­ence and Ms Duffield made a cur­sory nod in his di­rec­tion at the start of her speech.

Out­side of Labour cir­cles, his name is not that well known, but it should be.

For Mike Bland was the cam­paign’s co-or­di­na­tor and ought to be re­garded as noth­ing less than the or­gan­i­sa­tional ge­nius who mas­ter­minded Labour’s tri­umph.

In­deed if you phrased the evening’s ti­tle as a ques­tion Why did Labour win? I’d be tempted to an­swer, Mike Bland.

Given that Christ Church’s se­ries of talks is called Mak­ing Pol­i­tics Mat­ter, then I don’t think it’s un­fair to con­clude that Rosie Duffield’s vic­tory should be called Mak­ing Pol­i­tics In­ter­est­ing.

Pic­ture: Chris Davey

Rosie Duffield and Mike Bland, Labour cam­paign co-or­di­na­tor, cel­e­brate her mo­men­tous elec­tion vic­tory in June

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.