Even though its around 18 months since we moved away from Gloucester, I still keep a fond eye on what goes on politically, not only because of my own involvement, but because it is a bit of an indicator of what could happen nationally. There are council by-elections in Podsmead and Barnwood wards. One caused by a resignation and the other by the passing Lisa Noakes, a lovely lady who I was very sad to hear of her passing. I’m not going to comment on the Barnwood challengers, mainly because I fully expect it to remain Tory – but with a month to go, the runners and riders for Podsmead have been announced, and I can’t help but wryly smile over the stories behind some of the main contenders.
So Podsmead should be a hardcore Labour Ward, but it isn’t. It has had its share of some great councillors and candidates but it is a very personality driven area too, where I have seen some amazing candidates not get the seat (its a single councillor ward). Whilst it somewhat sticks in the craw to admit it, the last good proactive councillor they had was Jeannie Watkins. This was irritating as she is a Tory, but she did get stuck into the community stuff, and really brought some funding and spotlight to the area, which is exactly what Podsmead needed at the time. But what it needs now is someone who will hold the council to account, to ensure Podsmead gets its fair share and the attention that it deserves.
Its interesting to see the current Tory Candidate, Byron Davies. I say interesting because he was a strong Labour Supporter and was my right hand man in Podsmead when I was campaigning for the GE in 2017, and he did a lot of work there in 2015 too. He left Labour not long after the 2017 election because he saw the change in the local party, and whilst he was a strong Corbyn supporter, he seemed to become very disillusioned there too – I can’t blame him for that, after-all I have left and was never “illusioned” with Corbyn in the first place. But I don’t understand how he could jump from Labour to the Tories. He wants to campaign for the least well off, yet it is the Tories who have caused most of it with their ideological austerity. I think as a young man he has a lot of potential in Gloucester Politics, but I think he will struggle in the Conservative Party, he will find it very ideologically challenging when the gloss wears off.
I would love to comment on the Labour Candidate, Lisa Jevins, but I don’t think I have ever met her. I know she is active in one of the Podsmead groups, and has been for a number of years. She might have been a member for years, and I’ve just never seen her, but I suspect she might be a newer member, or a member who has been motivated by Corbyn to get involved. I guess to get a flavour, I would ask her opinion on the Chris Williamson debacle, and then you might get an idea of where she stands.
The Brexit Party is running candidates in both wards, as are UKIP and it will be interesting to see their results, particularly as this is the first local elections that the Brexit party has run in. I suspect they will take more votes from the Tories that people would be willing to admit, and Labour will suffer too, we have to remember Gloucester is a Leave city. Its this that could set the ground for some shocks in both wards, but particularly Podsmead.
The Greens are not standing aside in this fight either which will annoy the Liberal Democrats somewhat I should think. The LD’s are running Seb Field, an experienced Councillor from when he lived in that end of the city, and now he is living the other end of the City, he is clearly hoping to put some of that knowledge and experience to good use. At any other time I would suggest that the Liberals wouldn’t have a hope, but when you have a good community campaigner as a candidate, and the Tories and Labour bleeding candidates to Brexit parties then the Lib Dems may just do the business.
I have to admit to hoping Seb does well here. I have known him for a long time, and whilst we have differing political opinions and we have had some really good political debates (and the odd spat) over the years, I really respect the fact he has not only the good of his ward at heart, but the good of the city too. He thinks in the bigger picture and has lots of experience in working with the council to get results. I think he could help the Liberal Democrats redefine themselves to be more than just the protest vote.
So its Corbyn Labour vs Ex-Labour Vs Lib-Dem with some Brexit spoilers thrown in.
For the first time ever, I am endorsing a Liberal Democrat candidate in Gloucester. These are strange times indeed.