Nick Palmer – The General Election

Nick Palmer writes: 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,


You can email your thoughts to Nick at

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5 Responses to Nick Palmer – The General Election

  1. Dr Allan Dodds says:

    Hi Nick! I’d like you to stand and I’d certainly support you, but it’s your call!

  2. Fred R says:

    Thanks for the frank post, Nick. I think that the only way to stop the Tories, across the country and locally, is by a progressive alliance (Labour, LibDem, Green), whereby the candidate most likely to get the most progressive votes is allowed a clear run by the other parties. Extremely regrettably, party tribalism and denialism means that this won’t happen, in which case all that’s left is tactical voting to support the strongest anti-Tory candidate. Given the figures you’ve cited above, with low support for LibDems and Greens, you fit that bill. Although the Libdems won’t stand down their candidate (though Greens might), canny LD voters who are anti-Tory will vote for yourself.

    IMO, as a non-Party member, but ex-activist in the 80s, you should stand again, if only from a purely practical viewpoint as there’s not enough time to select a decent local candidate if you stepped aside. However, you’re clearly steeped in the locality, and that adds to your prestige and must be worth a few extra votes on top of what a bog-standard candidate would get.

  3. Pat Ratcliffe says:

    I’d be very interested to know, Dr Palmer, whether it was the Executive Committee or General Committee of the local Labour Party, who represent the membership of the local party, who requested that you stand? Or was it some other unelected officials who suggested your name?
    You are quite right: Labour needs a ‘credible’ candidate, who will represent the local membership, with dynamism, untainted by defeat, and supporting the leadership with sincerity and conviction.

  4. Andrea Walsh says:

    Yes, you probably know what you are doing and standing for, for the people of Broxtowe.
    If you want to stand again, those people who value your qualities will vote for you, what harm can it do.
    I would rather vote for someone who has experience in dealing with important issues and making decisions.
    Stand for the position, it might surprise you.

  5. Ian Blakeley says:

    Whats your stance on the UK leaving the EC, Nick? Will you go with the electorate, or against?

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