‘If I had £1 for every lie someone told about me/us, I could have retired 10 mins into this campaign.’ I wrote this on 2 December after yet another – how shall I put this – ‘falsity’ was said about me and the Brexit party, who I am standing for in Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle.
Nonsense being spread about me during this election campaign was something I’d expected. Abuse, too (standing in the 2017 election as an independent had been an education – this time around, I brought my hard hat). It didn’t even surprise me when, after installing one of my first promotional boards, (very proud I was of it too), it was attacked after a few hours and completely destroyed in less than two days.
Alas, it seems that I missed a trick. There was something I wasn’t expecting, that if I’d have received £1 for every time it happened, then never mind just me; me and my whole street could have retired by now!
As we reach the 12th December (one sleep to go!), the amount of pressure I am receiving to stand down as a candidate seems to get stronger by the minute. ‘You’re splitting the vote’, they cry. ‘You’re going to make us lose Brexit forever’. ‘If Corbyn wins, it will be your fault’. ‘I will never forgive you for this’ and my own personal favourite, ‘you’re an embarrassment to your city’.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. I did have a wobble. When three Brexit Party MEPs resigned from the party (but conveniently decided to hold onto the job and the perks that go with it), I found myself asking whether indeed, I am going to ‘break Brexit’ and whether I should stand down. In the end, I decided to sleep on it.
When I woke, I had such fire in my belly that I knew I should continue to stand. It was the right thing to do. The constituency that I am standing in, the place that I call home, has been ruled by Labour for 84 years. Yes, you heard that right, 84 years! If the Tories were going to win here, I think it’s safe to say they would have by now. This isn’t a tight seat – by my reckoning, the Tories haven’t even come close here in years.
To understand why the Tories haven’t won here for all these decades, is to understand the DNA of people in places like Hull. We are ‘born and bred Labour’, and it has always been a given that we will vote for the party. They represent us, the Tories represent the rich. This attitude became even more embedded once old industries were lost and not replaced. And it was confirmed in recent years when many Tory policies hurt the people they were supposed to try and help. The bedroom tax, loss of the EMA, cuts to schools, police, youth provisions, Universal Credit wait times and their costly helplines – the list goes on.
But this time, in seats like mine, there is a difference. For what may be the first time, many are now questioning their Labour vote. The main reason? Brexit. Nearly 70 per cent of people in this seat voted Leave. Their decision? Ignored. Their Labour MPs have instead voted for more EU alignment and the anger this has caused people here (and other places like Hull West and Hessle) is palpable. Even among people who voted Remain but accepted the referendum result, the frustration is real. Add to that the Labour party’s lurch to the left under Corbyn and many people are forced to confess this Labour Party is simply not the option it used to be.
I’d bet everything I own that the majority of these people would never vote in a Tory. Given no other choice, they would rather abstain or spoil their ballot.
This brings me to the Brexit Party. Standing for the party wasn’t an easy decision for me, but I did so because as a Brexiteer, I feel compelled to give all those people in Hull who feel let down, but would never vote Tory, a real choice. I feel compelled to stand up for the North, in a parliament which often forgets we exist.
So to everyone who says I should stand down, I say this; the Tories have never and I don’t believe, will ever, care truly for people in places like Hull. The Brexit Party wanted a leave alliance and stood down in some seats to try and avoid a Corbyn government. The Tories refused. Now, in seats like this – which I don’t believe the Tories will win – the entitlement of the Conservatives continues. If Labour get re-elected here, the Tories have only themselves to blame.