In 2017 I had the privilege to be campaign manager for Rhiannon Meades’s general election campaign in Mid-Bedfordshire. She was a remarkable candidate.
I was greatly impressed by her passion for social justice and equality. I was even more impressed by her ability to listen and to empathise with people across the constituency. I recall meeting a single mother with a very young child. This mother had no secure job. She had serious mental health challenges. She was living in a village remote from her family who lived in Bedford. This mother wanted to ensure the best opportunity for her child. She wanted to find a decent job and to return to her studies, but she did not know what to do, where the next meal might be coming from and what future her daughter might have. Rhiannon listened and gave both sound advice and moral support. I could see the woman gaining confidence in what she was hearing from our candidate but also in herself. We left her house with Rhiannon taking away a list of actions and having given sound advice.
We also came away angry that in this wealthy economy in the twenty first century in Central Bedfordshire any parent should be in the position of that this mother was. It reinforced the urgency of electing a Labour Government.
There were may other encounters and experiences of a similar nature with a range of people of all ages with different needs, worries and ambition. What always impressed was Rhiannon’s warmth and natural ability to listen, understand and respond in a way that was neither patronising nor flippant.
I am sure that we shall see the same Rhiannon over this 2019 general election campaign. I know that she will inspire and encourage many voters to vote for her, to vote Labour. I am confident that many people she meets will feel the same as the young mother described earlier.
We need an MP who has Rhiannon’s characteristics, attributes and values. We need an MP who will campaign tirelessly for everyone in Mid-Bedfordshire and especially for those who have the greatest needs. We need an MP who will be part of a Labour majority in the House of Commons. Frankly we need to elect Rhiannon.
I have been involved in every general election since February 1974 when we campaigned to get the Heath government out and the Wilson government elected. We had to canvass by torch light and miners’ helmet lights as the country was locked into a three day week with power outages due to the policies of a Conservative government. In 2019 we may not have a three day week but we have a crisis of inequality, poverty, precarious employment, austerity, Brexit and so much more as a result of a failing Conservative government. Today’s Conservative Party has become a narrow right-wing nationalist Party which to be fair the Heath government never was.
In the twelve general elections that I have campaigned in I have never felt that a general election was so significant and so important. This must be up there with 1945, 1979 and 1997. The stakes are high. The choice before the electorate is stark.
Labour’s programme is radical, progressive and unashamedly socialist. It is also practical. If enacted it would transform our country. Only a Labour government will legislate for a People’s Vote which would enable us to remain in the European Union.
Most importantly a Labour government would offer opportunity and hope for the young mother that Rhiannon and I met two years ago, and for everyone else too.
We need a fair economy that works for the many. We need public services that are properly funded, and which produce excellent outcomes – ideally co-produce these with citizens. We need an inclusive society. We need to end poverty and reverse the trend to greater inequality. We need a Labour government.
Above all we need excellent Labour MPs. We need to maximise the vote for Labour candidates. We need lots of Rhiannons in Parliament.
I have voted for many Labour candidates including myself in 1983 but only for winning candidates in the two 1974 elections. It is a forty five years since my votes contributed to Lena Jeger winning Holborn and St Pancras South. It would be wonderful if in 2019 my and all our votes were to elect Rhiannon.
It’s time for real change. It’s time for Rhiannon.