I enjoyed the Newsome Campaign. There was lots of exercise delivering leaflets, we spoke to thousands of people and we had a great Candidate in our sitting Councillor Karen Allison who was defending her seat for the first time after a packed 4 year term. From an Agents point of view Karen was a dream candidate. Very active in the local community, well known and a definite 'mucker in' with lots of community activity. We had a great team of people helping us. There was the 'formal' canvassing and delivery teams but a much wider team of people from right across the communities in Newsome Ward who help us informally. There were lots of opportunities to visit cafe's and pubs following canvassing/leafleting which was pleasant and helped offset any potential benefits of hours of exercise. So my thanks to Newsome Nosh, Scar Cafe, Cafe 8, Global Diversity, The Star at Lockwood, The Grove at Springwood and Bar Maroc (Huddersfield's Premier Moroccan Theme Pub) in the Town Centre. If you've not been to any of these places please do. We liked them.They are all generally locally owned and managed and so all the better for that.
|Polling Day Fitbit report|
Another tactic Labour used was to put out a last minute 'attack' leaflet the day before the election entitled 'Greens waste your money'. This leaflet referred to a project to carry out wildflower planting on Whitehead Lane and said the money would be better spent on services for vulnerable/poor children. It also commented on the fact that children in poverty in the Newsome Ward were having to be supported by voluntary organisations to pay for meals outside school term times. Our Candidate Karen was very aware of this having spent many hours helping out with the Worth Unlimited project in Lowerhouses which we guess they were referring to. This valuable work has been succesfully supported by a range of sponsors such as the Town Foundation and philanthropic local companies. You could argue that it shouldn't have to be, but it is. The wildflower project itself was much more than Labour described in their leaflet. There are links to a project helping people with mental health difficulties. The money itself could not be spent on services as it was 'one off' funding. There was also an ongoing benefit as the land itself, on a roadside verge would no longer have to be on a grass cutting programme and so would reduce ongoing revenue costs for the Council. The point of putting out an inaccurate knocking leaflet the day before the election is that it cannot easily be responded to. They knew what they were doing.
|Some of the Newsome Green Campaign Team|
We got reports from several people about their encounters with Labour Canvassers on the doorstep who were 'bad mouthing' us on a regular basis. All the potholes were the Greens fault as we were spending money on wild flowers not the roads (see earlier point) they also seemed pretty nonplussed on local issues on the doorstep themselves when asked about them. The problem they had was that many people had quite a positive experience with us and yes there are always going to be some people who are not our 'fans' as in any Ward in Kirklees but people across the communities of Newsome Ward generally thought we are doing a good job. Hence the result I guess.
We weren't short of social media opportunities to comment on the Labour Campaign in Newsome but generally resisted the temptation. A Labour Councillor's tweet about their Candidate litter picking in Rawthorpe - no comment from us. Even when the ink fell from Labour Candidate's posters in the rain did we say 'Labour Campaign fades' or 'Running for office' no we didn't.
There was quite a roll call of Labour Councillors (at least 7) who got involved to a greater or lesser degree in the Labour Campaign in Newsome including Councillor Mus Khan (Dalton) who seems to have been the 'brains' behind their operation, and of course Barry Sheerman MP and his team. Now they are perfectly at liberty to do so in a democracy like ours and yes we were flattered by the attention but if I was in the Labour Party I would have thought twice about putting my name to a campaign like this.
Of course some of the characters involved in the Labour Newsome Campaign are big fans/disciples of Jeremy Corbyn and given some of his predecessors you can understand why. With any Messiah though you can't pick and choose which 'Commandments' you do and don't follow. One of his earliest lessons to the faithful was to "treat people with respect" and to "Cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on with bringing real values back into politics". I've been around in the political world for some time and I am more than happy to take on these sort of people but I don't see why my colleagues like Councillor Karen Allison should have to. So some of our team were not particularly looking forward to encountering these Labour activists at the count. I decided not to engage with them at all which seemed the most sensible thing to do (and not like me at all!)
Now I'm not daft enough to think that the actions of these particular Labour members represent the Labour Party as a whole. There are Councillors and activists in the Labour Party who I respect and who would not behave as poorly as these people did. I like to think that the Labour Candidate has just been poorly advised about what is an acceptable way to behave by certain individuals and that perhaps she might have learned from the experience. The decisions made in Labour's Newsome campaign were made by individuals and the campaign they ran reflects their own 'values'. Principally that 'If you're not with us you're against us' or more specifically if you're not in the Labour Party you must be wrong or have suspect motivations.
Despite all this I did enjoy the campaign. We did a lot of things differently and better than we have done before, we built on our already strong links in the community and we were better organised and we involved more people. So onward, and finally here's the sense of satisfaction you get when you decide to block a social media troll.