Campaigning can be a lonely and thankless task. Well, that was my initial experience of trying to campaign as a disabled candidate in what was considered an unwinnable seat. Although I was able to actively campaign on local issues, I sometimes found it difficult to engage voters on some national issues. However, I found that campaigns around issues like food poverty, protecting our shop workers and protecting our community assets were popular. Applying to be a Labour & Co-operative candidate helped provide me with a clear identity and a clear campaign platform.

Being asked to stand for a target seat was a surprise which I gave a great deal of thought to, and, feeling I had lots to offer our unitary authority as a whole, I agreed. I don’t think I truly appreciated the demands which would be placed upon me

When I heard about the Co-operative Candidate Development Programme, I was curious and thought – why not? A key selling point for me was the fact that it was held virtually, as transport for me has always been an issue. I think that this was the best decision I have made for a long time!

Starting in September 2020 with a virtual coffee morning, I found it possible to engage with candidates and councillors across the country in an informal and supportive environment.

I then went on to take four training events (with homework!) which helped me to become more confident in how to put my message across, in print as well as digitally and on the ground. The sessions were interactive and inclusive as well as informative.

The coffee mornings continued monthly until April, with a post-election event in May. I met some inspiring and interesting characters and was pleased to hear and share experiences. A couple of WhatsApp groups were established alongside this to share events such as phone banking with fellow co-operators.

The programme meant that I no longer felt alone or unsupported and I am proud to say that I have been elected as the first Labour and Co-operative Councillor for Southend Borough Council!

I want to say a huge thank you to all those who supported me along the way and, to those considering standing as a Labour & Co-operative candidate in the next election – go for it! Access the programme when you can and make the most of what the Co-operative Party has to offer.