Julie Elliott is the Labour MP for Sunderland Central. A relatively recent arrival in the Commons (she was first elected in 2010), Ms Elliott represents a constituency which has been Labour for as long as people can remember. Such security can generate a degree of complacency and throughout Sunderland, complacency is rife in the Labour Party. They run the council with a whopping great big majority and their Parliamentary majorities are rather steep. Campaigning and communicating with voters is not a Labour priority in the city. Or at least, it wasn't until January when Labour faced the prospect of losing a safe seat (Pallion) in a council by-election.
The rather decrepit, rusting, dilapidated Labour machine therefore swung into action. A street stall was set up in the city centre and a petition was launched. People were invited to sign it. Sunderland has high levels of unemployment, poverty, poor health, low incomes, there's the impact of Brexit and so on. So which of these important, relevant issues did Labour and Ms Elliott take up as a campaign? Errrr, none of them.
Instead, members of the public were invited to sign a petition calling for Nick Clegg to be "stripped" of his knighthood. (He hadn't even been knighted at that point!) One of our members witnessed residents parting with a few choice words about Labour's choice of campaign subject.
You will be pleased to learn that Labour lost Pallion on 1st February to the Lib Dems. Our vote rose by 49%. I'm almost tempted to suggest a knighthood or damehood for the person in Labour who came up with their campaign idea!