Friday, June 05, 2009

What I did on my holidays...

Firstly, an apology for the relative lack of posts as the European election campaign drew to a close. In truth, blogging and being a candidate for one of the mainstream parties are uneasy bedfellows (as Jody Dunn would probably attest). And most nights, staggering in after voter contact sessions in several constituencies during the day, I was just too knackered to compose anything sensible. I hope my first faltering steps as a vloggger gave an insight into some of Labour's leading personalities during the campaign.

I've been staring at the screen for about 20 minutes wondering how on earth to summarise the last four-and-a-half weeks. Trying to avoid the almost freakishly bad breaking news on the BBC over the past four hours, maybe I should start with the positives.

It was a privilege to work at close quarters with committed Labour activists, party workers and MP's. Although on occasions we retreated into gallows humour, Stephen, Fay and myself were brilliantly supported by members around the North East.

It was heartening, too, to reconnect with Labour voters in all of our communities. Believe me, after some of the abuse I have taken over the last few weeks, a kindly word and affirmative response from an elector was much appreciated. In one of the last houses I 'knocked out' in Park End in Middlesbrough yesterday evening, a lady told me in hushed tones that she thought Gordon was doing a wonderful job and didn't deserve the criticism. I thanked her for her support.

Finally, it was fantastic to stand for Labour in a national election. I have really enjoyed my time as a candidate in the European elections, and relished the new opportunities it has afforded - hustings sessions and addressing 200+ at an open-air trade union rally stand out as highlights.

Otherwise, as I kept telling myself, it was a campaign to tell the grandchildren about. That is if my grandchildren, if I have any, are interested in the finer points of political organisation in the early 21st century. Which they probably won't.

I have been knocking on doors, man and boy, for 25 years. Never have I met such a reception from voters. Some were simply too angry to articulate their feelings - they were apoplectic with rage. Others (via slammed doors or shouting) made their disaffection very plain. Those who were calmer told me that this wasn't directed at me or indeed necessarily the party - rather the "crooks in Parliament" as they described them. Two common threads ran through their comments; firstly, incredulity that MP's couldn't seem to manage on £60k a year without fiddling their expenses, when most people had to live on far less; and the thought that if an ordinary member of the public had acted like some MP's, they would have lost their jobs and probably their liberty.

I should say that most people recognise that all the parties have MP's who have been caught up in the scandal, although there was some genuine sorrow that this included Labour MP's, who voters thought were above the kind of abuses more associated with ahem another mainstream party. The Telegraph's revelations have confirmed a sneaking suspicion in the minds of a naturally distrustful electorate that politicians are only really interested in fleecing the system.

And that has been achieved in glorious technicolor. I would imagine that until a fortnight ago, 99.5% of the population didn't have the faintest idea that floating duck islands existed. Now, we could all probably recognise one at 20 paces. One colleague expressed the hope that the furore over expenses would die down in a few weeks, and we could refocus on issues like the economy. I'm not so sure - anger about the abuses has been seared into the consciousness of the electorate, and I fully expect to have it repeated back to me by voters for years to come. Maybe the General Election will act as a catharsis, but I think MPs from all parties will have to act in a superhuman fashion to persuade voters that the system is clean.

So I spent an awful lot of time apologising. Apologising not for myself or for Labour, but for the excesses of some MP's of all parties. I repeated it so often, it became a mantra. Over and over and over again.

And my mood was hardly improved by the self-indulgent behaviour of some party MPs. Their antics kept a toxic story running against Labour well into polling day. There will be some defeated, hard working Labour Councillors who otherwise would have survived had it not been for them. Unforgiveable.

We're still standing though, with a new ministerial team to make the political weather. On Friday, the results of the European elections here in the North East will be announced, and I'll be in Sunderland, where the figures from each of the council areas will be collated. I intend to blog live from the count, so log on occasionally, and I'll try and give a flavour of the atmosphere and what the various parties are saying.


Paul Leake said...

Best of luck. I know the electoral system and Labours not-exactly-brilliant result mean you probably don't have to worry about flat-hunting in Brussels yet, but hope you have a good time at the count and you keep those smug Tories in a distant second.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas Thorne Wallis you really are an obnoxious sanctimonious pr**k, still living in your delusional world. A plague on you and your party, you would make a terrible MEP or MP being a total fake only capable of throwing stones at others. At least by staying in local politics as your bound too after the piss poor showing you will get on Sunday night will ensure only people in Darlington will despise you and not a wider audience.

Darlington Councillor said...

Mother - I've told you before not to leave comments on my blog!

And Paul - thanks. The North East was described by the pundits as being one of the least interesting (in terms of changing seats) in the Euro poll. We'll see on Sunday...

Won't live in Darlington said...

Gallows humour:

Dangling from a very thin piece of political twine unsure of how fast your party and your so called MP's are dropping around you, yet still having time to make jokes about "duck islands" and "moats" whilst those around you are struggling to feed themselves and have not got the petrol money to drive 50 miles to see their MP (6 jobs) for a sub (Nick, thats slang for a loan).

If this debacle has shown the people od Darlington one thing it's Pepsico/6 jobs is not looking out for them!

Personally I like you Nick but at present what you stand for makes my blood boil.

Anonymous said...

Harrowgate Hill says.......

Broon was booed by the veterans today at the D Day ceremony in France today because rightly they didn't want him there and wanted the Queen who should have been there as our Head of State. Also in his speech he called Omaha Beach Obama Beach.

The man is a total embarressment to this country. Come on Councillor when are you lot going to get rid of him?

Ian W said...


Do you personally feel Alan Milburn can represent the people of Darlington while holding down 6 other jobs and living 50 miles away (if the allegations are true)?

Also what is your stance on MP's having second and third jobs?

Do you support the new proposals that MP's should NOT be allowed to have second jobs but that they should concentrate fully on the one job they were elected for?

Darlington Councillor said...

Won't live in Darlington - it's unfair to tar me and other Labour activists (or indeed Tory or LibDems) with the corruption brush owing to the abuses of some MPs. It's my impression, having talked to hundreds of voters over the last few weeks, that most people appreciate the distinction.

Ian - it's for Alan to comment on his various outside interests. I can only state that it's been my experience that he is a very good constituency MP who deals assiduously with the complaints and issues of the people he represents. That's the feedback I've had from residents too when they have contacted his office.

For me - (and this is strictly personal) if I am elected to the European Parliament, I would not take on additional interests. This is a view I have always held. It can be the case that MPs and MEPs are paid for writing newspaper columns, which is slightly different. In these circumstances, I would pledge to give any money I earn over and above salary and expenses to a local charity.

Paul Cain said...

Morning Councillor

I think it's going to be a difficult day for your party. I hope so. Nothing personal, but I predicted annihilation for New Labour in the Euro elections and I hope I'm right.

You need to understand, in the most potent currency available to the electorate (i.e votes), just how despised you, as a party are.

Living in the US, I don't get to see the BBC news much (or Sky or ITV come to that), so I wondered if this: had been widely viewed.

I haven't seen many mentions of it in the UK media, apart from the blogs.

It's all very resonant of Nicolae Ceausescu. The Great Leader booed.

Personally I hope Gordon Brown remains in post. He provides a nailed-on guarantee that when, eventually, New Labour is dragged, screaming and kicking to a General Election, it will face oblivion.

It, and its grotesque values, will disappear and the UK can finally get on with cleansing itself after 13 years of malign authoritarianism.