Did you have a lovely Christmas? I really hope so.
Now that I'm relaxed after a few days off, I've been reflecting on the campaign and what we've achieved this year.
I promised during my selection as candidate that I would bring politics back to the high street, and that's what I've done with the community campaign shop at 99 Church Rd. I love the fact that people can see us at work and pop in to chat, inquire, or from time to time...have a rant! For me, having a high street presence shows that I'm accessible and transparent, two of the key attributes I want to bring back to politics in Hove and Portslade.
Community campaigning has given real voice to the residents working hard to make our neighbourhoods a better place. From the 'Mile Oak Mums' to the St Peter's road crossing, and from grass cutting in Hangleton to refuse collection across the constituency - we've worked alongside people to bring about real change. It's been a huge privilege to me and the team to work alongside, and get to know, so many people who are committed to making this a better place to live.
Mine is a campaign that's powered by voluntary action. It takes a team of over fifty people to keep the wheels turning on an ambitious campaign like this. Only one person in the whole operation receives a salary (not me, by the way!), so all of the effort it takes to deliver leaflets, support community campaigns, knock on doors to speak with residents, and keep the office staffed and operating is all done by volunteers. Isn't that amazing?!
Just to give you the scale of what this wonderful team are capable of: in the last three months we have delivered over 100,000 pieces of literature and knocked on ten thousand doors each month. The campaign has been active for seven days a week in that time, right up to Christmas Eve, and will be so again from the beginning of the New Year. Oh yes, it's a team that well and truly earned its Christmas lunch and a few days off this festive season!
I've been determined to understand from the inside what it takes to make our public services better and understand the challenges of those working within it. That's why I have work-shadowed local police, nurses, and doctors throughout the year. It's given me a fantastic opportunity to talk with authenticity about the challenges they and we face but also about the opportunities for us all if we get it right.
Being a local campaigner hasn't stopped me getting involved in big, nationwide issues. Campaigning against the health reforms that have damaged our NHS and bedroom tax which has made 500 local families vulnerable to eviction, alongside championing tenant rights and delivering a bigger voice for the small businesses that will create the jobs which will get our country back onto its feet again. These are some of the issues I have been engaging on a national level. I have even travelled to the Middle East on a fact finding mission to better understand one of the conflicts that impacts our global stability. From local to national and global - I am working hard to be the candidate you deserve.
Not forgetting, of course, my pledge to deliver a piano for Brighton Station! I promised and I delivered, not just any old piano but one that lives up to our vibrant and historical city (with thanks to Brighton Piano Warehouse for their help)!
Only one thing has surprised me since becoming your parliamentary candidate and that's just how much I enjoy it. Being around driven and hard working people who are motivated by achieving things, getting to know local residents, delivering results for individuals and communities, and for most of the time laughter never being far away - this is a role I relish and hope to continue in this way as your MP.
Thanks for allowing me the chance to achieve these things with you in 2014, it has meant the world to me and the team. I'm looking forward to continuing with this energy and focus going forward as we move closer and closer towards the election in May.