The General Election

Hi all,

I’ve been asked by Labour whether I’d like to be considered as our candidate for Broxtowe. I need to decide by this weekend, so I thought I’d consult you. 10% of the homes in Broxtowe get my emails, so it’s a good sample.

As most of you know, I was Broxtowe’s MP from 1997 to 2010, when Anna Soubry won by a tiny majority. We had a consistently better result for Labour than nationally – in 1992 and 2010, the national result was very similar, but in Broxtowe the Conservatives won by 16% in 1992 and just 0.7% in 2010. In 2015, I stood again, and this time the Tory majority was bigger:

Anna Soubry (Con) 45.2%

Nick Palmer (Lab) 37.2%

Frank Dunne (UKIP) 10.6%

Stan Heptinstall (LibDem) 4.0%

David Kirwan (Green) 2.9%

It’s common that MPs do best when they first stand for re-election (the so-called “incumbency bonus“, which wears off over time). Whoever is Labour’s candidate will need to avoid the slippage in national polls, gain floating voters and win over as many as possible of those who voted for LibDems and Greens last time: if there ever was a seat where it was clear that Labour is the only credible challenger to the Conservatives, it’s Broxtowe.

I’ve spent the last few years working for an animal welfare organisation in London. It’s been a lot of fun and rewarding for the animals (I visited 25 countries to lobby Governments and MPs in three years, effecting policy change from the EU, China and Korea to Brazil), but since November I’ve been back in Nottingham, working as a freelance translator, lecturer and political consultant. I’m currently living just outside Broxtowe, a few minutes from Nuthall Island.

There are two aspects to consider: the national scene and the local campaign.

  1. The national scene

If the polls are correct, the Tories are heading for a gargantuan victory, which would enable them to put through anything they wanted – ostensibly for Brexit, but in reality in every other policy area too. That’s unhealthy for democracy, for Britain and even for the Conservatives. They would get a blank cheque for whatever Brexit deal May chooses to recommend, plus any number of other policies that are getting minimal attention because of the media focus on Brexit:

The NHS and social care: waiting lists are soaring, social care options are shrinking, and the Government seems unwilling to tackle either

Education: the obsession with grammar schools is obscuring neglect of other schools across the country. The problem isn’t the 15% of pupils who get into a great school. It’s the 85% who don’t, and find government cuts piling up.

Environment: the haze of fine words has dissolved into a willingness to let developers roll over local opinion. (Remember the promise to stop Field Farm?)

Specifically on Brexit, it is clearly right that any Government should attempt to reach a good deal based on the referendum result. But equally we should not enter negotiations on the basis of “We don’t care how bad the deal is, we’ll take it anyway” – quite apart from anything else, it’s a rubbish negotiating strategy. We need to give Parliament a genuine say in two years’ time of whether to accept the deal or not. A huge Tory majority will not offer genuine challenge.

  1. The local scene

To be fair to Anna Soubry, she is often critical of the Government, and I think she is genuinely liberal on social issues such as gay marriage. But she is making the same mistake that I made in my early years in Parliament: when push comes to shove, loyalty kicks in and she virtually always votes with the Government or abstains.

I came to see that it’s an approach which ultimately does nobody any favours: not Britain, not the party, and certainly not Broxtowe. What Parliament needs is strong, independent-minded MPs on both sides of the House who consult constituents and then are willing to vote for what they believe is best for Britain.

The question is whether I should put my name forward (clearly there will be other strong candidates too). Let’s identify some downsides. I’m 67. I’ve lost twice. I’ve been largely out of Broxtowe politics for the last two years.

And some upsides. We need a credible candidate who can appeal across traditional party lines: it’s something I’ve always done. We need someone who’s hard-working, experienced, not unreasonably partisan but willing to be frank when Government policy goes wrong. I think I tick most of those boxes.

Would you like me to stand? And would you support me if I did?

Best wishes,


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9 Responses to The General Election

  1. Julia Hardy says:

    Would like to see you stand again. You were a really good constituency MP, something we have sorely missed!

  2. Alan Poxon says:

    Please stand, I believe you to be an honest politician with concerns for the constituents of Broxtowe and not the self interests of our current MP.

