A busy Parliament Week 2017 saw us deliver workshops in Liverpool, Lincoln and at Bradford Women of the World festival. In the space of three days we heard the experiences of Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South, Paula Sherriff MP for Dewsbury and had the privilege of sharing a #Vote100 panel at Lincoln University with former Liberal Party parliamentary candidate and co-founder of The 300 Group Lesley Abdela, Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender at Birkbeck and author of The Good Parliament report, playwright Hannah Davies, local MP Karen Lee and Dolly Theis, Conservative candidate and #AskHerToStand mentor from the 50:50 Parliament campaign.
I booked my tickets to WOW Festival in Exeter purely because I’d seen that there was a training session being run by the Parliament Project. Having spent the summer campaigning and canvassing, then attending Labour Conference in September, I really didn’t want to lose momentum and I felt in need of guidance.
Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat writes about being a candidate in the General election 2016. It has been a hectic time since the General Election was called. Here in St Albans, in the first two weeks, more than 300 volunteers signed up to help me with the campaign. Many are happy to help us with our ‘bread and butter’ campaigning – delivering leaflets and speaking to residents door to door. But many more have specialist skills as proof-readers, graphic designers, photographers and videographers. We also have people with cars who can make sure I am in the right place at the right time. Fighting elections really are a team effort.
Harini Iyengar, Women's Equality Party, wrirtes about being a candidate in the General Election 2017. I'm standing for election as the MP for Vauxhall for the Women's Equality Party. I'm neither a career politician nor a party apparatchik. I'm an activist for equality and my politics grow from peace, love, family and respect for Mother Earth.
Debra Pickering writes about being a Scottish Green Party candidate for Falkirk. "I’m Debra Pickering, originally from West Cumbria. The daughter of a shop worker and a miner and fully grounded in socialist principles. I have lived in Scotland for 20 years and in Falkirk for 12 of those. I live with my husband Alan and West Highland Terrier called Sookie. I have 2 grown up daughters and one recent granddaughter. I am a trained psychotherapist with particular interest and experience in the field of addictions.
Kirsty Finlayson is a trainee solicitor in the City of London and has lived in East London since 2015. She was inspired to stand for parliament when she worked for Anne Milton (former MP until parliament was dissolved). She writes about standing for election in the GE 2017.
Colette Walker writes about her journey from being impacted by policies as a disabled person to getting involved in politics for disabled people.
"If you told me 10 years ago I would be so passionate about being involved in politics I would have laughed in your face.
But, my life experience as a disabled child and adult has been a challenge then to top it off I become a lone parent / carer to my son who is totally blind and profoundly autistic.
At every stage of my life, I have had to fight, or work three times as hard as everyone else to get anywhere, yes I am visually impaired, I might need support at times but I am a human being and so is my son at the end of the day, and we expect to be treated as such, but in today's society we don't, which in 2017 is shameless.
My father kept telling me I should be in politics with all my moaning and complaining at what was happening to me and many others in my situation .
Me ? Politics? No I don't think so !! I didn't go to a grammar / private school, I didn't go to university and not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
But low and behold, due to my involvement with Inclusion Scotland, I see a post on Access to Politics fund for disabled people, oh now what is this? Could I? Should I? Oh to hang, contact them and find out.
All of a sudden I am meeting with a member of staff, discussing the fund and possibilities, then being given Lee's details about her project to encourage woman into politics, then going to Holyrood, meeting my local MP, going to a public meeting training day at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, helping Katherine while she canvasses in her area in Musselburgh, going to another woman in politics meeting in Edinburgh where I met Kate and then attending a hustings meeting hosted by Glasgow disability alliance, where I had a very good discussion with the Conservative candidate in the local election.
Through going out, meeting new people, discussing topics in forums etc I feel I have built a lot of confidence already at speaking out for what I feel passionate about and how I feel things could be changed.
For a while I was undecided on what party I wanted to become a member of, but after looking at policies, and comparing that to what I am looking for in a party I eventually decided, but ultimately too late to stand in local elections.
As I see it, things happen for a reason, now I am a member and GE is coming up I am planning on working hard for my party, I worked at the polling station last Thursday, will then be campaigning for my local MP and attending training offered, working in the new shop premises they have opened for GE doing leaflet work etc.
I am now on the panel that has been set up to organise and revamp the Scottish benefit system now they have been devolved, so it makes it a fairer and less stressful system for the service users, this will be a great experience.
I have joined two disabled groups to start working with them and getting myself known in this community, so when I plan to stand in future, they know I have their interest at heart, from one disabled person to another, one carer to another, one lone parent to another.
It certainly has been a very different and enjoyable few months and this is only the start. Watch out!!
Member of the Scottish Parliament Project peer group, Katherine Sangster, shares her experiences of campaigning for her first local council seat.
"As a candidate in the upcoming council elections, over the last few months or so I have been delivering leaflets, knocking on doors and phoning voters. So much so that I dream of delivering leaflets in my sleep!
I'm fortunate to have been joined every evening by a core group of party members who come out to support me time after time. However, there is always more to do and I would thoroughly recommend that everyone who is involved in politics spends some time campaigning in the next few weeks. Most branches will go out to their members asking for help and you will find details on your candidates Facebook page, they will be delighted to hear from you.
Last week, as part of The Parliament Project, an initiative to help more women into politics I was joined by Colette Walker an activist for disabled rights and partially sighted herself. Colette was surprised by how many people we spoke to didn’t have an opinion, we were met with “sorry I’m not interested” or “oh I don’t talk about politics”.
Politics has become increasingly discredited over the last few years, with politicians seen as out of touch, an elite to be at best ignored or worse mistrusted. The rebuilding of trust and engagement must begin at a local level. Most of all people want you to listen, a “no I’m not interested” or “I don’t vote Labour” can quickly turn into a conversation when you ask, “what concerns do have at the moment” or “anything you would like to talk to me about”. So far many issues have been raised with myself and colleague, sitting councillor Andrew Forrest who has been able to deal with most of them – a vandalised bus stop, an additional police patrol in a neighbourhood blighted by break ins and the need for a disabled parking space. Not to mention some overgrown trees blocking sunlight into people’s houses! People are also very concerned about the lack of funds directed at their local services, the issue of elderly care comes up time and time again. These are issues that affect people day in day out but somehow the connection to these issues and what politics can do and how politicians can help has been lost.
Returning from another night of canvassing and settling down to catch up on the events of the day via Twitter is a disconcerting experience. There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the concerns of the professional commentators on Twitter and that of our communities. Many commentators would do well to step away from their phones and visit the communities they claim to speak for. I have experienced no appetite for debate on Brexit or a second referendum just a desire from people that we as politicians and aspiring politicians listen to their concerns and respond to those concerns.
Only time will tell if Labour’s terrible showing in the national polls will translate to defeat at the local elections. One thing is for certain, the road back to electoral success for Labour is a long one, it will be hard won and won vote by vote, door by door, street by street. It will be won by living and breathing the concerns of our communities and being of that community. It will be won by getting the job done and caring about the day to day concerns of whom we seek to represent."