Headingley

It’s one of those things that every Lib Dem was dread­ing to hear: that, even with months of cam­paign­ing, their can­di­date had lost to the Labour can­di­date. Not more was the hurt felt in Head­in­g­ley two weeks ago. We — as in Leeds Lib­eral Youth — had been cam­paign­ing hard since last Sep­tem­ber to ensure that the then-incumbent coun­cil­lor, Jamie Matthews, was re-elected. Jamie was a superb coun­cil­lor, and was a bet­ter pick to rep­re­sent stu­dents than the Labour can­di­date. Even after tuition fees. When thou­sands of stu­dents had prob­lems with their inter­net con­nec­tion, Labour, with a major­ity on the coun­cil, were nowhere to be seen. But Jamie carved out the niche of the “coun­cil­lor who took on Vir­gin Media”.

I use the past tense, because he lost. By 32 votes.

I ini­tially felt a lot of guilt, as because of prior com­mit­ments, I couldn’t really help with the door­knock­ing and the let­ter­box­ing. And I had tried to get the stu­dent union to do some­thing about stu­dent vot­ing. I was aware it’d give Labour a nudge, but given the prob­lems I’ve had over the past cou­ple of years, and as an active voter? Really, we need to be there doing something.

I felt a sense of abso­lu­tion, though, after find­ing out about the actions of Mark Sewards. He’s pretty much the token party hack, given close­ness to the two local shadow cab­i­net MPs (Balls and Cooper) and for­mer chair­man­ship of Leeds Labour Stu­dents. And a friend to few polit­i­cally active peo­ple on cam­pus, given the left hate him for want­ing to shut down a student-run space and the Lib Dems and Tories hate him because, hey, he’s Labour.

But enough about him, and more about what he did, which was frankly dis­gust­ing: he effec­tively used his posi­tion as out­go­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Inter­nal Affairs offi­cer to tell peo­ple in Halls of Res­i­dences to vote for the Labour can­di­date. Struc­tured so he didn’t run afoul of the law, but still extremely dodgy. Then dis­avowed every­thing he said in his leaflet the next day. At the same time as using the Union to push Labour pol­icy because it’s Labour policy.

When ques­tioned about it, he did what any politi­cian would do, and frame any com­plaints as his oppo­nents try­ing to score “cheap polit­i­cal points”. But it doesn’t change the fact he abused his power, and it doesn’t change the fact he cost a good man his job.

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