She’s running… why Kate Godfrey wants to be your next MEP in the East Midlands
I am the first-ranked European Parliament election candidate for Change UK in the East Midlands. Put simply, if on May 23rd, enough people around me use their vote to back Change UK, I’ll be one of the MEPs working in Brussels for a People’s Vote.
Until this weekend, I had thought my last day in politics was 23 June 2016 — referendum day. But it’s 2019 now and we all have the right to to change our minds.
Unlike the rest of the candidates on the five-person regional candidates list for the East Midlands, I do have a background in politics. I have been both a Labour candidate in a target seat, and from 2015–16 worked for Britain Stronger in Europe first as a Field Director and then as National Engagement Lead. For over a year I travelled up and down country monitoring leave campaign activity and supporting remain.
From 2016 I have worked in schools, and have never been personally happier. I got married — to David, a volunteer I met on the campaign trail. We have a dog and a house on which we can’t quite afford to fix the roof. Our first baby is due in July.
With the exception of writing about my experiences I was quite clear that I had left campaigning behind. Those who are interested can find my writing online. I have been blunt about what worked and didn’t work both as a Labour insider and as part of the campaign to keep Britain in the EU — ironically, I always thought my natural frankness was part of what made me a poor politician.
As a once long-term supporter, I’ve written about Labour’s journey into anti-Semitism and misogyny, and about the reality of trying to work with militant in a hard-left CLP.
Particularly, I have written about what it was like to be one of insiders hired by Stronger In for our knowledge of Labour regions and constituencies: in my case, on the basis of my campaigning experience in the Midlands and South Yorkshire gained during the 2015 election.
It’s because of the jobs and the change that I’ve seen here over twenty years that I always knew I would fight to remain. In fact, I joined Britain Stronger in Europe before it had any infrastructure, or even a contact address.
All I could think to do was to ring Labour Headquarters in London and to make clear that I wanted to volunteer in line with party policy, which was to remain in the EU. At first they didn’t know what I was talking about, and then they connected me to a mobile number — for Brendan Chilton, the Labour councillor who worked with UKIP to establish and fund Labour Leave.
As National Engagement Lead I went on to be one of the people who worked regularly with ‘LOTO’ — the Labour Leaders’ Office. We all know what happened. Labour’s Remain campaign was a cardboard initiative undermined at every turn by the leadership. The support we needed — agreed as part of the cross-party campaign — never came. It could have turned the referendum result around.
It wasn’t just Labour. As engagement lead I debated more than one fiercely pro-Brexit Tory MP who told me off the record that they were desperate for remain to win for their constituents and then they went out and argued for leave.
They knew how many local jobs were at stake and that their constituents couldn’t afford to be made poorer. But… they didn’t want to be ‘Maastricht martyrs.’ They wanted to keep their jobs.
So they went out and spoke for Brexit, so that their constituents would lose theirs instead.
You can see why I wanted out of politics.
So what changed between 2016 and now?
Not least, because Brexit, even in the early negotiating stage, has been worse than we ever could have imagined. We know now just how many thousands of jobs are at risk under Brexit, particularly here in the East Midlands where we have world-class universities and companies like Toyota and Rolls-Royce.
The UK Trade Policy Observatory policy estimates that nearly 3,000 jobs would be lost in Derby alone, the town where I was born, under a no deal Brexit. Nearly 60% of people in Derby voted to leave.
As a campaigner, I ask people to change their minds every day, so when the time came, it’s right that I changed mine.
As part of the East Midlands list for Change UK I am standing for election with brilliant local people who have no background in politics at all. Nurses, teachers, the head of a wonderful Derbyshire charity supporting carers. The people who keep our public services going.
Together, we have the chance to speak to voters across the East Midlands and to say that we get it. We understand the frustration. We understand why people here backed leave. In fact, one of our own candidates Emma-Jane Manley did. Emma-Jane believed the promises made about more money for the NHS. Today, she feels used and betrayed.
There are hundreds of thousands of people like Emma-Jane in the East Midlands. Over the next five weeks we’ll be talking to as many of them as possible, and not as a political party but as ordinary people from all political traditions and none, working together for the cause we share: a country stronger as part of the European Union.