COUNCIL ELECTIONS 2011: Labour in Longdendale – an Interview with Gill Peet

By Tom Midlane

Labour’s Longdendale candidate Gill Peet returned to her home in Mottram last night to find a Deathstar-sized Conservatives placard in her neighbour’s garden.

She took it in good humour, or better humour than her agent, who hastily erected a similarly gargantuan one in her own yard. Such are the perils of life as a candidate on the election trail.

It’s been a traumatic year for Labour in Longdendale.

Having lost long-standing council leader Roy Oldham in July last year, only two months after his re-election, a month ago Longdendale branch chairman and GMB member Colin Priest died suddenly, aged 39, while attending the anti-cuts rallies in London on March 26. There’s a sense of a party still in shock.

The contest in Longdendale is an intriguing one. The ward’s retiring Councillor Jonathan Reynolds became an MP in the May 2010 election after a controversial selection process, and has been performing a dual role for the last year.

The numbers also make it interesting: in May last year, Labour beat the Conservatives’ Rob Adlard by 1275 to 1083, a meagre 192 votes.

Broadbottom resident Rob Adlard is standing again as the Conservatve candidate in Longdendale, casting himself as the candidate of change (“Only the Conservatives offer an alternative” / “If you want change, just go out and vote…”).

Nevertheless, according to Peet, there’s a sense of an improvement on the doorstep for Labour since last May:

“The reaction has been very very encouraging. People have been coming up to me on the street and shaking my hand and saying we’ve got to get this lot out. But I’m not counting my chickens before they’re hatched, I’m realistic about it.”

A former lawyer, primary school teacher, and lifelong party member, she acknowledges that this has not been a straightforward election for Labour:

“It’s been a difficult campaign for us, because in the past the election preparations have always been led by the leader of the council [Roy Oldham], who always knew what had to be done! Suddenly, we’re on our own. We got there in the end though.”

Having come through the process relatively unscathed, Peet an unashamed socialist, seems to be enjoying life as a candidate:

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It’s been tiring, my legs are about three inches shorter, my back is bent, but unfortunately I’ve not lost any weight! I have enjoyed it, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

“People have been very pleasant, even doors we’ve knocked on where people weren’t with us, we’d get a smile.”

Will she be as good-humoured after the count tonight? Labour in Longdendale is certainly hoping so.



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