Earlier today, I received an email from Labour’s central office advising that ‘I am afraid you have not been long-listed on this occasion’, in response to my application for selection as Labour’s candidate in the Middlesbrough by-election.
I’ve thought long and hard about whether to write this, and if I did write it, how to make it not just seem like sour grapes – because it isn’t, it really isn’t. I haven’t been a member of the Labour Party for 12 months yet, and I’d been warned by both your regional and national offices that this was likely to torpedo my chances, so even as I wrote my application I was resigning myself to the fact that the chance of success was slim.
So while I’m definitely disappointed and frustrated, I’ll get behind whoever I think is the best candidate at Sunday’s hustings, will get behind the selected candidate even if s/he’s not the one I thought was the best, and I’ll help with campaigning as far as my work allows. So I don’t think I’m just being a bad loser.
I’m a supporter of yours – not without criticism, of course, but what use are ‘yes-men’? I believe that you have the ability to lead Labour back into government and to be really good for this country. So I’m not writing this from an adversarial position either.
So what is my ‘beef’?
Well, just a couple of days ago, it was reported that you had asked Jon Trickett to find more MPs from a working class background, who are “not the usual kind of suspects who come from a political professional background”. You’ve also reportedly said that you want more MPs from a business background. And you’ve said you want more MPs who haven’t been through the usual university route.
I fit all three of those categories.
I was born in a 2-bedroomed, terraced house in an inner-city neighbourhood of Middlesbrough (yes, the by-election is in the town where I was born and still live, which makes it especially frustrating not to get a sniff). My dad worked at ICI and the steelworks, my mother worked in a baker’s shop, we didn’t have an inside toilet until I was about 10, never had central heating, or a car, and my parents only even got a phone installed after I’d left home to get married. So I definitely think I can legitimately claim to be working class.
I didn’t go to university. Instead, I elected to go straight into the world of work – first for 3 years in a bank, which I detested, and then with a manufacturing company, answering calls in French and German, and working my way up.
Eventually, I moved up into a variety of executive roles – European Sales Director, Vice-President and so on, travelling the world to sell British products to overseas customers. So I think I can definitely claim a business background, too. But I never forgot my working class roots, never forgot that most people aren’t lucky enough to get the breaks I got or to be able to do what I’ve done. I still live only a mile from where I grew up, and I spend time in one of the town’s poorer estates trying to do a bit to help there.
What else do I bring to the table? Well, I speak several languages fluently, so I’d be very good at negotiating with foreign companies to bring inward investment into an area that needs it desperately. I have a high IQ and a certain skill with words and analysis, as the blog where I’m writing this open letter to you shows – I hope, at least.
I also bring passion. I write the blog in my own time and spend pretty much all my free time either writing articles debunking the government’s many lies and misdeeds or else researching so that I can write those articles. I read, watch and listen almost exclusively to material that will inform me so that I can try to help others be informed, because disinformation and propaganda are this government’s main weapons to keep us docile and compliant, and most of the mainstream media collude in it. And, just maybe, so I can inspire a little faith and a little hope that things can actually be better, in a time when most people are either cynical or bored with politics.
I stated all this in my application, as well as including references from a Labour MP and an ex-colleague, and a representative of Unison in the South West wrote in supporting my application, because I’ve written a lot on the assault the NHS is facing in the South West and elsewhere.
What I don’t bring is a 12-month Labour membership. Not yet, at least. I’ve almost always voted Labour and on the one occasion I didn’t, it was because I felt that Labour wasn’t being true to its roots, its history and its duty to fight for ordinary working people.
I joined the party at the beginning of this year, because I felt that it wasn’t enough to agree with Labour principles and hate what this government is doing – that I had to put my time and money where my mouth is. Not long afterwards, I started writing the blog – and people started suggesting that I’d make a good MP. So when Sir Stuart Bell died, I thought, ‘Why not?’ and decided to apply. And quite a number of people even very kindly went to the trouble of writing to your central office saying they should consider my application.
But today I got that email. What makes it especially frustrating is that your ‘Future Candidates Programme’ (yes, I’ve applied for that, too) doesn’t even require you to be a Labour member to apply, just that you’ll join the Party if you’re actually selected to stand somewhere. No mention of a 12-month membership requirement first. So it was a surprise to me that it was likely to be a bar to my application.
Of course, that may not be why my application failed. Maybe all the long-listed candidates are far more suitable than I am. But somehow I don’t think there can have been many from multi-lingual, working class blokes with 24 years of business experience in this country and abroad, a passion for social justice and other Labour values and who aren’t part of the ‘professional political class’.
So, what am I looking for in writing this to you? I’m not looking for a ‘bye’ into the next round. The shortlist interviews are tomorrow in London and I’m miles away from there. The hustings for the final selection are on Sunday, so there’d be no time to canvas for support even if I got onto the shortlist.
I think what I really want to know, Ed, is this: when you said you wanted people from all those different backgrounds, did you really mean it?
I think you did, because I think you’re the kind of bloke who generally says what he means and means what he says. But if you did, your selection people may not have received the memo – and your selection process needs a lot of change before it lines up with your expressed intent.
I hope you did, and I hope you’ll make the changes, and make sure the memo gets through. Because I plan to try again (it’s just a pity it won’t be for my home-town seat). I think I can do some good and offer something good to the people I’ll be serving.
And I think there’s a lot of us out there – working class, non-graduates, businesspeople or all three – who can help make things better for the people this government is intent on screwing, and of whom the Tories will be scared witless because we know what’s really happening on the ground and, often, what’s really happening in the business world as well, and we know how to nail the lies they thrive on.
If you think the same or just fancy a chat, feel free to get in touch!
Yours very sincerely,