Staying in a bed and breakfast for a Conference, there is often a camaraderie with people who share the first meal of the day with you for the best part of a week. I was privileged to meet a woman who demonstrates how hard work and principled positions can win against the odds. At the last General Election in 2005 Labour's Ann Cryer MP who I am pictured with faced a diffciult task.
Ann is MP in marginal Keighley which she won in 1997. Labour's vote amongst the sizable Asian population was weakened because of Iraq. Ann had also been the country's leading campaigner against forced marriages in the Asian community. This sensitive issue had highlighted race issues. In these circumstances Nick Griffin from the British National Party (BNP) decided to stand. With a national swing against the Labour government Ann faced a challenging battle. Yet remarkably she won and this is the key thing. She had a swing to her! One of only 2 Labour MPs to achieve this.
Why did this happen? First and foremost everyone I have heard talk about Ann mentions her hard work. Second, did her prinicpled position on forced marriages attract the majority of Asians who oppose this archaic practice to vote for her despite Iraq? It seems likely that Asian women in particular in the secrecy of the ballot box will have voted for her in large numbers. Third Ann believed, she lead her team, working hard from the front and had a record to be proud of.
I am proud that the Labour government passed the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act. To those who complain about too much legislation, young girls should not be married off as if they were chattels. This legislation is a great testimony to Ann and her campaigning. Whilst Ann is retiring she told me how she will still be campaigning for her successor and on the causes she believes in. She is also working on a book when time allows. At 70 Ann acknowledges time's effect on her energy levels.
I wish Ann a long and happy retirement and feel privileged to have met her. For anybody who thinks the outcome of the next election is inevitable her example against the odds is an inspiration.
At the other end of a Parliamentary career I also nattered over breakfast to Eileen Driver, Labour's candidate in Richmond against William Hague MP. She is determined to hold him to account for his record. Eileen described how difficult it was to get local press coverage even when as pictured Cabinet minister Hilary Benn visited.
From what I pick up, this is an increasing problem of fair coverage. Local papers are often Conservative with a small c and I hope Eileen is successful in fighting for fairer coverage. At Labour Party Conference she was here, there and everywhere working long days attending Conference sessions and fringe meetings.