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Lambeth councillor is Parliamentary candidate for St Neots and Mid Cambs

Labour’s Marianna Masters is chair of the Fabian Women’s Network

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She came second in her most recent election, a single vote dividing her and the poll topping Malcolm Clark on 1102 votes but since the ward returns two councillors, Marianna Masters was home and dry – and by some margin. Their nearest rival, a Lib Dem, trailed some 500 votes behind and the nearest Conservative challenger 900 votes behind.

But the Streatham Wells ward of Lambeth Council is not rural Cambridgeshire, and it is here Cllr Masters has determined there are bigger, and more challenging, fish to fry.

She has been announced this week by Labour as their Parliamentary candidate for the new seat of St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire

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Marianna is unlikely to draw too much comfort from the pollsters at Electoral Calculus who, as I reported in January, give Labour a 66 per cent chance of winning and with a predicted majority of 3,000 on a 64 per cent turnout.

But we all need to start somewhere, and Cllr Masters has a formidable political CV to be in with a chance.

Some Labour members locally tell me there is discontent about bringing an ‘outsider’ into a rural seat and social media is already reflecting that criticism. Cllr Masters will be only too aware of predictable murmurings of discontent surrounding her selection. The feeling of being ‘parachuted in’ by Labour’s ruling hierarchy is widespread.

Even her Conservative opponent, MP Anthony Browne – switching across to the new constituency from South Cambridgeshire – couldn’t resist a political dig by tweeting ‘Congratulations Marianna! I agree it is a great privilege to stand in the wonderful constituency of St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire.

“I look forward to meeting you on the campaign trail!”.

Cllr Marianna Masters, Parliamentary candidate for St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire, pictured with London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Cllr Marianna Masters, Parliamentary candidate for St Neots and Mid Cambridgeshire

So, who is Marianne Masters and what can we expect?

One of many congratulatory messages, posted to her Facebook page, says “just the best news. So proud of you. Witnessed first-hand how much difference you have made at grassroots level to the community and helping people in need.

“You’ll be amazing”.

One of many roles held by Ms Masters is that of chair of the Fabian Women’s Network, an offshoot of The Fabian Society, which is Britain’s oldest political think tank.

“Founded in 1884, the society has been at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left for 140 years,” says the society on its website.

“The Fabian Society derives its name from the Roman general Quintus Fabius, known for his strategy of delaying his attacks on the invading Carthaginians until the right moment.”

History lesson over, Ms Masters, as chair of the women’s section, is campaigning for “more diverse women in politics and public life and influence policy to the benefit of sisters everywhere”.

She has outlined her political standpoint in several articles over the years and is clearly a passionate and determined campaigner.

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“I spend a great deal of time advocating for social tenants either in overcrowded conditions or worse still in unsuitable temporary accommodation,” she said in one piece.

“My heart is always touched by children who through poverty haven’t had the best chance in life.”

She has also explained how she volunteers at a school to encourage children to cook and eat vegetables and volunteers at a community garden.

“I’m made in Lambeth, born in a place that I’m proud my parents chose to make their home in the late 1960s,” she told one interviewer.

“It is one of the most ethnically diverse places to live.”

Of her Christian faith she says it “demands I be a good neighbour whilst also aspiring to being a good Samaritan. The joy in seeing children happy is priceless”.

She can expect to make the economy and cost of living crisis a key issue in her campaign, too, believing that “struggling families weighed down with bills especially childcare bills should have to choose between heating their home or food. I have seen too many children going to school with dirty clothes as the family can’t afford energy bills”.

Her political credentials also explain an interest in mental health, and she is a Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Trust Governor.

Her Lib Dem challenger in the constituency is Ian Sollom, who recently hosted a visit from Sir Ed Davey, the party leader.

Mr Sollom has also been buoyed by a recent Lib Dem success in a Huntingdonshire District Council by election.

“Another result that shows the Lib Dems are the clear challengers to the Conservatives in St Neots & Mid Cambs,” says Mr Sollom.

But the full line-up is yet to complete. And the political noise emanating from St Neots is that of a possible independent candidate to throw his or her hat into the ring.

Reform UK is yet to announce a candidate.

https://www.reformparty.uk/st-neots-and-mid-cambridgeshire-constituency

The reality is that Labour has taken a huge risk by inviting Cllr Masters to be their candidate for the area, and could or should have handled it better.

Not least by briefing unsuccessful contenders ahead of Tuesday’s public announcement which, I am told, they failed to do.

 

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