When the exit polls came through on Thursday night a wave of numbness swept over me, a huge feeling of internal devastation that is only usually reserved for terrible breakups and the loss furry feline friends. I tried to reassure myself that it must have been wrong, that until the votes were counted and confirmed no one really knew anything. As the night went on, my scraps of hope were extinguished as we lost seat after seat in Scotland, as my friends across the region and country fell one by one and as I began to contemplate what our country would look like after 5 years of unbridled Conservative rule.
Some results hurt more than most. In Ipswich I joined David Ellesmere and Ipswich Labour once a week to help campaign. And by campaign I really do mean campaign. You would struggle to find a harder working group of people who were out day after day, week after week, not just in the months preceding the General Election but for years. Their stamina and endurance was driven by the desire for change in Ipswich and I know that this will only be renewed over the coming 5 years. On a personal level I am so grateful for their support; I feel like I have been adopted into the Ipswich Labour family and if there was ever a group of people who defined the word comradeship it would be these wonderful people. I would particularly like to thank John Cook for his advice and dedication over the past couple of years. I really couldn’t have done it without you.
The other result which broke my heart a little bit was the result in Great Yarmouth. Lara Norris was running and, as anyone else who has ever met her will testify, her love for the world is infectious. If there was ever someone who you would want as your Member of Parliament, as someone who would fight your corner no matter what, as your friend, it would be her. Great Yarmouth and Westminster seems a much darker place without you. She will hate me saying this but she is my ‘Labour mum’. It was she who ‘found’ me with Gavin Shuker MP in Barnsley campaigning on Dan Jarvis’ by-election in 2011. I had only recently become involved in politics; I was angry with what had happened in 2010 (Nick Clegg was my MP when I was at University in Sheffield) and joining the Labour Party seemed like a good way to start the fight back. Typically, I was half an hour late but, for once, my inability to turn up to anything on time proved to be a blessing in disguise. Lara at that moment ran into the office and the course of my life would change forever. I’m not a big believer in fate but had I turned up on time, had I never got out of my bed that morning…anyways, I digress. After a day on the doorstep with Gavin and Lara they invited me to Gavin’s ‘Summer School’. (embarrassingly I replied ‘thank you very much…but…erm…who are you?’ They had only introduced themselves as Gavin and Lara and at that time I could’ve only given you the names of a dozen MPs). After an incredible 6 weeks Lara said to me that ‘in 2015 you will be running for Parliament’. I smiled and laughed. The idea at the time seemed quite ridiculous. It still does to an extent. A thank you seems barely adequate but to Lara, to Gavin, to Francis, to Kelvin, to Rachel, to Amy, to Jamie and all the other people who have given me their love and support in Luton and Great Yarmouth, thank you.
For my own election here in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, it is of course disappointing that the Conservatives managed to increase their majority. However, if I was to take any personal satisfaction it would be that we went from 3rd to 2nd, increased our number of votes from 8,636 to 10,173 and increased our share by 2.6%, from 16.2% to 18.8%. Not an earth shattering result by any means but considering that I had odds of 66-1 I take a small amount away from this. I congratulate Dr Dan Poulter MP and hope that he serves this constituency well over the next 5 years.
I have been touched with the messages of support both in the days before and after polling day. I feel guilty that I have only been able to reply with little more than a ‘thank you’, mostly due to tiredness than anything else. Here I will try a few more thank yous; again thank you seems like a total understatement to my sincere gratitude to the following people.
To each and every single person who voted for me, thank you. It is quite an incredible thing to have over 10 thousand people vote for you and, although I’m truly sorry I couldn’t win, I felt a real glow of pride. You were my silver lining in a quite terrible evening.
To my CLP, thank you. For your support, kind words, hardwork, faith, advice. For taking the time to doorknock, leaflet, phone. For your generous donations, hosting of meetings and parties, entering the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest raffles. I could name so many people who helped on this campaign, and I will. However, I must give particular thanks to Garry, Edna and Lesley who have been bastions of strength for me over the past 2 years. The range of adjectives that I have at my disposal would not do justice to the shear gratitude I have for you three but know this; on Thursday (well Friday morning) it meant everything to me for you to be standing by my side as the results came through. I could feel your pride through your hugs and tears and it is a moment that I’ll never forget.
