A few names with reasons who have made 2015 bearable
Whitehall and Westminster
As mentioned in video review of the year, the general election dominated the first five months of the year – and the result will linger on for a long time to come for better or worse. So my ‘Member of Parliament social media star for 2015’ is:
Heidi Allen MP – South Cambridgeshire -> @HeidiAllen75
I first met Ms Allen long before she was famous – I sound a bit like that die-hard music band fan who was like ‘Yeah – remember those early gigs when it was three men and a dragon fairy at the local boozer? They like totally sold out when they started doing those stadium gigs right?’ From that first interview I knew she was going to be a very different MP to Andrew Lansley, and that her nearest rival, Lib Dem Seb Kindserley was going to have his work cut out.
Yes, she’s a Conservative, but then South Cambridgeshire is a safe as houses Tory seat. (They returned Andrew Lansley on more than one occasion!) Out of all of the MPs that we could have got, South Cambridgeshire has got lucky: A bright, personable, accessible and hard-working constituency-focussed MP who is not worried about climbing the ministerial career pole. How many Conservative MPs would have held a series of public meetings to otherwise hostile audiences to discuss Jeremy Hunt’s plans for the NHS? (See a video of Ms Allen’s speech here).
She’s spoken out publicly against her party’s whip on a number of issues – more in the past six months than his predecessor did in his entire parliamentary career. Ah – but it’s the vote that matters! When it’s on a knife-edge, yes. But remember that South Cambridgeshire voted by about 50% for Ms Allen, so one could argue that by going against what was in the Conservative manifesto is against the wishes of her constituents.
Shout outs also go to Daniel Zeichner MP, succeeding Dr Julian Huppert with the extremely demanding seat of Cambridge. Furthermore, Mr Zeichner has sailed his political ship with a good level of judgement given the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Mr Zeichner has taken on the role of shadow local transport minister (thus incorporating cycling policy) as part of his close friend Lilian Greenwood‘s shadow transport team.
Honourable mentions also go to Dr Stella Creasy MP and Liz Kendall MP in the face of hostile social media attacks, coming out stronger than their attackers. Dr Sarah Wollaston MP for her work chairing the Health Select Committee, Meg Hillier MP charing the Public Accounts Committee and former Mayor of Cambridge Barry Gardiner MP for what I thought was the most powerful speech content-wise in the Syria debate. Big losses to the House of Commons as well as Dr Huppert include Jo Swinson – former Business Minister, one of the nicest people in politics that I’ve met.
A final honourable mention goes to Cat Smith MP – one of Puffles’ earliest followers when she was a little-known councillor. It’s been a pleasure to follow her rise up through the ranks of Labour, where she is now shadow equalities minister and making a positive impact in Westminster.
Beyond Westminster – young women activists
Political campaigning group of the year for me has to be the machine that was Cambridge Universities Labour Club that swept all before it. With Elinor Clapson and Imogen Shaw now heading things up, I’m expecting to see even more women activists becoming active in Cambridge.
The ‘Most inspirational young politician’ award however, goes to the brilliant Amelia Womack – deputy leader of The Green Party, who visited Cambridge on a couple of occasions this year. I think that politics generally will be a better place if she gets elected to the Welsh Assembly, in which she’s standing in her home constituency.
Honourable mentions go to a huge wave of young women political activists who I’ve met and/or had Twitter/Facebook conversations with this year – giving me (& others) hope in the face of such darkness in the political world. These include (and I’m withholding some details for obvious reasons):
Conservatives (yes – really)
Lisa @FenWench for courage in the face of adversity and for genuine niceness outside of the politics bubble
Laura @Tweetypie_Laura for her persistent campaigning on mental health, and providing a strong, sympathetic ear during hard times
Sharon Kaur @senlanoire for being selected as a first-time candidate for Cambridge Green Party in the highly-contested Petersfield ward of Cambridge in 2016.
Sophi Berridge @Firecat79 I was at college with her in the mid-late 1990s. A heart of gold who stood in her home ward for the first time, and from nowhere polled over 500 votes.
Holly Higgins @HollyJesHiggins – if Labour haven’t given her a medal for her campaigning in 2015, someone should be held accountable for that oversight.
