Each week a different PPC provides us with an insight into life as a candidate and gives us a flavour of their own campaign and interests. If you are a candidate and are keen to be featured, please email Jonathan Isaby.
This week’s diary is written by Julia Mulligan, who has been candidate since November 2006 for Leeds North West, a three-way marginal which will be fiercely fought. A Conservative seat until 1997, it was then won by Labour, but gained by the Liberal Democrats in 2005. The Conservatives are well-placed to take the seat, having polled the largest share of the vote across the constituency in last year’s local elections. Julia is a local businesswoman.
Saturday 22nd August
Over eighty per cent of businesses in Leeds are small businesses. I run one of them and we’ve felt the impact of the recession. On the doorstep people relate to my business background but practically work is demanding, so evenings and weekends are always full on.
I get up early to spend time with my girls before picking up volunteers for the day’s campaigning. Josie, my 8-year old, is an expert deliverer. I started delivering at about her age in Otley (which is in my constituency) with my mum – I really love it when Josie comes out with us.
Today we’re in Otley delivering my latest newspaper and canvassing. We are getting a good response on the doorstep now – people want change and despite the expenses scandal, they appreciate a personal visit, particularly outside an election.
We’re also supporting a local children’s charity by delivering leaflets promoting one of Otley’s most popular community events of the year – the Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza, which raises funds for ‘Hang on to a Dream’. I’ll be on the gate selling tickets and we’ll also have a stall.
Sunday 23rd August
I’ve been looking forward to today – we’ve got ConservativeHome’s Jonathan Isaby speaking at our summer lunch. The morning also brings the whiff of an Ashes victory – my husband Patrick spends the car ride fiddling with his phone to ensure regular updates. Although my mind’s on the event, I’m rather pleased about this. The venue’s a marquee provided for the second time by a local supporter. I am always delighted and heartened by people’s commitment and generosity. I also think that the Party’s pledge that money raised in Yorkshire stays in Yorkshire has helped considerably.
The lunch is a collaboration between several target seats (Stuart Andrew from Pudsey and Alec Shelbrooke from Elmet and Rothwell are also featured in the picture here; Nigel Adams from Selby and Ainsty is not). There’s great team spirit in Yorkshire, which I think bodes well for our region. In Leeds, the current MPs have failed spectacularly to work together to get the investment the city needs. We’ve already started lobbying the shadow cabinet, particularly over transport and we are determined to make Leeds a priority for a Conservative government.
Monday 24th August
My day job is interspersed with answering emails, which are now increasing in volume. I try to reply promptly and honestly – people seem jaded and don’t expect a personal response, which is perhaps indicative of low expectations of politicians nowadays. It’s rather dispiriting and I am determined never to be like that.
After work I meet with Matt Baker, our new candidate for local elections in Weetwood and Mark, one of our key team members. The ward’s crucial for us. Matt’s a former professional footballer – he’s young, keen and talented. He came forward via a campaign I am running in his area about parking problems.
I am also very fortunate to have a fantastic team of students at the heart of my campaign. I get frustrated sometimes that members take ‘the young people’ for granted or think they’re not involved because they dislike formal meetings. Tonight we’re bowling – events like this help get new students involved. Between the strikes(!) we chat about campaigning and gossip about the opposition…
Some of the team are entering their final year and are very worried about finding work. A large student population in two of my wards means I have the 9th youngest constituency in the UK, so this is a major issue. One of my team graduated last year with a First in Japanese and he’s just got a job working in his local Jobcentre, but he can’t start because his CRB check is taking so long. Now that’s criminal.
Tuesday 25th August
We gather in a local pub after work – tonight’s our monthly campaign team meeting. Our agent, Jas has come back from his holiday especially for it. We’ve a lot to discuss, particularly as we’ve a few new team members and have recently restructured.
There are a lot of great things happening – we’re getting much more sophisticated in our approach. I’m not going into the details about our campaign here, because that would be daft.
Wednesday 26th August
Today we’re out canvassing in Weetwood – we’ve set ourselves some ambitious pledge targets and everyone is keen to do as much face-to-face canvassing as possible before the nights set in. There is a really strong team spirit in this ward now – and we all have a good time tonight. Matt’s wife Jill makes fantastic buns (I think she’d call them cup cakes) and we all swap notes afterwards about the messages we need to communicate and our tactics to do so.
One of the topics of conversation is today’s very disappointing announcement by Network Rail about high-speed rail between the North and London. We are furious that Leeds is excluded from their recommendations. We are delighted to see a very quick, robust commitment by our transport team to include Leeds. Let the battle for the Link to Leeds commence…
Thursday 27th August
I’m in London on business today. I get into the office very early as I’ve a load of stuff to catch up on - by the time I got finished last night preparing comments for the local press and writing yet more emails it was well after midnight.
The trip to London gives me a clear four hours to think through and write my next lot of literature. I’m fussy about my literature – I think good design is vital and I like to write most of it myself, although input from local councillors is invaluable and I appreciate the help I get. I use the train journey to think about everything we’re planning before and after Conference. It crosses my mind that when we get high speed rail, my quiet time on the train will be cut in half! Not that it was very quiet – I always take my earplugs with me so I can concentrate on my work and today I certainly needed them!
Friday 28th August
It’s a bank holiday weekend and I’ve taken a rare day off to spend with the family. We visit Lightwater Valley and the kids are so excited. They’ve been looking forward to this since last year and they want to go on every ride. The weather is a bit soggy so the picnic doesn’t happen, but all in all it’s a fun day. The girls are worried that if I get elected they won’t see me – so not much will change then! My mum also comes with us – she’s my campaign manager. We try very hard not to talk politics, but as ever, it proves irresistible…