Sunday, 21 June 2015

Sawford Loses His Seat in Westminster After Surprise Swing to the Conservative Party (The Oundle Chronicle)

Andy Sawford lost his seat in the Commons this May after less than three short years as an MP in Westminster. Sawford, a Labour and Co-operative Party Politician, was standing in one of the many seats that the Labour Party lost to what the media has dubbed a wave of ‘shy Tory voters’. 
The new MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire, 26 year-old Tom Pursglove, won the local election with a majority of 2,412 votes (4.3%), winning back for the Conservatives a seat that had been lost to Labour in a 2012 by-election. 
One of the reasons attributed to Sawford’s original win in 2012 was the local disillusionment with the Conservatives on account of Louise Mensch’s resignation, explaining why the Corby seat was a target for both the Tories and Labour. Interestingly, Ukip’s Margot Parker accumulated 7,708 votes (14%), up from 5000 in 2012, and this is perhaps another reason for Sawford’s loss. Though it is often assumed that UKIP take votes from the Tories alone, perhaps this is not true in Corby and East Northants.
During his time, Andy Sawford, whose father was also a Labour MP (for Kettering), was the Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government until the 2015 general election, and sat on the Communities and Local Government committee. 
Sawford was also a particularly active Member of Parliament, far more active than the average MP in defending his constituency. Sawford spoke in 49 debates in the last year, and he voted in 78.25% of votes in this Parliament — well above average for MPs.
Whilst an MP, Andy’s voting record tended to follow that of a typical Labour supporter: he voted strongly in favour of gay marriage and rights, very strongly in favour of raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices, and he voted strongly against what has been dubbed by Labour as the ‘bedroom tax’. Interestingly, Sawford voted a mixture of for and against a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. 
One of the most notable controversies in Sawford’s term was the Waitrose incident: Sawford attacked Waitrose for offering free coffee and newspapers to myWaitrose loyalty card holders, claiming that the offer had a ‘stark effect’ on local coffee shops and newsagents, including Norman’s Grocers which closed last year.
However, in an attempt to refute accusations that Labour is an ‘anti-business’ party, Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, said that Waitrose was a ‘fantastic’ operation which should be applauded for its positive approach to employment and business issues. It is a shame that such an important local issue was turned into a completely disconnected debate on the national stage. 
Tom Pursglove was first elected to serve the Croyland Ward on the Borough Council of Wellingborough in 2007 at the age of 18 – the youngest councillor in the country at that time. In fact, Pursglove is one of the youngest MPs in the Commons today, though his age is upstaged by new MP, 20 year-old Mhairi Black of the SNP. 
Having moved straight from university into politics (as a parliamentary assistant to Peter Bone MP for Wellingborough) means that Pursglove has led a life of politics with little other experience. Pursglove did, however, receive strong support from his party, with Conservative billboards throughout the constituency.
Pursglove’s website says that he is ‘relishing the opportunity to represent the people of Corby and East Northamptonshire in Parliament after the General Election’. He has been named by The Independent as one of seven new MPs to watch over the next five years.
His Listening Campaign has allowed him to draw up a list of his plans for the years ahead, which include campaigning for more jobs, more police on the beat, better and safer roads, more car parking and better broadband.
Currently, and perhaps of concern to the 1,374 Green voters in the area (a huge gain for the party), Pursglove is the Director of Together Against Wind, the national anti-wind farm campaign. As Director, he has been campaigning to secure national policy change in relation to wind farms. One of his plans for East Northants is to end what he has called the ‘Wind Farm Folly’.
The people of Oundle and the surrounding areas came out in force this May, with a turnout of over 70%. Sawford was a highly regarded MP and his loss was a big surprise to most, whatever they thought of Sawford or Pursglove. 
It would seem that the election was not lost by Sawford, but by the campaign that the Labour party led. Thus, Corby was yet another constituency lost not because of the MP, but because of the party’s controversial leader.

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