Bristol West is 105 on the 106 key seat list, seat 39 in the Frontline 40 of seats that will comprise Labour’s majority.
It has its challenges:
First, hills – We have got lots. I can get across the whole constituency in 40 minutes by bicycle, a mere 15 on the way back. My calves are very strong and I am much fitter since I was selected.
Second, contrasts (see also hills) – One of the poorest wards in the country (bottom of hill) and some of the most comfortably off (top of hill). Inner-city tower blocks, rows of identical terraces on top of old coal mines, early 20th century townhouses in Cotswold stone and beautiful Georgian mansions (often offices or flats). We have allegedly got the highest proportion of people with higher degrees in the country – I do not know if that is true but doorstep responses often come with a reading list. We have a Russell Group university, a large number of private schools and some excellent state ones with many Labour governors.
Third, a large party membership – many active and frequently a world expert on something.
Fourth, a Liberal Democrat member of parliament with an increased majority; Greens, not Ukip – OK, we have a few Ukip, but we are fighting a Liberal Democrat minister and our closest near-rivals are Greens. We held the seat 1997-2005 with the excellent Valerie Davey.
So, how are we doing?
I am very proud of how we have built up our teams in almost every ward, with lead organisers in key wards running their own weekly session, bringing in new people and running their own committee rooms on 22 May.
It is not a clear comparison but we have pulled from behind in 2010 to a handful of votes apart from the Liberal Democrats last year in council elections across the constituency, with us taking another seat back off them. This year we only had two wards up for election, and it was the Greens who took them from Liberal Democrats as they can when only focusing on a few wards. We’re not complacent about either of our nearest rivals but we are in good organisational shape and we have had two years establishing our parliamentary candidate.
I am pleased with our work in the non-council wards in this election – our activists were brilliant, our European candidates were tireless (special thanks to Hadleigh Roberts) and our contribution to the vote for a new Labour member of the European parliament, the wonderful Clare Moody, was critical.
I am delighted by how open local organisations are. We want to increase childcare? Early years’ organisations tell me how this could work, where the problems are and what help they will need. We want to know about the ‘bedroom tax’? Our debt advice organisation brings together tenants and advisers to meet me and our former housing lead Jack Dromey. Schools, arts, health, voluntary organisations – I am focused not just on the campaign, but on being ready to start work on 8 May 2015. I only wish I could be a full-time candidate but luckily I do have a very supportive boss.
In the next 47 weeks, I will be acting on what should have been in the Queen’s speech but wasn’t. I will be working with our councillors, MEP, educators and others, to encourage the local economic partnership to focus on training and skills for those who live in the poorest parts of the constituency. I will be working with councillors and housing providers to work on our housing proposals. I will meet with tenants’ organisations, Shelter and others about reforming the private rented sector. I will be strong and clear that Labour is the party to trust on the economy and I will be promoting our policies that show we know how to do this. I will continue to campaign on air pollution in Bristol. I will be working with wonderful activists and supporters. I will try to look up from Bristol West sometimes.
Thangam Debbonaire is prospective parliamentary candidate for Bristol West. She tweets @tdebbonaire
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