My journey in politics so far…
Returning to the UK after four years in Australia, I never thought I would be standing for public office. But witnessing the impact of the economic downturn on the place where I grew up, and in particular seeing young people denied opportunities that I once took for granted, convinced me to take action!
I started attending Labour meetings, got involved in reopening the youth club, and worked with Sussex Police on tackling anti-social behaviour. I also set up fundraising events for the NHS locally.
In 2018, I helped Dan Manvell campaign for a seat on Uckfield Town Council. Talking to as many local people as possible was the key to his success, propelling him to a by-election victory where he became the first Labour councillor elected in Wealden in living memory.
Spurred on by this achievement, the following year I stood myself in both the Uckfield Town Council and Wealden District Council elections. I campaigned actively, speaking to a quarter of the voters in my Uckfield New Town ward. Labour performed poorly in the 2019 local elections across the south east of England yet despite this I was elected to Uckfield Town Council with the most votes in my ward. The District Council election went to a nail-biting recount where I missed out on a seat by just 19 votes.
Having come so close to a District Council seat, I was convinced it was possible to win at County level in 2021. The pandemic restrictions and unusually short time to campaign were huge challenges. I worked extremely hard to contact as many voters as possible, hand-delivering personalised letters to younger people and those our data showed were more likely to make the effort to vote. I also spoke to a great many voters by phone and on the doorstep and I’m immensely grateful to all who helped me with phonebanking and canvassing; There were almost 7,500 people in the division registered to vote and by the time we reached polling day, we had talked to a third of them.
I was unable to beat the Tory candidate this time but our high contact rate had a major impact on the result, increasing the Labour vote by 247% from the 2017 election. Although the number of Conservative votes was relatively unchanged from 2017, the Tory vote share dropped from 60% to 48%, whilst Labour’s share of the votes jumped from 12% to 36%. The main effect of our campaign was to boost the Labour turn-out by convincing Labour supporters that it was important to cast their vote. Despite not winning this time, we showed that campaigning hard can make a big difference. I continue to build my profile locally as an Uckfield Town Councillor and will be working to expand on this progress as we look toward the Wealden District Council elections in 2023.