Eastleigh Labour candidate John O’Farrell has warned Labour swing voters who helped Chris Huhne increase his majority in 2010 “Don’t get fooled again”
The scriptwriter and novelist had popped into Artisans Coffee house to have a chat with Eastleigh News about his campaign and seemed buoyed up by the sight of the bookies odds in Ladbrokes window across the street showing Labour’s odds had shortened to 8/1.
O Farrell is friendly – – confident, quick to put me at ease. He proves to be a fast but articulate and eloquent speaker – a distinct improvement on the last Labour PPC who was none of those things and downright hostile to boot.
The one before that went AWOL only to re-surface as a Lib Dem Councillor.
Could this be third time lucky for Labour?
I first ask him what made him decide to stand:
For some time I’ve felt a growing sense of anger at the coalition government and the way it is putting vicious policies in place with no mandate. A by-election comes along with only three weeks campaigning time and it’s going to be a tough call for Labour in such a short time coming from third.
I’ve always had this part of me that which would like to be an MP and I knew if I got selected it could make a difference in the number of volunteers we could get down here for Labour a bit of extra publicity for us in terms of getting in the papers getting it on the TV – that could help Labour and could possibly `swing it’ enough to make those former Labour voters who voted Lib Dem last time “to keep the Tories out” come back to Labour in sufficient numbers that we could actually take the seat .
I ask him about Lib Dem literature which consistently targets Labour support by urging them to vote tactically but he refuses to be drawn and gleefully tells me instead about his St Valentine’s Day prank earlier, when he sent a bunch of red roses to the Conservatives from the Lib Dems with the message:
“I hate it when we fight”.
— John O’Farrell (@mrjohnofarrell) February 14, 2013
“There was a fantastic response from twitter. People know these two are political bedfellows and the Eastleigh by-election is really just a lovers tiff.”
He took the theme further…
“I would like to challenge the coalition parties for one of them to stand aside.
Instead of the both spending a £100,000 fighting tooth and nail to elect a candidate who is going to vote the same for the same polices. Why don’t they give £100,000 to the people of Eastleigh or a local charity like the surestart centre?
Of the £200,000 they are jointly spending – £100,000 is a complete waste of money because it s just for the same polices.
So I’m asking for one of them to stand aside and let the other on have a free run for the coalition
That the serious point of the flowers I sent today …they are in bed together …that’s the reality of it and Labour is the alternative.”
I ask why is it that the Eastleigh Local area has some of the worst deprivation in the Borough but also the lowest voting turnout.
Why is the people who need the most representation don’t vote and why can’t Labour win their support?
“What motivates me in politics is that the people who shout the loudest and get the most attention are the people who are better off.
” There was a disconnection with the voters in Central Eastleigh and we haven’t had the manpower but Labour is now back in force in Eastleigh.
Is it just a manpower thing?
“Also tactical voting – the idea that you should vote Lib Dem where Labour come third – that’s proved to result in a Tory coalition so the message is clear:
If you want change then you have to vote Labour in Eastleigh.
If you want to protest against the coalition you can’t vote Liberal Democrat.
If you have voted Lib Dem tactically in the past – this doesn’t work anymore because they are the same as the Tories.
What do you make of Lib Dems claims that Chris Huhne was a good constituency MP?
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was as lots of MPs are good constituency MPs. Most MPs are honest ,work hard and do the right thing.
I’m trying to be as positive as I can be. Chris Huhne is a tragic personal story but its in the past so no, we are not playing on it.
I’m just asking people to think about our policies and what Labour stands for – policies that will make a big change in people’s lives.
You’re not a local person would you relocate if you won the seat?
“I would be based here during weekends when I did my constituency and in the week I’d be in London where I would do my Westminster work.”
Do you think you have a grasp of local issues?
Do you think it’s a good idea for the council to give up a bit of our recreation ground to Sainsbury’s so they can build a bigger supermarket?
Well I’m very keen to support development that provides new jobs but we have to be sensitive to the green issues in the area. Like the Botley housing development. Green space being lost to building houses that people won’t be able to afford. The same with gravel pits there is insufficient consideration to loss of green space. We do need jobs and homes here but there are Brownfield sites as well.
Look, I don’t pretend that I’m up on local issues like people who have lived here all their lives.
Bu basic issues are the same across the country – standard of living, tax, are local health services any good, whether your kid’s school is any good – these are the things people care about from Land’s End to John O’Groats and for those issues I come from exactly the right place…I come from the Labour party.
Do you think your experience as a scriptwriter will help you in this campaign?
People seem to find it refreshing to find that I’m not an identikit politician and I haven’t been a special advisor or a researcher in the House of Commons and that I’ve been earning my crust as a gagsmith and a novelist.
People have said they find you laid back, relaxed – are you really serious about this?
Well I am relaxed because I am confident Labour is in the right. I’ve been on the stump for 30 years. I have been campaigning for Labour since 1979 when I was 17 years old and got 30 votes out of a possible 1000 in a school election.
I hoping to do better than that this time!
I’m hoping voters will try me out. It’s only for two years if don’t like me you can kick me out in two years time. You tried the coalition; now why not give Labour a try this time?
Do you have a message to those Labour voters who are considering voting tactically?
“Don’t get fooled again.
Labour is the only alternative to the coalition”