Earlier this week, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from two of my old bosses from the UK - Kevin Bonavia and Ian Gilbert. Both were writing me for the same reason: Kevin was standing for Parliament again - in a different district this time, Greenwich and Woolwich - and they were wondering if I would write a quick paragraph about how Kevin would make a great MP.
I decided to do him one better and write a whole blog post about it.
Kevin's campaign was the first campaign I've worked on. I was studying abroad in London, and based on my field of study (journalism, double minoring in politics and international communications), I was assigned an internship on a Labour party campaign. What struck me when I met Kevin and Ian was how young and enthusiastic they both were (at the time, they were both barely 30), and how young and enthusiastic the whole team was - most of the volunteers on the campaign, like me, were in their 20s, with one volunteer (Gray) only 16 years old. Yes, there are young people on campaigns here. But the candidates were young too. In the UK, you could stand for a seat as soon as you turned 18, and people did. To see people so young, so committed to making their community better, was inspiring.
What also inspired me on the campaign was Kevin's drive to make the campaign as focused on the community as possible. The district he was standing in, Rochford and Southend East, wasn't an easy seat for a Labour candidate, and the campaign wasn't as well funded as it could have been. Kevin decided instead to pound the pavement and knock on as many doors as he could - his goal was to meet everyone in Southend by election day, and he got pretty damn close to doing so. We spent countless hours on peoples' doorsteps (Kevin longer than the rest of us, to Ian's chagrin), talking to families about child care credits, extending bus hours for the elderly, making sure everyone knew about programs to help afford heat going into the winter months. No home was skipped.
He grasped policy like no one I had met before, and had not only smarts from school and law school, but also knowledge of history, of the town, of politics and of what worked and what didn't that I hadn't seen in someone running for office. He's a great communicator and loved taking time out to talk to constituents. Kevin really immersed himself in Southend - he started taking runs on the weekends in a red t-shirt so people got used to seeing him around town. His Mini Cooper became the "Labourmobile," covered in posters and stuffed to the gills with fliers in case he needed them (which made for a clown car effect when people and paraphernalia came spilling out of the back when we went to the pub for a beer. Poor Ian, who is over 6 feet tall, had trouble fitting in the back seat when we went out canvassing). He held surgeries every weekend, and the deli on Sutton Ave knew his lunch order by heart.
In addition to all that, Kevin is just genuinely a great guy, which I think is undervalued in an MP.
I wrote this not only because Kevin has the skills and the drive to be a fantastic MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, but also because his passion for politics drove others, myself being one of them, to pursue their own interests in government. After watching Kevin's campaign in Southend, even though it was unsuccessful, I saw that there were people out there who actually did care about their communities and wanted to make them better. I saw a growing progressive movement back home, where people were tired of infighting and wanted to get stuff done. And I saw that maybe journalism wasn't where I wanted to be. Had it not been for that internship, Kevin's know-how and passion, I know my career (life) would've gone a little differently.
Right now, Kev is in the "selection" process, which is basically the primary process in the US before the actual election for MP. I have no doubt that he would make a fantastic MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, and I can't wait to stay up watching BBC in a few months to see what London decides.