John McDonnell visits Beeston, gets collared by Beestonia and Son.

mattand sonMy Thursdays are now spent solely looking after my son, Leif: we don’t put him in nursery that day and my wife works, so I have the day ‘off’ from my job, and it’s just me and him all day. I love my job (yes, I have one, Anna Soubry, and a good one, despite your snarling ‘Get a job you layabout’ comment when I questioned your attitude to constituents, back in May. True Tory colours shone through there, didn’t they?), but this is my favourite weekday.

So Thursdays are a joy of playing with Leif, feeding Leif, getting Leif to nap, taking Leif for a push around Beeston, changing Leif’s nappy and generally immersing myself completely in parenting. As someone whose own dad was at sea for most of his formative years, I know the importance of that bond and what happens when it doesn’t form, so am vigilant to ensure it does. It seems to have. We spend the day laughing.

So far, so Mumsnet-friendly. Yet then I get a call from Labour HQ, asking if I’d like to interview John McDonnell for Beestonia. I’m about to turn it down with a self-righteous ‘No. nothing will spoil this precious time between my baby and me’ when I realise it’s only round the corner. Plus, Leif likes accompanying me on journalistic stuff: he came

radio Leif

Radio Ga-Ga-Ga-Ga

with me to a pre-record a few weeks back at BBC Radio Nottingham: halfway through the interview he started making loud ‘blah blah blah’ noises: not quite as viral-worthy of the famous BBC News clip, but an interesting, if not a mildly harsh commentary on my self-promoting style from an infant critic.

Plus, the massive poo that he’s been storing up for days finally broke through earlier in the day, and he’s been in a much better mood since that particular horror. He can come with me.

Into the pushchair he goes, and we head out.

I set up a camera next to Notts TV and the Nottingham Post, and hastily scribble some questions. I was here -the Shed in Beeston- a few weeks ago when Corbyn visited. It was that event when it started to really dawn on me the Tories were not in for a landslide. I’ve been to many political rallies over the years but never seen so many new faces, so many young faces. The youth vote came out in force, inspired by a less dull type of politics.

McDonnell doesn’t attract such numbers -it’s a Thursday afternoon, and we’re not in the heat of an election – but it’s still an impressive turnout. Again, I’m struck by the young voters. When I first voted, it was in the age of Kinnock and a growing centrism in politics. I probably would have been in raptures about someone like Corbyn: instead, a succession of slick, uninspiring ideologically shallow suits presided. That’s not necessarily a complaint -they did a fair measure of good stuff- but you can see why it turned off the young. The Clegg / Cameron / Miliband 2015 offering was probably the nadir of this. I’m not a Corbynista as such, but I am impressed with his campaigning and the way he put forward a costed manifesto that simply made sense. I like the way Labour does seem a hotbed of ideas now, a broad church gradually coming to a sort of peace with itself, messy around the edges but not the whipped-to-hell sterile slickness of modern politics.

IMG_2729Not to say McDonnell isn’t slick. He arrives and launches into a stump speech without notes, straight off the back, and fields questions with ease. I get a few snaps, all the time while holding a baby with my free hand. I didn’t have a great deal of time to prep my questions, and a dodgy contact lens hindered my attempts to read my notes, so apologies for the rather clumsy questioning.


john

And if the producers of BBC’s Today programme are reading, I’m sure John Humphries isworth every penny of his £600,000, but if you need a cheaper option I can do it for a fraction of that….if you don’t mind a few baby babbles in the background.

 

 

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Soubs Salute/ The Back of Beck? / Guest Post by Rish Baruah.

Loads of stuff to cram into a post tomorrow, dealing with what looks like a new future for the media in Nottingham: you’ll have to wait for that though.  I also have a bit of news about when I met the Shadow Minister for Small Business (and our erstwhile MP, Dr Palmer)  last week, and got into a bit of an argument. However, a few quick things to run through before I hand over to a guest contributor, Rish Baruah.

