General Election 2019
General Election 2019

ONE year ago today the Barrow and Furness Labour Party headquarters in Hartington Street was abuzz with activists who had spent weeks campaigning for local man Chris Altree to become the constituency’s next MP.

South Walney Labour councillor Frank Cassidy was at the office coal-face as the race entered its final straight.

He said: “We had a good candidate in Barrow born-and-bred Chris who grew up on a local housing estate and had a firm grasp of all the issues that were at play.

“We had loads of eye-catching and fully-costed manifesto pledges that were designed to help ordinary families and make things better for poorer people.

“We had a strong media and campaign squad along with dozens of committed activists who would think nothing of door-knocking in the rain for a few hours before changing into dry clothes and heading straight out again.

“That’s one thing I do remember more than anything – the rain.

“Technology played a bigger part than ever before; we had a solid core of information-gathering experts, hunched over laptops who translated the data we received from the door-steps into the streets we should re-visit to repeat our messages of hope for a better future.

“Ten-hour days were not uncommon and gallons of coffee was consumed by everyone – apart from me who sipped Earl Grey tea with two sugars and loads of milk.

“Volunteers arrived – quite unexpectedly – from places like Liverpool and Belfast.

On the Tuesday before the election we even had two RMT activists who worked for London Underground coming to lend a hand.

“One was dark-haired, only quite young and I didn’t catch his name, but I can still see him now – in full London Underground uniform – banging on doors for us in West View Road.

“The Mail and local radio journalists gave everyone a pretty fair shake, but the national media – which is largely controlled by right-wing millionaires – played its usual role in being extremely hostile to Labour.

“We also had to grapple with the fib that if Jeremy Corbyn won the election he would decimate the shipyard.

“It wasn’t true – Labour shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith came here to tell everyone it wasn’t true – but it was an effective piece of propaganda and it did cut through on the doorstep.

“Brexit was also a big factor. Boris Johnson had pledged to get it done and that was popular with some voters.

“It remains to be seen whether an impending no-deal Brexit will be cheered from the rooftops when people are faced with lower wages, higher prices in the shops, massive queues at British ports and chlorinated American chicken for Sunday dinner.

“Looking back we couldn’t really have worked any harder than we did and our consciences are clear in that regard. It’s also probably worth saying that relations between local Labour party foot-soldiers and our Conservative opponents were reasonably cordial.

“It was a political scrap, but a fair one – it’s the sea in which we swim and in this game you have to take the rough with the smooth. Many of us shook hands at the end.

“But we learned a lot from the weeks leading up to that general election and we will be putting the things we learned into good use whenever the next one comes.

“Regardless of what the Tories say about levelling-up and making things fairer for ordinary people, their core instincts will pull them in the other direction and that won’t go unnoticed.

“The Conservatives will also lose support when it becomes clear who will actually foot the bill for their mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis and you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be the rich.”

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