A few weeks after being selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Cardiff North I was in a local coffee shop that had recently opened. Hailey runs the small business with her family. She brought over my sandwich and did a double take, and said, ‘Hold on, I recognise you.’ ‘Yes!’, I thought. ‘I’m being recognised in Cardiff North!’ Hailey then added, ‘Did you go to Whitchurch High?’
She did not know me from my campaigning, she knew me from being the year above me in school. But, actually, that is better.
I left Cardiff to go to university aged 18 and I have since been teaching in inner-city schools, most recently as a deputy head in Hackney. Coming home and building those links again is what I enjoy most about the campaign. Establishing a relationship with 70,000 people is a lot of conversations, especially when so many people say they are fed up with politics. They are not, however, fed up with people. Even the most cynical of voters generally appreciates you coming round to listen. Social media can make this web of connections even more explicit, though face to face is king.
Some people have said, ‘Why don’t you go back to being a teacher? That is more worthwhile.’ It is a hugely important and rewarding job. But who is in government is also hugely important. The school where I taught would never have been given a new start by a Tory government. When it was closed 17 per cent of children were leaving with five GCSEs and last year the school got its first results with 82 per cent of children achieving five good GCSEs. Excellent leadership and an amazing team of staff are key – but there also had to be political will.
Cardiff North is represented in parliament by a Conservative member of parliament who won by 194 votes last time. He is standing down, which is of course a potential advantage. But for me the campaign is an opportunity to show to the people of Cardiff North the kind of MP I want to be: hardworking, visible, responsive and involved. Someone that people expect to see out on her bike as much as in the paper.
I hope my actions will go some way to convince people they will be better off with Labour. And, of course, I look forward to Progress’ Operation Flight day of action on 10 January next year, helping to persuade the voters of Cardiff North to ‘make it Mari’.
Mari Williams is parliamentary candidate for Cardiff North. Join us on 10 January next year at 13 Llangranog Road at 11am and 2pm
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