This week is one of the rare “missions” week in the European Parliament - some of my colleagues use this time to fly to far flung places. I don’t. I have some meetings around the East of England and will be knocking on doors listening to peoples views in the run up to the local elections. We don't have local elections in Bedfordshire this year but we do in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.
One of things I enjoy most about my job is the great characters I meet - And many of those are our local councillors. A few months ago I met Cllr Ray Howard, who has been representing Canvey Island for decades. We were visiting the gas storage facility on the Island together with Rebecca Harris MP. Ray taught me more about the history and evolution of Eastern England’s energy supply in that afternoon than I would have learnt in months of reading.
Ray was fighting for his local residents, explaining why an extension of the plant into LNG would be inappropriate "freeze drying" the local community, pointing out exactly which parts of which local roads need improving and championing the local youth work which the plant helps to fund.
On Saturday afternoon Ray’s grandson turned up in Canvey Island to help his granddad get re-elected. This caused quite a stir as Ray’s grandson Charlie is @CharlieKing85 one of the stars in TV show “The Only Way is Essex” #TOWIE. Swarms of fans arrived and Charlie had picture after picture taken. People were coming up to the street stall and asking for a leaflet.
Standing on a street stall campaigning for local elections isn’t exactly every young persons idea of a cool way to spend Saturday afternoon. I asked Charlie why he was there. “Ever since I was little I’ve known that Grandad really cares for Canvey” he replied. During the morning Charlie spoke to young people about bullying, as we walked back to the car later we talked about his mums work caring for older people and those with dementia. I was really impressed.
Local elections are about local people - I hope voters will turn up for Charlie’s Grandad and many other great local councillors this Thursday.