Tag Archives: Elections

In Conversation: With Rebecca Smith: Reflections on #GE2019

By Tobias Chalcraft

Exactly two months after the General Election that gave the Conservatives a large majority, we reunited with Rebecca Smith, a Plymouth City Councillor and former Conservative Candidate in the snap election, to look back on an outcome that delivered her some mixed feelings.

When asked about the election result, Rebecca initially provides a positive response by turning her attention to the national level. She started by saying “it was obviously better than we imagined or predicted”, before going on to add that the government is now in a position to deliver its manifesto without any parliamentary obstruction. 

Reflecting on the constituency result, Rebecca said it was “disappointing [and a] real shame” before highlighting that, although Labour were re-elected, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport saw a general swing towards her party. She claimed the result was “quite an exciting opportunity for the [Conservative] party”, as they now face the task of changing face in order to appease new voters that gave them their majority of MPs. Following this result, Rebecca sees the seat as now “all to play for” and hopes that Boris Johnson has Plymouth voters in mind when he speaks of ambitions to solidify support amongst his new voters.

Humbled by the turnout of activists from across the UK who came to support her, the councillor said, “In terms of what we got on the doors; it was probably the most positive campaign I’ve ever been involved in” while reflecting on invitations into homes to meet constituents, and seek their vote, alongside volunteers from the around the UK. However, there were some downsides of the campaign too, especially one bad experience in which a constituent swore at her, whilst holding their toddler. 

Looking back, she described her campaign as “strong” because of her ability to continue with TV interviews, hustings and door knocking alongside suffering from a severe headache for three weeks.

One moment that she found to be surreal took place on Christmas Eve in a Plymouth shopping centre, when Rebecca’s Dad pointed out that numerous shoppers probably voted for her.

Looking at why her campaign was not successful, Rebecca started by looking at Plymouth’s large student population. “It’s nothing new that young people vote Labour and older people vote Conservative”, she said, pointing out that her seat houses students from three universities. She added that Conservatives would only be able to win over students once they persuade them to “drill down into everything [the Conservatives] are saying and realise that it is going to benefit them”. 

Moving on, considerations turned to the opposition as she thinks Labour’s ability to adopt an attractive agenda of promoting “free stuff” for students provides a big hurdle for the Conservatives to win here. Her response concludes with claims that it is “trendy” to vote twice and that she believes the government should highlight the illegality of casting votes in university and home constituencies.

Once pushed on whether she believes voter fraud is being committed by students, Rebecca mentioned that “credible sources” have witnessed voter fraud from local students before saying “our system is open to fraud”.

Losing an election has a hard-hitting impact on the wellbeing of politicians with Ed Balls once likening the experience to dying. To help cope with the emotional, mental and physical impact of the campaign, Rebecca booked a holiday to California. After candidly saying that she was briefly “peopled out”, she underlined efforts of being kind to herself over Christmas, including time on the sofa with Netflix. It was also important for her to take time to process the multiple emotions of electoral defeat and she expressed gratitude towards friends, with similar experiences, that it takes time to reconcile.

The interview turned to the future, as we discussed what our former candidate will be doing to keep busy before the next election, due to take place in four years. “If I could fight a seat again, I’d love to”, but she pointed out that “ultimately, it’s a massive waiting game”. Nevertheless, instead of waiting around, Rebecca will be re-doubling her efforts as a local councillor for the Plymstock Radford ward.

In terms of running in Plymouth again, Rebecca said she would “definitely like to run locally” but suggested Plymouth Sutton & Devonport could only be won if Labour’s strong grip over students began to loosen.

It is safe to say that election defeat has not ended this political career, as proven at a point in this interview in which Rebecca stated “I like to think I’m not a one hit wonder with election campaigns” which certainly reflects the more driven and ambitious figure she has become.

European Elections 2019 Opinion: Where do we go from here?

By Mitch Gregory

Last month a whole continent went to the polls in the second largest democratic process in the world. Considering these elections were never meant to take place in the United Kingdom, they sure did cause a stir.

Arguments over whether Leave or Remain won the elections, as if that matters, have been flown across newspapers an twitter alike; the casualties of this election have been significant: a Prime Minister, a Government, potentially two political parties, and the Leader of the Opposition.

So where do we go from here? This isn’t House of Cards, there is no big season finale which will nicely tie up loose ends and plot points will converge to resolution, no, it is seemingly increasingly more likely that the country will end this year more divided and angry than we entered it. Who knew that was possible.

If we look at the options we’ll likely face over the coming months, a solution doesn’t jump out. Firstly, a ‘People’s Vote’; seen by some as an attempt to overturn the 2016 referendum, seen by others as a way of breaking the impasse, and seen by most as a waste of time which will only divide the country further. Especially if Remain were to win. A second referendum would work to fix the country if Leave won again: who could argue with two victories? But if Remain were to win it’d be even. Would we need a third one to break the tie? The only way another vote could conclusively end is if the options were between Theresa May’s, albeit dead, deal or No-Deal, described recently by Tory leadership hopeful, Jeremy Hunt, as ‘political suicide’.

Secondly a General Election. If the Conservatives win we’re back to square one with nowhere to go. If Labour win we’ll certainly need to delay Brexit again and if one looks at the Labour Party’s policy on Brexit it doesn’t offer us much more clarity than we already have—so an election, while fun, probably isn’t the best way forward. Again, the only way an election would work is if there was some kind of SNP/Labour/Liberal Democrat/Green coalition wherein Labour were forced to adopt a second referendum. But then again, see above for why that isn’t as clean-cut.

For me, a mere observer, the answer must be compromise. Not a Theresa May style “Give me what I want or no” compromise, nor a Jeremy Corbyn “Let me stay on this fence” compromise. A real one, with the European Union. A Norway-style Brexit for instance, or something of that sort. That way we will be further away from the EU than we are at current, we won’t be out, yet, but we will be on our way to leaving. Sure, Brexiteers may find that hard to stomach but which would they put first: their political project, or the economic, social, political stability of the country. Unfortunately, the answer even to that is as clear as fog.