Friday, May 04, 2012

Across the finishing line.

Last night (or strictly speaking, this morning) was a great victory for Labour in Acocks Green and a personal triumph for me, after many years of trying to win the seat. I'm proud, honoured and genuinely humbled to have won the trust of the people of Acocks Green - on the night that Labour won the trust of the people of Birmingham and gained 20 seats in one night, as well as winning all those that we were defending.

However, these things are not the work of a single person - every candidate has a whole load of people working with him or her, without which the work would simply not be possible. Leading the way was Cllr Stewart Stacey, an experienced councillor who won the seat back last year and has led the campaign over the past few years, organising and planning. With him, I had Chris Dalton, my agent, and a small core of dedicated and hardworking campaigners who have worked absolutely tirelessly to deliver the result. We've had local members, supporters, friends, family and anybody else we could drag in to lend a hand.

Yesterday was a bit worrying - the rain failed to clear as forecast and stuck around throughout the afternoon and became very heavy in the evening. We were forced off the doorsteps and onto an assortment of hastily assembled landline and mobile phones to call supporters and voters to remind them that they only had a few hours to get out and vote. Historically, rain is supposed to affect the Labour vote more than any other party and  I suspect that this was the case in Acocks Green this year. Certainly, over the course of the late afternoon, I was not a good person to be around - we had done so much work that I knew that we were in contention, despite a very strong and well-funded Liberal Democrat fightback, and I feared that the rain might scupper my chances.

Even at the count, I don't think either us or the Liberal Democrats knew which way it was going to be resolved - our calculations veered between a 250 Labour majority and one of 50 for the Liberal Democrats. As each box was opened and we carried out our sampling, it was clear that it was very close and the outcome really wasn't clear until the last part of the process.

Spare a thought for the counting and polling staff, who do a vital job for all of us - it is an essential part of the democratic process and the deputy returning officer and his team did their usual, professional job last night.

I also want to spare a word for Roger Harmer and his team. Contrary to popular opinion, political opponents don't have to have personal emnity - it has always been one of the pleasures of Acocks Green that things aren't personal. I respect Roger for his skill and experience and I know that his departure leaves some big shoes to fill.

Thanks to the voters of Acocks Green for putting their trust in me. We will face some difficult times in Birmingham over the coming years, but we will tackle them with Labour principles guiding us. .

Here's the result in full:

John O'Shea (Labour) 2170
Roger Harmer (Liberal Democrat) 1993
Chris Whitehouse (UKIP) 269
Joe Edginton (Conservative) 247
Amanda Baker (Green Party) 168
Stella Taylor (BNP) 166
Ben Rubery (Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts) 58
Alan Ware (SDP) 15

Turnout was low - around the 25% mark, doubtless depressed by the weather.

The overall result for the City Council is

Labour - 77 seats (+20)
Conservative - 28 seats (-11)
Liberal Democrat - 15 seats (-9)

That puts Labour firmly in majority control of the council for the first time in eight years.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Bringing out the big guns in support

Sion SImon, John O'Shea, Waseem Zaffar and the team
Liam Byrne, John O'Shea, Lu O'Shea and Chris Dalton
I've been really lucky to have the support of a number of high profile campaigners and MPs over the course of this campaign. Today, we were out on the Gospel estate with Liam Byrne, MP for Hodge Hill, member of the shadow cabinet and potential candidate for Birmingham mayor (if the voters support the idea tomorrow. Last week, Sion Simon, who has run a fine campaign over the past couple of years to push the idea of an elected mayor for Birmingham, joined the fray on a very wet evening. And before that, Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood, came down to help find more Labour voters.

John O'Shea and Shabana Mahmood
Thanks to all of them - and to those who have been on the campaign trail with me. I'll write up a fuller list of thanks later on (Cllr Stacey and Chris Dalton, my agent, are at the top of the list). Whatever happens tomorrow, it has been great working with all of you.

We've had a great time out on the doorstep and the phones, talking to voters - talking to real people about their problems and their worries and explaining what Labour want to do to make Birmingham better. Tomorrow, it will be over to those people to decide who represents Acocks Green - will it be the Liberal Democrat who has voted with the Tories since he was elected in 2008 or the local candidate who promises that Birmingham will be better with Labour?

Clegg's man or YOUR man - that's the choice.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

What's happening at Acocks Green Station? We aren't allowed to know.

There's a nice picture of the Lib Dem candidate on his leaflet, standing outside Acocks Green Station with Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. He must be being shown the station that is at risk of having the ticket office opening hours cut. Apparently the Secretary of State for Transport - sits with Vince at the cabinet table - has agreed some changes requested by London Midland. While we know that the original plan cut the opening hours - and thus the staff - at our popular station, we aren't allowed to know the decision that has been pending for months, even though it has apparently been taken.

You may also have seen the headline in the Birmingham Post that Acocks Green booking office is at risk from complete closure as a result of government plans to 'rationalise' the rail network ticketing process. This will also result in staff cuts and could make our station less safe for travellers. This is a separate threat to the station service and we won't know if the office is to be closed for a while yet.

Given how well-used the station is, I find it hard to understand why the excellent staff who look after it and keep an eye on what happens there are being threatened with redundancy. Shouldn't we be keeping them on to encourage use of the station?

Not on my turf

Just a couple of examples of graffiti that has sprung up in Acocks Green recently - I can only guess at the words behind APL, but the swastika makes the meaning clear.

I reported it last week and it was cleared well within 24 hours. Top marks to the graffiti clearance team. Just another benefit of me living on the patch....

Also on the radar was a fallen branch from a street tree on Dolphin Lane, a result of Sunday's high winds. Cllr Stacey had that cleared quickly, allowing the homeowner to get out of their drive again. It looks like some work will be required to the tree to make it safe, but the immediate problem has been solved.