Shadow secretary of state visits Mid Beds to talk about Labour MP candidate Alistair Strathern

Anneliese Dodds MP (right) talking to Alistair Strathern. Image: The Labour Party
Anneliese Dodds MP (right) talking to Alistair Strathern. Image: The Labour Party

Labour’s candidate for the possible Mid Bedfordshire by-election is someone “who really understands local people’s concerns”, a member of the shadow cabinet has said.

Anneliese Dodds MP, the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities in the UK was in Mid Beds on Tuesday (1 August) to speak to constituents about Alistair Strathern’s campaign to become their next MP.

“I think Alistair is someone who’s really determined to provide proper representation for people in this area,” Ms Dodds said.

“He’s had a really strong career before [standing], he was a maths teacher, he works for the Bank of England, he’s someone who’s served the community well as councillor too.

“And I think he’s someone who would be a very, very good MP.

“He has said he wants to be the hardest working MP for Mid Beds and I believe him when he says that, I think he really is dedicated to providing that service,” she said.

Strathern has recently moved to Shefford for the by-election.

“It was about where me and my partner felt would be the best place to put down roots and make a base for ourselves,” he said

“Shefford is somewhere I always loved to visit when growing up.

“So I spent a fair bit of time in the rivers along here and along the Beach and so it was nice to get back here,” he said.

It was pointed out that Shefford may not be in Mid Beds come the next general election.

“We’ve made that our base for now,” he said. “It was obviously important to have somewhere we knew people.

“I’ve committed that I’ll continue to live in the constituency if I represent it,” he said.

Current commitments

Due to his decision to move to Shefford and stand as the Labour Mid Bedfordshire candidate, his current role as a councillor in Waltham Forest has been called into question.

In June, Waltham Forest Council leader Grace Williams swapped cllr Strathern’s cabinet member role with responsibility for children and young people for 15-minute neighbourhoods.

The leader said that since Cllr Strathern is now dividing his time between the borough and Bedfordshire she agreed that his “vital” job should be covered by someone who can “focus exclusively” on it.

She added: “I would like to congratulate Alistair in being selected to run in the Mid Bedfordshire by-election and thank him for all the incredible work he has done as cabinet member for children and young people.”

However, Waltham Forest Conservative group leader Emma Best told the area’s Local Democracy Reporting Service his time will still be needed in his current role.

“The cabinet role of 15-minute neighbourhoods also includes extremely important projects and engagement activities, especially over this summer, and we look forward to engaging fully with Cllr Strathern over what will be a very busy time in the borough within that role,” she said.

Alistair Strathern Labour's Candidate for Mid Beds MP. Image: The Labour Party
Alistair Strathern Labour’s Candidate for Mid Beds MP. Image: The Labour Party

Gender parity in parliament

It was put to the shadow secretary of state for women and equalities in the UK, that the Labour candidates for last month’s three by-elections were all men, and Strathern makes four.

“We always go for the best person for the job, that’s how we got Alistair here,” Ms Dodds said.

“But for the last seven by-elections that we had actually, we’ve had four women standing.

“So we have had really strong female representation, we’ve got more women now in the Parliamentary Labour Party under Keir Starmer than we’ve ever had.

“In fact, we’re the only party that’s now got parity between our MPs and the population, 51 per cent of our MPs are women and that is really important for us.

“Because we think that you need to have a parliament that actually reflects society both in terms of the things they’re fighting for – the kind of issues that Alistair is calling for change on.

“And also that reflects society and demographically as well, so that is important for us,” she said.

by John Guinn Local Democracy Reporter for Bedford Borough with additional content
from Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter for Redbridge, Waltham Forest And Havering