Gloucester Labour is going through a really critical process at the moment: choosing our candidate to fight the General Election in 2015.
Jim Murphy MP and Sophy Gardner in Gloucester
We are down to the final 3 candidates: Sophy Gardner, David Purchase and Keir Dhillion. The final Hustings are a week tomorrow, all three candidates have been working to convince members to vote for them. This is a really important decision, not only for Gloucester Labour, but Gloucester residents too. We need to not just choose a candidate, but someone who will take the fight to, and beat Richard Graham, as well as be an inspiration to current and future Labour Party members. That is why I think the right candidate for both Gloucester and Labour is Sophy Gardner.
Before the process started, I had a hard think about what I wanted out of a candidate, from my position as Vice Chair of the Gloucester Labour Party, as the Campaign Coordinator, as a candidate and as a member. As I see, it we need:
- A Strong Labour Voice who can take the fight to the Tories and take Richard Graham to task.
- A strong Leader, who can inspire Gloucester Labour Members to unite and work hard against the Tories and Lib Dems.
- A fundraiser who can encourage investment to our local campaigns and structure.
- A Candidate who is willing to listen with empathy and work hard for their constituents.
- A Candidate who holds true Labour Values and will sand up for Gloucester in Westminster.
These are not in a priority order, but we have to remember that there are 2 years to go until the election, and it is not going to be easy. Richard Graham does open himself up to criticism and provides plenty of examples of how not to act as an MP, but we are also at the mercy of national swing. Gloucester is often compared to a political thermometer – whatever colour Gloucester goes, tends to predict the government. But as Jim Murphy MP recently said to us, it is time for that to change. Gloucester can not just reflect national opinion, but should drive it. It is this that really confirms my belief that we need a candidate in that driving seat who can show Labour in the very best light.
When the selection process started, CV’s and letters started arriving from candidates both local and national. Some strong, with a wide range of talent, but while there was many good candidates, it was Sophy Gardiner’s leaflet that really stood out as meeting pretty much all of the priorities that I had set.
Her career in the RAF is fascinating, and she seems to have achieved something that not many can boast of: a wide range of respect and admiration from peers, subordinates and senior officers. I must admit, before I met her, I thought someone with a strong military background might just be a bit much. But when I met her, I was pleasantly surprised. Her manner was really friendly and easy-going. It became clear that her style of leadership is exactly what we need here in Gloucester.
Sophy at the Javelin Park Incinerator demonstration
While her knowledge of defence is very strong, her knowledge of the issues that affect us here in Gloucester is deep, and even in the short time I have known her, she has been able to give me inspiration when trying to solve local issues based on her experiences from her military postings. That breadth of knowledge and personal drive and inspiration will be invaluable to win, not only in 2015, but in the City elections in 2014 and for our County candidates in less than 3 weeks time.
But it is, I guess, easy to write well and sound good in pretty much control conditions. I wanted to see how she was on the Doorstep, how she interacted with the residents. Sophy came out in Kingsway and Grange and she did something that no other candidate has done. She asked me about the issues in the area, my experiences, why I was standing and why residents should vote for me. She then hit the doorsteps with me and I was really stunned in her approach. She was able to communicate with residents in such an empathetic way, drawing from residents their issues and you could see that it wasn’t the “necessary evil” that some people see door knocking as, but she really enjoyed meeting and talking to people. The crowning element for me was at the end of the session, she gave me a run down of the issues she had picked up and her thoughts about some of the solutions.
As a member of the Services she let her Labour Party membership, which she had since being a teenager, lapse, but on leaving the RAF she rejoined. While I never knew Sophy before this process, I have found we know a lot of the same people because of my day job, from Pilots and people who worked for her, to her peers. I took the opportunity to ask those people what sort of person she was and how she displayed her Labour values while doing her job. Everyone I asked came back with really strong recommendations. They all knew that Sophy has Labour values at her core, and her reputation for talking politics and in particular Labour Values is a common theme.
I believe that Sophy is the only person who can deliver what Gloucester Labour needs. She is the strong intelligent voice to counter and beat Richard Graham. Her 19 years of commitment in the services as a successful leader will be great to rebuild our membership and supporters network and help us work as an effective team. Her experience of raising money from a wide range of sources will ensure financial stability from which to run our campaigns at all levels.
And finally, it is obvious that her passion for Labour values are ingrained to her core, from her early membership of the party to her commitment to socialist values through her time in the services and then leaving the services and rejoining Labour and providing support to the shadow Defence Team, Labour Women and Labour members in campaigning here in Gloucester.
It has never been more important to select the right candidate to represent Gloucester Residents and I believe that Sophy Gardner is the only candidate who can meet all the challenges that Gloucester presents and lead us to back to Election Success.