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News | Published November 22 2019

Election Interview: Laura Gordon, Lib Dem candidate for Sheffield Hallam

In the run up to December's General Election, our election correspondent Joshua Sandiford will be creating profiles of key marginal constituencies around the country, combining the key statistics with interviews with the major candidates. In this article, Joshua interviews Laura Gordon, Liberal Democrat candidate for Sheffield Hallam

Former aid worker Laura Gordon is hoping she can claw back support for the Liberal Democrats in the student-heavy constituency of Sheffield Hallam. 

The seat was once held by Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister before he was replaced by Labour’s Jared O’Mara in a shocking 2017 upset.

It didn’t take long before things started going wrong. 

In October 2017, O’Mara was suspended from the Labour party after a series of offensive comments he made surfaced online. The MP took time out as he struggled with mental health problems and constituency staff dealt with casework. 

Many residents in Sheffield Hallam said they felt unrepresented and are now pondering how they will vote in December. The Parliamentary Review spoke with Laura Gordon about her domestic priorities and local concerns.

The people of Sheffield Hallam have been unrepresented for some time now, how do you think they're feeling?

Generally, around the country, there is a lot of anti-politician sentiment, but I think the people of Sheffield Hallam have realised how important it is to have a good and hard-working MP. It has left people feeling incredibly frustrated. 

Whether it’s because they need help from an MP or because they want to be represented in parliamentary votes, people are quite angry that Jared didn’t keep his promise to resign and that they haven’t had the opportunity to express their feelings about that.

Generally, around the country, there is a lot of anti-politician sentiment, but I think the people of Sheffield Hallam have realised how important it is to have a good and hard-working MP. 

What have you heard from people on the doorstep? Are residents more concerned with national priorities or are they talking about local issues?

I think it's both. People are very frustrated about how they have been effectively let down by the Labour party by selecting Jared and then effectively abandoning the seat when he got into trouble. It has left people in a difficult position.

People are obviously concerned about Brexit as well as issues like schools and hospitals, but also more local issues like public transport. 

There are some concerns around the city council and some of the issues that have been coming up over the last few years, particularly the ongoing fallout from the ‘Streets Ahead’ contract. It subsequently turned out that thousands of trees that had been felled could have been saved.

There are some concerns around the city council and some of the issues that have been coming up over the last few years, particularly the ongoing fallout from the ‘Streets Ahead’ contract.

Are green issues one of your local priorities?

Absolutely, climate change is a huge priority for me, and that’s both at a national level and a local level. 

My background is in international development, and one of the reasons I got into politics is because I got fed up of responding to droughts. They used to happen every 5 to 10 years and now they happen every 2 to 3 years. Ultimately it’s a political problem and [while] you can respond to them in a humanitarian way, you aren't addressing the route cause of the problem.

But the trees issue in Sheffield was never just about trees, it was also about the council response which was a very heavy-handed, authoritarian response. 

Instead of sitting down with protesters and trying to come to a solution and engage constructively, the council went for a very heavy-handed response, [arresting] peaceful protesters, including a tambourine-playing vicar.

Absolutely, climate change is a huge priority for me, and that’s both at a national level and a local level.

Will this make people turn back to the Liberal Democrats? How confident are you that you can wrestle back the seat?

I think it’s a good prospect and the reception has been very positive. 

The Lib Dems hold most of Sheffield Hallam at council level and I've been working very hard and very closely with local councillors to engage with people. 

Having said that, you can never underestimate the Labour Party, they have a very strong core vote and they surpassed expectations last time. We absolutely won't be taking anything for granted and we'll be continuing to work hard for every single vote.

You can never underestimate the Labour Party, they have a very strong core vote and they surpassed expectations last time.

How will a December election affect the way you campaign? Will campaigning be more difficult in the dark?

It's certainly different, it makes it harder to get things like leaflets out and it affects when we can go canvassing, we've had to be a lot smarter in what we are doing and have thought about the areas where people really won't want to speak on the doorstep, versus the areas where people won't mind as much. 

We've also been doing a lot more phone canvassing, but actually, people are frustrated and want to have their say. It's really cold but people are willing to engage. We recently had the flooding which affected a lot of people, and if things like that continue or we start seeing snowstorms then it will start to look quite different but at the moment, it has only affected how we campaign, not how much we campaign.

We've had to be a lot smarter in what we are doing and have thought about the areas where people really won't want to speak on the doorstep, versus the areas where people won't mind as much. 

Can you tell us about your aid work, what you did before running for parliament and how you think those skills will help you?

My background is in international development and I worked for Oxfam, Save the Children and then the Department for International Development. 

This has given me experience of working around the world in some really difficult places, and it's certainly driven my commitment to getting into politics and especially around climate change. I also think the experience of managing big budgets and big programmes is really important and transferable across the different sectors.

My background is in international development and I worked for Oxfam, Save the Children and then the Department for International Development. 

And finally, what is your message for the people of Sheffield Hallam?

We have to vote for a positive future and a positive vision for the country and the Liberal Democrats have that. 

At the last election, every single MP in the whole of South Yorkshire was Labour and I think these one-party states are just bad for everyone. We need a positive vision for South Yorkshire and a positive vision for Sheffield and that's what I can provide and that's what the Liberal Democrats can provide.

I hope that people will put their faith in me to represent them.

The Parliamentary Review will be publishing candidate and constituency profiles weekly throughout the election campaign. 


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Authored by

Joshua Sandiford
Junior Political Editor
@theparlreview
November 22 2019

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