The Canterbury campaign for the next General Election began on Friday, June 9 2017, the very day after Rosie Duffield and Labour pulled off the shock win of the night.
At least it did for the Tories, stunned by the loss of a seat they considered so safe that leading local councillors were off campaigning in other constituencies around Kent and Sussex.
Their campaign to date has been wholly negative, comprising little more than sniping at your new MP.
That suggests that they haven’t actually recognised why Ms Duffield beat Sir Julian Brazier, a man who could almost be a parody of the Shire Tory, out of touch with his constituents about Brexit and apparently with the rest of the world about most aspects of modern life.
Why do the Tories dislike Ms Duffield? The charge sheet seems to consist of her being inexperienced in the ways of Parliament and public speaking, and alternately being a Corbyn stooge and parroting Labour’s policies, or not following what they believe to be Labour’s “party line”, depending entirely on their mood.
These are ludicrous criticisms. Of course, I’m not here to help them work out better ways of attacking your MP, but to suggest they have rather missed the point of the 2017 election in Canterbury.
In short, Ms Duffield won precisely because she is not Sir Julian Brazier.
In addition to the obvious gender difference, Ms Duffield is almost completely the opposite of our former MP.
She connected with the people of Canterbury and Whitstable through her down-to-earth approach and obvious authenticity.
Not being a career politician, Ms Duffield is clearly not trained to blindly advocate policy, but relates what is going on to the real experience of peoples’ lives.
When she talks about schooling and childcare, the threat to our K&C hospital, and women’s issues you know that she understands that reality because she has lived it.
Now, your average parliamentary candidate doesn’t tend to be a single mum with little political experience.
It’s all very well for ex-public schoolboys with the self-confidence and practice that only a private education brings, to criticise someone for memorising her speeches.
The fact is that most people don’t routinely make speeches, haven’t been trained to do it, and find it intimidating even among friends – as almost any wedding speech you’ve ever heard shows.
Faced with the House of Commons in full cry, most people are going to take a while to gain their voice, to become confident and forthright.
The fact is that when Ms Duffield has spoken in the House she has been clear, precise, and above all passionate in defence of our area, which is exactly what you want of an MP. She represents us very well.
Parliament is, I suspect, almost impossible for an outsider to be prepared for – and especially a woman. That’s one reason why so many full time political staff from all parties end up standing as candidates – they know the ropes, the way things get done, and the expectations of the political machine.
But do we really want Parliament full of people whose only connection to real life is the tube journey to and from Westminster?
Given time – and let’s be honest, Ms Duffield has only been our MP for nine months, including both summer and Christmas recesses – anyone can acquire that experience and knowledge. Ms Duffield will do that quickly, in my view.
On the question of the application of policy, this is something all MP’s struggle with.
You see Tory MPs desperately wriggling to deny the impact of their own Government’s policies on their constituents all the time, as if, for example, austerity and the cuts to local government funding from Whitehall had nothing to do with them.
Of course, all MPs have to balance commitment to their party and the manifesto they were elected on with the needs of their local voters. This isn’t new, and there’s no evidence that Ms Duffield is putting party before constituency.
The attempts by Tories on Twitter to create some sense that she says one thing here and votes another way in Parliament are quite desperate.
The bottom line is simple. Canterbury and Whitstable elected someone who doesn’t do professional politics.
She is approachable, personable and honest. She has won local people’s support through a combination of personality, commitment and hard work. It’s no wonder that the Conservatives feel threatened by her.
Dave Wilson is a Labour Party member and community activist who has worked in and around local authorities for 35 years.