To Jane Basham and Russell Whiting, thank you. I feel so fortunate to have had you as my fellow PPCs and our monthly meet up was one that I looked forward to each and everytime. Despite being in ‘challenging’ seats, I know of few people who campaigned as hard as you, who gave a voice to so many, who were as passionate and as dedicated to their beliefs. I feel so fortunate to call you my comrades.
To my friends, thank you. To those who have put me up for the night without hesitation, to those who have fed me and offered me copious numbers of teas and coffees, to those who have sent me messages of support, ridiculous ECB infographics, my latest odds and stories on cult ’90s footballers. To those who have offered advice, expertise and knowledge, to those who have kindly shared their stories with me, to those who keep me motivated, reminding me why we do what we do. To my mates, here at home and across the country. I have known some of you since I was 11 and although it is a constant mystery to me why you still put up with me, I appreciate it all the same. The pints we have drunk together now run into thousands, the stupid things we have done (well mostly me) are too many to recollect and I still have doubts over whether some of you are real people. Nonetheless, we are somehow still all together and are still standing side by side and that means the world to me. To my ‘friends-that-are-girls’. Thank you for your positivity, for inspiring me, for helping me write and say the things I wanted to say. Thank you for your hugs, for your texts and phone calls, for the late nights with a bottle of gin and ever diminishing amounts of tonic. I love you all.
Finally, thank you to my family who have had their house turned into Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Labour Party Office for weeks, suffered months of endless political based discussion (most of which was just me talking to myself) and endured me for nearly a quarter of a century. Mum muses that when asked if she knew that I would be running for Parliament 25 years ago, she would reply. ‘No. But maybe I knew 22 years ago.’ My Mum and Dad have never really been political and have long ceased to try and tell me what to do and think. They have always put my brothers and I first and this was summed up neatly when, on their 25th Wedding Anniversary, they spent the weekend weighing, bagging and delivering 20k leaflets which my face on (I later took them out for dinner but it didn’t really feel like a fair trade off). I feel their love for each of us and each other and it is that foundation on which my politics is built. So, thank you to my family. To my Grandparents (and Great-Grandma), to my Aunties, Uncles and Cousins, to my brothers and Harry the Cat (who is watching with aloofness and indifference from above) thank you. But most of all, thank you Mum and Dad. I really was born lucky.
It has been an incredible privilege to serve my CLP and pretty overwhelming to consider that over 10 thousand people put their faith in me. I have driven tens of thousands of miles, knocked on thousands of doors, spoken to thousands of people and delivered thousands of leaflets. I’ve campaigned across all 200 sq miles of my constituency, in Ipswich, Gt Yarmouth, Luton and have been to Cambridge, Bedford, Clacton, Sheffield and Barnsley. I had more money as a student and, as with any candidate, things haven’t always gone swimmingly personally but I didn’t stand for Jack Abbott; I stood for my home and all those people who have struggled over the past 5 years and I don’t regret it for a moment.
On that note I would make this final point. Politicians are often criticised and I share many of the concerns and frustrations people have with our system as it stands. However, I have had the enormous pleasure and privilege to stand alongside some incredible people who have sacrificed so much to fight for a better future. The vulnerable and those most in need often don’t have a voice and our job has been to shout and scream on their behalf. The fact is that we have failed and that is quite frankly devastating. I will never forget how I felt when that exit poll came in, about how I felt when the results came in, about how I felt when my friends and comrades who had given so much had lost, how I feel now. But how I feel now will act as a motivation for every day of the next 5 years; I am not going feel like this come 2020. So to all those people who are angry, who can’t understand what has happened, who are terrified of what the next 5 years might hold, join us, join the fight and make sure that you do not feel like this in 2020.
