In the last election, Bristol saw a massive swing to Labour, so this time Bristolians have led an energetic campaign in nearby seats, reports Nathan Street
The scene in Bristol has its own dynamics compared to the national picture. Bristol has 4 constituencies - Bristol South, Bristol East, Bristol West and Bristol North West - all with labour MPs and 3 of which are safe seats. In the last election, campaigners ran a largely defensive campaign trying to hold on against threats from the Tories in Bristol East and Greens/Lib Dems in Bristol West. It ended up with hugely increased Labour majorities in those seats, and those with a sense of ambition about Labour's chances and who campaigned in North West managed to turn an approximate 5,000 Tory majority to a near mirror 5,000 Labour majority.
This election, campaigners are spending much more time going into existing Tory seats now to win them. Some campaigners have been going to other projected marginals seats a bit further afield in the surrounding South West. But the main time spent for most canvassers has been in Filton and Bradley Stoke (colloquially referred to as FaBS) and in Kingswood. In FaBS, Bristol councillor Mhairi Threlfall, who is generally considered to be from the Labour Party’s left, is trying to overturn a near 4,200 majority of sitting Tory MP Jack Lopresti. There is a real belief and optimism that FaBS will turn red.
In Kingswood, the task is tougher, but another Bristol councillor Nicola Bowden-Jones, who is a Corbyn supporter, is waging a strong campaign to topple a 7,500 majority for Tory Cabinet Member Chris Skidmore. Every day in both constituencies, it features multiple slots of canvassing and multiple boards being run per slot – with the numbers of canvassers at one time sometimes approaching triple figures, such is the level of sustained and dedicated support.
A number of local Counterfire members have taken part in these throughout the campaign. Speaking with the campaigners involved, they feature a fairly broad range of politics, and I have spoken to those who just hate Tories, to those who’d normally vote Green, to those involved in XR, to revolutionary socialists, many many UCU striking lecturers - and of course all the different Labour party members in all its broad church corners. The atmosphere amongst canvassers has been generally jolly and supportive, united by their common aim. Organising groups on Whatsapp for each day of the week are so full, they reach their 200+ limits.
With these 2 seats prioritised, Bristol North West has received rather less help than it did last time – partially based on the sitting MP Darren Jones, who is seen to be rather critical of Labour’s current leadership. Still, the belief is Labour will have done enough to hold onto the seat. Bristol South and East remain certain Labour holds.
Bristol West it should be noted is the Green Party’s number 1 target seat nationally, despite a staggering 38,000 Labour majority, so there has been some frostiness between Green Party and Labour Party supporters locally, particularly when their former candidate for that seat, MEP Molly Scott-Cato, is campaigning hard in nearby Stroud, risking splitting the anti-Tory vote away from Labour MP David Drew, who had just a 700 majority over the Tories in 2017.
The former Green Party candidate Tom Meadowcroft for FaBS stepped aside for Mhrari, commenting on Twitter,
“It makes no sense to stand on a platform where we criticize Labour's environmental policies but are tacitly asking voters to turn a blind eye to the Lib Dems objectively much worse ones (while we insist that this is the environmental election not the Brexit election!”
No doubt the absolute highlight of the campaign has been Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at an outdoor rally in Bristol this past Monday 9th December. The event was called by Labour with just a day's notice, but that did not stop an amazing approximate 4000 people turfing up the lawn on College Green on a workday afternoon to hear him speak for 10 minutes about the problems facing the country and Labour's transformative plans.
Anecdotally, I know some did not know he was attending, so no doubt many more would have been there with more build-up time. It really gave campaigners a morale boost, showing his real popularity. It will have likely swung wavering voters or those wanting to check out what he really had to say, and the event and speech got a lot of publicity from local media in the aftermath – showing all how left wing Bristol can be.
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