Interview with Derek Cattell from the Reg Keys Campaign
Reg Keys came to Sedgefield to unseat Tony Blair for the lies that took his son and other British soldiers to war and tragic death in Iraq. He came a respectable 4th with 10% of the vote but Blair increased his majority.
Did you achieve what you set out to do or are you disappointed with the result?
"We are obviously pleased with the general picture - despite the predictions, Iraq became a key election issue and has given Blair and New Labour a bloody nose across the country. Unfortunately, we didn't give Blair a bloody nose in Sedgefield and there are mixed feelings in the camp about the result. Winning was always going to be a tall order, but we did believe that Reg could seriously embarrass Blair and put a major dent in both his majority and standing within the country."
"Given everything this Prime Minister has done, I think its fair to say that we expected more than 10% and we are pretty angry with the other parties for not standing aside. We met with the Tories and they asked Reg to stand down - the Lib Dems never even replied to our request for a meeting. Unfortunately, we also couldn't quite work as well as we had wanted with Sedgefield Against the War, who never really endorsed Reg."
"But when you look at where we started from - an ordinary man with no party and limited resources taking on the full force of Labour Party machinery and the government - and then look at the media coverage we got on the issues of Iraq, deceit and British military deaths, the public support and so on, then I think we did a great job and it was definitely worth the effort."
Did Reg Keys manage to speak with Tony Blair?
"Oh no, there was none of that. But there was this incredible moment during Reg's speech at the count, when he was making the point about the 88 British soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and he turned directly to the Prime Minister and said that 'some people don't know how many British soldiers have been killed there'. That was powerful stuff."
What reception did you get on the streets of Sedgefield?
">"Reg's campaign received a lot of goodwill from the locals but it didn't translate into votes. Unfortunately, a funny thing happens to Labour voters when they find themselves alone in a voting booth - decades of tradition and allegiance suddenly bear down on them and they just can't vote for anything else. But what our campaign did achieve - for the first time in ages - was to force the Labour Party to actually campaign in Sedgefield and do the work on the ground instead of taking these voters for granted."
"The general support we received from the people of this country and across the world was quite inspiring. Up in Sedgefield, we had 50 people on any one day knocking the doors, canvassing and leafleting, people who had come from all over the country at their own expense. We had a team of volunteer telephone canvassers in London. We even had one person ring us up and offer to do telephone canvassing from America at their own expense!"
Do you think the experience of Iraq, the anti-war movement and now this election has changed Reg's own political views at all?
"When Reg first appeared as this angry, grieving father, a lot of people were cautious and even a little suspicious of him. Prior to Tom's [his son's] death, Reg had believed Blair on Iraq and WMD and had proudly sent his son off to what he believed was a just war. Reg has also been quite open about the fact that he has voted for all three parties in the past. I think it is now very clear that Reg has had a very sharp and rapid political education, and his views on a lot of things have changed."
What’s next for Reg Keys?
"Reg intends to carry on campaigning and building up Military Families Against the War, which he founded. He will continue to pursue the legal action against Tony Blair and the British government on the illegality of the Iraq war, and is still trying to get a proper coroner's inquest into the death of his son. I don't think you have heard the last of Reg Keys." SH
Read Rock producer and ambient music legend Brian Eno's article in Red Pepper on Reg Keys’s Sedgefield challenge.