Hard graft key to Westminster victory says Karen Buck
Years of hard graft and grass roots campaigning are the unglamorous secret behind an electrifying win in Westminster that saw one of Parliament s most industrious MPs snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. The triumph came against the odds as the book
Years of hard graft and grass roots campaigning are the unglamorous secret behind an electrifying win in Westminster that saw one of Parliament's most industrious MPs snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
The triumph came against the odds as the bookies closed betting in the Westminster North vote, installing one of David Cameron's A-list stars, Joanne Cash as favourite.
But Ms Buck, who is renowned for her work in the community, fought back furiously, drafting in an army of volunteers to contact more than 18,000 people in the run up to the vote.
Immediately after the result was announced, Ms Buck said: "I am in shock. I feel like I have just had 10 really strong coffees. I am just going to try to calm down a little bit now. It's just fantastic. It's the most brilliant feeling in the world."
So how was the campaign won and what made the difference?
She said: "I think it was having a brilliant campaign team, we contacted something like 18,000 people in the last three weeks, which is unheard of in a constituency like ours. It was a really good campaign. But then also I put it down to the fact that our team of councillors and volunteers worked very, very hard year in, year out. It just seems to me that this was an election victory that was won, not in a few weeks, but over years and years and years of really deep, intensive work with the community."
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And the first thing to do in the constituency?
"Get an IT system that works," said Ms Buck, "We've been running on steam-powered computers for long time, so it's just about time we modernised so that we can improve the service we offer.
"What we will be aiming to do is get that message out to people, because what was so fantastic during these last few days is the real warmth that we were getting from people. People who were supporting us were giving us real, real affection and I just want to go back to them and say thank you so much for putting your trust in us, and we are here to serve you, and we are here to improve the service we offer you."
So how did a visit from Gordon Brown boost your campaign?
She said: "When he came to the constituency office on Sunday, it energised our team and we have 60 or 70 people there, who were all working on the campaign, who were all anxious to shake his hand and say thank you. Having the Prime Minister down to see your troops and give them that little shot in the arm was a really nice thing."
The borough recorded one of the highest turnouts on record, with initial estimates at 59.9 per cent for Westminster North and 55.47 per cent for the Cities of London and Westminster.
Ms Buck said: "I was so shaken when I was coming up, beyond the nice exchange of civilities. I wasn't really expecting to win up until those last few seconds. To be honest I am a bit blown away by all of that. It was a tough campaign, let's be honest, and I know she [Joanne Cash] found it tough too. I am sorry if that's the case. I am sorry she felt that way. Politics is a bruising business and I hope she doesn't feel too bruised by it, because she fought it very, very hard."
After failing to oust her counterpart, Ms Cash launched an astonishing attack on the media, adding that they played an 'incredibly powerful role' in the outcome of the election.
At a Conservative meeting early in the campaign, Ms Cash found herself at the centre of selection controversy in which she resigned before being reinstated by Tory high command.
She was also questioned, unfairly many would argue, for her charitable work in some of the more impoverished parts of the constituency.
After her defeat by more than 2,000 votes, Ms Cash said: "This is a very strange night up and down the country, there are very strange results everywhere. But the media played an incredibly powerful role, and we have to face the question about what their role will be going forward. Are they going to tell the truth or are they going to trash people, lie about their families. And hello to my family who are watching
"This probably is the only chance I will get to put the record straight and it's not conventional to do so at a time like this but I want to do. Whatever the result through the rest of country, the rest of night, the Conservatives have a vision for this country and I hope we can find a way to implement that.''
Ms Cash spoke about what she described as 'lies' about her husband Octavius, a close friend of David Cameron's, both of whom attended Eton.
From the media balcony over the count floor the sense of industry was palpable as the whole of the country waited for the result of one of the most keenly awaited election results in history.
With Westminster North tipped as a key battle officers pushed papers into piles and the pressure to deliver a definitive result hung heavy in the air.
Along with a few other key marginals in North West London, the result signalled where the country is headed now.
The energetic, roll your sleeves up style of Ms Buck contrasted starkly with glamour and passion of a new wave of politicians exemplified by the powerful media barrister, Ms Cash.
But Ms Buck, who has been a key part of the Labour rearguard on the doorstep with grassroots campaigning, faced a long night following 13 years of Labour government, two wars, the expenses scandal and the recession.
Jasna Badzak - UKIP - 315
Ali Bahaijoub - Independent - 101
Mark Blackburn - Lib Dem - 5,513
Karen Buck - Labour - 17,377
Joanne Cash - Conservative - 15,251
Stephen Curry - BNP - 334
Abby Dharamsey - Independent - 32
Gabriela Fajardo - Christian Party - 98
Edward Roseman - English democrats - 99
Tristan Smith - Green - 478