Friday, November 24, 2023

Plaistow North By Election Polling Day (& speaking at Pension conference)

I took yesterday off work for the by election but got tied up in morning with urgent UNISON "fire and rehire" case work. I was able at lunch time to go "knocking up" (knocking on doors of identified Labour Supporters , reminding them of the election and encouraging them to vote) with party colleagues Sofia and Larry. We had a good response but I felt that some residents were being somewhat evasive about their voting intentions. They had changed from previously saying they were Labour supporters to now saying they were "undecided". Not a good sign.

After we had finished that round I had to go back home, change into a suit and rush off to the Bloomsbury Hotel (ironically right next to Congress House) and speak in a Professional Pensions Conference panel debate on the merits of  trustees being "Professional Vs Lay: The Great Pension Scheme Debate". Anyone who knows me would be able to predict which side of the argument I was on and I will post on this another time.

Afterwards back home to Newham, change of clothes into comfy shoes, outdoor clothes, torch and drop key. I took the 58 bus to the committee room and was soon allocated a round with my Councillor colleague Larisa and a Hammersmith & Fulham Labour colleague (also a local Councillor and Chair of Planning) Omid.  It is always difficult to canvass in the dark but we worked very well together as a team. Larisa's russian language skills were particularly helpful. I did not realise how many residents from eastern europe also spoke russian as well as their native language. 

I only had 2 "difficult" conversations with residents about Gaza and the Labour Party response but they were respectful and considered. However, again, I was concerned at the number of residents who were now saying they were "undecided" or not voting.

I bumped into some of the the independent landlord party activists outside polling stations and had no problems but they were clearly breaking electoral law by gathering so close and in large numbers. It must have been intimidating for voters.

At the end of our round we joined up with another team and were still out "knocking up" after 9.30pm. Many thanks to activists from Tower Hamlets and Hackney for their support. 

After the close of campaigning some of us went to the nearby historic "Black Lion" pub for a drink and a gossip. While we were hopeful of a good result, we thought it was going to be tough night. 

Alas, our wonderful Labour Candidate, Akhtharul Alam, did not win on this occasion. It was not his fault in the slightest. The community did punish us over Gazi but there were other issues regarding parking, fly tipping and Anti-social behaviour which we need to address better. While this is clearly a defeat I am confident that Labour can restore trust and win back support in the future. 

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