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So I’ll confuse usual readers instantly by giving Soubry a round of applause. Yep. Credit where it’s due, she’s pledged to vote in favour of same-sex marriages this week: it’s rumoured that some marginal Tories will vote against, or simply abstain, but Anna has been pleasingly bullish and pledged to vote. So well done, Anna. There, I said it.

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News reaches me that, hot on the heels of the closure of Hoggs butcher, Beck’s Bargains is to shut very soon. I best state this is not as yet verified as I only heard after it had closed for the day, but it seems the staff were given no notice, but successfully protested their rights and were as such granted a stay of execution. I’m sad it’s going: where else can you pick up five – yes FIVE- Crunchies for a quid?? It’s about as far from Waitrose as it’s possible to get, but that is not a complaint. Friendly staff, super cheap food, recycled plastic bags. Boo to the owner, i say. What a loser…

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Right, over to Rish, (who is more famous for being the brains behind Forest blog http://www.eighteensixtyfive.co.uk,  and the former assistant editor of The Beestonian. Usual disclaimer, the views of hosted pieces do not necessarily reflect my own views, etc.

Be careful what you wish for 

 

If ever a constituency was a microcosm of the country as a whole, it is surely Broxtowe. A wafer-thin majority, whereby the Tory candidate won the balance of power by the Lib Dems splitting the opposition vote; a diverse constituency featuring some affluent areas, and some areas which are downright struggling; a demographic featuring young single mothers, council tenants, private renters, middle-class families, and a number of elderly residents.

Despite having roots a couple of miles down the road, I have always had an affinity for Beeston; it just always seemed to have more personality and community spirit than the part of Wollaton in which I grew up. I have lived in Beeston for eight years now, and although interested in politics would not describe myself as an activist or an advocate of direct action; more someone who occasionally expresses concern for the world in which I live.

I am probably preaching to the converted here, but Nick Palmer was always a delight on the occasions on which I have sought his counsel; prompt to respond, willing to explain his reasons if he disagreed, and also willing to admit when he made mistakes. Of course, he is a politician, so I don’t kid myself that he is entirely altruistic – I suspect that his Hustings confession that it was a mistake to support the war in Iraq was at least partly politically motivated.

Anna Soubry is a very different animal, and that in itself is not a bad thing, until you consider some constituents’ experiences:

  • Slow to respond to correspondence, and in many cases, not responding at all
  • Very eager to speak up for the needs of the constituency, even though many of the residents of Broxtowe won’t even recognise the concerns
  • Misrepresenting* issues, such as her comment in Parliament about the postal workers (as reported by Matt at the time)

Now, in her role as Public Health Minister, she has stoked quite a fire, which has been well-reported and much-debated elsewhere (including this wry piece of satire), and her appearance on last week’s Question Time was actually quite intriguing; who would have thought the Member of Parliament for Broxtowe would get jeered by an audience in Weymouth? If you are anti-Soubry, you would not have needed to deconstruct her performance as she did herself few favours.

Of course, it would seem as though Anna Soubry is being prepared for great things by the Conservative Party; her rapid elevation to Junior Minister suggests that. However, what use is that when she is in real danger of losing her seat at the next election? The cynic would suggest that any publicity is good publicity, at least in the eyes of the party mandarins.

I asked my fellow Broxtowe-dwelling colleagues what they thought of her (admittedly a self-selecting sample, if you consider where I work). A Kimberley dweller said that she was doorstepped for over twenty minutes by Anna Soubry while canvassing for the 2010 Election, and Anna just would not take no for an answer. My colleague hasn’t seen her in Kimberley since then.

“So what?” I hear you cry, “that is just what politicians are like in this day and age. That is why turnout is falling; we don’t really have much of a choice.”

This, dear reader, is why I am going to finish where I started; Broxtowe is a microcosm of the country. A wafer-thin margin keeps the ruling elite clinging on. The difference is that Nick Palmer and Anna Soubry are very different creatures, and now we can judge each of them on their track records as the Member of Parliament for Broxtowe. As constituents, we do have a real choice to make, and your vote at the next election will make a real difference.

 

RB

 

* I use the word “misrepresenting” advisedly