Home educators have a great opportunity to talk to politicians in the window before the election on 7th May. The Westminster parliament will be closed after the end of March and your MP won’t officially be your MP any more. He or she should be around the constituency a lot, trying to secure votes, so this is an excellent time to have a conversation about whatever you want.
After the election, everyone will be too busy to talk to you.
I went to see my MP (Sheffield Central Labour relatively marginal seat) with an activist friend at the end of March, and because I’d flagged up in advance that the topic was home education, my MP had taken the trouble to ask the Shadow Minister for Schools about the party’s policy. (I subsequently found out that another friend in the constituency had recently been canvassed and had told my MP on the doorstep that voting Labour was unthinkable because of Ed Balls and the party’s persecution of home educators.)
Contact Details for Candidates in Your Area
(Not linking to UKIP, sorry!)
I wrote here about how to make a connection with your local MP and said that where home educators have already got a conversation going then MPs will be less susceptible to being swayed by any shock/horror headlines or outside pressure groups calling for things to be “tightened up.”
I said here that home educators talking to backbench MPs is one the primary reason why the Badman proposals were defeated and why the home education guidelines haven’t been changed. You can read here about some of the things home educators were doing in the run-up to the last general election in 2009-10.
In 88 constituencies, the MP you have at the moment is standing down, so even if you have had a good relationship with the current MP and they understand all about home education, you now need to talk to the new prospective candidate.
Some areas always elect the same MP by a large majority so you really only need to talk to your usual MP but in other areas everything might be up for grabs, and ideally you would talk to as many of the prospective parliamentary candidates as possible.
Click here for a full list of PPCs.
Of course, I’m not for one moment suggesting that you can extract a binding promise from someone who wants your vote. What I am saying is that it really works in politics for home educators to get their point in first. This is what the former Ofsted director conceded here.
In Hampstead and Kilburn, the Labour MP Glenda Jackson is standing down. Ms Jackson won the seat in 2010 with a majority of only 42 votes.
In Warwickshire North the Conservative MP Dan Byles is also standing down. This seat was previously held by Labour and is the most marginal Tory seat in the country.
In Camborne and Redruth there were only 66 votes between the Conservative George Eustace and the Lib Dem Julia Goldsworthy. Both are standing again this time. Commentators believe that UKIP or the Cornish nationalists could affect the outcome.
In Bolton West Labour MP Julie Hilling has the 4th smallest majority in the country.
In Thurrock Conservative MP Jackie Doyle Price has a majority of less than a hundred, and the seat always used to be Labour. UKIP is apparently doing well in the polls here.
In Hendon, Conservative Matthew Offord won by a small majority last time but the seat always used to be Labour. Some Labour votes could go to the Green Party here.
In Oxford West and Abingdon formerly home educated Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood took the seat from Lib Dem Evan Harris in 2010 by a narrow majority.
In Solihull Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt only has a majority of 175.
In Sheffield Central – which happens to be where I live – Labour MP Paul Blomfield won a narrow victory over the Lib Dems in 2010 but Lib Dems are unlikely to be able to make up lost ground although the Greens will have an impact here.
The remaining 50 marginal constituencies are profiled here and here: Arfon; Argyll and Bute; Ashfield; Birmingham Edgbaston; Bradford East; Brent Central; Brentford and Isleworth; Brighton Pavilion; Bristol West; Broxtowe; Cardiff North; Carlisle; Cleethorpes; Derby North; Dover and Deal; Dundee East; Edinburgh South; Gedling; Great Grimsby; Great Yarmouth; Hull North; Lancaster and Fleetwood; Lincoln; Mid Dorset and North Poole; Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls); Newton Abbot; Northampton North; Norwich South; Plymouth; Sutton and Devonport; Rochdale; Somerset North East; South Thanet; Southampton Itchen; Stockton; South Stroud; Sutton and Cheam; Swansea West; Walsall North; Watford; Wells; Wirral South.
Dissolution Parliament, Prorogation, Purdah
(Incidentally, while the dissolution of parliament should mean you will be able to nab your MP in your constituency, you won’t be able to email or phone your usual contacts at the Westminster office as this will all be shut down.
Similarly, civil servants will become very elusive and non-committal during this period and anything that hasn’t been sorted before purdah will now be shelved, as civil servants wait to see the direction of travel with the new government. I remember this from last time round when I had to wait months for civil servants to put something on the government website about college funding.)