Below is a list of people who I want to know how much their support and friendship has meant to me over the past two years. They may not realise it, but what they perceive to have been a small gesture or conversation meant a great deal to me. There are countless of other people too whose help I am so grateful for. I would also once again like to pay tribute to Matthew Percy who was tragically taken from us in terrible circumstances. He will not be forgotten.
Sally, Simon, Nathan and Alfie Abbott; Margaret and Howard Abbott; all other extensions to the Abbott, Bailey, Gilmour family; Sarah Adams; Joe Allan; Kevin Archer; Punna Athwall; Geoff and Evelyn Bailey; Jill, Duncan and Wallace Baird; Cliff Baker; Jane Basham; Lesley Bensley; Ashok Bhatt; Kathy Bole; Phelim Brady; Katy and Floris Brand; Paul Burrows; Jo and John Careford; the Carmichael family; Phil and NIcola Carr; Glen Chisholm; John and Agnes Clough; Al Commons; Joanne Connah; Stephen Connelly and Sophie Meudec; John Cook; Martin Cook; Tansy Cooper; Philip Copsey; Luke Cresswell; Julie Cuninghame; Sylvia and The Dales Pub; Shelly Darwin; Tom Davies; the staff, past and present, at Debenham High School; Debenham Parish Council; Garry and Paula Deeks; Alistair Dick; Eastern Regional Board; Jack Eddy; Liz, John, Ellie, George and Harry Edmondson; Elango Elavalakan; David Ellesmere; the Elliots; Eye and District CC; Roger Fern; the ‘Fram Boys’; Sandra Gage; Julian Gibbs; David Goodwin; Martin Goonan; Albert Grant; Tracy Grant; Will Guyatt; Elaine Halton; the Hammond family; the Harveys; the Hawthorns; Darren Heaps; Graham Hedger; Dan Heley; Jim and Gillian Higgins; Mike Hills; Joshua Holmes; Andi Hopgood; Kelvin, Pat and Rachel Hopkins; Richard Howitt MEP; Anne Hubert-Chibnall; Max Hughes; Ann Humphreys; Martin Ince; David Isaacs; Leonard Jacklin; Carole Jones; Nigel and Mary Jones; the staff and pupils at Kesgrave High School; Bill Knowles; John Kreeger; Colin Kreidewolf; Josie Leach (plus Mama B and Rizzle and DD); Adam Leeder; Kieran Lyne; Neil MacDonald; Arran Maile; Sandy Martin; Olly Martins; Stuart McAuley; Tom McGarry; Di McGeever; Sean Meaney; Simon Meechan; Tom Mellor; the Merediths and the Thomas’; the Merriman family; Julie and Rik Middleton; Maarwish Mirza; the Moores; Mosscliff Environmental; John Mowles; Howard Needham; Sophie Nickson; Lara Norris; Luke Norris; NW6 crowd; Amy O’Callaghan; Max Parker; Trevor and Maureen Payne; Matthew Percy; Val Pizzey; David Plowman; Tasha Proctor; Peter Randall; Nick Rashbrook; Marion Ravenhill; Ed Richardson; John Ridd; Stan and Jackie Robinson; Richard Robinson; Alasdair Ross; Bryony Rudkin; Edna Salmon; Lydia Serjeant and family; Gavin Shuker MP; Dan Simpson; the Smarts; Jamie Smith; Russell Smith; Andy Stanford; Francis Steer; Jim Summers; Jean and Frank Taylor; Sue, Mark and Holly Taylor; Katy Tencor; Thorndon Vipers F.C.; Liz Thorne; Peter Thurlow; Sha Toptani; James Toyne; Amy Trenter; Steve Tribe; Victoria Turnbull and all of the Turnbull/Hollingsworth clan; John Wenham; Russell Whiting; Hugh Whittall and Annabel Mednick; Terry and Jenny Wilson; Angela Wiltshire; Xavier Winton; the Woodgate/Marston/Wilson family; Colin Wright; Abigail Yandell