Every seat Labour lost 2019 was a body blow, but few defeats stick in the throat quite as much as our loss in Bolsover. But a win there at the next General Election would not just be symbolic. Simply put, it is a seat that we need to win to form a Labour & Co-operative Government. I’m delighted that since May the Co-op Party has representation in Bolsover with two very effective Labour & Co-operative councillors, demonstrating day in and day out the co-op difference. That’s why when activists in the constituency contacted me asking me to support their first post-lockdown campaigning session, I was more than happy to lend them a hand – and to encourage other co-operators in the East Midlands to come along too.

The first thing that strikes you approaching Bolsover is the imposing castle perched high over the Vale of Scarsdale.  It’s quite a sight. But it wasn’t the fortifications that impressed me the most, or even Labour’s unmissably large gazebo in the marketplace. What was most marked was the warmth of the welcome from the Labour members, matched only by how well we were received in the doorstep. Tory excuses are beginning to wear thin with the electorate. Voters repeatedly told me how they feel let down by the Tories. It’s not just the parties, although there is anger about that. It is plain to see that after nearly 15 years of the Conservative Party in Government, if there was any levelling up going on, it has yet to reach Bolsover. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting people hard in the town, people are being ground down by a punitive benefits regime, even some of those in work are becoming reliant on foodbanks, and there is understandable concern about the fuel price increases. Far too many people are working hard just to keep up. It’s time for a change.

I know, having talked to the CLP Officers, that this will be the first of many campaign sessions in the months to come. Despite the undoubted challenge that retaking the seat presents, it’s one that members and supporters are up for. If you get an opportunity to lend them a hand, I feel confident that you’ll get a warm welcome.