By Harry Nathan
Local Elections 2019
I joined the Labour Party because I wanted to make a difference, to help address the injustices and inequalities I could see around me. I’ve been interested in politics for a long time but have become an activist only recently. I’d never particularly thought about standing in an election myself until I was asked in early January if I would. Nonetheless, it seemed a natural way to ‘make a difference’. To have been given this opportunity has been a privilege and I’ve learned a great deal.
I owe my entire campaign, and the satisfactory results we achieved, to everyone who helped me throughout the duration of the campaign. From those who were a part of the central campaign team, planning, organising and who were always there for me. I also owe thanks to those who only came to one or two campaign sessions. We wouldn’t have achieved what we did without all of us working together. I’ve done my best to list everyone who was involved, no matter how small below.
This number has become an important one for me.
571 is the number of people in Wivenhoe who put their faith in me on May 2nd 2019. It was also the first time I’d been able to vote (and I voted for myself). There are a number of reasons that I decided to stand. One of them was that, when originally asked in early January, there was no-one else willing to do it. However, this was only a minor reason. Far more important was my desire to make a difference for Wivenhoe, to put ideas in practice. It’s easy to sit at home and be an ‘armchair commentator’; it’s much harder to get out and actively make a difference. I knew which I wanted to do.
Being completely inexperienced and untested it was natural to be met with some resistance. Although it was minimal, it was there. I feel that I had to do more to prove myself than someone who had ‘done it before’. However, the vast majority embraced me and recognised that we should try doing things in a new way. Moreover, it didn’t take long to get a team around me, and what a team we proved to be.
The nucleus of the Wivenhoe campaign was made up of Julie Young, Cyril Liddy and Ildi Clarke. These three people proved to be far more important than I could possibly have imagined. I would have remained stuck in first-gear if not for them.
Campaigning is something which I really enjoy doing. So, when it came to hitting the streets, talking to residents and getting out our vote, I felt at home (after shaking off some early rustiness and nerves). I also met some inspiring people. Additionally, campaigning should be a social event, and we always tried to make it enjoyable; we all had a good time out campaigning. Meeting interesting and inspiring people and just generally having a fun time with good people, were just some of the many perks of campaigning.
One of the most inspiring moments during the campaign was meeting Leo, a 9-year-old who is incredibly interested in politics. In the weeks after the election ended, I went back to meet him properly. I ended up spending three or four hours one morning talking with him about politics. We covered everything from deep philosophical topics like the meaning of socialism to more contemporary issues like Brexit and the Climate Crisis. Seeing someone so young being so interested in politics is inspiring and reassuring. It was a privilege to meet Leo and I really hope he stays interested and becomes actively involved in the future. There is no reason why Leo can’t have the same opportunity that I’ve had.
I made more use of digital campaigning, setting up a Facebook page (Harry Nathan, Labour Party Activist) to share my campaign with a wider audience. During the campaign we also started to increase Wivenhoe Labour’s digital profile, setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts for the local Party. We really showed the importance of social media. Every time we went out campaigning we took a group photo and put it on social media. By doing this, we reached thousands of people, in Wivenhoe – and beyond. By the end of the campaign, we’d got everyone in Wivenhoe Labour signed up to the importance of social media in campaigning.
Perhaps the pride of our campaign, however, was the campaign video we made and put out in the final days of the election. The production of the video was the dictionary definition of DIY. The week before Polling Day, a friend and I spent an afternoon wandering around Wivenhoe filming on my brother’s iPhone. The clips were then put together on an app called Clips before the final video went up on Facebook. In total, the video had reached nearly two thousands people by the evening before Polling Day.
Nonetheless, not everything was so enjoyable. We also held a Labour Curry Night during the Easter holidays, at which I was one of the speakers (although I was only told this the morning of the event). This was the first time I’d spoken in public, in front of a sold-out event. Overall, the event was a massive success and people have told me that my speech was good. Nevertheless, it was the most nerve-racking and the most difficult thing that I did in the entire campaign.
By the end of the campaign, I felt that we had really achieved something and that we had put together a well-oiled and accessible campaign. Perhaps if Polling Day was put back to 23rd May (as it was originally suggested it might) then we could have achieved even better results than we did. Having started as a complete unknown, we were able to build up a real head of steam by Polling Day.
Polling Day itself was a strange affair. The day began with delivering ‘Good Morning’ cards from 6 am for a couple of hours. One thing which I had decided that I wanted to do was to go and see everyone who sat on Polling Stations as ‘tellers’ for me. I also spent three stints at the Polling Station myself. I finished the day at William Loveless Hall, remaining at the Polling Station until it closed at 10 pm.
It wasn’t until the Polls closed that the nerves really kicked in. Before Polling Day, everything was in my own hands; there was always something more I could do, one more leaflet round or one more canvassing session. After 10 pm on May 2nd, it was all taken out of my hands. There was nothing more I could do. Before then, the nerves were minimal, afterward, it all hit me at once.
The nerves remained with me during the Count into the next morning. Attending the Count was also a new experience for me. In truth, almost everything I’ve done in this campaign has been a new experience. I was warned that it would be a boring affair, but instead, I found it fascinating. For one thing, while waiting for the first results to be announced, I had three interviews with the press. One with the Gazette, one with the East Anglian Daily Times and one with a group of journalism students from Essex University. I really enjoyed the Count, although this may be the novelty of it being my first one.
Considering the wider trends, and where I had started, I was satisfied with the final results. I finished second in Wivenhoe, achieving more than double the third-placed Tories and well ahead of the fourth-placed Greens. However, the margin of defeat to the Liberal Democrats was disappointing.
The feeling of disappointment has declined in the weeks since as I’ve had more time to reflect on what we achieved and as I’ve become more aware of the effect I had on people in Wivenhoe. Meeting Leo in the weeks after the election gave me a massive boost. Seeing someone so interested in politics and so young having a genuine interest in me is both inspiring and a little bit daunting. I’ve also been stopped several times around Wivenhoe by people who recognised me.
Altogether, I feel that I have had an impact on some people in Wivenhoe through my campaign.
I’ve been incredibly privileged to have been Labour’s candidate for Wivenhoe. I feel that I’ve mostly achieved everything which I set out to. For one thing, it’s been of huge personal benefit for me. I’ve learned more than I thought was possible, I’ve also massively improved my confidence and, I would like to think, my ability too. However, more importantly, I feel that I have left a good platform for future Labour candidates to build upon in Wivenhoe.
I would like to give special thanks to Julie Young and Ildi Clarke for being the central organisers of my campaign and to Cyril Liddy for being my agent. I would also like to give special thanks to Sally Wilcox, Mike Harwood, Anthony Clavane and Neil Jones for their extensive efforts for my campaign. Finally, I would like to thank Tina McKay, Rosa Clavane, Jim Pey, Rosalind Scott, Alan Evans, Phil Finn, David Gynn, Terry Vanner, Michael Bailey, Pauline Randall, Sue Abell, Alan Tyne, Stephan Novy, John McAleavy, Phil Long, Liz Miles, Kathleen Wenaden, Rebecca Rocket, Tobie Glenny, Jean McNeil, Will Davis, Richard Lown and Dominic Munro-McCarthy for also supporting the campaign in whatever way they could – without each and every single one of these people, my campaign would not have been what it was.