Andrew Achilleos

Andrew Achilleos: Campaigning the Labour Way

Andrew Achilleos graduated in 2011 with a degree in Global Politics and History. Passionate about politics, he knew he wanted to be involved in government in some way. He returned to London straight after graduating with the hope of finding his dream job.

However, after finding himself unemployed for a while he decided to write to every Labour MP in the country – not asking for a job, but explaining who he was and what he aspired to be. This inspiration was rewarded with being offered several internships, starting with Hilary Benn, son of the late Tony Benn, and Shadow Cabinet Minister for Local Government and Communities, and ending with a permanent position with Jon Cruddas MP, Labour’s Policy Review Coordinator.

I come from a long line of market traders and worked in Walthamstow market myself for 12 years, so Labour was the obvious choice for me. The internships were great and gave me the experience I wanted. Working in Westminster, right in the Houses of Parliament, gave me an overview of what political life is really like.

After my brief internship with Hilary, I was offered a two month internship with Jon Cruddas, my local MP for Dagenham and Rainham. He kept me on as a part-time case worker, which was fantastic. It involved taking up local residents’ concerns with health, housing, immigration and personal debt, in fact any issues they had which they could not resolve elsewhere. The MP’s office is the last option for many people after they have exhausted all other routes.

Since late 2012, I have been building a network of community volunteers in Dagenham and Rainham for Jon. The aim is to make sure vulnerable people aren’t falling through the cracks created by all the benefit cuts. Jon’s idea was to have ‘a volunteer on every street’, building a network of people who would keep an eye on each other. We encourage them to report on anything that affects the community they live in, like crime or issues with unsocial behaviour or littering.

We keep it non-party political, and place the community at the heart of the campaign. We keep a constant rolling engagement with the volunteers. We send out a weekly text message, a quarterly newsletter, a campaign email every month to over 5,000 email contacts and have regular call-round sessions.

This level of engagement paid dividends in the recent local election campaigns I organised. Now employed full-time, I acted as the Election Agent and Campaign Organiser for 18 candidates. Normally when you go canvassing, people just complain that ‘they never see you until it’s election time’. When we asked for help, local residents, many of whom have never considered voting, were more than happy to put up posters, man polling stations, distribute leaflets and canvass, especially in the ward where UKIP were most prominent. It was inspiring to watch them all come together for their community.

The wards I organised with the volunteer model achieved the highest turnout in the Borough and the highest number of votes outside a General Election year for all 18 of the candidates.

Because of that success, I am now organising the General Election campaign for Jon. I have three teams of volunteers out knocking on doors every week. That means there are 45 volunteers out canvassing every month. They pick up local issues and concerns at the same time. The main concern at the moment is our overstretched health service with closures and cuts putting a strain on our only hospital. We are launching a huge campaign to pressure the Government for more investment. There are currently 70 residents out petitioning locally.

Another concern is the proposal from the Ministry of Justice to build the largest prison in Europe here – 10,000 residents came out to protest against that, with more joining daily.

The upcoming election campaign is going to be quite tough because of the boundary changes in 2010. Jon took on a large part of Havering and the constituency now cuts across two Council boundaries. Apart from the difficulties of dealing with two local authorities on a daily basis, Havering was previously a Conservative Council and now there is no overall control. UKIP and residents’ associations hold sway. It will be quite a challenge and we will be calling on our volunteers again, looking to emulate the sense of community in Dagenham across the whole constituency.

 I believe this is the only way forward. We need to get local people involved in every step of the process to reconnect them with politics which they are becoming increasingly alienated from. My advice to anyone organising election campaigns, no matter what persuasion, would be to build up the community rather than the party. Building a better social infrastructure for people across the country will ultimately lead to a better deal for everyone.

As for my future, it hangs in the balance until the results of the election – you are only as good as your last election! I hope it will be really successful and I can go on to organise campaigns regionally, or stand for election in 2020 – you never know!


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Last edited: 30/04/2019 10:47:00