  3. Mike says:

    a) Labour needs to reject HS2. It’ll only destroy jobs & rail services in the region, while failing to address any congestion. There are quicker, cheaper & more effective approaches to adding capacity.
    b) Adopt the Green Party’s economic policies. And reject the hair-shirt “fiscal responsibility” balanced budget which will only trash the economy like the coalition’s austerity programme did.
    c) Form a progressive alliance with the Greens & LibDems.

    From Lillian Greenwood’s resignation speech, Labour’s support of HS2 is not based on any proper analysis. Instead, it’s based on support from rail unions, support from northern councils, claims of rail industry jobs in Derby & Doncaster and (probably the most important) being a rare instance of policy passed at conference. But if these reasons are examined: HS2 is at best a zero-sum game for rail services; northern city councils hope to attract graduates from their immediate regions (zero-sum again) and HS2 is the only investment being offered to them; at most, there will be a trainset assembly line whose location depends on which multi-national wins the contract.

    A couple of weeks ago, I offered to advise the Green Party’s council candidates on the political background (green belt, development, HS2) in Toton. For whatever it’s worth, I make you the same offer.

  4. Richard says:

    If you work at it you might be able to hold on to a distant second place.

  5. Strikes me that you are between a rock and a hard place. Damned if you do, damed if you don’t. This is a situation Labour has made for itself and I applaud the MPs who had the courage to vote against May and oppose having this unnecessary general election.

    In the circumstances it has to better to go into the election with Broxtowe having a recognisable face and name like yourself. I agree with your analysis. If you have the energy go for it, it will be tough, but if you say ‘no thanks’ I, for one, will understand why. I will help as best I can, but I am presently recovering from open heart surgery seven weeks ago. I wish you well whatever your decision.

  6. G says:

    As a passionate remainer, the choice for me has nothing to do with party politics. I will vote for the candidate who is more likely to bring us back from the brink of Brexit, or at least make it as soft a Brexit as possible. What is your position on this? Will you vote the Corbyn line (which is unambiguously PRO-brexit), or are you prepared to go against the “will of the people” (aka the Daily Mail) and the party, if you believe it is the wrong choice? I like you a lot, and have voted for you in the past, but this issue tops all others.

    It’s not an easy decision for remainers in Broxtowe. For all her Tory-ness, Anna has stood up strongly in favour of the EU, and she gets credit for that from me. So I need to know your position on this to come back to the fold.

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Sorry for the slow reply, Geoff. The candidate is Greg, as you’ll have seen, and anyone who knows Greg knows that he’s anything but a tool of the whips! In the end, Anna says the right things and then falls into line with her whips – perhaps out of loyalty, perhaps for career considerations. You are much more likely to get an independent view with Greg.

  7. Dave says:

    As a life-long Labour voter, there is no way at all I could vote for a Corbyn supporter. So, how “independent” are you prepared to be, Nick? Earlier emails from you included your view that Corbyn was a leader worth backing. I asked you some while ago, and now ask again: when exactly in his 30+ years as an MP did you spot Corbyn’s leadership credentials? Because they completely escape me. And whilst I’m here, I have to ask your views on meetings with an official Labour presence where women sit on one side and men on the other? (Oldham West and Royton and Birmingham are two places where this has happened). I’m interested to know.

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Sorry for missing this when you wrote it, Dave. I’m not the candidate, having decided that Greg was better qualified now (he’s lived here all his life and I’ve been away for work reasons for most of the last 7 years), but I’ll reply on my own behalf – you can ask Greg what he thinks, of course.

      Corbyn doesn’t fit with the classic leader image, and I doubt if he harboured such ambitions himself in the past, but I think we need to think beyond our classic concept. In my post today, I’m arguing that he’s a better leader for our times, precisely because he’s not a gung-ho impulsive type. I think we ned a thoughtful, cautious leader, and right now I don’t think Mrs May fits that, for all that she would like us to think that she’s a safe choice. Read the piece and see what you think.

      On divided audiences, I had this myself once. I was invited to a meeting and found that all the men were sitting on one sid and all the women on the other. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with it, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to tell my hosts that they needed to change. Lots of sharp questions came from both sides so it wasn’t a quesytion of the women being held back. These things do matter but communities change as the generations move on – when I lived in multicultural Holloway in London I was struck by the changes visible. I’m not pessimistic about it – we need to take a strong stance against FGM and other crimes, but things like sitting separatrely will just change over time – as they have in the Anglian church.

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