Fringe Box



On The Campaign Trail With Labour In Friary and St Nicolas

Published on: 23 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2019

The Guildford Dragon NEWS continues to report on how candidates and party supporters are canvassing potential voters for the council election on May 2, 2019. All of the parties represented on the council have been invited to participate.

In this article, we were with the Guildford Labour Party as they campaigned in the Friary and St Nicolas ward.

by Hugh Coakley

I took to the campaign trail with Labour on Saturday in one of Guildford’s most contested wards, Friary and St Nicolas, with ten candidates vying for just three seats.

Labour out canvassing in Friary and St Nicolas. Sue Hackman (Election Manager for Labour), Phil Grainger (volunteer), Elizabeth Mpyisi, Matthew Smith and Brian Creese, the three Labour candidates for Friary and St Nicolas, and David Burgess (volunteer).

The canvassing team met, very appropriately for a Labour team, outside the Co-op in Guildford Park Road on a beautifully sunny morning.

I joined Brian Creese, the local party vice chair, as we walked up Denzil Road. He is one of the three Labour candidates in the ward and a Labour man through and through.

Brian said that he had been, “brought up in the Labour Party. Jim Callaghan was the best man at my parent’s wedding. I even went to primary and secondary school with Jeremy Corbyn. I first voted for him in a mock election at school; me and eight others and I’m still in touch with all of them.”

Brian Creese and Elizabeth Mpyisi, both Labour Party candidates, out canvassing in the hilly Denzil Road in the Friary and St Nicolas ward in Guildford.

“I love doing elections,” he said. “I love meeting people and being challenged. The worst parts are if you meet apathy when you knock on a door.

“And rain, I don’t like canvassing in the rain.

“The worry is that Brexit may reduce the turnout,” he said, “and that will affect us”.

On cue, a forceful resident demanded to know the group’s Brexit allegiance. “If you’re not Leave, you won’t get my vote,” she said. Explaining that Brexit was not relevant in the local elections cut no ice with her

Elizabeth Mpyisi, another Labour candidate for Friary and St Nicolas, trained as a lawyer and was called to the Bar in 1987. She didn’t practice though but went straight into humanitarian work with the United Nations for the next 25 years.

With her background, it’s not surprising that she is very precise in what she is saying and she doesn’t give much away. After years of having to be apolitical with the UN, she joined the Labour party four years ago. “Because I now can.” Elizabeth said: “I fell in love with Labour policies on equality and Jeremy Corbyn’s views on taxation.

“I’ve never canvassed before.” she said, “Being black and female, people are interested. But race and multi-cultural issues have not been raised on the doorstep with me so far.

“The level of organisation has been excellent” by the Guildford Labour Party,” she said, “We know exactly what we need to do and we are being paced so it isn’t too demanding.”

“The worst bit is when people won’t open the door even when you know they are there.”

Matthew Smith, the third of the Labour candidates, is a software producer and lives and works in the ward. Matthew said: “I’m a member of the Labour Party because I’m a socialist.

He is quite bullish about their chances in Friary and St Nicolas: “We probably have more members in the Labour Party in Guildford than all of the other parties put together, I think.”

He added, “We can’t print our manifesto fast enough. They have all gone, all 25,000 of them.

“I get the impression that the Conservatives think that they will lose seats.”

Matthew Smith, one of the three labour candidates for Friary and St Nicolas, debating policy on the doorstep.

Matthew said that he never bets but he was willing to stake £10 with me that there will be more Labour councillors in Guildford than the last election. [There was only one returned in 2015. one was added following a by-election.] “I hope you’re not going to portray me as a betting addict.” he said with a smile.

“People tell me that they don’t feel welcome in Guildford any more,” he said. “Homeless people, empty shops in the town centre and the Tunsgate Quarter that is always empty. And housing is too expensive, it’s a crazy amount of money to buy or rent.”

Sue Hackman, the election manager and also standing in the Burpham ward, is an ex-chief advisor to Secretaries of State for Education including Michael Gove, David Blunkett, Estelle Morris and, “my favourite, Alan Johnson. I’ve helped to write their speeches,” she said.

Sue Hackman, Labour’s election manager, canvassing in Friary and St Nicolas.

She is an impressive character with over 100 books for teachers and pupils to her name and a driving work ethic to get things done.

Asked why she works to get Labour people elected in Guildford, she said: “I’ve been in the Labour Party since I was 16. My father was unemployed and my mother a cleaner. But my motivation comes from inside. I do it because I believe in it.

“The residents’ groups are symptomatic of general dissatisfaction with Guildford Council.”

Brian added: “It will be interesting in this ward. There is one Independent candidate who could split the vote, so you never know.

“But you don’t stand as a Labour candidate in Guildford with an expectation of office, unlike the Tories who see it as a career path. But we do have a chance to get more councillors and a bigger say on the council.”

This tight and committed group are sensing a change is in the air. They are not expecting a breakthrough but they do see this election as their chance for more Labour councillors and more influence in Guildford.

And who knows, they may be right.

The other candidates for Friary and St Nicolas are: Fiona Davidson (R4GV), John de Wit (Con), Angela Goodwin (Lib Dem), Tom Hunt (Lib Dem), Vaibhav Pant (Con), Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem), Bill Stokoe (Con).

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Responses to On The Campaign Trail With Labour In Friary and St Nicolas

  1. Alex Stuart Reply

    April 26, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Great to see loads of people on the #LabourDoorstep! Sorry I couldn’t make that session, but I’ve really enjoyed the campaign so far.

    Guildford is ready for change and Labour can deliver with bold policies that tackle inequality and ensure our town is run for the many!

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