Rachel Barker @Rachellybee is a mini campaigning dynamo who is standing for chair of Young Labour. They’ll be in very good hands if she’s elected.
Sophie Barnett @sab1985 who I sing with in the Dowsing Sound Collective and who is a welcome new face campaigning in my neighbourhood
Stef Lehmann @Steflehmann who is giving Labour a much-needed kick up the backside on all things Europe – vital in the runup to the referendum.
Cllr Emma Toal @emma_toal One of Labour’s youngest councillors active in the Tory heartland of East Anglia. Now deputy leader of the Labour group on Harlow Council
Kerri Prince @Kerri_Prince Elected a councillor ***while still doing her A-levels***. Labour activists, look and learn.
Steve Doran @GirlSteve not only for trying to explain that girls can be called Steve, but also for this video on nicer politics.
Sophie Bell – @SophieBell2812 who when I met her at the Mill Road Winter Fair had this confidence, passion and depth of knowledge that I’ve not seen in a young activist for quite some time.
Sophia Nash – @SophiaNash_ for speaking up against bullying in politics
Chloe Hutchinson @CHutchinson96 for persistently making the liberal case despite the election setbacks
Daisy Benson @_DaisyBenson for continually setting high standards on campaigning that the rest of her party need to aspire to. An early adopter of digital video.
Millicent Scott @MissMillicent for giving up so much to stand for her party in the general election in her home constituency that was also a safe Labour seat. How many of us would do the same?
Scottish National Party
Miriam Brett @MiriamBrett from whom I learnt lots about politics north of Hadrian’s Wall. Listen to her here.
Personal supporters of the year
There are so many people I could mention here, from the Be the change – Cambridge team including David Cleevely, Anne Bailey, Ceri Jones, and friends, to those in the Dowsing Sound Collective that kept me going through tough times including Angela Jameson, Esther McNeill and Erin McAllister. Also in the political world from Cllr Anna Smith. ***Thank you for all your support***.
Also, longtime Twitter friends – Puffles is ***five years old!*** so a big thank you to those who have stuck around over the years and who I also saw this year, including Penny Homer, Frances Coppola, Sarah Baskerville, Jon Worth, Lou Woodley, Michelle Brook, Jennifer Jones & Sophie Warnes
Journalist/commentator of the year
There’s one writer whose analysis and commentary has become essential reading this year. Interestingly she’s spotted more often in the conservative press than the liberal press. Step forward Isabel Hardman of the Spectator. I can’t think of a single journalist who has consistently met the high standards she has set for herself this year. The Political Studies Association named her Journalist of the Year (see p13) – a well-deserved award.
Gig of the year
Two awards: One that I took part in and one that I was in the audience for. In terms of taking part, it was Dowsing Sound Collective’s Lung Jam event to celebrate the launch of the Cambridge Live Trust.
For the many performances that I saw, it was Fred’s House at The Junction in Cambridge
Honourable mentions for top performances go to:
Cambridge political event of the year outside of elections
Easily it was Mr Corbyn’s visit to Cambridge
The atmosphere inside Great St Mary’s was electric.
Campaigns and campaigners of the year in Cambridge
The winner here is Jim Chisholm of ‘Chisholm Trail’ fame. After about 30 years of campaigning we’re getting a much-needed north-south cycle route through the city that’s away from motor traffic. For 2016 the campaigns/campaign groups to watch are:
Both have the potential to influence the future of our city. The first on our infrastructure and the second on transforming our community groups by linking university societies with local civic groups – the latter kicking off with ‘Volunteer for Cambridge’ on 30 January 2016 at The Guildhall.
Honourable mentions go to the Cambridge Cycling Campaign and to Positive Investment Cambridge/Fossil Free Cambs for progress on all things climate change – for which The Green Party were indirect beneficiaries with the election of Councillor Oscar Gillespie, bringing a much-needed environmentalist perspective to the city council.
Watch out for the following in 2016:
There are many people I’ve missed off this post – apologies to you all. I’m very picky with who I follow on Twitter – whether as me or Puffles. If I’m following you, it’s because you’re doing something right. (Even if I may disagree with some of your policies!)