Latest from Ben Gummer

A Local Hero Deserves a Gong

You know those moments so embarrassing that when you look back you slightly shudder at the memory of it all?  Well, I’ve had mercifully few as an MP but the worst was served – justifiably – on me by well-known local campaigner Sally Wainman.

Sally was one of my opponents in the 2010 election – standing not for a mainstream party but one a platform of saving Broomhill Pool.  Now, that may sound like a quixotic exercise: no one, not even Sally, thought she would win the seat, but she stood nevertheless because she was absolutely serious about her cause.

I had met Sally before and liked her: she is a determined campaigner and has an enormous heart.  During that election campaign I bumped into her in the Warren Heath Sainsbury’s, late at night just before it was due to close.  She asked how things were going and I said I thought it would be very close and that every vote would count.  In fact, I joked, if she endorsed me I would happily support her Broomhill Pool campaign – even though I only had the deep end in my constituency.  She laughed at me, quite rightly, and we finished our shopping.

A few weeks later, I was in the church hustings in Christchurch Tacket Street and someone asked the candidates from the floor what they thought of the Broomhill Pool.  Now, Sally was not on the stage, as the organisers had restricted it to the main parties.  But she was there alright.  So when I gave an equivocal answer, saying that I supported the campaign but that I thought there were other priorities that I would campaign first, Sally repeated from the back our conversation in Sainsbury’s.  I will forgive her quoting me out of context, because it was an expert move: in the parlance of politicos, she “burned” me.  Even now when I think about it, I think “oohh… ouch!”

So, I hope you can see why I have a particular respect for Sally Wainman.  Some might have dismissed her six local and general election attempts, on a Save Broomhill Pool ticket, as eccentric – not least because she has spent several thousand pounds on lost deposits in the process.  People giggled at her but it is Sally who has had the last laugh, because when the idea of reopening Broomhill Pool had few supporters in Ipswich, she kept the idea alive by standing for elected office and thereby forcing the issue onto the agenda.

Thanks to her stoicism and to the whole committee of the Broomhill Pool Trust, two otherwise under-enthused councils were persuaded to put aside capital money – in honesty, believing they would never need to spend it.  But the Trust did its part and secured a private operator and between them they have secured lottery money to take the project to fruition.  There is one more hurdle to jump but they now have a clear run at it.  It is a remarkable achievement and a real credit to genuinely brilliant community campaigning.

Don’t take my word for it: on Wednesday Sally was a finalist in the Mirror Pride of Sport Awards, as Local Hero of the Year.  That is precisely what she is.  I genuinely do not believe that Broomhill Pool would have happened without Sally keeping the idea alive election after election.  She deserves every ounce of praise she now gets.  Getting burned by Sally was worth the pleasure of seeing her succeed in this great local ambition.

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