Archie Manners writes about how the unsuccessful Conservative candidate in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is continuing to pursue a local campaign with gusto. She contested the seat at the general election and reduced a notional Lib Dem majority of nearly 9,000 to just 2,690.
During the election most candidates would have had their ‘big thing’. It might have been the weekly bin collections saga, or perhaps a lack of funding for potholes from the local County Council. For Anne-Marie Trevelyan in north Northumberland there is more than a mild obsession with dualling the A1.
The A1 is a modern three- and even four-lane road as you travel north, all the way to Newcastle. And then suddenly, just as Edinburgh starts to appear on the signposts, the road shrinks to single carriageway. Traffic moves at the speed of the tractor in front and convoys of lorries back up, leaving no overtaking opportunities for miles. One sits there like Ed Balls’ chances of leading the Labour Party - completely static, shouting at others who try a risky overtaking move.
Whilst some candidates simply wouldn’t have the energy to do anything but sit on a beach the summer after an election, some candidates are different - and Anne-Marie is one of them. This doesn’t take long to find out: as you walk into her dining room you are confronted with what looks like a terrorist cell. Laptops strewn everywhere with a stream of noisy telephones and a couple of enthusiastic teenagers who claim to be able to ‘help’.
She proudly states that the campaign is now well underway with a website - www.dualthea1.com - and a full-on survey for businesses and residents alike. Since October 2008, her team has been tirelessly lobbying to get the road re-classified into the National Roads network. Thanks to their work, ministers at the Department for Transport have now implemented this change of status. It's now up to Anne-Marie and her team to provide the evidence they have been painstakingly collecting to justify the money to dual the A1.
She is modest, but not modest enough to let the incumbent MP (Sir Alan Beith, once a strong opponent) to take credit for her relentless hard work on this one. There is the tricky question of hurting the oh-so-precious coalition. But people like Anne-Marie who are fighting a once-strong Liberal seat will attempt to bash Beith any time (not a hugely tough job). Why should her constant pressure to get things done for her patch harm the Coalition?
I hope David Cameron recognises the dedication of candidates like Anne-Marie who stay put without real support from CCHQ when they have no official role. Naturally we're going to have to wait until the boundary changes are finalised, but the sooner that candidates can officially be selected in tight seats like this, the better.
Whatever happens, the A1 is driving Anne-Marie mad and she’s going to keep lobbying until the tarmac starts to be laid.