I don’t think I’ll ever forget where I was when the rumours of the snap General Election were first heard on that Monday morning in April.
Stood canvassing with our County Councillor Dean Collins on Traffic Terrace in Barrow Hill, suddenly the feverish speculation about a snap General Election started swirling around the news channels and my What’s App Group of MP colleagues all reacted with (as you can imagine) a mixture of excitement and alarm.
The Labour Party had never started an election campaign in worse shape, with speculation about the party leader’s performance and barely disguised division within Labour.
Following a slot on the Lunchtime news about the election, I left London for the last time (for seven weeks at least) that night, and can recall many colleagues who seemed already consigned to the fact that they wouldn’t be returning.
In Derbyshire, we still had the small matter of the County Council elections to contest first. We held on to seven of the nine Chesterfield seats, as Derbyshire went blue, but forebodingly, many voters had promised ‘I’ll stick with you locally, but I don’t know about the General Election’.
Immediately following the County Council election, I attempted to marshall our exhausted troops for a further six weeks of electoral effort to retain Chesterfield as a Labour seat, though many already had pre-booked post County Council elections holidays booked, and others were clearly in need of a breather.
The process of getting out on the stump and meeting voters, is always a simultaneously exhausting and uplifting experience. The early days of the campaign were dominated by indecision about the Brexit question, and the fitness of the Labour Party for Government. Early polls showed the Conservatives heading for a monumental landslide and talk of the end of the Labour Party.
And then things started to change. Firstly, I believe the British public became anxious about the prospect of a landslide majority. Secondly, the Tory promise to reintroduce fox hunting, was a useful reminder to many Labour voters of what an unfettered Tory Government would be like. Then the Labour manifesto which offered a genuine alternative vision of what Britain could be like, while the Conservative offering was to say the least, underwhelming.
Meanwhile as Jeremy Corbyn was growing in people’s eyes with his candid and relaxed approach, the Prime Minister’s stuttering and evasive campaign saw her become much diminished.
I was also gratified by the number of people who were placing a vote of trust in me despite their misgivings about national affairs.
By polling day, I was expecting that we would hold Chesterfield, but still harboured pessimism about our prospects nationally.
I think it is fair to say that none of us saw the increase in turnout or the political awakening of younger voters coming. The exit poll electrified volunteers watching the results at the Labour Club, and despite my misgivings proved to be largely accurate.
Attending the count at the Queens Park was, as always a somewhat nervy occasion, but it quickly became obvious that whilst my majority had shrunk a little, the people of Chesterfield had returned me to parliament.