Labour: “Sir Ed is worried”

Alan Johnson with David Prescott in the Aston Arms EMN-151204-143824001
Alan Johnson with David Prescott in the Aston Arms EMN-151204-143824001

Alan Johnson, the former Labour cabinet minister, who might have been on his way to Number 10, called in at Market Rasen on Friday,

The popular former Home Secretary and author has been touring marginal seats, so what was he doing in a ‘safe’ Conservative seat like Gainsborough?

“We are now treating Gainsborough as a marginal. There’s so much energy in our campaign. We are standing candidates where we haven’t stood candidates in local elections. There’s a feeling throughout the country. We are more active than we have been since 1997,” he said.

Labour PPC David Prescott credited small leads for Labour in national opinion polls on the “relentless bullying of Edward Miliband” plus more professional and active on-the-ground campaigning from Labour activists across the country

“It’s policies as well,” he said.

The candidate said he hadn’t seen any activists out from the Liberal Democrats or from any other parties.

“They don’t seem to have an activist base. It reminds me of 1997,” he said.

The pair argued Labour was taking support from the Liberal Democrats, while UKIP was taking support from the Conservatives, giving them a chance of overturning Sir Edward Leigh’s 10,000 plus majority.

But if David Prescott was likening this election to the year Tony Blair first swept to power, should Alan Johnson have ‘stabbed Ed Miliband in the back’ last year and grabbed the Labour leadership to become the next PM as some political pundits suggested?

“I won’t stand for the Labour leadership when there’s no vacancy. How could I have gone to the electorate claiming a united party had I done so? That would have been mad, fantasy stuff,” the former minister continued, adding he had ‘no regrets’ for not doing so.

He then laughed, as did Mr Prescott, at the suggestion he was keeping his Hull West & Hessle seat ‘warm’ for the 44-year-old former BBC journalist.

Mr Prescott then repeated his regular lines about trying to continue the momentum of MR BIG with further help for Market Rasen, that small businesses are suffering from high rents and rates and Market Rasen needs a full-time MP.

“He’s definitely worried. He’s not been challenged for years,” the candidate said of Sir Edward.

Then, after the PPC and guest talked town issues with March Hare owner Sally Cordell, the Labour contingent left for The Aston Arms, followed by a £35 a head fundraising dinner at Hemswell Court, a regular haunt of Gainsborough Conservatives.