“Fantastic and terrible” -- De Piero reflects on a double-edged sword in elections

SMILE OF A WINNER -- Gloria De Piero after she was re-elected as Ashfield's Labour MP with an increased majority.
SMILE OF A WINNER -- Gloria De Piero after she was re-elected as Ashfield's Labour MP with an increased majority.

“Fantastic for Ashfield, but terrible for the Labour Party nationally.”

That is the verdict of newly-elected MP Gloria de Piero as the ramifications of a dramatic election night begin to sink in.

Reflecting on what turned out to be a double-edged sword, Ms De Piero said: “I feel sad that we do not have a Labour government. But I am really pleased with the way things went in Ashfield.

“I have an increased majority, and we also have some new, talented councillors on the district council (where Labour retained control).”

That majority rose to a whopping 8.820 votes from just 192 at the 2010 General Election when former GMTV journalist Ms De Piero succeeded ex-Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon as Ashfield’s MP.

Political experts say she was helped by the defection of her fiercest rival, Liberal Democrat Jason Zadrozny, who had effected a 17.2 swing from Labour five years ago. He bowed out this time round after his arrest for historic child-abuse allegations, which led to his suspension from the Lib Dems.

However, Ms De Piero refused to rise to Mr Zarozny’s post-count claim that he would have won the seat had he been allowed to stand.

“I don’t do tit-for-tat stuff,” said the 42-year-old. “That isn’t my kind of politics, and I don’t think the general public like it either.

“I feel we won because I have worked really hard in the last five years. I have always said to the Ashfield people: I am on your side, you are my boss.

“Io be honest, it’s the job every MP should be doing. The most important thing has been to put the people of Ashfield first. I have been accesible and open. I didn’t want to be the sort of politician you just saw at election time.

“I fought a positive campaign and it paid off. Politics should be about positivity.“

Ms De Piero has clearly created a lasting impression with the electorate in Ashfield, fully justifying her decision five yeasrs ago to resign from GMTV and embark on a political career. Although university-educated, she hails from working-class roots in Bradford and has used her experiences there to build a rapport with the people of Sutton, Kirkby and Eastwood.

However, her performance at the General Election was not matched by that of Labour as a whole, with the party suffering a resounding reverse by 99 seats that led to the resignation of Ed Miliband as leader.

“I don’t slag individuals off,” she said. “Ed has accepted responsibility for the result, but it’s down to all of us.

“It was a terrible night for the Labour Party, but most of all for the people who needed a Labour government. They have been let down.

“We must take a long, hard look at the result because the defeat was a bad one. It should not be a rush-job. We need to take time to find out why it happened.

“I am keen to speak to a lot of people, including local Labour candidates who lost.

“Of course, we need to appeal to a broader section of the public. Working-class people and people who want to get on in life. We can’t let them down again.”

Ms De Piero says she has yet to decide who she would favour in the contest for new Labour leader. “I look forward to hearing what all the candidates have to say,” she said. “And I would like them to come to Ashfield to speak to party members here.”

However, she has firmly ruled herself out of the contest, even though she is now acclaimed as a rising star in the Labour ranks and has already held two key posts -- shadow minister for women and equalities and shadow minister for crime prevention -- in her brief poltical career.

“I am definitely not a possible,” insisted Ms De Piero, who is determined to concentrate, first and foremost, on the job in hand in Ashfield.

“I promise to work hard for another five years,” she said. “I will never take the support of Ashfield people for granted and will continue to work hard, even for those who didn’t vote for me last Thursday.”