Picture the scene. In a building on a leafy lane, somewhere on the west side of Sheffield, a group of three assemble to interview those seeking to be the Labour Party’s candidate for a by-election in Sheffield Hallam constituency.
And in she clumps. She hasn’t had to travel far, so she has brought her carefully practiced speech about local connections in her new satchel, which matches the yellow stars on her new blue hat so well. Another chance. Perhaps the very last. Oh God! A little dribble of saliva escapes from the corner of her mouth, landing on the University of Sheffield scarf thrown casually round her shoulders.
“So, Cllr Hoddinott,” they begin. “Is there anything in your background that, if it were to be revealed, would cause embarrassment to the Labour Party?” She stares. Says nothing. A crazed look flits across her face for a second. There wasn’t a model answer to this in the handbook. Silence engulfs the room.
“Something like being the Press Officer for a Labour Group whose disgraced leader hasn’t been seen in public for three years, perhaps?” one of the interview panel prompts gently. “It wouldn’t be good for the Party if something like that came out.” Hoddinott gulps. “Being party to allegations that, in that role, you connived with others to suppress journalistic inquiry into the sexual exploitation of children?” suggests the second interviewer. “That wouldn’t look good in the papers would it?” “Or….. something like having to resign as Deputy Leader of a Council that was the centre of one of the biggest scandals in local government in living memory….. maybe?” suggests the third, helpfully. She whimpers. “Bullying?” the first panellist interjects. “We take quite a dim view of that.” “And telling porkies about your background on social media….” That wouldn’t do either.
Her head swam, the room started to spin and the voices of the panellists began to sound as if they were underwater. “What about something like this?” asked the first panellist again, holding up a copy of the front page of The Times, before they all boomed in unison “Cllr Hoddinott. Do you consider yourself fit for purpose?”
Before Hoddinott came to, she was in a dreamlike state. Jumping into First Class, waving goodbye to Rotherham for the last time. Finally, finally, after all these years of trying so hard. Clutching the keys to her little London flat; her carefully prepared maiden speech, and notes for that evening’s meeting with Jeremy in her new suitcase.
But when she emerged from her faint, she was propped up on a forlorn, damp sofa by the gable end of a run-down terraced house. The wind whipped up litter from the gutter, lashing it against a rusty washing machine on the pavement. “What happened?” she asked the concerned looking man in a high-vis jacket standing in front of her. “Where am I?” she asked again, more urgently this time. A rat scuttled past. “Am I in Westminster?” “Westminster?” The man replied, laughingly “No Councillor, You’re in Eastwood.”