Sergeant Watson sends a postcard home from Barnsley

by Tom Watson

I always find it amusing to be described as “Scottish” in the newspaper columns written by famous people I have never met. I think Jackie Ashley started the trend. Back in 2006 she described me as “burly, Scottish and a former engineering-union official….most people’s idea of the archetypal Brownite”. She was spot on, except that I am neither Scottish nor a former trade union official, though I did work in the political department of the AEEU and some may describe me as “burly”. Had she written, as Ann Treneman once did, that I was a “down market Billy Bunter” she would have been more accurate.

Actually Jackie, I’m a Yorkshire man. South Yorkshire. With heritage in mines and steel that stretches generations. That’s why it’s so great to be in Barnsley helping Dan Jarvis win for Labour.

I think there’s going to be a by-election here soon. And the climate here is a gift for the political campaigner. The people on the doorsteps are writing the slogans. “I want you to go to London and tell that David Cameron that I’m already sick of ‘im, me love”, said a kindly pensioner who voted Tory last May.

“Send a message to that Nick Clegg and David Cameron that they’re ruining our country”, said another lifelong Labour voter who said she previously felt let down by Tony and Gordon. Never, in a lifetime of politics, has anyone called on me to send a message to anyone. I’ve written it on enough leaflets though. I hope it makes an appearance up here again.

Though there’s not much sign of the Liberals, the Tories are quietly working hard up here: collecting voter id and phoning voters. They need to be. The British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, has promised to make it the biggest campaign the BNP has ever run. And the Nazis in the BNP up here are brazen. They run their street stalls in the town centre at weekends and make their presence felt. Their candidate talks about the “right of women to be treated as equals and not be subjected to humiliating treatment by Muslim rape gangs”. They make the Black Country fascists I’m used to look like kittens.  We need your help to take them on.

I’ve fought a lot of elections over the years and worked with dozens of candidates – all of whom were loved. Yet Dan Jarvis is something special. He’s served his country as a member of 1 Para. He’s been at the sharp end in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s bright. He’s charming and he’s kind. He’s jumped out of planes strapped to 100 pound kit bags. He’s run eight marathons in seven days – across the dunes of the Sahara desert.

In short, he’s one of the best candidates I’ve ever met. And I’ve met a lot. You get to know a lot about them when you’re in the crucible of a by-election. You get to know them best in the breakfast hours. Over the years, I’ve had to drag candidates out of bed and force feed them mugs of tea to wake them up. I’ve had to revive candidates who have suffered sleepless nights, phoning me endlessly in the early hours in states of terror – not able to face the following day’s activity. I’ve even ironed their shirts.

Former soldier, Eric Joyce’s by-election was unusual. He would run over mountain tops before sunrise and bang out a hundred press ups before jumping out of his front door into the Rover 75, where I would be munching on a  greasy bacon bap, waiting to take our iron man to his first visit of the day.

Dan is up and out at five minutes before sunrise.  He wears polished shoes and a red tie knotted with an exquisiteness that I have never been able to achieve in 35 years of knotting red ties. He likes a morning briefing with the team in preparation for their day ahead. Then he leads a speed march through the day, ending on a sunset “wrap up” meeting.

Campaign agent, Paul Nicholson has had to rota the organisers into two shifts each day in order not to wear them out.  And our team is loving every minute of it. I’ve never seen a more motivated by-election team. I think I’m even losing weight, not enough to dent the Billy Bunter image, but it’s a by-election first.

Barnsley needs an MP like Dan standing up for them in Westminster. Nationally, the Labour party needs his insight and experience. He’s going to make a big difference.

But this election is also important because we really do have to send a message to Cameron. The Tories pulverised towns like Barnsley last time they were in government. This community and our party need to send the message that we’re not going to let them get away with it again. And local members need your help in doing it

Why not pay a visit this weekend? The easiest way to sign up is at the web site:

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

promoted by paul nicholson on behalf of dan jarvis both at barnsley labour party,queens court,regent st, s70 2eg.

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2 Responses to “Sergeant Watson sends a postcard home from Barnsley”

  1. Robert says:

    I would never call you burly fat yes, also a Tory sorry new Labour, but no I would not even call you a socialist.

  2. vern says:

    “Actually Jackie, I’m a Yorkshire man. South Yorkshire. With heritage in mines and steel that stretches generations”
    Kidderminster is in South Yorkshire these days is it Tom? Or have you suddenly forgotten your roots, with your little CND badges and militant attitude?
    Good to see the usual level of drivel being served up again though-a credit to the good people of Sandwell. Well done!

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