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How Rosie Duffield went from early school leaver to Canterbury's first Labour MP

By Matt_Jackson  |  Posted: June 10, 2017

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Canterbury and history go hand in hand. For eight centuries visitors have flocked to the medieval city to immerse themselves in the past.

On Saturday (June 10) 8,000 people watched the latest installment in the history - the first public address to the city from its first ever Labour MP.

Read more: These are the longest serving Kent MPs now that Julian Brazier has gone from Canterbury

Rosie Duffield, 45, took to the bandstand in Dane John Gardens to express her "pride and love" for "all the people in Canterbury - regardless of age, colour, or sex."

The crowds were there to celebrate Pride, a day where the city comes together to immerse themselves in the diversity that makes the city such a great place to live.

Read more: Pride Canterbury 2017 - Live updates as thousands take to streets

For all the polite and dignified responses when other members took to the stage, an uproar of "Rosie, Rosie, Rosie" greeted the mother-of-two.

"She just said she loves us - and you know what, we love her too, how many MPs get that?" said Guy Williams, 31, who lives in Kirby's Lane, and voted for the first time last Thursday (June 9).

The night a political dynasty ended

By 2am on election night, a recount was called - Ms Duffield had won the provisional count by just over 200 votes - and a 160 year political dynasty was about to come to an end.

Canterbury was a different constituency back in 1837, but that was the last time, under Lord Albert Conygham, that Canterbury was anything other than Conservative.

Read more: Who are the DUP and why does Theresa May need them after general election 2017?

By 3am, Julian Brazier, who has served uninterrupted as the local MP since 1987, accepted defeat to Ms Duffield.

In the end, history was made by just a handful of votes - with Brazier bagging 25,385, to Miss Duffield's 25,572.

From early school leaver to Canterbury's first Labour MP

Ms Duffield, said she was keen to be at such a "brilliant and beautiful event" despite only having mustered a few hours sleep since Thursday (June 8).

She was born in London in 1972, and left school at the age of 16. By 27 she had her first of two boys, and although writing political satire was her ambition - she became a teaching assistant to help make ends meet.

But as so may single parents can testify to, ends were not being met - and Ms Duffield, who earned £7.50 an hour, became reliant on tax credits.

Ms Duffield, who help found the Canterbury Action Network said that being a "normal person, from a normal background" gives her an understanding into the "hard lives so many people face everyday."

I asked, now the dust has settled , how this passion and experience will translate into action.

'Hard work starts now'

Ms Duffield said that for all the enjoyment the previous few days have given her, she is under no pretence what must be done.

She said: "We've got a hospital meeting on Friday, we're due to lose the care centre in a matter of days, and it's hugely important we oppose that.

"I've always had my head around the idea that my job is too serve, that's what I'm here to do.

"I have to do what I've promised to do, and I will do what's right by the people of Canterbury."

With case work already flowing in, I ask how she will manage to combine a human element, which clearly resonated with residents, whilst being fed the party line on matters.

"I think it would be really obvious If i was one of those fake politicians who pretends to be something they're not - so I simply can't do that.

'It's surreal - I don't think I'll ever get used to it'

"There are lines we have to stick to, but the great thing about Jeremy Corbyn, is that he isn't into that - he wants people to be themselves."

Before we leave I ask how she's dealt with the attention - punctuated by the fact yet another news crew has turned up to speak with this history maker.

"It's surreal - I don't think I'll ever get used to it."

As I leave six men, all waiting by a barrier, call me over and demand where Rosie is - all donning selfie sticks and "We love Rosie posters."

It seems obvious that people will keep flocking to this history making MP, representing a historic city - she better get used to it, quickly.

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