Rupa with council by-election candidates Grace Quansah and Claire Tighe
Rupa with council by-election candidates Grace Quansah and Claire Tighe

This piece appeared in Ealing Today and Ealing Nub News

It’s been a weird existence for me as an MP. From going from being a steady wage slave employed as a lecturer in higher education since the 1990s until 2015 I’ve now fought three elections, which by rights should mean a 15-year career, but with one every other year it’s less than half of that.

On that record 2021 should’ve been another general election. Instead it started with a strict stay at home lockdown. Only in the last week or so has there been a thawing of the campaigning freeze and I’ve started to get around Ealing doorsteps again, largely in Ealing Broadway and Hanger Hill where two by-elections are occurring as the Tory incumbents of these council seats chose to use Ealing as a stepping stone to Parliamentary ambitions outside our fair borough.

As someone who grew up in the area I represent I am rare in Parliament. Recent days I’ve found myself in old stomping ground on my bike, in the same streets I originally rode with stabilisers on and fell off as learning my balance around Pitshanger Lane – for me memory lane. I’ve been stopped in the streets of Ealing Broadway by people saying they recognise me off the telly – to which I’ve had to commiserate that they sure must watch some boring TV, but then perhaps the record ratings under Brexit and ex-Speaker John Bercow have been habit forming.

This election I’ve also learned passage of time instils fondness in figures that were once fearsome. In between my doorstep forays I’ve also squeezed in telephone canvassing up in Hartlepool where a by-election is happening. The most memorable conversation was with a septuagenarian who told me how the ex-MP for the town Peter Mandelson, now an elder statesman, was “a good egg”. He explained, “everyone loved him, he was like a young curate”.

This week, to make up for me not having to contend one myself this time, a slew of elections occur. It’s being dubbed as “super Thursday”, with some borough residents facing four things to plump for.

Throughout coronavirus the Conservative government has presided over a catalogue of “let the bodies pile high” errors in lockdowns and procurement decisions that has left 127,000 dead. Whilst the vaccination effort has been admirable, it was crucially the NHS who took control so we should not allow the bumbling Johnson to claim all the credit. Amidst something of a “vaccine bounce”, rumours abound that the Tories – who have wrenched us out of Europe with an unnecessarily hard Brexit – are set to consolidate gains in newly keen regions, such as the North East and Midlands. No vote has been counted yet and it is crucial that whatever happens, our city, borough and mayoralty remain in Labour hands. We must reject the Tories with their Parliamentary majority of 80, which has bred untold arrogance and sleaze.

Yes there have been controversies over planning decisions for buildings and road layouts to name but two, yet we are not voting on those: we are choosing a mayor to set the direction of our capital, and whether he go for the visionary Khan or reactionary Bailey. Sadiq was in Southall this Saturday so I popped along to see him. His affable manner with all members of the public makes him a natural choice. “You’re the only one not nervous”, he joked to me as Grace Quansah, the by-election candidate, and our assembly member, Dr Onkar Sahota, were the others present. “Because you’re not up for re-election,” he added. He may be right, but it’s a first for me given the last three years with odd numbers and I’m sure my time will come along sooner than we all think.

Remember to vote Labour every time, and if you see our teams trudging around on the big day to try and get the vote out do say “Hi”. Politicians are humans and I promise we genuinely don’t bite!

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